Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry, Barry, and Bart
or, Less Than Zero. Waaaay less.

(Note: There are no specific HP and the Deathly Hallows spoilers in this entry, just a general mention of the fact that some characters die, which everyone with an internet connection already knows at this point unless they are living under a rock with some wacky kind of firewall that blocks all information about obsessions and salivating fans.)

It's funny (or is it) that in the five years and three Harry Potter releases(books 4, 5, and 6) of my Borders career I managed to get out of ever working a midnight release party, but now that I work sporadically at the Borders in Queens I actually worked the big event. Enthusiastically, I might add. But it was frightening. I played the palm reader/fortune teller at the "Grand Hallows Ball." I had a script of things like "You will soon be reacquainted with old friends" and "You will not get much sleep tonight." Of course I had to spice it up a little with my own interpretations of these people. But here's the scary thing: they thought I was a real palm reader. They told their friends, "Oh my god she's so amazing." They asked for my card. My card?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha...oh dear, it was all so amusing.

I mean, seriously. I sat in a chair behind a black curtain with Halloween decorations supplied by one of the supervisors there: a crystal ball in a skull's hand, a sphere on the table that lit up Tesla-style, black cloth. A fake spider, for god's sake. "Lady Linda lurks in her lair..." was what the sign said. I wore a long skirt, a scarf holding back my hair, thin gold hoop earrings, a fair amount of eyeliner... and the masses of Middle Village, Queens, New York, USA came flocking. There was still a line at midnight. A couple people were like, "I don't care about the book; I just want my palm read." It was the most absurd thing I've ever been a part of. And I've been a part of some absurd things in my day. (See also: Provo, Korea, etc.)

The whole thing was so weird because Borders had it set up where you were kind of palm-reading/fortune-telling. But to my knowledge (which is very little) palm reading isn't really a fortune-telling divination, but more of a personality/strengths/life determination. But what do I know? I just tell people what they want to hear. Apparently. I would tell them they were going on a magical journey. (With Harry, Ron, and Hermione, right?) They would get so excited. I discovered how easy it is in the space of two seconds to look at someone and tailor what you say to them, based on age, wedding ring or lack thereof, what they're carrying, and whether they're wearing fashionable clothes and hairstyle. I mean, I even took a look at their wristbands for getting in line at midnight to buy the book, and if they had the color for people who had not reserved in advance then I told them they procrastinate things but will pursue what's important.

It was awesome. So did I have an epiphany that I could have a great career as a psychic? Not at all. Despite the fact that I was really tempted beforehand to put out a tip jar and now wish I had been allowed to. I actually felt kind of disgusted. It was the most like a liar I've ever been. I don't care if I was acting and playing a role--these dumbasses who've never left their Queens neighborhood believed I had answers for them. I'd be like, "OK thank you for stopping by; enjoy the Grand Hallows Ball!" And they'd reply, "But wait! Am I going to get married?" I said I did not reveal such things. One woman asked me how long I'd been doing this. I wanted to say, "One hour and twenty minutes." Instead I said, "Lady Linda does not count the years."

Furthermore, what I did realize is that there is great hope for my political career, because I can apparently look people in the eye and make them think my truth is what they want to hear, even though I don't know them from Adam. Speaking of politics and liars, I was thinking about war later that evening. The silver wristband people somehow got lined up in two separate places and we were trying to sort them out and merge them back together and these people were freaks. No matter how much we tried to get them to shut up for ten seconds so we could discuss the situation, they kept piping up in our faces. And what shocked me most was the active resistance to the compromise of merging the lines. (Which we did anyway, because hello! We have brains in our heads!) They just couldn't see that taking two from here and two from there would get everybody through better, and would definitely be faster for them than if we took one line at a time and *their* line was the second one chosen. How could they not see that compromising was not only the most fair but also the most efficient? I thought, 'No wonder we have so much war in this world.'

"People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles..."
-- first line of Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

My favorite parts of the night were the after-hours, though. First, at 2:30 a.m., when we had triumphantly rung up the last customers and sent them on their way, the employees who'd reserved the book purchased theirs and we all stood around looking at the store which had the appearance of the dregs of a New Year's Eve party. That was when Brian and I read the end of the book. This shocked and awed many of the people around us. It also horrified them as I would eagerly point to a page and say to Brian, "Oh, look, s/he lives and s/he dies!" and things like that. I thought it was just about the funniest thing in the world. I've never read a Harry Potter book in its entirety, although I got through about 150 pages of the first one before I stopped caring. This summed it all up for me nicely and now I can move on with my life. (Would that I could say the same for the rest of JK Rowling's minions.)

