BILLEE SHARP

BOOK SIGNINGS AND WASHING ON THE LINE

by Billee Sharp

This week sees the official publication date of my book, “Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It” on local imprint Viva Editions, the new little sister of Cleis Press. Its not, as one friend suggested a how-to on pot-growing, but a primer on living happily without much money.

Written over a good few months last year, the book details the cheapo, diy aesthetic of me and most of my friends. The main idea in Fix It is to encourage the reader to follow their dreams and to address the ensuing shortfall of cash I provide recipes, resources and encouragement to close the gap. There is an obvious eco –angle to my proposed withdrawal from consumerist lifestyle and I wax pretty lyrical about the praiseworthy ethos and values of the Sixties counterculture.

Last night I did my first book signing, it was at the EastWest bookstore in Mountain View. I went by myself because it was a school night and because I was so nervous I wouldn’t have put anybody through an hour’s drive on the freeway with me.

The main drag of Mountain View, so picturesque and purpose-built,  reminded me of Baudrillard, and added to my sense of hyperreality: I can’t actually believe that I’m about to read from my book I thought as I parked up in the free multi-story parking lot.

Trina was outside the bookstore, with a copy of the book she’d bought with a gift card, her niece was babysitting her son and she had driven up from San Jose. This was a sweet surprise and totally normalizing for me. It was a relief to find a small gathering (10 max) of unknown local hippies congregating in the reading room at the back of the store. I was impressed with my audience: modest book signings are not like art openings where there is free wine to chug, there wasn’t a cheese plate in sight so these lovelies really were here for the book. A lady from the bookstore introduced me and I felt blood surging up to my ears. As an incurable blusher I could only hope that Barbara’s late afternoon application of bronzing foundation would keep my face from glowing.

I explained then this was my first book event and that I’d decided to read them my Introduction. And I did, in my ultra-english sounding, sometimes modulated,  reading voice. It seemed to me to go on for ever, but I asked my throng what they thought and they all smiled supportively and made ‘not long at all’ noises. Then we got into the questions, probably the most nerve –wracking for me, fearful of being asked how to fix, make, grow or bake anything complicated or being ignorant of some really obvious how-to knowledge. It was all going along nicely and the question time was getting anecdotal and chatty when a lady with a charming Russian accent asked, “Do you have an alternative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis ?”

Now here was a fine thing, I had had two references to the condition but neither had survived the editing process. The first, thrashing ones afflicted limbs with stinging nettles hadn’t worked well as an aside to my friend’s nettle soup recipe and unable to find a more suitable home I had abandoned it. I mentioned the stinging treatment to the Russian lady and she had heard about it; she didn’t really know what stinging nettles were, hadn’t been able to find any and didn’t fancy it much anyway. The second reference was in a whole section that didn’t make the final cut, urine therapy. So I recounted the story of my good friend, a painter who had been literally disabled by a sudden onset of rheumatoid arthritis, she was in terrible pain and unable to use her hands for eighteen months, she took strong drugs to ease the condition but nothing  worked. She felt that the cure was close at hand and then she read a book that mentioned urine therapy: the ancient Indian pee-drinking tradition. This involves drinking a small quantity of one’s own first water of the day, not the first concentrated drops but from the water you pass when you wake up in the  morning. For my friends’ rheumatoid arth. this proved to be the miracle cure, she drank her own urine, diluted with water, daily and her symptoms abated and never came back. Urine therapy is indicated for all kinds of complaints, topical application is recommended for acne and for athletes foot, famous practionioners: Gandhi and Madonna.

I sold one book, and signed two, I considered it a success and drove back through the hyperreality to the city.

Tomorrow is the official San Francisco reading/signing, its a free party so please do come if you fancy it, you’ll see the details below. I should say now that I haven’t made the advertised sweat lodge movie, another enthusiastic plan that didn’t quite realize itself. So apart from my DJ friends, set to play through the evening, the only other entertainment will be me reading…and in my adopted hometown I have to do better than reading my Introduction.

I can tell that I’m nervous because of the amount of laundry I’m doing. It only stopped raining here ten minutes ago and I’ve already got one load up on the washing line.. clouds are looming stage left and I may have to dash out and bring it all in again. I’m not complaining, I rely on a steady heavy flow of laundry to displace into whenever I start feeling nervy or overwhelmed. There is always plenty to wash with a family of four, if I ever got to the end of all the piles of towels, bedlinen and boys clothes I could embark on the handwashing which completely fills one hamper and has done for a while.

I do escape into housework, and I realize that although its not cool to say so, I actually like it. It hasn’t always been like that, I don’t think that I ever did any serious housework until  I became a mom, I do remember a few cursory clean ups but nothing vigorous, no real washing or scrubbing. Why is housework so despised? Well it is boring but the satisfaction of having a clean house and a well-tended family home is a great end result, for me, and a rare one.  More satisfying by far than anything I’ve ever done in the wage-earning department is seeing rooms restored to some order. Not that this housework malarkey has been an escape from working , since I’ve kept house I’ve always worked as well, or had an unemployment check to contribute. I know there are some great jobs out there, that are way more fun than doing laundry, I’ve coveted those glossy jobs and unsuccessfully applied for them. The kind of jobs that I fancy , I’m always under qualified for.

But hey, I can clean a house with a bottle of distilled vinegar and I’ve pretty much written a book about it!

So, glancing out of the kitchen window I see jeans and t shirts fluttering, by my side I see some printed pages with earnest commentary about Buckminster Fuller and Alicia Bay Laurel..Some self-depreciating jokes about homemade bread… looks like only the hand-washing can save me now.

–Billee Sharp

Billee Sharp’s ‘Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It: The DIY guide to the Good Life” book signing/reading dance party, 111 Minna Gallery,  Minna St @ 2nd, San Francisco 6pm-11pm, Weds 21st April, 2010

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