Monday, October 30, 2006
The Pernice Brothers are one of my favorite bands. They make beautiful thoughtful music that can make you wonderfully sad and peaceful. Their audio/video page really ought to be experienced. Particularly the Cribs episodes and the video for Working Girls where Death has some pie and then plays stickball.
Milwaukee is an old Indian word meaning “My gosh, there’s a lot of bookstores here and I’m going to visit all of them immediately after getting off the airplane”. I know it seems odd that they would have such a term but they were a strange and mystical people. Later, they would form the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. What was especially noble was that they used every part of the buck for that team: the organs would be used for the ball, the pelt for the uniform, and the antlers would be used for antlers that the players would strap to their heads, thus intimidating opposing players, especially in the low post.
I was met at the airport by Cathy (see previous day’s entry on the niceness of upper Midwest media escorts) who quickly began squiring me about Milwaukee and its surrounding areas. Something about a situation like this: they’re driving you around, sometimes even telling you the name of the town or neighborhood you’re in, but it means nothing to you. Having never been to Milwaukee, the geographical names meant nothing – Mequon? Brookfield? Wha?- so it’s just a long disorienting ride in a car with a pleasant person you’ve never met punctuated by brief drop-ins at bookstore where you make small talk, sign books, try to make a joke or say something unique about your book so they’ll remember you, and then move along. But we did have a great lunch…somewhere… and I first felt the rush of love I now have for the fine people at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop. We went to all eleventy billion of their stores and met folks like Johnny in Brookfield who had read the book, sold most of his stock, and was discussing it with a co-worker as we walked in (or at least gallantly pretended to be). We met Stacey at the Downer Avenue (not a depressing street at all, actually) who had read the galley and spent a great deal of time evangelizing it to friends. And ultimately we met Dan, who was hosting me at the Bayview store, who told me that “several of us at the store are fans of your work.” Since I doubt he had gained an appreciation of my temporary office worker placement in the mid-90’s, I’m thinking he means McSweeney’s or maybe NPR but probably McSweeney’s.
I get to the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee around 4:30 and have a couple of hours before it’s time to go read. The lobby of the Pfister is just absurd. Palatial, grand, ostentatious, The Sun King would say “oh my goodness, this is just too much”. It looked like an ornate cathedral and featured, in two different places, the word “SALVE” in huge letters. I don’t know why. I’ll try to find out. I meant to ask. A hotel worker (I hate to use the word “bellboy”) helped me to my room and provided helpful, non-intuitive advice on how to find the light switch since I would have never thought to look on the walls near the doors. He must have been 55. I gave him five bucks.
Cathy picks me up and we head for the store, getting there a few minutes early. Since I’m not the kind of famous author who will always have 50 people get there early, this part is nerve-wracking. Will I get 30 people? 60? Any? At Schwartz in Bayview, there are some. With 15 minutes before I go on, I go for a walk in the rain, refusing an offer of an umbrella with a quick “I’m from Seattle”. On Kinnickinnic Avenue, I notice a billboard for a country music station with a picture of Toby Keith (major character in my book) (did I mention I wrote a book?) and the words “My Country”. It appears the nation has now been consigned to Toby. Of course I mention this in the reading and it goes over big because it’s right there. I love when that kind of thing works out.
The crowd is fairly large, very enthusiastic, asks great questions, and makes me feel even better about Milwaukee than I already did. I heart Milwaukee. Two extra things made the event better still. My mother-in-law, Susie, took the train up from Chicago and is in attendance. Her other two sons-in-law are, respectively, a Georgetown-trained lawyer and a nuclear physicist. So by having a book published, I’m only just now getting in the race. Also showing up: dear friend Carson, my wife’s best friend from college, who drove in from Madison. Afterwards, we all were taken by media escort Cathy, the queen of Milwaukee, to a restaurant.
Here’s something else Cathy did: when taking Susie back to her hotel, Cathy also drove the route from hotel to the train station so that when Susie had to find the train station in the morning, it would be easier. So nice. I guess that’s part of being a media escort but not really, just being a nice person.
To the Pfister, past the mysterious Salve signs, off to bed.
Friday, October 27, 2006
The friendliness of upper Midwest media escorts should not be underestimated. As their weather is to snow, as their arteries are to cheese clogs, so too are there media escorts to genuine hospitality. Tim picked me up from the airport and shuttled me to eight bookstores over the course of a very busy day. He knew everyone. Made specific small talk with each bookseller regarding their particular lives, even asked one hotel concierge how his recent trip to the Streisand concert was. These guys are good.
