While I live in the cozy little town of Stevens Point, I grew up near Madison. That’s where my family is. It’s home, in the biggest sense of the word. That’s where I go when the family-type holidays roll around, and that’s where I went this Christmas.
A couple months ago, I went down to Madison to attend Wiscon. It’s nice to go to a convention that doesn’t involve spending all day on a plane, and this one is practically in my backyard.
While I was there, I ended up hooking up with Tobias Buckell and David Anthony Durham. And by “hooking up” I mean that we were going to hang out at the coffee shop and chat. Not that they aren’t attractive men and all… But… well. Yeah.
Anyway, before I go into the coffee shop, I hit the Jamba Juice next door. Because I love Jamba Juice. Specifically, I love the Orange Dream Machine smoothie. If there was a Jamba Juice here in Stevens Point, that is all I would eat. Ever.
So I get a smoothie and head across the street to the coffee shop. There, I order a mocha and politely ask if it’s okay for me to bring in my smoothie. The hipster behind the counter is cool about it, and I tip him generously.
So Toby, David, and I are waiting for our drinks when a policeman shows up. Not mall security. This is a real cop, blue suit, badge, gun and everything.
This makes me edgy. Back in high-school my friends and I used to be hooligans. Our main hobby was toilet-papering houses. In a small town like Deforest (which is where I went to school) that means that you have to get pretty good at dodging the cops, because most of their job was keeping us from doing stuff like that. It was like an elaborate game of tag.
My friends and I were pretty good at it, and we were never caught. We developed highly sensitive cop radar that let us know when to run or hide.
The unfortunate result is that these days, whenever I see a cop, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. This isn’t helped by the fact that at any given moment that I might be returning from, going to, carrying around, or at least thinking about something illegal.
So when I see the cop, I immediately feel shifty. I do a mental inventory of my pockets and backpack, wondering what I have on me that might get me in trouble. This is also a holdover from highschool. Back then, innocent things riding around in your car with you can get you in trouble. Things like fireworks, silly string, shaving cream, and, of course, the case of toilet paper in the trunk.
But I don’t have anything on me. Lockpicks might raise an eyebrow, but they’re legal to carry here in Wisconsin. I have a bottle of caffeine in my backpack. And while it looks suspicious, it’s not illegal either. I’m clean.
Still, I can’t help but feel like this cop is giving me the eye. I get my mocha and wander over to the condiment stand to add my requisite four or five sugars. I’m sure of it: he’s looking me over. Is it because I have terrorist beard? That might single me out in line at the airport, but in a coffeeshop in downtown Madison? Not likely. There are hippies here aplenty.
I head over to the table Toby and David have picked out, and he’s still watching me. What is it? Am I wearing my t-shirt that says, “You say tomato, I say fuck you.” No. Is it my black leather trench coat? Am I just radiating latent guilt? What? What?
He comes over to the table where I’ve just taken off my coat. His expression is serious, he’s frowning a little. Then it occurs to me – the Jamba Juice. He knows that I shouldn’t have it here in the coffee shop. Is it illegal to have a carry-in?
He then he says. “Did you write The Name of the Wind?”
And I’m floored. He’s read my book. We chatted for a bit, and I got to look popular in front of my fellow writers.
However, I knew that for what it was, a fluke. There had been a story about me in the paper a couple days before. A “Local Boy Does Good” sort of thing. They used a picture of me, and I have to admit I do have a bit of a distinctive look.
Jump forward to last week. Sarah and I are walking out to my car in the Borders parking lot. Heading toward the bookstore is a stranger, making more than the usual amount of eye-contact. As he had some respectable chin growth, I figured he was just expressing beard solidarity.
But then, as he comes closer he nods and says, “I like your work.”
I say, “You’re kidding me. You know who I am?”
He does, apparently. Still, I can pass this off as a fluke too. It did happen in the parking lot of a bookstore, after all.
But then, two days later, I’m at the post office mailing the check out to Heifer. When I hand the guy the envelope, he looks down at it, then says, “Are you the writer Pat Rothfuss?”
So… yeah. It was weird. Cool, but weird. It’s nice that these last two things happened when Sarah was around, so she thinks I’m cooler than I really am. This is important because she’s much prettier and nicer than me. I need to have something to balance the scales out.
In unrelated news, I’m going to be making an appearance at a bookstore in Pasadena on January 17th. I can’t lay my hands on the details right now, but I’ll post them up as soon as I can find the appropriate piece of paper.
Hope everyone is having a good time,