Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Pianus

Many thanks to the readers who helped me briefly beat the sales ranking of "Identifying Wood" on Amazon. It was, however, just the first salvo in the war. Today, however, we take a break from the publishing battles and return to my roots - embarrassment by family members:
Our story starts when the Brown family invited our family over to their house for a pool party. Bridget and I looked forward to this. When you're new in town, it's difficult to meet people and make friends. And by "people", I mean neighbors with common interests or goals. As I related in a past column, my kids have already introduced us to local law enforcement, so we're covered on that side of things.    
Anyway, we went over to the Brown family house around 2 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. Our kids jumped immediately into their pool with the Brown kids and began swimming. On the tiled deck next to the pool, Bridget and I jumped into the conversational pool and began treading water with Hank and Anya, the Brown parents.     
Hank and Anya, it turns out, are not only attractive people, they're funny and smart as well. About an hour into our conversation, when their Ipod began playing "Why I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, I had to stifle the urge to grab Bridget and squeal out loud like a teenage girl, "These people are so totally cool. I hope they like us."  It was only later that things went horribly wrong. And by "things", I'm referring to my four year-old daughter Riley.              
It happened as Anya prepared to serve dinner and called everyone out of the pool. Hank stood in his swimsuit to one side of the breakfast counter. Riley charged around from the other side of the counter, pointed to Hank at about crotch level and said:     
"You have a little penis."
For a moment, I thought I might be mistaken about what Riley had said, so I glanced over to Bridget. The horrified look on her face told me that she had heard the same thing. I also saw 8 year-old Gabriel's face, which looked radiant and full of joy, so I knew he had also heard the same thing.
To make matters worse, Riley had mangled the pronunciation of the word "penis" so that it came out sounding like a horrible combination of "penis" and "anus".
She pronounced it "pi-anus".     
And this is how Hank responded:     
"Uh, what?"     
"You have a little pi-anus," Riley restated helpfully.     
"Uh, what?" Hank re-restated.    
Which was exactly what I would have said in the same situation, except I would have added,"I, uh, just got out of the pool."    
Hank looked at me, confused.
I considered telling Hank the truth - that I regularly let Riley hang out with two of the most scatologically-obsessed people on the planet. These two people - Riley's brothers - spent most of every day teaching her inappropriate words. And even worse, God help me, I had laughed at some of the jokes. Rather than teaching my daughter manners, I had probably been subtly telling her it was okay to talk about someone's pi-anus.
But that's not what I said. No, I was trying to look cool in front of the Browns. For all they knew, I was a responsible parent. I decided to act like one.
"Riley," I said. "We don't talk about people's penises in public. That's unacceptable."
"Your father's right," Bridget echoed.
We felt very parental and very mature until Anya spoke.

"Your minds are in the gutter. Riley didn't say that Hank had a little penis. Riley said Hank had a little piano."
"Uh, what?" I said.
"Riley said that Hank had a little piano," Anya restated. She seemed amused.
I didn't know what to say to Anya. I felt relieved that she had misinterpreted Riley's speech, but her interpretation was ridiculous. It was a humongous stretch of the imagination - until Anya pointed to the other side of breakfast bar.
That's where the Brown family keeps a little, tiny wooden piano.     

Monday, September 08, 2008

Identify This!

    It's done. Last week, my first published book, "The Book of Gabriel" hit and set the Web site on fire.
    Okay. That's an overstatement. It's ranked like 362,762 today.
    I really thought this whole bestselling author thing would be easier. I figured readers might need maybe a week to find my book, an hour to read it and possibly a day or two to start tearfully enjoining their friends to jump on the Grim Richard bandwagon. According to my calculations, I should already be sitting by the pool in a smoking jacket and turning down interviews from Oprah.
    No such luck. And to make matters worse, writing this entry just reminded me that I totally forgot to buy a bandwagon. How are people going to jump on the Grim Richard bandwagon, when I don't even have one?
    This bestselling author thing is tougher than I thought.
    I can take it. After all, I'm an unknown author who wrote a book smart-ass book of advice for his son - A smart-ass book that includes stories about growing up in nudist camp and babies with rotisserie heads. There's a reason why I kept getting rejection letters that said, "I love this book, but I have no idea how I'd sell it."
    But here's what hurts. You want to know what book is currently perched at number 71,634 on's book list? It's a hardcover book called "Identifying Wood: Accurate Results with Simple Tools ". As you might expect, it's a book about looking at wood grain and identifying which species of tree it comes from.
    I'm being outsold by a book on wood.  That really puts things into perspective. And I really, really hate perspective.
    I don't care about the smoking jacket and Oprah anymore. I don't care about being a bestselling author. I just want the "The Book of Gabriel" to outsell a book about wood. That's my lofty goal. I'll let you know how it goes.
    I only have one problem so far. I truly, deeply and devoutly want to buy "Identifying Wood" just to say I have a book about wood identification. The only thing stopping me from giving it the quick click purchase on Amazon?
    I'm saving up for a bandwagon. They're outselling my book, too.