Book signing leads to pleasant afternoon

tom 5 books
Tom’s 5 printed books
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletterDecember 17, 2021

by Tom Blake author and columnist

The Book Signing 

Last Saturday, I had the third book signing of my memoir, “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.” In a nutshell, the book is about my 26 years of opening, operating, and eventually selling Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. The signing was held at the deli I didn’t expect many people to show up for a couple of reasons.

I’d already had two book signings there and several people had already purchased the book. Also, I didn’t adequately promote the event. I only mentioned it in this eNewsletter and put a poster up in the deli front window and notified a few acquaintances who were mentioned in the book, thinking they might want to see what I wrote about them. 

At the signing, in addition to displaying my latest book on a table where customers could see it, I also had the four other printed books I’ve written on the same table. I’m guessing that reading this sounds pretty boring, I admit. But then meaningful things started to happen.

A younger couple, I’m guessing early 40s, came in for a sandwich. They were perusing the dating books and I heard the guy say to his lady, “This book would be good for Mom to read.”He was referring to Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What To Do, which I published in 2003. 

When I heard him say that I introduced myself, and asked, “Is mom single?” He said, “She’s a new widow. She has no idea what to do. She married right out of high school and has never dated anyone else. Which of these books would be good for her?” 

I said, “The one you mentioned, Finding Love After 50.” He said, “I’ll take it. Will you sign it for her?” 

“Of course,” I said. And then he added, “By the way, I’m J.J; I went to Dana Hills High School with your former stepson, Mikey. I’ve eaten at this deli for 30 years. How is Mikey doing?” “Funny you should ask. I received a heart-warming text from him yesterday. Hadn’t heard from him in almost a year.”

“J.J., I don’t know if you knew that Joey, Mikey’s brother, was murdered, along with his wife and two young children in 2010. Both Mikey and Joey worked at the deli. Losing his brother like that has been very tough on Mikey. On all of us, as well.” J.J. said, “Yes, I knew about it. I didn’t want to spoil your day by mentioning it. Thanks for being here today, Tom, seeing you brings back great memories and some sadness as well.” 

I autographed the book for his mom. I also signed a complimentary copy of How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 for her. And I added, “I suggest your mom sign up for our free eNewsletter. Our Champs can really help her arise out of a very difficult time. Many of them have walked the walk.” 

As J.J. and his lovely woman left, it occurred to me that meeting them and likely helping his mom was worth the entire book signing effort that day. Over the years, you Champs have helped so many newly widowed people it warms my heart. 

And then, two women–a mother, and a daughter–looked at the books displayed on the table, as the women were waiting for their sandwiches. I said, “Hi, I’m Tom, the author, let me know if you have any questions.” The younger woman said, “You wrote these?” “Yes.” 

She said, “We’re both single, mother and daughter. Why are you here?” I said, “I owned this deli for 26 years. I’m just doing a book signing today.” She said, “You owned a restaurant and you’re also an author?” I said, “Yup, when you own a restaurant for 26 years, you need something else to occupy your mind, to keep you from going crazy; I was fortunate enough to become a newspaper columnist and have been writing articles on finding love for 26 years.” 

The daughter said, “Gee, we were just driving by and saw the deli sign. We each want one of your new deli books. Can you sign one to ‘Lana,’ who is Mom, and one to me, I’m ‘Lana S.’” I said, “Lana? As in the movie star Lana Turner?” 

They laughed and nodded. I said, “And this is Greta, as in Garbo. the famous Swedish star.” We chuckled. 

I said “Famous names of famous people. I encourage you, Mom Lana, to sign up for the eNewsletter that I send by email every Friday to 2,000 people all over the USA and other countries.” Then, a tall man named Jim, mid-70s came in wearing a Diablo (Mission Viejo High School) sweatshirt. He said he helps out with the basketball program there. A senior, volunteering to help kids–I love it.

