Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I just got back from my very first book signing in New York City, and I'm glad to report that everything seems to have returned to normal in the capital of the world. No one was warm and fuzzy. No one seemed afraid, and grown men weren't hugging each other in the streets either. Well, they were in the theater district, but that's normal, too.

Every time I go to New York City, within minutes of arrival, I turn into a New Yorker. I just can't help myself. Chuck Will, who was a legendary associate director of golf at CBS sports, once said that there are three kinds of assholes, and he's from Philadelphia, so he knows an asshole when he sees one. Chuck said you have your common asshole, your flaming asshole, and then, the top of the line, your gaping asshole. (The latter is the kind of asshole of whom you often see pictures in publications like the Robb Report, or Cigar Aficionado.) I maintain that everyone in New York City fits into one of these categories. They must, to avoid being sucked in by the vortex created by all the other assholes.

For example, when the sign says WALK, and the wee white man appears, you walk, right?

Wrong, unless you want to die. Better than that, they have traffic cops who regularly blow whistles and wave traffic through red lights and the wee white man, when the crossing is full of pedestrians. Now me, I have my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter on my shoulders, and She Who Must Be Obeyed on my arm. I'm in the middle of the road, and a cab is making a left turn. He actually touches my right knee with his front fender, and leans on his horn, so I stop and glare at him. Nobody else even seems to notice. The driver mouthed an obscenity and gave me the finger, so I made a production of stepping back, and sarcastically waving him past. Acting like I was the biggest asshole in the city, he drove on, so I gave the rear wing of his cab a solid kick. Then, my three and a half year-old daughter and my wife give him the finger. I was so proud.

"Meet the Asshole family, buddy! We're from Dallas, Texas, but we're equally at home in New York!"

On Fifth Avenue, at the Barnes & Noble, it was time for the book signing. They'd set me up on the basement floor, with a podium and microphone, and a table and chair at which I could sit and sign books for the multitude of people who simply had to have it. Also, there were about 30 empty chairs in front of me, for the people who would want to hear me talk about it. And there wasn't an asshole in sight, except for one homeless guy who had torn the plastic wrapping off a Playboy and was sitting down in the back, presumably engrossed in one of the articles. (Actually, he did get a book signed, but I'm pretty sure he stole it). No problem, I like homeless people, especially when they have a dog. The dog always has the same expression on its face. "Hey buddy, just how long is this friggin' walk gonna last?

Apart from the homeless guy, I knew the Christian name of everyone I could see. I bet John Grisham was never able to say that at one of his book signings. Ha! One up for me.

Fortunately, it started raining outside, so a bunch of people were driven into the store, where they had set me up right next to the Self-help for Assholes section, so I had kind of a semi-captive audience. Then, on the PA system they announced that the Q&A and book signing was about to start, and introduced me as a, "Golfcaster," so I got a couple of extra assholes from the Fishing section too. I thanked everyone for showing up, and gave a rough description of what they could expect if they bought A Nasty Bit Of Rough. Nobody could think of a question, and there was an awkward period of silence as I stared out at a sea of assholes wearing blank expressions. I suspected they were all thinking, "I wonder who this asshole is?"

My publisher broke the ice by asking me a question about Tiger Woods, which I answered, and all of a sudden, you could see the attitude of the crowd change. They sat up.

"Wait a minute," they were thinking. "This asshole knows Tiger Woods!"

For the next hour, the theme of the book signing was, "Screw your novel, asshole, we want to hear about Tiger." Typical. I go all the way to New York to publicize my book, and that asshole Tiger hijacks the whole episode.

But the upside of it was living proof that the Tiger Effect has been beneficial to everyone in golf. Nearly all of them bought at least one book, even the fishermen, who knew that Tiger likes to drag creatures out of the water by their lips. Half of these assholes wouldn't have shown up if it weren't for the fact I was able to tell them something they didn't know about Tiger. As usual, I made most of it up.

I had a wonderful three-day visit to New York City. It's the most vibrant, energetic, colorful place in the world for me, and I absolutely adore it. As we made our way out of Midtown over the bridge toward La Guardia Airport for the flight home, I looked out the back window of the town car (which was being piloted by some insane Serbian asshole) at Manhattan's skyline. It struck me that if this great nation is a fighter, then Manhattan is the chin, which juts out defiantly. It's not perfect, and it's true, there are a couple of teeth missing. But in this town, no one stays down. It's not about buildings; it's about the people who use them, and the attitude of the people of New York City is back. These are people who have the guts to find humor in any situation, even the events of 9/11. That confirms for me what I already suspected. They are unbreakable.

A couple of missing teeth are eminently fixable, but it's going to cost us dearly. This town is full of dentists, and you know how much those assholes charge.

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