“Don’t waste too much time wishing, hoping and being envious; it’ll make you bugnutty.”

— Penn Jillette

Be careful what you wish for, someone once said. The Republican National Committee, I think. But these are wise words. When I decided to publish a collection of these columns in book form, I knew I wasn’t going to get rich; it was just going to be fun to have a book with my name and face on it. My simple wish was to be just like some of my youthful columnist heroes: Irwin Shaw, Dorothy Kilgallen, George Smith, Maureen Milliken, Amy Calder and Art Buchwald.

Those people, of course, are real writers and professionals. I, on the on the other hand, only write for food, so to speak.

Basically, I did it because it’s just something more to leave my kids, other than my collection of clocks and hoodies and funeral arrangement expenses.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I thought, hey! What about that wish I had, the one about having a copy of my book, “Will Write For Food,” sitting on a shelf in a library, like the former columnist and Maine mystery writer Gerry Boyle? (Gerry actually has a whole shelf to himself at the China library. How can I compete, with that one book?)

So I’m happy to announce that my wish is about to come true.

Last week I Googled the St. Louis public libraries and, lo and behold, there was the branch I grew up in, the cool, old building where I spent countless torrid summers roaming the stacks, getting a rich education.

It turns out that the trustees are completing a very big renovation to be celebrated in June.

So via email, I got in touch, and they happily agreed to accept my book for placement. My baby sister, still living in the old ‘hood, suspects it’s just because of my fame for posting my favorite dishes every night on Facebook.

She’s been jealous of me ever since I got a gold ribbon for most improved in our dance class.

In addition, the librarians there are also considering ordering a few more copies.

More good news followed this week: The neighborhood historical society may want to run an article about me. I imagine it’s a “Local Boy Makes Good” piece. Baby sister was quick to remind me that Jon Hamm and John Goodman are St. Louis local boys as well. I wish I hadn’t lost that gold ribbon. I’d post it tonight right next to the award winning meatloaf I’m making.

I guess now that it was a mistake to share so much news with baby sister, especially to tell her that I deeply regret that so many old friends I mention in all of those St. Louis stories have moved away to various nursing homes or grassy plots.

I shared that it would be so hard to stand there in the reading room as a successful author, the only hometown boy made good, still handsome, full of hair, semi-white teeth, erect and beaming, reading the stories that contained their names.

I suggested that to face this sad chairbound, weary, saggy fleshed, snowy haired, shuffling group sitting crumpled before me would be too hard to bear.

In her usual barbed style, she wrote back that most of those old classmates are still erect, quite alive and kicking. Many are noted bingo champs, and that Donald Conlon really deserved the gold ribbon.

I replied in similar snarkiness that Donald copied his dance number from an old Fred Astaire routine and became a plumber’s assistant. True story. What’s more, I added, does Donald have a best-selling book in central Maine? I think not.

Of course she couldn’t resist bringing up Rosemary DeBranco. She never liked her, and thought that not only were her alleged one thousand and one angora sweaters trashy, but also the “simple strand of pearls” were fake.

“You might not be happy to know that she is very much alive,” she chirped, “and is not crazy about you portraying her as some kind of sex bomb. She belongs to my Silver Senior chair dancing class and has lost the 86 pounds she put on at her grandson’s wedding, and, by the way, remembers you well. I can tell you that based on those articles of yours that I put in her locker. She hates that name and wonders if you might start using her real name.”

As of today, I am in negotiations with the book committee at that branch, and I’m considering stopping in at the grand re-opening to read from my book.

Can anyone tell me if Jon Hamm or John Goodman has a book there? I think not. Donald Conlon indeed. I hope he’s there. I can show him I have a few good steps in me still.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. His book, “Will Write for Food,” is a collection of some of his best Morning Sentinel columns.


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