I arrived at the bookstore around 2:15p and to my surprise there was no line at all. I sat in the café in the back of the store for some well deserved food and cold drinks. I was told by the staff that there would be no lining up in the street, and that they were going to set up for the reading soon. A nice bookstore, comfortable seats, food and drinks and air conditioning: this was definitely the best possible waiting conditions one could expect, so I decided to stay there until the reading started. All of the books at Housing Works are donated, and the sales go towards healthcare and support for homeless men, women and children with AIDS. Pretty soon some fans came arriving from the booksigning. I sat down with Melanie, a very nice lady from New Hampshire whom I had met while waiting at the Gallery in the morning, and her three wonderful children. We spent the afternoon chatting about Tolkien, the movie, Viggo and many other subjects. Time went by rapidly, the stage was set up in the back of the store, and we soon all had seats as close to the stage as we could manage (the first two rows were marked as “reserved”). As early as 6pm the place was pretty packed and buzzing with excitement – at this point it was standing room left only. We could see Pilar, Viggo’s publishing partner from Perceval Press, coming in regularly to update the store’s staff, presumably on Viggo’s whereabouts. The reading was to start at 7pm but for some obscure reason Viggo arrived fashionably late (probably due to the fact that he spent much more time at the booksigning than anticipated) around 7:30p. As he made his way through the crowd I told Sara, Melanie’s 10-year old adorable daughter: “here comes your boyfriend”, she turned around and he saw her as he passed, and recognizing her from the booksigning, smiled at her and said “hi sweetie” (or so I seem to recall). Sara was absolutely ecstatic! The evening started with a band -coincidentally named One Ring Zero- (no relation whatsoever J), very good musicians who played 4 songs. Then came a couple of writers who read from their work; both were funny and the audience enjoyed their performance. Last came Viggo, more relaxed than I ever saw him… Laughing at his own expense, poking fun at the audience and interacting with them. As someone in the back yelled “we can’t hear you” he replied with his typical self-deprecating humor “I can’t hear myself either. Which is probably just as well”, all the while smiling and laughing softly. He read many poems from Recent Forgeries and Coincidence of Memory, among them: “Clear”, “Ontario”, “Matinee”, “Edit”, “Fossils”.
At the audience’s request he read two of his Spanish-language poems, and all I can say is you can’t know the true meaning of the word “bliss” until you’ve heard Viggo read or speak in Spanish… He ended the reading with a poem from Coincidence of Memory entitled “First Light” which he dedicated to Henry and which brought tears to my eyes. Very powerful work. Check it out, and you may find yourself crying too! J
After this the musicians from One Ring Zero came back for another set of songs. They played a rendition of “Brazil”, and right after this, to everyone’s surprise Viggo jumped back on the stage, took the microphone and suggested they play Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. The band replied that HE should sing it! But he declined and just stayed in the back of the stage while they played, clapping and moving to the rhythm. Eventually he got off the stage, grabbed his poet friend Rene who was sitting in the first row, and led him into a happy dance. It was great to see Viggo so relaxed and happy, carefree, goofing around and obviously having a good time.
The poetry reading was definitely the highlight of my *Viggo experience* that day. He is a very special person – as I said many times before: he is a prince, and I can find no better ways to describe him.
Last but not least, the best thing about all of these events is the opportunity to meet other fans and make new friends. Melanie and her kids were wonderful, and so were the other people we spoke to. LOTR fans are the best!