Saturday, March 05, 2005

Beer and Groaning in Vancouver

After much soul searching, money grubbing, and suppression of anxiety through massive amounts of serotonin-uptake regulators, I have bought the airline ticket and decided to attend the AWP Conference in Vancouver.

Wife will be there, as well as her writing posse (said posse name is not for public consumption) and various acquaintances from the fiction mafia. Another writer I know and admire has summoned me for a drink. There will be scores of others, varying in talent from the Truly Amazing to the Simply Awful, and I can comfort myself in the knowledge that I won't be the worst writer there. The conference features at least 1,439 workshops and panel discussions in which I can hide, if necessary. Everybody's minibar will be empty of liquor by the middle of the first night, and the air will be scored by drunken choruses of "I love you, man," and "And I love you, man."

What's not to like? Why am I not ecstatic at this four-day orgy of fiction fun, at which I will be in the company of friends?

It's all because of the schmoozing, or the thought of schmoozing. I hate it. More than the N.Y. Yankees and the St. Louis Cardnals combined. More than right-wing religious nutjobs. More than rectal exams and dental work, done at once.

I am certain that one reason so many novelists and poets are booze hounds is because that is the only way the get their social courage to a level that allows them to face other people. The writers I know suffer some combination of massive insecurity, being withdrawn and neurotic, or being shy and just plain crazy.

It's OK to be shy, Randy

If we weren't so socially retarded, we'd spend our hours doing things like hanging out with friends. Or reading books for the mere pleasure of it. Or being the life of the party, any party. We wouldn't obsess about not writing. We wouldn't worry so much about how much more successful every other writer is, especially those 15 years younger who have the world at their feet. We would watch television without guilt. We'd wake up Saturday mornings and not dread the afternoon ahead, before a keyboard.

I'm picturing AWP to be one of the many parties through which I suffered as a younger man. I was single, and I'd go to a party thinking there would be hot chicks and one of these ladies would ignore the fact I was standing sullen and quiet in the corner, come over, and talk to me. She'd see the real me and we'd go back to my apartment and make sweet love for the next 72 hours. Instead, I'd stand there sullen and quiet, sipping on my vodka tonic, and the only female attention I'd get would be a lady asking me to move so she could get to the Tostidos.

As a result of these past traumas, I'm picturing one of three scenarios for this conference.

1. I follow the Party Route outlined above, except the hot chicks are hot literary agents and editors. They will see my inner genius without me uttering a single word about it, then they will sign me to an enormous book deal, and just love me (platonically, of course). When this doesn't happen, I just pout in my hotel room, drunk, while Wife is out having a great time without me. Platonically, of course.

2. I get ragingly drunk and try to be someone I'm not, by which I mean the Pseudo-Fratboy, Totally Obnoxious, Aren't I Goddamn Funny And Flattering So Pay Attention to Me, Goddamnit strategy. My success with this tactic has been zero out of a billion times. Often tried during events when I attempt to buddy up to strange businessfolk who I would otherwise find as appealing as raw green flank steak.

3. Don't fucking worry a bit about cozying up to people, making cool friends, or impressing the literati. Hang out and get drunk with Wife, in a safe, caring, sensitive, non-threatening way. Talk about Jackie Chan and the Cubs and which Ramones album is the best and what were the narcotics in Elvis's system when he died (there were 14; eleven were ingested and the others metabolized as a result of the original drugs interacting). Avoid expectations that this needs to Advance My Career and Have Fucking Fun.

Door Number Three makes all the sense in the world, Monty Hall.