This blog post was originally written last Wednesday, July 26th. I had to wait until now to post it because I needed to wait until Dick's father received his surprise gift in the mail.
What a nice afternoon I just had. i'm going to write this now, before I forget the details, but I can't actually post it for a few days. There's a surprise in here that I don't want to ruin!
A couple of days ago, my friend Philip told me that Armistead Maupin was going to be appearing at Cody's Bookstore in Union Square. Armistead Maupin is the local (and very talented) writer who wrote the Tales of the City series, as well as Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener.
Reading Tales of the City should be prerequisite reading for anyone who loves San Francisco. It's a classic. It also involves two neighborhoods that I've lived in SF - Nob Hill and The Castro. The characters in it are just like people you know, or have met here in SF. There have been 3 mini-series that have shown on PBS and Showtime starring Laura Linney, and Olympia Dukakis, among others.
The first year that I moved to SF, my friend Andrew gave me a copy of Tales of the City. It was like the Welcome Guide to San Francisco. I loved it instantly, and quickly devoured the other 5 books in the series. I also read Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener when it was released in 2000.
In 1999, my friends Philip and Al and I went to see a special production of "Tales of the City" by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. During the production, Armistead Maupin read segments of the book, while the chorus sang songs that related to the story. The most moving reading was when Maupin read "Letter to Mama", in which one of the main characters, Michael Tolliver (aka Michael Mouse) writes a letter to his family in Florida, coming out to them. Hearing the letter read in Maupin's own voice was incredibly amazing - it's very personal to him, because he had come out to his own family in North Carolina with this same letter.
Anyhow, when I heard that Armistead Maupin was going to be appearing for a reading and book signing this week, I just had to squeeze it into my schedule. There aren't many "celebrities" in the world that I would like to meet, but he's definately one of them.
He has been making a lot of public appearances lately because he is promoting the movie "The Night Listener" (based off his novel) that is coming to theaters in early August.
He read a few excerpts from his book, and then chatted with the audience for about an hour. I'm guessing that having a "home crowd" was nice for him (he lives in San Francisco) and that he wasn't in as much of a rush as he might otherwise be. After the talk, he offered to sign copies of his books.
I brought the first edition (paperback) book that Andrew had given me 10 years ago. I thought that would be a great piece to have signed.
When I arrived at the bookstore, I also bought a copy of The Night Listener for Dick's Dad, Richard.
This is a really neat story...
It turns out that Dick's father was the Principal at the Junior High School that Armistead Maupin attended in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dick's father remembers Armistead Maupin as a student, and has followed his career as a successful author. Dick's father had asked me years ago if I was a fan of the Tales of the City series, and I told him that I was! Once, when he came out to SF to visit, I took him on a "Tales of the City Driving Tour"! We visited many of the local stores, buildings, and haunts of the Tales of the City characters.
When I found out that Armistead Maupin was doing a book signing, it occurred to me that it would be very nice to have him sign a book for Dick's Father, and to tell him the story.
When I had my books signed by him today, I told him, "My Father-in-Law was your Jr High School Principal in Raleigh!"
He asked what his name was, and I told him "Richard Craddock".
He immediately exclaimed, "Oh! Mr. Craddock!"
(I'm not sure if he really remembered him or not, but he certainly was convincing!)
When I gave him the copy of the book to sign, he wrote:
For Mr. Craddock, with happy memories.
I told Dick what I had done as soon as I got home. He was so excited about it. We both think that this is something that Dick's father will really love.
(plus, it makes me all warm and fuzzy, just thinking about it)
update: August 3, 2006
I just received an email from Dick's father that he received the book in the mail today.
Here's what he had to say:
Thanks so much for the book! (It arrived in today's mail.) I'm delighted
that you were able to speak with Armistead Maupin -- and have him autograph
the book for me. I'll read it as soon as I finish the book I'm currently
One minor point: I taught Armistead at Daniels Junior High in Raleigh --
taught him 9th grade English. I was not principal there. After 5 years of
teaching at the junior high level, I did become the principal of Aldert Root
Elementary School (also in Raleigh). But it was during my teaching phase
that I had Armistead in a class -- not when I was a principal.
I hope his "remembering" me was genuine. He was in one of the best classes
I ever had -- a class with lots of unusually capable students. One female
in that class became an attorney -- and became the chief legal counsel for
UNC. Another was in an off-broadway production.
Again, thanks for much. I really appreciate the gift -- but especially your
remembering me to Armistead. And I think it's great that you got a picture
of the two of you! Wonderful!
Ah! Too bad Dick and I had our facts wrong! Oh well, he seemed to have been pleased with the gift nonetheless :)