“So, what do you do at the MOI?” a friendly stranger asked me at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute holiday party last weekend.
“Oh, I don’t work there,” I explained. “My wife Bethany does. I’m just her arm candy this evening.” When she chuckled at my comedic brilliance, I immediately knew two things to be absolutely true: One, this was obviously a woman with an exceptional sense of humor, and two, she possessed an uncanny knack for identifying fascinating people to converse with at office parties.
“I see,” she continued. “Then, what is it that you do?” I sensed that her interest was genuine, and I paused for a moment before answering in order to contemplate which of my jobs/hobbies/jobbies to lead with.
“I’m a substitute teacher,” I said.
“I’ll bet you’re an artist, too, aren’t you?” Uncanny.
“Well,” I demurred, “artist is probably too strong of a word to describe me. But I am a writer.”
My new friend was delighted. “I’ve discovered that most substitute teachers are artistic,” she said. When she asked me what I write, I told her that in addition to self-publishing two books, I also write a column for the Boone County Journal. Those were apparently the magic words, and at that point our relationship had progressed enough to introduce me to her husband. We exchanged pleasantries, and the gentleman conveyed that he was indeed familiar with the Journal—and that he was an admirer of Cathy Salter.
I readily conceded that my colleague Cathy is a far superior writer. Nevertheless, I was emboldened enough to mention that I have recently begun working on a new novel. Since stepping away from Facebook last month, I rediscovered that I have my own thoughts and ideas—and the time to flesh them out on paper. In addition to the novel, for which I wrote a seven-page, rough outline last week, I came up with two other creative non-fiction book ideas. If I can manage to stay offline, I may actually see at least one of these concepts to completion.
As my meeting with the newly formed Travis Naughton Fan Club continued, my wife eventually came over to see if I needed “rescuing.” I completely ignored her. I was among my people!
After ascertaining some facts about the interests and occupations of my new acquaintances, the spotlight naturally shifted back towards yours truly. During our art-centric chat, I humbly mentioned that I dabble in music, too. After I explained my obsession with crafting homemade musical instruments, Mr. Fan o’ Travis mentioned that Mrs. Fan o’ Travis was not only a medical professional, but a musical professional as well. I told you I was among my people!
I love how “artistic types” magically gravitate towards one another. What caused Mrs. Fan o’ Travis to pick me out of the crowd of 400 faces? When she spied an unshaven, 45 year-old man wearing a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches sipping a Stella Artois and devouring free cocktail shrimp by the pound while standing alone in the corner as his wife flitted about the party like a social butterfly, what compelled this curious lady to walk over and introduce herself?
Perhaps it was the fact that in a room full of 400 medical professionals and their spouses, I was the only unshaven, 45 year-old man wearing a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches sipping a Stella Artois and devouring free cocktail shrimp by the pound while standing alone in the corner as his wife flitted about the party like a social butterfly. You may call it pity, but I call it “artistic magnetism.”
After thanking the nice couple for a genuinely satisfying conversation (not just because it was mostly about me), I bid them a good evening and excused myself. A few moments later I found my wife and a few of our chums congregated in the opposite corner of the expansive room in which we were gathered. My dear friend Lorie confessed that she had spied me talking to the couple from across the room. “I thought about going over to see if you needed someone to help extract you from the situation, but I could tell you were in your element,” she said with a laugh.
“Yes I was,” I replied, with perhaps too much enthusiasm. “We were talking about my favorite subject: me!”