Publication, Fame (yours not mine) and the Laconia Spa

March 24, 2010

Below is another outtake from A Brief History of Sex Education, my memoir of boys and sex and dodgeball (and isn’t dodgeball really kind of like sex when you think about it?), mixed with a healthy dose of music good and bad, awkwardness and, I hope, humor and humility. Since some of you have been asking, here’s an update on the book itself: I’m currently in the pain-in-the-ass marketing stage of groveling to agents and calling in favors to editors I was lucky enough to room with in college or swill next to in bars a couple decades ago or so. Here is a sampling of actual responses from agents who have chosen NOT to represent me:

1. Nothing really bad happens to you. I can’t really sell that.

(If only I’d said yes when offered the chance to become a cokehead/call girl/edgy performance artist way back when. Sigh.)

2. The market is inundated with memoir right now. Contact me when the novel’s done.

(Here’s where I think about pulling a backwards James Frey move—“Oh wait, yeah, this is a novel—totally made up. And really bad things happen. I just need to add those chapters.”)

3. Memoirs only sell if you’re famous or you know someone famous.

(Okay this one is out of my hands. I’m depending on you, friends in high school, to become famous so I can ride your coattails. I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. . . .)

In the meantime, as Buckaroo Banzai said back in good ole 1984, “Acknowledge, move on.” So until you become famous or I manage to make some editor or agent somewhere fall in mad love, here’s the first of three installments that I’m going to post this week covering

1. The Laconia Spa

2. Driver’s Ed

3. Gar Green

4. Late night shenanigans.

Enjoy (and then get out there and start becoming famous for me).

Fast Forward

Part 1

Sunday, 2 a.m., and we’re hopped up on soda and cigarettes for lack of better options. It’s early summer, school is out, and as we cruise the empty streets with the windows down I think how I love this town best in the morning, no matter which end of the day I arrive at it from.

We pass the grocery store, the furniture store, then Dunkin’ Donuts, where I see the backs of three old men in three old windbreakers sitting on stools beneath a fog of smoke. As we go by GoodyGood Bakery, I glimpse the bakers in back, lights shining down on their tattooed arms, rising and falling like pistons.

We stop for a red light and a pall settles on the car as we face the sad truth that it might be time to head home. Then a sudden idea is shouted from the backseat, the light turns green and we make the sharp turn onto Church Street near the shuttered shoe factory, reenergized with a second wind. Our headlights slide over a man looking up from the pay phone outside the Busy Corner Store. There is always someone on the pay phone outside the Busy Corner Store, always someone slumped against the brick wall, receiver to ear, cigarette pinched between finger and thumb, listening to news that never looks good.

We cross the river by the old boardinghouse and U-turn at Saint Joseph’s Church to park in front of the Laconia Spa, tumbling out of the car. The clerk doesn’t even look twice when we walk in, he’s so used to late-night antics and loud, stupid talk. After all this is the Laconia Spa, the only store around here still open at 2 a.m.

The Spa offers a lot for 2 a.m. spontaneous shopping—boxes of Boston Baked Beans and wax-paper rolls of Necco Wafers, thirty kinds of chocolate bars, fifteen flavors of bubble gum. The Spa sells rolling papers and tins of tobacco, potato chips, Twinkies, and bread; there are single beers you can buy—in the cold case next to bottles of soda and quarts of milk ready to turn—and even single cigarettes, ten cents each, from a mysterious hodgepodge collection that sits in a mug by the cash register next to the plastic cup of Slim Jims and the glass jar full of pretzel rods.

There are shelves of dusty paperbacks and comic books too, plus stacks of newspapers and magazines and a long high rack of pornography that sits above a cardboard, hand-lettered “NO BROWSING” sign. The porn magazines are only partially wrapped, so the cover girls all peek out from the top of their brown paper veils, their eyes following you throughout the store.

Their eyes are following us as we discover exactly what we want—plain white chalk—so we pool our change and pay, then rattle down the wooden steps and up the sidewalk, breaking open the box and handing out pieces before rushing into the street.

I lie down on the pebbly asphalt, thrilled at the hands tracing their way around my body, tracing around my arms and legs splayed out. We take turns until there are four silhouettes left empty on the street, outlines of an accident that never was.


6 Responses to “Publication, Fame (yours not mine) and the Laconia Spa”

  1. chrislipjournal said

    I really like your writing style!

    Rob Hanson of the Chrislip Journal

  2. Kirsti said

    I read somewhere that memoirs about natural disasters were really hot right now. Too bad there’s never been a monsoon in Gilford! I guess they won’t see the summer it rained a lot as a hardship….but on a serious note, I question the notion (an idea that is really pervasive right now) that a sellable memoir must be about a tragedy, illness, or hardship.

  3. Jon said

    The Laconia Spa in the late 70s was a funny place – along with the snacks, the chewing tobacco, the pipes and the porn, they had the most eclectic collection of paperbacks you’ve ever seen. Obscure sci-fi anthologies, beatnik poetry, old John Updike novels, you never knew what kind of odd dusty obscure tome of knowledge might be on the shelves. I remember finding a Portuguese-English dictionary there in ’79, probably the only one extant in New Hampshire at the time (I was the sort of kid who found that exciting) and thinking that the Spa was perhaps the main link between backwater New Hampshire and the wide world beyond. Probably hard to convey in the internet age how cool that seemed.

  4. I do make mention later in the book that the Spa was the best bookstore in Laconia–vintage paperbacks with vintage prices to suit my budget. It was right across from the boardinghouse where I worked, so I spent a lot of my money there, though my first purchase was Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson. I was learning a new language too. . . and it sure wasn’t Portuguese.

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