Reading Leaves that Don’t Change

Twenty seconds after I started the car yesterday, Charles Mingus’s “Better Git It in Your Soul” came on the radio. That is about as good an omen as one can wish for.

I have spent much of today trying to hold on, even a little, to the feeling I had as I walked out of BookPeople in downtown Austin last night. Big, independent bookstores are cool in their own right, but I’d made the drive downtown to go a reading by Steven Brust and Skyler White, whose new book The Incrementalists I mentioned in my author love letter to Mr. Brust. Mr. Brust wore the expected hat and the expected mustache. The reading itself entertained. I’m looking forward to my turn to read the book—what I’ve heard thus far reminds me of Zelazny. (My wife gets first crack at it, since it is something of a mutual birthday present and hers comes before mine.)

Mr. Brust was kind and clever. Ms. White was jovial and sweet. They handled the signing line with aplomb. In a cool twist, they had the people they were signing for sign their own copies of The Incrementalists. I mentioned to Mr. Brust that I had written an author love letter to him just after he’d finished writing “Happy Birthday” in my copy. (I knew he had seen the original post, since he retweeted the link.) He smiled and said, “That was very sweet. I wish you’d told me that before I signed it. I would have written something nicer.” Happy birthday and a dash of warm fuzzies were fine.

My way-back-ground is in English and writing, but most of the last decade for me has revolved around music. There is a feeling you get after a good show. Partly, it’s available to everybody—that feeling of having been moved, of having for a moment set aside the arbitrary limits of time and space. For musicians, there’s sometimes another level: the feeling that you can do something like that, that you want to do something like that. You can make something that will open others like you were just opened. These moments of clarity are why so many of us do art in the first place. That’s what I was feeling when I left BookPeople last night: I can do that. I want to do that.

Last night’s was amplified by my favorite kind of cool weather. It was clear and dark and the air was dry and held just a hint of edge. Perfect weather for walking around in short sleeves and appreciating the moment you step inside. That’s what fall should be like. The job hunt’s a slog, and we’re supposed to go back over 30 deg. C later this week, but for an evening, it was fall and I was happy.


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