I went out for Halloween tonight in Philadelphia with my family, and my wife and I made the following video montage of this year’s Halloween. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Halloween!Continue reading
On my lunch break, especially when the weather is nice, I like to take a walk and listen to a chapter or two from an audiobook. This allows me to decompress and exercise at the same time. My usual destination is Rittenhouse Square, the epicenter of social activity in center city Philadelphia. Little did I know that I’d run into one of the most bizarre individuals in the City of Brotherly Love during one of my daily treks last week.
Last Friday I stared at my computer screen, realized it was lunch time and headed for the door. With my earbuds popped in and my iPhone at the ready, I picked up where I left off in the audiobook version of The Da Vinci Code as I took the elevator to the ground floor of the building. I’m revisiting the book in anticipation of Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, and it’s just as good now as it was 10 years ago.
The steel doors opened, I passed the security guard and burst through the front doors onto Broad Street. Passing by a motley crew of University of the Arts students, I approached the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets and gazed up at City Hall – the world’s tallest masonry building. To this day, it still impresses me every time I see it.
Weaving in and out of human traffic, I made my way to Rittenhouse Square in record time. Upon my arrival I turned left and searched for a bench where I could unwind and focus on the story being piped into my ears. As I traversed the curved path I noticed to the right a crazy-looking woman with frizzy hair. I walked forward several benches and found an empty one, seemingly waiting for my behind to rest on it.
I sat down and within two minutes the aforementioned crazy woman left her bench to join me. I ignored her but she started to speak, so I took out my headphones and said, “What?” As I turned toward her I noticed that her skin was weathered and laden with deep-set wrinkles. Her unwieldy mane of hair blew in the air as she said to me with a two-toothed grin, “Can you light this for me? They don’t let me light them.” Bemused and wondering who “they” were, I looked down and saw in her outstretched hands a cigarette and a lighter. Hoping this would convince her to leave me alone, I said, “Sure.”
Assuming everything was done and over with, I put my headphones back in and continued to play my audiobook. Then I realized Frizzy Frannie was still talking to me. I took out my earbuds again and she said, “You’ve got the power! Come on baby, light my fire. Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.” While I’m a fan of classic rock, having a gravely-voiced senior citizen who looks like she could give Lindsay Lohan a run for her money isn’t my idea of a good time. Thinking quickly, I acted like I received a phone call I had to take and said, “Excuse me.” To make it convincing, I stood several feet from the bench and said to no one on the other line, “Where are you? I’m in Rittenhouse Square. Yeah, I know where that is. I’ll be there in five minutes.” Then I swiftly walked away, leaving Frizzy Frannie by her lonesome.
Rittenhouse Square is a beautiful park that’s regularly inhabited by street musicians, people having picnics and doormen walking dogs. It’s a great place to unwind and soak in a beautiful day in the city. But like any urban oasis, you never know who you’re going to find on the other side of the bench…so have an exit strategy in mind.
Lately, I’ve been attending book signings when I can. Within the past year, I’ve met Suze Orman, Donald Trump, Harlan Coben, and Lisa Scottoline. These events are fun, and I get to meet the minds – and in Trump’s case, the hair – behind the books. As a matter of fact, I plan on heading to New York in September to meet one of my new favorite authors, Lee Child.
Out of all of these encounters, Lisa Scottoline was definitely one of the most memorable. I had never read any of her novels, but I heard they took place in Philadelphia and that she used to be an attorney. Being a fan of mysteries and thrillers, I decided to take a chance and stroll over to the Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square. It was a beautiful April afternoon, and I figured I could do worse things with my lunch break. To my surprise, Lisa was far different than I expected.
She showed up in a dress suit with Crocs on because, according to her, she “just had foot surgery.” Already I knew she wasn’t going to be one to hold back. Lisa went on to talk about her relationship with her mother and how her new book, Come Home, which dealt with parenting issues, specifically when it came to stepchildren from a previous marriage. After speaking for several minutes she said, “OK. I’m going to shut up soon, so you can line up and get your books signed. I know many of you have to get back to work.” Then she pointed at me and said, “But you. I want you at the front of the line. You’re gorgeous!” While I was flattered to receive the compliment, I blushed so much I must have looked like a Red Delicious apple at that moment.
Besides her brutal honesty and friendly demeanor, I quickly learned that Lisa likes to give Tastykakes to her fans. Every time someone asked a good question, she gave the person a Tastykake. Having recently met Harlan Coben, I asked Lisa, “Harlan Coben mentioned that he regularly gets together for dinner with a group of author friends, including Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Mary Higgins Clark. Do you also regularly socialize with fellow authors?” Lisa responded by saying, “I’m also friends with Harlan Coben, but I haven’t been invited to any of those dinners. Next time you see him, let him know.” For a moment, I was mortified, thinking I’d upset her. But then she laughed and I realized she was just playing around.
After the Q&A, we all lined up to get our books signed and meet Lisa. When I got to the front, I told her this was the first book of hers that I was going to read and that, like her, I was Italian. In typical Lisa fashion, she replied, “You’re Italian? But your nose is so perfect. Me, I’ve got this big thing to work with.” I couldn’t do anything but laugh. It was the last thing I imagined she would say, but with Lisa Scottoline unpredictably is to be expected. I then asked to take a photo with her, and, of course, she said yes. As I turned to leave, she gave me a box filled with three Tastykakes.
After stepping to the side to gather my things, I watched her engage in conversation with fans and noticed how she remembered those that came to previous signings. She greeted them with hugs and kisses and asked about their friends, who she also previously met. What impressed me even more was, as I left, Lisa stopped talking to a fan to say, “Thanks for coming Michael. I appreciate it.” This blew me away. I met the woman for a brief moment and after speaking with several fans, she remembered my name and was gracious enough to thank me for coming out. Many celebrities, like Donald Trump, are as egotistical as you’d imagine. But I can’t say enough positive things about Lisa Scottoline. She was entertaining, warm and appreciative. I look forward to attending her future signings, and her book was entertaining as well.