JERK OF THE WEEK: The Philadelphia Writers' Conference - 2015 Edition
I want to publish a couple of books sometime soon, and to do so, I have to find a literary agent who can help promote what I write on top of what I can do via this site, Facebook and my Twitter handle. It's tedious to aimlessly e-mail random agents, so a promising alternative was the Philadelphia Writers' Conference, which brings in random agents each year so that conferees can meet with them.
I went to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference last Friday for that reason. It was my third time there. On the first occasion, I was asked to speak about Internet journalism, which I discussed five years ago. The next occasion came two years ago, when I ran into Crazy Horse Girl's mom. Unfortunately, the agents weren't too promising, as my top prospect was some German guy who didn't understand American football. He seemed like a nice dude, but he didn't quite get American humor. German humor would've worked, though. Perhaps I should've had this conversation with him...
Me: I have an idea for a book. It's about random weirdos I run into.
German Agent: I do not understand zis, ya?
Me: OK, well, how about this idea? It's a book about Braunschweiger and Stippgrutze, and they...
German Agent: Hahahahaha, so funny already, ya!
Me: And then there's Landjager and Beutelwurst and it takes place at Oktoberfest...
German Agent: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha zis is best book idea I've heard in years, you are comedic legend, I will sign you right away, ya?
Writing about German sausages isn't exactly my forte, but that's OK because there were no German agents at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference this year. I knew this going in, so I was more confident this time around.
Unfortunately, there were three things I was dreading regarding the Philadelphia Writers' Conference:
1. Waking up super early
2. Dealing with the weather
3. Going downtown and walking eight blocks
I endured all three hardships in my first two visits to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. Waking up at 6 a.m. is extremely difficult for me because I'm a lazy bum who doesn't get out of bed until 11 at the earliest. What's worse is that I go to bed late, so I barely got any sleep on the initial two trips.
The weather was brutal on both occasions as well. I literally passed out from the heat the first time. The second was the other end of the summer-weather spectrum, as there was a tropical storm that broke my umbrella, drenched my clothes and soaked my book proposal papers.
As for downtown, I've written about my disdain for that God-forsaken place before. Like here, where I discussed how I haven't seen my cousin in years because she lives downtown. It's been more than a year since I posted that entry, and we still haven't hung out.
All three factors were prevalent in my third trip to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. My girlfriend made sure I got up at 6, which was problematic because I went to bed at 2:30. The weather was brutal as well; the 90 degrees was bad enough, but the 100-percent humidity made it completely unbearable. My balls were soaked before I even reached the train station. I nearly collapsed there, and this was before my eight-block sojourn through the downtown streets of Philadelphia.
Fortunately, as with my other two ventures to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference, I was able to gather plenty of Jerks of the Week material, beginning with what I saw after leaving the train station.
I was appalled by two things I saw while walking around downtown. The first was the utter lack of attractive women. It was a long trek to the Wyndham Hotel, and I needed hot girls to creepily stare at. There weren't any. A couple were OK, but most were obese. Add that to the long list of things I hate about downtown.
The second was this black guy who was walking in front of me for a few blocks. He was about 50 and sported a gray beard. He also had a cane in his left hand - except he wasn't using the cane at all. He simply carried it around without it ever touching the ground. He didn't have any sort of limp either, so there was no legitimate reason to have a cane.
This wasn't what I found appalling about him. He completely caught my attention when another black man, a bum hunched over on a bench holding a cup for coins he was collecting, asked us for money.
"Heyy cannnss yyewww sppparee sommee channnaggee?" he slurred, drunkenly.
I planned to ignore him - I didn't have any change anyway - but the guy with the cane made it difficult to do that. He walked toward the bum, reached into the cup and took out a shiny penny.
Cane Man: Just what I needed, a nice, shiny penny!
Bum: Heyyy mannnn whaaa yyewww dooiinn?
Cane Man: It's always good luck to find a penny on a beautiful summer morning!
