So, I had some free time this past Friday, August 1st, since our big event--the Author's Pavilion @ The Bronner Bros. International Hair Show--was starting the very next day. I heard that some event was taking place at the Marriot Marquis in downtown, ALT. And since I just moved to ATL days earlier, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do what I do just about everywhere else in the country(New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Ohio--WHEREVER), and that is to meet people and market some of my 3 dozen books. Well, as soon as I arrive at the event, I see people who know me (and people that I know), but this is obviously a well planned/laid out event, so I'm looking forward to meeting the administrator of the event. I figure it's a she, so in the meantime, for just 5 minutes or so, I mingle and say hi to familiar faces. There is a breakfast about to take place, a tribute for the late Bebe Moore Campbell; a Memorial Breakfast featuring honoree Terry McMillan, and I know I didn't pay for breakfast, so I don't partake. I'm drawn in further by a book club who I'd recently visited, and then I see Troy Johnson who I work closely with on a number of other projects and initiatives.
Troy gives me the 411 about the event; he explained that he paid to be there, and so I'm ready to go in my pocket. Meanwhile, Troy says:
"Let me introduce you to the guy that runs the event."
Troy brings me to the front of the room where I shake hands and greet Curtis-somethin or other. Never met him, as far as I can see. But within our handshake,
Curtis says: "Lemme talk to you for a minute."
I step aside with him thinking he's going to maybe congratulate me on my accomplishments. So, I'm humbled.
Curtis then says: "I don't appreciate you coming in here without first speaking with me."
Okay, so it has been a while since I've been stuck on stupid. And the dining room inside of the Marquee has some 200 people (mostly readers, I'm told) who are in varying forms of mature attire. So, it wasn't necessary for me to wild-out on this dude. But, as far as I could hear, so early in the morning, distinguished guests, or not, he was somehow misinformed. I was somehow misinformed. Somebody was somehow misinformed. On my end, I thought this was a conglomerate of black book clubs, and last I checked, I was a highly acclaimed black author. So, from my perspective I was right where I was supposed to be. And if there was money due to contribute to the breakfast (even if I wasn't eating) I had a pocket full of cash. Still, if I would've been afforded an opportunity to breathe and meet the organizer of the even in good order (before being disciplined), that would've been nice. If there was even a bulletin somewhere in the hotel that said "DO NOT ENTER UNLESS YOU ARE INVITED," that would've been nice, too. But there was none of that. In fact, from my perspective, having just left the Essence Fest (in New Orleans) just a month earlier, where I practically lived in hotels where one of the nation's biggest black events was taking place, I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do. Or, maybe it was that I didn't have a suit and tie?
Nevertheless, from his perspective, he may have been looking at my sneakers and jeans, my G-Unit shirt, and the credit card processing machine on my hip. And because he apparently knew who I was, even before we were introduced, this leads me (and my investigative mind) to believe he just didn't appreciate me PERIOD amidst a crowd that I ASSESS is/was mostly elders and literate. (photo above)
REGARDLESS of his reasons, my reasons, or whatever the cards held for this particular morning, this dude says (AND I QUOTE)
""Well, it's alright. Make yourself at home. Enjoy."
Okay??? So, he admonishes me and then it's all love? Hmmm. In my mind I calculate that I've been here before, in one way or another, where someone with some sort of power has abused their discretion, and then to save face and make things all nicey-nicey, they offer an olive branch. No problem. I understand you're human and you don't really know me. So, I'll just say--
"Well, thanks. I'm not really eating, just playing fly-on-the-wall." And I ease my a** on out of the dining room, and I go set up my laptop (with PowerPoint presentation) in the common area outside of the dining room. I figure, this is the best place to be to be seen, to offer up books to new readers--ya' know, the stuff I was doing just 30 days earlier in N.O.
Terri Mc Millian, Kenya Moore and some book club members stop by and say hi. A few people purchase books from me and we take pictures.
When the crowd pours out, I'm in the right place at the right time, so are at least 2 other authors who (apparently) also "just showed up "at the hotel to profit/benefit off of this gathering. I sign a few more books. When I see Curtis again, I approach him and tell him thanks once again for the opportunity. I realize this is quite an undertaking, so I congratulate him, and I get back to the couch and table that I commandeered.
By now, and with little effort, I've sold a number of books, and I'm setting up to do some video impromptu interviews with authors, readers, etc (BECAUSE, IN CASE IT'S A BIG SECRET, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I DO ALL THE TIME AS THE PROGRAMMER FOR SOME 50 INTERNET BROADCAST CHANNELS)
About two hours later a woman steps to me and asks me if I am part of the book event. I didn't quite know how to answer that, but I simply told her the truth, that I spoke with Curtis earlier, and that he said it was okay to be here. "Enjoy. Make yourself at home."
"Well, I'm Curtis' fiancé'"
And that has what to do with this scenario? I'm thinking to myself.
As God is my witness, less than 5 minutes later, hotel security (yes, PO-PO) shows up--about 3 of them--and they tell me to pack up and that I have to leave the hotel.
Hmmm. A reader who was waiting for an autograph asked me, "What's going on?"
A fellow author of some 10 books was right next to me when this was going down, and he asks, "Where you goin?"
A friend of mine who happened to be at the same hotel, and who is very well known in the publishing industry says to me, what happened?" When I tell him, he says:
"Both him AND his wife are COWARDS. Why didn't they approach you themselves? Why would they embarrass you like that? If you were going too far and they felt you were doing something out of line, they could've said something, sent one of their own people, ANYTHING BUT CALL THE POLICE."
He even wanted to have an article done about the issue. Can you believe this s***?
I find out later that most of the authors that are scheduled for this event are flown in and provided a hotel room. So, in essence, I might've been welcome if I was, what, in a suit? I might've been treated better if I didn't have the G-unit shirt on? Or maybe, as one friend says, "they were threatened by your popularity, Relentless."
Another friend says, "That's how some of them do in Atlanta. They say one thing, and they mean another."
Another woman, yesterday, said, "The minute that MF said something to me in the dining room, he woulda heard it from me." She also is determined that Curtis in fact SENT his fiancé to "check" the situation. Hmmm.
The next morning, I text Curtis:
Me: "Make yourself at home" you said. "Enjoy" you told me. And then, when I do what YOU say, you call the cops. (more to come. Trust me)"
Him: " And my fiancé' called the cops. But I'm not mad at her for doing so. You were wrong."
Me: "Cowards. Both of you."
Him: "Kiss my a**."
Later the next day I find out that the bias continued. Curtis & crew were objective towards visitors who Vickie Stringer had invited to her "Red Carpet Event" within the same book conference, in the same hotel. But, while those authors felt slighted, there was apparently nothing that could be done since they were invited guests of Vickie's (and not registered for the convention). Still, it's clear that some sensitivity training is necessary for Mister Curtis and his fiancé'. Mister Curtis must also realize that his event is not the be-all-to-end all of book events within the black Diaspora. Not only that, when you disrespect people (as the couple did to me) it's something that lands on YOUR resume and rap sheet. Not mine.
So goes another exciting adventure of Relentless Aaron
And the moral to this story?
Stay the Fuc away from cowards. Because no matter how good they make things look, if it doesn't come out in the wash, it will surely come out in the rinse.
Here's a funny: "THE glamour literary retreat of the year," the NBCC provides the most access to the most prolific authors in the most intimate setting" Gee, maybe I didn't belong here in the first place!