When we walked into Battenkill Books last night for Jon’s book reading, and only one person was there, my heart sank a little. Every other reading Jon has done there, Connie had to bring out extra chairs, I’ve often sat on the floor.
It was strange, and I tried to act like it was fine, but that’s not what I was feeling. Then Elizabeth, a friend from Cambridge, came in and as we started talking I began to feel myself deflating. As I sank lower trying to make conversation about the thunder-storm last night, I saw Jon from the corner of my eye.
Jon was doing what I was trying to do, except he meant it. He was talking and laughing with the few people who were there. Seemingly unfazed by the small turnout. Not that he didn’t notice it, or that it didn’t bother him, but Jon’s a professional. He was doing his job and enjoying it.
Whether there’s one person or a thousand, he always behaves the same, gives it his all, does his best. And it is genuine, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t work.
Years ago I was at a local community theater, I don’t even remember which play it was, but half way through the actors gave up. I could feel the moment it happened. It was as if they were just going through the motions, just reading lines. It was the first time I ever experienced anything like that. The effect it had on the audience was palpable. If the play was just bad, but the actors were still trying, it would have been bearable. But once the gave up, it felt like a betrayal.
At that moment, I fell in love with Jon all over again.
And I was inspired by him. I pulled myself back, straightened my spine and walked around the room saying hello and chatting with the few people who were there.
So handsome in his button down wool vest, Jon gave a great talk, focusing on the people, not the empty chairs.
“You’re my hero,” I said to him after the talk giving him a big kiss on the lips. I’m still amazed at how well he did. If he gave the same talk in front of a thousand people I wouldn’t be as impressed. I actually found it really sexy the way he pulled it all together. The way he turned on his charm and didn’t let the situation bring him down.
He was dismissive of it. “What else could I do.” he said, while I pictured myself in the same situation, melting into a pile of self-pity.
On the way home we talked about the reading, trying to figure out why there were so few people there. We questioned the weather, the changing times of books and readings, if Jon was “over”, the lack of promotion. Once we got home, Jon dealt with it the same way he deals with all of his life. He thought about it and wrote about it on his blog. A piece as honest, genuine and real as he is. Without a hint of self-pity.
When we left the bookstore I glanced at the stack of about 100 books that Connie had sold on-line and were waiting for Jon to sign. She sold almost 700 copies of Talking to Animals before the book even came out.
Maybe times are changing, or maybe it was the weather. But whatever the reason, that’s not what I’ll remember about last night. What I’ll remember is how Jon showed up, for the people who were there and for himself. How he saved the night and made what could have been a difficult hour and a half a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening.