|Me & AB last year at his Good Eats 2 book signing|
Now that I'm not in shock anymore...it was kind of awesome - and completely deserved.
In case you don't already know, I'm kind of a total AB groupie. I discovered "Good Eats" sometime in college during a finals week and was hooked by his wit and food smarts. I watched him religiously every night at 10 p.m., devoured every episode of "Feasting on Asphalt" ever made, and own all his books.
Which is precisely why I was shamed last night.
Over the years, I've acquired his "I'm Just Here for the Food" books, his kitchen gear guide, his book version of "Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run" and, of course, the recently released Good Eats trilogy. Some have been via book stores like Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
Others, via my ongoing obsession with Half Price Books - which makes me a horrible person. I know it's awful to buy the work of someone you love so dearly in a manner that means they'll never see a penny from the sale...but when I'm in Half Price books and I see the work of someone I love, I feel the need to rescue it. Much of the store's stock is used books readers have sold back (or so I thought), and it breaks my heart to think someone didn't want their copy of "I'm Just Here for More Food," so I snap up books and give them a home on my book shelf.
I own a lot of books I feel I've 'rescued' - but last night I learned that might not be the case at all.
At last year's signing, I watched other fans bring all their books, Kitchen Aid mixers, kitchen utensils, etc. for AB to sign - and I was jealous. Why didn't I think to bring all my books? I wasn't going to make that mistake twice, so last night I trudged into Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods bag slug over my shoulder full of every Alton Brown book I own. It weighed a good 20+ pounds and I dragged it everywhere during the hour wait for 7 p.m., the 30 minute Q&A and the 2.5 hour wait to get my books signed.
|My AB collection|
The irony? I bought it on clearance at Half Price Books for $1.
And as I explain the present, everything is coming out in one long run-on sentence because ALTON BROWN is once again standing in front of me, and he's one of those people whose writing I admire so much, it's impossible to know what to say to him in person. In short, I'm really freaking nervous even though I've done this before, and I desperately need a gasp of air because there is none left in my body.
So AB thanks me, sets the book in his small gift pile and gets down to the business of signing my books.
I should have taken a bigger breath.
He flips open "Feasting on Asphalt" and signs. He flips open "Alton Brown's Gear for your Kitchen" and stops dead. He looks directly at me and asks:
"Miranda, where did you buy this book?"
And instantly, all the oxygen in my body is gone.
"Um, which one is that?" I ask, stalling for time. Time to breathe, time to come up with an excuse, time to gauge how he's about to react because that wit of his is razor-sharp sometimes.
He flips up the cover, and in a very, very small voice I answer.
"Um...Half Price Books?"
"Half Price what?" his assistant - who up to this point was politely snapping some candid shots of AB and I as I gave him the Back Road Cafes books - leans in and asks.
"Half Price Books," I repeat.
"Because this is a bootleg version of the book..." AB says.
And I'm dumbfounded. I have absolutely no idea what to say. I apologize, I tell him I'm a poor journalist living at home, I flat out tell him I had no idea such a version could exist.
He smirks. He gives me a hard time. He signs it anyway - but has to leave it sitting open because the type of paper used in this version is glossy and his signature will smear. He moves on to the next book.
"Oh good, this one is real."
But when he gets to book no. 4, both he and the assistant groan. Another bootleg.
We're all laughing at this point, but I feel completely awful. COMPLETELY awful. All these people in line behind me are watching this take place. As the conversation progresses, AB's voice is getting louder as he teases me. I'm on the verge of being completely mortified.
"I'm so, so sorry. I just didn't know. I feel horrible," I babble as he signs.
"That's okay, Miranda," AB proclaims loudly. "My daughter didn't need new shoes this year anyway."
AB signs my final two books. He kindly snaps a photo with me, then picks up my stack and hands the books back to me.
"Well, enjoy your bootlegged books!" he tells me. I laugh, I tell him thank you, and I try to make a beeline out of the area.
I'm not fast enough. As AB turns to the next set of people in line, he greets them with, "HI! You didn't bring bootleg books with you, did you?"
And my AB saga continues, ever so slightly.
Friday, I still felt so awful about the whole bootleg book fiasco I decided to make amends. I got on Barnes & Noble's website and reserved a copy of one of my counterfeit books at my local store - upon arrival, I also ordered a copy of the other book since they didn't have it in stock. I purchased my book, and while swiping my card the sales girl asks, "Didn't he just come out with a new book?"
"Oh yes," I answer, and the whole sordid tale comes out. When I finish, she's just as dumbfounded as I felt the night before.
"I didn't know you could make counterfeit books." Neither did I, B&N gal, neither did I.
After I get home, I decide to Tweet AB on the off chance he'll see my reply:
Silence so far. But I am looking forward to the next signing I get a chance to go to so I can redeem myself.