The South Beach Wine and Food Festival is also the reason I was in the accident three years ago. Well, God is the reason (or capital F Fate, if God makes you uncomfortable) but SOBEW&FF is all I was thinking about as I drove to work. Instead of focusing on the treacherous roads, I’d set my mental cruise control. The bulk of my mind was in the receiving room at Books & Books, ensuring Conway Freight dropped off the pallet of Chronicle cookbooks they’d been holding, receiving Chronicle and some other stragglers and turning them around to bring with me to the sand.
As Yoda said, “Never his mind on where he was, on what he was doing.”
The accident put a hex on SOBEW&FF for me. As fun as it is working barefoot in the sands of South Beach, with the breathtaking views of rolling turquoise waves and cleavage all over the place, I couldn’t bring myself to work there.
In 2009, I decided to brave the sands again. I had been tracking SOBEW&FF book sales for five years with three detailed spreadsheets and had everything figured perfectly. Come Sunday, we could have fit our returns in Mitchell’s truck. Gone were the days when our rented U-Haul was so heavy with returns it got stuck in the sand, gone were the eleven PM pack-ups. Half hour after the festival ended, it was Miller time.
When I moved from bookselling at the store level to a desk in the buying office, I lost something in the way of job satisfaction. I have a row of smoldering disasters waiting to burst into flame. While I’m tending the worst of them, three more flare out of control. Keeping everything crackling but not critical is a neverending task. In addition, Books & Books is not a place for people who need a lot of positive feedback. Or even feedback.
SOBEW&FF, there is planning, ordering, receiving, making a bookstore in the sand, selling, packing up, and returns. Clear steps, clear goals, and a conclusion. Because the ordering was so precise last year, my co-workers drowned me in praise. I loved it. The hard work I do in the shadows on a daily basis was brought to light.
I’ve been looking forward to SOBE 2010 for a year, anticipating another moment in the sun.
Some festival goers say that at $215 bucks a ticket, they should get their books for free. Sorry, no. Books & Books is a for-profit business. I say, since you shelled out $215 for fourteen hours of entertainment (and at least $30 for parking) over two days, why not add another $30-$40 for a collection of recipes from your favorite chef, a cookbook which will be around long after you're buried? You’ll wait an hour-and-a-half in line at Disney for a two-minute ride, why not wait a few minutes to get a cookbook signed?
We didn’t sell as much as we usually do. Festival-goers packed the two big tasting tents at the opposite end of the sand. It looked like a huge block party. Buying cookbooks was not on their agenda, which probably looked like this:
1 – Get the largest pour possible of whatever will make me tipsy.People’s lives are strained right now. SOBEW&FF was an excuse to blow off steam, with a price point which insured rubbing elbows only with other well-to-do individuals.
2 – Eat some delicious morsels.
3 – Get hammered and / or shitfaced, whichever comes first.
Maybe I’m weathering the recession better because my lifestyle has pared down from minimally indulgent to borderline monastic; how do I know they haven’t scratched and scrimped for their tickets and their parking . . . and their Gucci sunglasses and fake breasts and spray tans and sand-filled Prada loafers and Fendi handbags and rhinoplasties and collagen lips and facelifts and who am I trying to kid I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU ALL there’s nothing real about you except your money, so use it to support your local independent bookstore, you drunk fucks!
I should have said that. Clearly, missed my calling. I should have been in marketing.
Here’s looking at 2011.