Portrait of the Artist As An Old Grape

July 24th, 2008

After several weeks on the road, I took a break at the home of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in San Luis Obispo.  They own forty ridiculously beautiful acres of rolling hills and oaks, and the porch in front of their house is overhung with grape vines, which is where this photo was snapped.

But mostly it’s been one signing after another.  A writer I like very much once told me that he learns something every time he meets his readers.  What I have learned from looking at the photos taken at these events, is that I finally, officially look older than the Old Testament.  For years I would tell people my age (only when I was asked — I didn’t wave it in their faces) and then wait until they said “Shut up” or “No [expletive] way,” or some other expression of polite disbelief.  These days, they might still respond along those lines, but my doctor has advised me against trying to hold my breath until they do.

At the American Library Association convention in Anaheim, I signed almost 300 books in 90 minutes, and had a brief and inevitably unsatisfactory conversation with everyone who said,”Hi.”

And in moments of leisure, I looked really, really fat.

This fat thing deserves an explanation.  I quit smoking fourteen months ago, and I did not become the first person in the history of the world to quit smoking without gaining weight.  So my lungs are clear and my waistline has become a pair of parentheses.

The biggest signing was at my home store, so to speak, Small World Books in Venice. A large crowd of people, all of whom have been led to believe that they’re in my will, showed up to watch me mumble through a passage from THE FOURTH WATCHER and fumble easy questions.

Among those in attendance was my amazing wife, Munyin.  She found much to amuse her that evening, even if I wasn’t the one who was so funny.

And the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood won the award for Most Welcoming Table Display.

There were lots of other stores, and there are lots more to come, but unless I look dramatically better in some of the photos, I won’t bother you with them.

11 Responses to “Portrait of the Artist As An Old Grape”

  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    WELCOME BACK, TIM! Would it help you feel better at all if . . .

    1. We, your loyal blog participants, love you for your mind and your fingers on the keyboard. And we’ll still love you when/if you need a keyboard extension to reach your laptop (as will Munyin and Ralphie, I’m sure.)

    2. As someone who spent one glorious hour in your company as recently as February, I can tell you that you’re not fat. (Maybe a little fluffy, is all. And this chubby Grandma from Wisconsin will poke anyone in the nose who disagrees with me. You included!)

    3. The people who stood in line to meet and touch the famous author, Tim Hallinan, probably didn’t hear a fumble. I imagine that all they heard was the sound of the clouds parting and maybe some harps. They all went home and told their significant others and loyal blog followers that they met Tim Hallinan and fumbled their own names.

    4. Did I mention that we missed you the last few days?

    5. As someone who is challenged by lung issues, let me just say that the fact that your lungs are clear (and your mouth and throat and all the rest of the apparatus, too) is far, far more important that two little parenthesis.

    6. Welcome “home.”

  2. bets Says:

    I just heard this thing on the news about how bad sitting is for weight gain. What’s a poor writer to do? Write on a treadmill? No thanks.

    You don’t look fat, btw. Sheesh.

  3. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I almost snorted coffee out of my nose when I read this! You’re so funny and what’s funnier is, if nobody had told me any different, I’d have thought it was Scott talking. He laughed out loud when I read this to him.

    But, I digress. Congratulations on quitting smoking! I quit about five years ago, but now I’m addicted to Nicorette. Big kudos because every time I’d previously quit and then started again it was because I couldn’t deal with the weight gain.

    Also, you STILL don’t look your age if the bio I found on you is accurate! And you don’t look like punctuation and I LOVE that picture of Munyin. She is very beautiful and her expression in the photo is priceless.

    I vote for more continuous coverage of book tour 2008!

  4. Dana King Says:

    You think you’re fat? I KNOW fat, my friend, and that’s not fat. I’d send a picture to prove it, but I can’t assume your loyal readers all have wide screen monitors.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    In Pictures from an Institution, Randall Jarrell’s great comic novel of academic life, the composer and music teacher Gottfried Rosenbaum attends a concert in which several student musicians premiere his quartet for oboe, viola, hair dryer, and live crickets (or something like that), and throughout the performance, Dr. Rosenbaum beams at the stage and repeats over and over, “Vot a bunch.”

