October 1, 2008
My aunt Lorna outdid herself decorating the cake for last week’s Order of Odd-Fish release party in Michigan. That’s right, she painstakingly hand-decorated that cake to look like the cover of the book. Understandably, everyone was hesitant to eat it . . . but eat it we did.
We had some close calls that weekend. Lorna’s husband, my uncle Paul, had a heart attack the day before the party. He’s okay now, and in the long term he will be fine, but we were all terrified and worried. And then, the morning of the party, my cousin Marissa fell down the stairs and got a faceful of broken glass. She had to get stitches around her right eye (luckily, she’s not blinded). The more superstitious among our family darkly murmured that “everything comes in threes” and expected a third calamity. I rolled my eyes and pooh-poohed them, so of course this happened.
Marissa’s accident was also unfortunate because Marissa, my Aunt Sandee, and her boyfriend Frank were going to surprise me by dressing up as Sefino, Aunt Lily, and Colonel Korsakov respectively for the party. They still have the costumes; if I do a reading in the Detroit area, I’ll insist they come and rabble-rouse in character.
My parents threw the party at my sister Krystin and brother-in-law Lloyd’s house. I’m deeply grateful. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Family, teachers, and friends from all throughout my life were there. My mother wisely arranged for the guests to wear name tags so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by forgetting someone’s name.
I did, of course. Repeatedly.
I read aloud the part when Jo and Fiona exchange insults before their duel. It’s the same part I read at the book release party at the Hideout. I think I oversold it a bit, screaming and hopping about with what I thought was dramatic energy. Any video of this should probably be destroyed.
I was excited to see long-lost friends from my childhood, high school, and even post-college, but I was most thrilled to meet again my old teachers from high school (Bishop Foley in Madison Heights, Michigan) . There they are above. Starting second-from-the-left and moving to the right, there’s Mrs. DeRyckyre, my computer science teacher; Mrs. Molnar, my English teacher (and now principal of the school); Mr. Rabaut, my yearbook teacher (I was, ahem, the co-editor of the yearbook); and Mr. Valinski, my European History teacher (and a very, very funny man).
I’d been programming games since fifth grade, but Mrs. DeRyckyre’s class was the first time I was forced to clearly analyze a problem and adhere to good design standards in my programming. Computer programming is what has paid the bills while I’ve been working on my writing. I owe her a great debt.
I had Mrs. Molnar twice for English class. She had the rare talent of finding ways to let you use your imagination while still holding you to high levels of rigor. I vividly remember being caught passing a note in her class. Mrs. Molnar’s notorious policy was that she would gleefully read any intercepted note out loud, in front of everyone. That was inconceivable; the contents of the note were too damning; so I ate the note. To her credit, Mrs. Molnar sat there and made me chew and swallow the whole thing. You would not believe how long it takes to eat an entire piece of loose-leaf paper.
Mr. Rabaut was twenty-six when he taught my yearbook class. Everyone loved him. When the first boxes of The Order of Odd-Fish arrived on my doorstep, I was reminded of the day our newly-printed yearbooks first arrived at our school. Mr. Rabaut held the yearbook high in front of our class and intoned, “We… made… a… book!” Somehow, that gave me chills.
Mr. Valinski was my European History teacher. He was certainly one of the wittiest and most urbane of my teachers. I loved his class so much that I actually bought the textbook when the year was over. It was an AP class, and I relished the nerdy thrill of cramming for the apocalyptic end-of-the-year test. My basement became a wild thicket of homemade flash card piles and timelines taped to the wall; I was enraptured by Otto von Bismarck, mesmerized by the Defenestration of Prague. This was all due to Mr. Valinski’s fantastic teaching.
So, to all my teachers — including Mr. Clancy and Mrs. Miller, who couldn’t make it — I want to offer my heartfelt thanks. And thanks to everyone, family and friends, who came to the party. One of the nice things about publishing Odd-Fish is that it’s given me an excuse to get back in touch with a lot of great people from my past. It’s a treat.