Bum: Heyy thasss myyy pennnny!
Cane Man: Not no more, it ain't!
The bum, looking completely dejected, slumped over some more. The guy with the cane, meanwhile, walked away happily, holding the penny high in the air. He then did some sort of jig, kissed the penny, and put it into his pocket.
What an a**hole. Who the hell steals from bums? I've made it known that I'm not the biggest fan of homeless people - they terrify me because they don't have anything to lose, and thus are dangerous - but I would never steal from one. Did this douche really need a penny that badly? What was he going to do with it? And how many bums has he stolen from while living in Philly?
Now that I think about it, he probably pilfered the cane he was holding from someone else - perhaps another bum. And unlike the penny he nabbed, that bum probably REALLY needed that cane.
If you live in Philadelphia, and you come across a homeless man sprawled out on the sidewalk because he can't walk, you'll know who to blame.
Short Story Session:
I mentioned that there weren't any good-looking women roaming the downtown streets of Philadelphia, but there were at least two at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. One was wearing this green dress, and she happened to be going into the same session I was planning to go to.
You see, outside of meeting with agents, the other point of the Philadelphia Writers' Conference is that they have these different panels where guest speakers talk about different things, like I did five years ago. There were three options at 11 a.m., and the short story classroom interested me the most. I headed toward that classroom, with the hot chick walking in front of me. She opened the door, and I reached for it and was about to say "thank you" to her for holding it for me. Instead, she turned around, looked at me, and slammed the door in my face.
What the hell did I do? I wasn't creepily staring at her, I don't think - not yet, anyway - so why was she so rude to me? Did she think I was more interested in looking at the door rather than going inside the classroom? Why else would I be heading in that direction? I've been thinking about this all week, and I still can't find a logical explanation for her actions. My best guess is that she was walking behind me on the way over, and she got confused and thought I stole the penny from that bum.
The class itself was worth writing about as well. The woman speaker, who had a Justin Bieber lesbian haircut, asked everyone to write a pitch for a short story. I was stumped until I heard some cackling from next door - which amused some of the people in the room - and began writing, "Young adult male attends downtown conference, hears laughter from the next room which ends up being from an alien monster that engulfs everyone but him at the panel. He must save the planet from this monster."
I thought it was pretty cool, but she never called on me. She asked three others for their pitches...
Short Story Lesbian Haircut Lady: Let's hear your pitch.
Skinny Lady: Mother has to say goodbye to her only son, who is going off to war in the Middle East.
Short Story Lesbian Haircut Lady: Good, what about yours?
Fat Man in Striped Shirt: Middle-aged man is in danger after witnessing a mob execution.
Short Story Lesbian Haircut Lady: Great, what about yours?
Creepy-Looking Bald Dude: A real-estate agent wants to kill people in the jury duty system because he's unhappy with it, heh heh heh...
Short Story Lesbian Haircut Lady: Uhh... Ooookay, then...
Short Story Lesbian Haircut Lady was so taken aback by this that I thought her Justin Bieber lesbian haircut would fly off her head and shield herself from the strange guy. I was creeped out as well. In fact, I took it as my cue to leave the room early, just in case he shot up the entire place.
As I walked out, the hot chick in the green dress from before was once again ahead of me. I figured she had the same thought process and didn't want to be near this guy either. She opened the door, looked back at me and once again slammed the door in my face.
Once is an accident, but twice? What a stupid whore. That's it, I've decided what I'm going to do for revenge. I'm going to locate this creepy guy and tell him the girl in the green dress is not only part of the jury duty system; she's the head honcho.
He'll hunt her down and kill her. As she's lying in her pool of blood, gasping her last breaths, I'll kneel down and whisper, "You should've held the door for me, you a**hole."
Now that's a short story worth writing about.
Downtown may have bums asking for money, cockroaches crawling around and hipsters annoying normal people by talking about how great their crappy writing/painting/music is at Starbucks. A positive that downtown has, however, is the cuisine.
