Wonderful Wilmington

I walked across the manicured lawn of Porter's Neck Country Club. The wind in my face carried a scent I'd not sniffed in decades, since escaping my country club childhood. Is it possible that the smell of the club grill is as ingrained in the atmosphere as perfect putting surfaces, the sound of cleats on concrete and tasteful floral decorations? If I walk in the door will I see again young girls dressed for a summer dance? Downstairs in the bar are there illegal slot machines and brown bagged liquor served up with the exception of the annual scheduled raid by the Sheriff's office?

By will I snapped myself back to the present.

This club was a real and present experience, an invitation to speak before the assembled bodies of 15 book clubs. Mary Ann Beltracchi was my hostess and organizer. Her planning skills were adept to a D-Day invasion and every bit as successful. She worked the phones, planned a menu and even managed a waiting list. Husband Leo kindly and patiently played that critical support role.

The Hooked on Books club hosted the luncheon. They worked late to create things with pumpkins and flowers that I could not imagine, now sitting center of the tables that spread across the ballroom. Faux leaves in autumn colors sprinkled about. They did this for their first such event. They did this, and invited me to be a part.

You cannot understand the pleasure of such an experience, unless you're an emerging author with a year's worth of signings and events under your belt. A country club and a full ballroom, three course lunch and attentive audience tends to make up for hours on the road and an empty event, where a cup of coffee and granola bar at a table for one followed by hours again on the road allow the key question of, "What in the hell am I doing here?" It even made up for following a gay Elvis impersonator. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Bless his heart.

Behind a podium and in front of the large and lunched crowd, I started into that stream-of-consciousness known as the presentation. They listened. They laughed. Over a hundred hands raised when asked if they'd read Dead Weight. The questions were good and engaging. Finally, even the one woman at table ten nodded and smiled.

The reward. Ladies lined up to have their books signed. Polite conversation, but did I detect in a few of the parries, a slight hint of flirtation?

For a moment, the past returned. The girls at the country club haven't changed that much, we're all just a little bit older.