    That’s how I feel about you guys. Vot a bunch. Let’s all meet at my place and I’ll buy ten or twelve pounds of sugar-free, high-fiber donuts. (Does anybody remember Tim Conway talking about the diet his wife put him on and saying, “I’m eating so much fiber I’m passing wicker furniture.”?) I may have heard a funnier line, but right now I don’t know where.

    Cynthia, you win the Sweetest Note prize — except maybe for the keyboard extension remark. Not being able to reach the keyboard is what those of us with literary careers and weight issues refer to as a “wake-up call.” And I’ll accept “fluffy,” although in the interests of full disclosure, I’ve gained some weight since we met. Enough that I now wear a WIDE LOAD sign on the back of my jeans.

    Bets — What’s that you say? A connection between being overweight and leading a sedentary, essentially motionless life with large quantities of snack food at hand and a tendency to eat whenever frustrated? Naaahhhhhh.

    Lisa, while I’m honored to learn that Scott and I share a sense of humor (I was wondering where the rest of mine had gone), you’ve got to be more careful. Coffee is really expensive. Also bad for keyboards, and I assume you had one in front of you, essentially positioned directly beneath your nose. Let me say on the record that any biography of me that includes a birth date is inaccurate. And while I’d love to claim credit for quitting smoking, the fact is that I was flat on my back in a hospital, recovering from an obscure tropical illness, during the first brutal two weeks. After that, all I had to do was keep postponing the first one. And you’re right; my wife is very beautiful. She doesn’t believe me when I say it, but she might believe you.

    And Dana, back when I was REALLY heavy, and I mean pushing 300 pounds, I found that the best pictures of me were those taken by a panoramic camera, and then uploaded so people could mouse across the vast waistland. (Haw haw haw. I actually just thought of that. Maybe I should start to work on my book.)

    Anyway, the short response is that you guys are great. Vot a bunch.

  6. Larissa Says:

    Tim! Ok so I’m like, five comments late….I blame time zones! You’re alive and you haven’t forgotten us hehe. Good to hear. And non of this ridiculousness. You take an extended break in an attempt to kill some of your more curious, avid ADD readers (ahem. me) and all you want to do is kvetch because you think you look old and fat? Bah! Humbug! I say to that nonsense. You look neither. And while it sounds a bit extreme, props on quitting smoking. I don’t but I have people. I know what that can do to a person. So-welcome back! Get out, enjoy some nice weather, schmooze, eat some of those high fiber donuts and get back to doing what you do best. (c: And smile. Things are good.

  7. sylvia Says:

    Welcome back. 🙂 I am just finally starting to lose the weight I put on when I quit smoking two years ago. But I don’t smoke – and that’s worth a lot.

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Larissa and Sylvia — Just keep coming back, it’s responses from all of you that keeps me writing this thing. Well, that and the need to procrastinate about getting to work on my book.

    Riss, EXTENDED BREAK? Excuse moi? Ten days? There are ten-day periods during which I don’t change my shirt, much less write a blog. But I’m happy it FELT like an extended break to you.

    And Sylvia, congrats on kicking the nic. (How’s that for a “stop smoking slogan — “Kick the Nic”? Yes? No?) Thanks for reassuring me that the weight eventually does come off.

  9. Larissa Says:

    Did I mention the Impatient and curious part of this whole equation? hehe. So yeah…10 days might as well be forever. And yes, I keep coming back. I’m sort of like a mosquito except cuter and less annoying…:P

  10. bets Says:

    hey, it’s not my fault that M&Ms make the words come.

  11. Stefan Hammond Says:

    Dude. You ain’t fat.

    In Hong Kong, people have this whole *thing* about being fat. If you have a BMI above 15, they call you “Fatty.” A typical nickname is “Fat Kid”…which is marginally better than “Dead Fat Kid.” Note that these are COMMON terms. We use them around the office often.

    They told me at the gym I should have a BMI of 15 (they have a vested interest). If I could somehow manage that (think, death-diet/treadmill-in-wetsuit/just-above-unconsciousness for a few weeks), you’d take one look at me and call the paramedics.

    Go on a vacation for a week, your co-workers will say, “wow, you got fat.” I finally found out how to deal with this: I reply: “Yeah! I love being fat and I wanna get fatter!!”

    And congrats again on kicking the cigs, MUCH more important than a lot of other stuff.

    Oh yeah and the booksigning stuff is great too! I liked that display with the T-shirt: super-spiffy!


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