This is a little bit of a personal thing. If you’re a fan, feel free to read it, but this isn’t really for you. This is for my friends and myself. It is long, detailed, and mostly serves as something of a record of an incredibly touching moment, as well as a snapshot of a time in my life. Sort of a public diary. If you’re interested in book news, I’m sure it won’t be long before you’ll have to scroll past a few lengthy posts of such in order to get to this. But if you’d like to know about something important to me, then buckle up, we’re going for a ride.
January 28th, as I said elsewhere, was the 10th Anniversary of The Book of Deacon’s first publication. You can see a video with the Q&A here. I was oddly excited about this admittedly arbitrary milestone, and I mentioned it a few times in the months leading up to it.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear even to me, I decided to publish The Book of Deacon shortly after my birthday. I may even have started setting up the book on my birthday and finished it after midnight. An additional piece of information relevant to the story that follows is the fact that, since at least high school, a bunch of my friends and I have gotten together to watch the Royal Rumble, an annual wrestling pay-per-view. We’ve got a whole thing where we draw numbers and enter a pool. It’s a lot of fun and most of us look forward to it every year.
Now that you know all of that, the scene is set for the story I actually want to tell.
My friend Cary is in the midst of reclaiming a formerly clutter-strewn garage to serve as a gaming room/youtube studio. He’s a gamer, and has been one for longer than anyone else I know. His collection of games and systems is significant, and he’s proud of it. It has thus been a point of frustration that the vast majority of that collection has been stowed away in boxes when he would much prefer to have access to them. What is the point of owning a game from your childhood and not being able to find it or play it?
The issue is, console games (especially those in boxes) are a weird size. Most shelves are built to handle books, which are larger and heavier than games. If you buy a bookshelf and put a game on it, you’ll have several inches of space in front of the game that’ll either be wasted or accumulate clutter. Cary wanted shelves specifically for games. He also wanted floating shelves, which are shelves without visible brackets to support them. Every option on the market was far too big for his stuff, stronger than he needed, and extremely expensive. Cary is frugal. So for the last couple weeks we tossed ideas back and forth until we came upon a method which, in theory, would do the job for $1 a foot. (Here’s the video we found.) Incidentally, it turns out just about everything related to video games has at least one dimension measuring 5.5 inches, which is the width of a 2×6. So that method plus a couple of 2x6s seemed like a winner.
Cary’s got two kids and a super demanding job, so weekends are at a premium. He was going to have a day to himself on January 26th, and asked if I could come and help install the shelves. I said sure. That was the same day as the Rumble, which had just recently been moved to a friend’s house in Bayonne, just about a block away from where he needed the shelves put in. It would work out great.
He bought the materials, I packed up the tools, and he came to get me at 6 am. We had breakfast (did you know McDonald’s has Chicken McGriddles now?), and got to work. Marking studs, measuring, drilling pocket holes, missing studs, re-drilling pocket holes in place using a wallet as a spacer. Vertically separating shelves by precisely one space-heater. You know, the usual. Things came together remarkably well.
Then came a couple hours of sorting through boxes to find all of the things worthy of display. A lot of his collection is actually stuff I gave him once I realized I wouldn’t have any use for it any longer, so there was a ton of instances of me going, “Hey, I had this when I was little. I didn’t realize anyone else… oh, wait. This is mine.” It was loads of fun going through all of the stuff, seeing what sort of crazy things he’d managed to hold onto over the years. I’d never seen a 3DO game in person before. Stack by stack we loaded up the shelves.
Impressively, the shelves managed to stay on the wall. By now it was getting close to 3pm and Cary got a call from his wife. She has her own business enterprises, which often involve planning and preparing parties. She was down at a hall we’ve rented a few times in the past for parties and needed a hand setting things up. He asked if I would help. I didn’t have anything else to do until the Rumble started at 7, so why not? We walked down to the Polish American Home and asked to be let into the room so we could start setting up.
The party was for me. I was turning thirty-seven. My books were turning ten. The people in my life decided it was worthy of celebration. The room was full of people. Family, friends ranging all the way back from second grade to college. And of course, Cary, Sean, and Chrissy. All of the people in the room were important, but those three deserve special mention. Not just because they were the masterminds of the whole operation. They deserve mention because they are the reason the books happened. Cary, Sean, and Chrissy were the first people trusted with the shameful secret that I’d written this self-indulgent, stupid pile of words called The Book of Deacon. They were the ones that had urged me to finish it. They were the ones who had urged me to try getting it published, and when I failed at that, they were the ones who convinced me to self-publish. Cary is still my alpha reader. They weren’t just the ones who planned this party, they were the reason for the reason for the party.
I would show you pictures of the party, but as you might imagine, it was a bit overwhelming for me, so I didn’t take very many. There were blown up versions of my book covers in frames. Each table was sorted by “Book 1, Book 2, Book 3…” and had glowing reviews from each of the books printed out and framed. There were speeches from both Sean and Cary. I cried. I am crying now.
If people like this weren’t in my life, you wouldn’t know who I am. You never would have read The Book of Deacon. Big Sigma, Free-Wrench, and everything else I’ve published never would have even been written. I am blessed to have people like this in my life. They have had a more profound impact upon me than they can ever know, and yet when the time came to give recognition for the results of their care and support, it was them giving me recognition. It is more than I deserve, and I’m still blown away.
The party went flawlessly, though not for lack of effort from the cosmos. Vehicle failures and scheduling issues meant that nearly everyone involved had to pull double-duty. Brad from college picked up food. Family members who were meeting some of my friends for the first time were working with them to get tables set and favors prepared. Seconds from when I was going to open the door, people were scrambling to wrangle my nephew, who was shouting for grapes as I was entering the building where the party would take place. Everybody helped. My brother, my sister-in-law. Everyone.
Like I said, I’m writing this for me, and I’m writing it for them. I’m writing it because I can’t say it out loud or I wouldn’t get through three sentences. Seriously, I’ve given Best Man speeches at the weddings of two of the people at that party. There is video evidence of the difficulty I have speaking from the heart without dissolving into an emotional wreck. So this is here now. For them. For me. For you.