There are all sorts of fancy-shmancy restaurants. I couldn't go to one the last time I was at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference because of the torrential downpour. Fortunately, we were able to leave the hotel this time without the prospect of getting swept away in a flood.
"Want to go to the Food Court?" my friend Larry asked me once we were done with our 11 a.m. sessions. That sounded good to me, so we walked over.
I'll tell you this - I had a fantastic lunch. One place in this Food Court was this lovely Italian place that served amazing baked ziti and pizza. I doubt you've ever heard of it if you've never been to downtown Philly, but it's called Sbarro. Philadelphia is worth visiting just to eat there alone!
Ordering my food proved to be quite difficult, however. After Larry asked the Mexican guy behind the counter for a slice of pizza, it was my turn...
Me: Can I have some baked ziti and a salad?
Sbarro Employee: Mehweihgorj orih ergh eroig oer goe oe.
Sbarro Employee: OGJrig oeirg s wiu gerign lthn ortnbsdg.
I couldn't understand what the hell this guy was saying. He was mumbling, perhaps in another language. I continued to tell him I wanted baked ziti and a salad, but he continued to respond with gibberish.
Luckily, Larry was there to help me out.
Larry: Walt, he's asking if you want a garden salad or Caesar salad.
Me: Oh. Wow, how did you hear what the hell he was saying? All he's doing is mumbling.
The Sbarro employee overheard me say that. Fortunately, all the food was already prepared, so he didn't have an opportunity to spit in my meal. What he did do, however, was refuse to grant my request at the very end.
Sbarro Employee: JIGrhiog riego iwhrog er jelth jo; prt b.
Me: Some napkins. Please.
Sbarro Employee: WAWIofhriog herogi elrg erg jpteh I htr.
Me: Come on, just one napkin!
Sbarro Employee: Xwgkoprij igrere geruhg oeig oirth rt et ef rgbtrb.
I sullenly walked away, napkin-less, as Larry was already sitting at the table and could no longer bail me out. Luckily, I was able to borrow one from Larry.
Me: How'd you get napkins?
Larry: I dunno, I just asked for one.
Note to self: Next time, don't insult the person serving you food and/or napkins, even if you can't understand them.
The Deceptive Girl:
Rather than attend the 1:30 conferences, I opted to prepare for my meeting with the agent, which was at 2:45. I didn't need much preparation, however, so I called up my friend who both works and lives downtown.
Me: Hey, come hang out. I'm at 4th and Arch.
Friend: Ugh. Dude, that's like 11 blocks away from where I am.
Me: Come on, man. There are lots of hot girls here.
Friend: OK, I'll take the subway. I'll be there in 10.
I chatted with my friend for an hour, who agreed that there were plenty of good-looking women at the conference. He didn't even see the girl in the green dress, but the one who caught his eye was a brunette wearing a red dress. She seemed to have great legs from afar.
Following the meeting with the agent - it seemed to go well - I went into a panel talking about social media. Larry was already in there, and it so happened that there was an empty seat next to him. To the right of that vacant chair was the girl with the red dress.
I was hoping I could pick up a tip from the classroom, but it was pointless because the guy speaker was interrupted every two minutes by old geezers asking these sorts of questions:
"I am confused... what's the difference between a blog and a Web site?"
"How does someone sign up for Twitter or Facebook?"
"What's the difference between e-mail and G-mail?"
"Excush me shonny, what ish a Web shight?"
I'm not making that last one up. A fat woman in her early 80s posed that question to the speaker, who appeared as though he was going to lose it.
Completely bored, I decided it was time to creepily check out the girl in the red dress's legs. I looked down and...
Her legs, which seemed great from a long distance, were hairy, veiny and chunky. I actually said "ugh" aloud.
It was just instinctive. I was hoping she didn't hear me, but sure enough, she did. She gave me a look of pure hatred; one that said she wanted to slit my throat and then whisper something hateful into my ear as I gasped for air.
And no, she didn't hold the door for me on the way out, either.