Then we went out to do shots of Jack Daniels with our general manager and wash them down with beer until 4:30 a.m. All in all, a great night. And Brian makes an excellent Harry Potter. I knew he would. We just had to find the right pair of glasses.

Back here in Boston, I watched a lot of baseball last night, including my Braves against San Francisco. And unless you've been living under another rock, perhaps next door to the one you've been living under if you don't know about characters dying in the last Harry Potter book, then you know Barry Bonds plays for San Francisco and is thisclose to breaking Hank Aaron's home run record, which is great for me because everyone wants to see it happen so my Braves games against them are televised for sure. No home runs for Barry last night, but it was highly amusing because the announcers talked about basically nothing else, and going in and out of every break it was all about home run race tidbits. I'm amused because they have to be prepared for it last night, tonight, any night--he could easily hit three in one game. At the same time, though, if he doesn't do this for a while they are going to get really sick of having no other subjects and the interns are going to be digging deeper and deeper for interesting things to say about it.

I rather like Chipper Jones' take on the whole thing. He said if he were pitching (but he's not a pitcher) and it was that time, he'd throw one right in there. Really, the interviewer asks, incredulous. He said, "Sure, I'd be in every clip. Forever." That's awesome.

Meanwhile, I have yet to go to a Simpsons Kwik-E-Mart. And the one in New York is right by Port Authority, where I've spent so much quality time lately. (There isn't one in Boston.) Shame on me. I haven't really begun salivating over the Simpsons movie as much as most folks have. I mean, I like The Simpsons and it's one of the shows whose greatness I acknowledge while rarely watching it. But I must admit I am pretty skeptical about whether any TV show can be turned into a good movie. They just always feel like a long episode of the TV show that's trying to be more. That is why The Brady Bunch movies were so great: they made fun of the TV shows and the fact that their plots barely merited a half-hour sitcom to begin with. So I'll probably go see the Simpsons movie, but I won't expect it to be a great movie.

I'll leave you to decide which is weirder--not being a Simpsons fan or not being a Harry Potter fan. At least I love baseball, so you can't call me "un-American." Not that I would mind.


jnap said...

Okay, Linda, there are people in the world who equate fortune telling with palm reading.. Now you know.

And, about baseball: Mickey Mantle was going for a record, "showed" the pitcher where he wanted the ball. And got it... There was a controversy afterwards, but why wouldn't you want to pitch a record breaking pitch..

Who cares, I don't about the Harry Potters, the Simpsons, the Brady Bunch movies. But, I thought you were going to reference the "Who shot JR" phenomenom?

linda said...

Interesting (said the girl whose family named their cat after the 'Who shot J.R.?' phenomenon...) But during the joking with co-workers pretending we were going to tell them the ending, my standby jokes were 1)that Harry goes to law school and 2)that it was all a dream Bobby Ewing had.

amy c said...

" I can move on with my life. Would that I could say the same for the rest of JK Rowling's minions."

Whatever, Linda.

Why do you have to begrudge someone pleasure in something they love? Why must you belittle? Even if you don't like the books.

I would be horrified too, if someone who didn't care, read the end of the book in front of me and said, "Look, he/she dies!" Sorry, but I've invested 10 years of life reading and waiting and reading. Yes. It is exciting to me. When I was waiting in the store for my book, someone came on the loudspeaker and informed the crowd that someone had put flyers on all the cars outside giving away part of the book. You think that's funny too?

Can't it be great that so many people and kids are excited about READING? Think about the things you get excited about and imagine someone ruining it for you.

linda said...

I don't know that I begrudge anyone their pleasure. I think my post the next day better explains what I begrudge--namely, the corporate lies that have accompanied said pleasure. (You know I hate corporate lies.)

To answer your questions, no I don't the flyer thing is funny, I think it's ridiculously dumb. Also, I was so about *not* spoiling it for anyone; the two of us wanted to read the ending, and what was funny was how horrified our friends were that WE were doing that. It's the same logic as you ask, but in reverse--why should anyone begrudge me reading only the ending of #7 and not caring to read the whole series?

As for that "happy that kids/people are reading" I address that in the next post too. I simply don't buy that there was a lack of reading problem that Harry solved. That theory is logically flawed.

However, my post was meant in good fun. I'm sorry it struck a nerve, but I find that interesting, too.

linda said...

Oh yeah, reading back over your comment, Amy, in case it wasn't clear from my post, I did NOT say, "Look, [Mr. X] dies" when I pointed at the book. I literally said, and not to the fans but only to Brian who was reading it with me, "Oh look, he lives." I literally said "he" the pronoun, specifically NOT giving things away. Just to clarify.