A window briefly opened in May and June. It seemed as if the pandemic were ending and life as we knew it might return. For the first time in more than a year, I walked Manhattan streets without a mask. I flew to Florida and visited my mother. I visited friends in their apartments. I went to a party and conversed maskless with maskless (and fully vaccinated) strangers. And I rescheduled an event at Subterranean Books, in St. Louis, which had been cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The original event was to be a celebration of John Lennon's 80th birthday. I was going to read from and discuss my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, and the Beatles section of my most recent book, Bobby in Naziland (which Headpress is going to re-release next year with a new title, A Brooklyn Memoir). The new event, a celebration of the end of the pandemic and Lennon's 81st birthday, was scheduled to take place October 7.
But almost as soon as the arrangements were made, the pandemic began going in the wrong direction. Suddenly the news was full of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, highly contagious Delta variants, millions of people who refused to be vaccinated, Covid wards filled to capacity, and too many people dying.
Could I really go forward with a live indoor event even if everybody was required to wear a mask? Would more than a handful of people show up? Was I willing to risk my health to sell books?
People I spoke with in New York were unanimous: Don't do it. I called people in St. Louis and asked them what they thought. Some told me they'd been avoiding indoor events and would be hesitant to come. Two people said they'd probably come. And a former bookstore owner told me it would be "foolhardy" to go through with it.
I've been doing book events for more than 21 years and have never cancelled. St. Louis, where I've done five well-attended events, has been amazingly supportive of my work, no venue more so than Subterranean Books. It was with great sadness that I cancelled the event.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had this to say about the return of live book events in the city.
So, now I've got the "Talking St. Louie Covid Blues" again. But someday the pandemic will end and I shall return.
My latest book, Bobby in Naziland (to be re-released in 2022 as A Brooklyn Memoir), is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.