Friday, September 4, 2015

The Opportune Moment

I feel guilty.

Nine years ago, I had a shot at preventing this Donald Trump nonsense and didn't take it. Now it's all my fault.

In October 2006 I attended the Quill Awards at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Quills were a short-lived attempt to bring glamour and star power to book publishing, with a red carpet gala televised live on one of NBC's higher-numbered cable subsidiaries. Mom's Cancer was nominated for Best Graphic Novel so I flew out to the big city, Editor Charlie and I put on our good duds, and off we went.

Charlie Kochman and me, unusually snazzy.

The ceremony was held in the museum's Milstein Hall, whose signature feature, impossible to miss or ignore, is a full-scale blue whale hanging from the ceiling. Round dining tables covered the floor and ringed the balcony, where we sat, and moody blue lighting gave the effect of being underwater. As comics journalist Heidi MacDonald pointed out, the setting was one supervillain away from being a Batman movie. Specifically, the neon-colored Schumacher one with Clooney. Food was good, wine flowed freely.

My view from the balcony. Did you notice the whale? Beneath its snout are teleprompters.

By the time the TV cameras blinked on and the ceremony began, half the room--including many of the award presenters--was fully toasted. Some slurred and giggled their way through their banter. Actor Judd Hirsch went way off-script (I know because I could read his teleprompter from my seat) to recite a long book passage from memory, then dared anyone in the audience to tell him what it was from since we were all so goddam literary. I was pretty sure it was from Herman Melville's Billy Budd but decided not to leap to my feet and shout it from 50 yards away. However, I've been a big Judd Hirsch fan ever since.

CNN's Anderson Cooper and, I think, Caroline Kennedy handing out something or other.

The problem with the Quill Awards, and one reason I don't think they lasted long (three years; mine was the second) was that, after books were nominated by an expert committee, winners were determined by popular Internet vote. Thus it came to pass that, in a year in which nominees included E.L. Doctorow, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, Doris Kearns Goodwin and the Dalai Lama, the big Quill Award for Book of the Year went to Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings by Tyler Perry.

Did not repeat at the Pulitzers.

At one point during the long evening, I left Milstein Hall to take a restroom break (I think the underwater lighting had an unintended side-effect). I walked down a very long, very wide, very hard marble staircase. Walking up toward me were Quill Award presenter Donald Trump, his wife Melania, and his TV "Apprentice" flunky George Ross.

Remember George?

Nobody else. No entourage. No security. No witnesses. Just me headed down, and Donald, Melania and George headed up.

I could've done it. I could've even made it look like an accident. A "stumble," a push.

Like the staircase massacre scene in "The Untouchables," but tidier.

Instead I nodded and continued down. I don't remember if Trump acknowledged me but I'd bet not.

I don't want to overstate my importance, but it's possible that was one of the great deflection points in history, when one man made a decision that changed the entire course of civilization. Dare I say: the survival of the world?

Only time will tell whether I chose wisely.

As for the rest of my night at the Quills, I lost to Naruto, Volume 7, and learned an important life lesson: if you're nominated for an award and they seat you in the balcony, you're not winning the award. The sting was significantly lessened when Charlie's friend, book designer/author/editor and inebriated Quill Award presenter Chip Kidd, invited us to his apartment, stripped down to his boxers, and poured sherry that we sipped on his apartment balcony overlooking the breathtaking Manhattan skyline.

Wounded and seeking justice, Charlie and I stole the cheap plaster centerpieces.
I labeled the chimp with Sharpie marker and still have it sitting proudly on my bookshelf.

I am sorry.

[Some of these words and pictures are repeated from a 9-year-old blog post, but I didn't think anybody would mind.]


3 comments:

Mike Peterson said...

You could have at least pulled his pants down. It would have been a chance to test that theory.

Brian Fies said...

Coulda woulda shoulda....

NATHAN SETHU said...

'Wounded and seeking justice'-interesting point to be noted