Plus, he mentioned, “I need three books. A new deli book and two How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 books. “Why two 50 Couples books?” I asked. “One for me and one for my friend Fred. He’s having trouble meeting women and he heard that this book explains how all those couples met.” 

Jim added, “I came to your Meet and Greets here at the deli. Met a nice woman and we dated exclusively for a couple of months. Then, I went to my grandson’s football game and sat with my other grandkids and my ex-wife.”My new significant other was so insecure, she got jealous and broke off our relationship. Hard to figure that one out. So, I also need to read your book.” 

Earlier that Saturday morning, I had gone to the outdoor flea market the city of Dana Point sponsors in the town center to see my friends Vince and Julie who have a booth there where they sell hats with custom-made logos that Vince designs. Vince calls himself, “Vince Thehatman.” (check out his website— I told them about the mid-afternoon book signing and they said, “When we are done around 2 p.m., we’ll come for a sandwich and chat.” 

They arrived with Jeff Freeman, a guy who also has a booth next to theirs at the flea market. He sells high-quality sheets. The three of them stayed for more than an hour. Julie’s mother Dee S. is one of our Champs. Vince and Julie’s photo is in the new deli book. I’ve known Vince for nearly 30 years.

Occasionally, he helped at the deli when Greta and I traveled. And then, a man named Ron Sobel came to get one of the new books. In 1988, Ron opened Ron’s New York Deli in Dana Point Harbor at the same time I opened Tutor and Spunky’s. His menu is pictured in the new book. Ron and Vince had known each other years ago so they found time to get caught up. 

A bit later, another long-time friend, Patrick Hynes, with whom I worked at the Victoria Station Restaurant chain in the 1970s, came in to get one of the new deli books. He drove down from Newport Beach.

Patrick used to be the concierge at the Newport Beach Bay Club, where he met a lot of famous people. Patrick is from Adelaide, Australia, a wonderful person. I had no idea he’d be coming to the book signing.

Patrick publishes a blog titled, Patrick’s Brief Encounters…Snippets of my life in America, which features famous people he’s met since moving from Australia. He’s going to publish a book on that one day. Patrick was featured in another memoir I wrote in 2006, titled, Prime Rib and Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? a copy of which was on the table in the deli.

Ends up, he stayed for over an hour, chatting with Greta, Vince, Julie, Jeff, and Ron. And then a woman, who was dressed to the nine’s came in. It took a few seconds to recognize her, it was Sally West.

Greta and I had met Sally in 2007, on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train on a trip from Venice to Prague and on to Paris. Sally and her traveling pal occupied the berth next to ours. Oh my gosh, what a delightful surprise. (I checked to see if that Orient Express train is still operating. It is. Now, if you take a six-day trip from Paris to Istanbul the cost is $25,000 per person. Sure happy we took it 14 years ago.) 

I said to Sally, “Why are you dressed so exquisitely?” She said, “I live in a retirement community. Your book signing was a nice social event for me to get out and attend as sort of a change of pace, so I dolled it up a bit.” 

Sally is a Champ and loves our eNewsletter. She and the rest of us chatted extensively. The book signing had turned into a delightful event, something that happens when seniors get out and about. It was almost spur of the moment.

The final couple to attend the book signing were Kathy and her husband Dave. Both are retired. Kathy owned and ran McCool’s Flowers, the best damn flower shop in Dana Point for 30 years. They are mentioned in the book.

Often, Kathy did the floral centerpieces for banquet tables that took your breath away and filled banquet halls with a lovely aroma. It was getting dark. And we seniors didn’t want to drive in the dark, so we adjourned. But what a special time it turned out to be. 

I realized once again from this simple outing that life is about friends and cherishing old memories. Not many books were sold but that didn’t matter; seeing old friends and meeting new ones is what was important. And it reminded me of how blessed I’ve been in my life.

Merry Christmas Champs!

Author: Tom Blake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published five books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at

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