The afternoon featured a trip to the studios of radio station WCCO, a station that positions itself as “Your Friendly Neighbor”. They tried going with “Your Creepy Neighbor with Broken Down Cars in the Yard Who May be Holding Satanic Seances or Maybe Amway Meetings and Never Takes the Newspapers off the Windows” but that one didn’t test as well in focus groups. Go figure. My host was Jack Rice, a lawyer and former CIA agent who is now a talk show host, so there’s lots of different ways he can kill you. To my delight, he actually read the book and loved it and had great questions. Also to my delight, he kept mixing up Jeff Gannon (fake reporter/man whore) with Rich Gannon (former Vikings QB/ not man whore).
The hotel I was staying in was preposterous. In a good way. Plasma TV in the bathroom. Just absurd. I loved it.
Minneapolis is delightful, treating older buildings in just the right mix of development and preservation, the way Seattle has never figured out how to. I have no doubt that if I lived there I would revert to that accent within minutes. The Boston accent, meanwhile, is one I could never achieve.
For dinner I met up with dear old friend Spike Booth, who is now a famed Minneapolitan actor and used to be a frustrated grad school actor with me in New Jersey. I got to see his lovely wife Tippy and meet his two robust boys who favor Narnia and the Minnesota Twins. We all ate pancakes.
Later in the night, after a fiasco involving a bookstore I shall never forgive (mitigated by a polite hipster clerk who’s book I signed) (a McSweeney’s based fan, I’m thinking), I met up with Larry, my former neighbor in Seattle and now an ad man in Minneapolis. I’ve romanticized his new city for a long time but he told me to, pretty much, shut up and enjoy Seattle. Outdoor recreation options, great culture, proximity to tremendous variety. Apparently the place I live has a ton of reason to live there. Thanks Larry! The night ended with meeting up once again with Spike at the hotel bar where we had mojitos while a sad lonely drunk woman made a fool of herself.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
(these feature more detail than you need but I’m not much of a picture taker, I’m a writer so I’m creating written souvenirs)
“Ah, there’s my favorite cab driver,” said the hotel porter, a sort of service-industry Mike Ditka. “I pay him with the Globe.” He gave the cabbie the newspaper, refused my tip and I got in.
“This is where I start my day. I get a free paper!” he said in, I think, a Boston-Pakistani accent. Ten minutes later, we were at the airport. I had gone out with friends the night before and that, combined with time zone maladjustment and knowing I had a 5:45 wake up call, meant I slept almost not at all. “Book tour…” I muttered while waiting for the commuter flight to DC.
Media escorts are good at finding the people they’re escorting. Long before you see the book they’re holding up, they’ve already found you. The Jefferson Hotel mercifully let me check in at 10 in the damn morning, though they didn’t have easy internet access, requiring me to use the lobby computer, a PC that was all cloodgy and weird. And you can check email but it seems weird to sit around reading Deadspin or The Onion or McSweeney’s there. I hung around the hotel for a couple of hours, never quite sleeping or doing much else.
The afternoon picked up a bit. Dropped in at a couple of local bookstores to sign stock copies. At one, I learned that Ol’ Man Hodgman would be appearing in Washington, the largest city in the whole District of Columbia, that same night. My interview with John Hodgman was the closest I’ve ever come to not being able to continue an interview due to laughter.
HIS APPEARANCE IN WASHINGTON WAS NOT PART OF SOME LARGER PLAN TO SEIZE CONTROL OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, APPOINTING ME AS A SOULLESS YES-MAN AND CABINET TOADY. STOP ASKING.
Walking around that day, I realized I was nearby some of the places discussed in the book, including the Family Research Council and it’s attached gift shop, which, in the book, I mock. A lot. Not sure if they were still open but the shades were all drawn and they did not appear to be welcoming. Hmm. Maybe they knew I was coming.
I like all the people I’ve met in DC and it’s certainly fascinating. But man, it feels like a cold city to me. I mean, it’s built on power, politics, and trying to get re-elected/re-appointed. It’s tense.
That afternoon, I also had a chance to visit my co-worker Phyllis Fletcher who is temporarily stationed at NPR headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue. The building is featured briefly in my book (I wrote a book, have I told you?) when, after an awkward tea with “Jeff Gannon”, I stand outside longing to go in but not allowed to by my self-imposed rules. So I stand there humming the All Things Considered theme song.
But this time, I got to go in AND watch ATC being broadcast. Watched Robert Siegel and Melissa Block at their microphones doing the show. I’m a public radio veteran by this point but I was star struck. Here’s something you might want to know: Robert wears a suit—on the radio! Awesome! I also met a ton of producers, including some who I’ve been trying to get booked through. Here’s something else about NPR: their offices have cubicles with fabric walls just like yours. Don’t romanticize it too much, it’s a job.
Walked back to the hotel, stopping at Caribou Coffee to check email.
Reading that night at the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown to a pretty decent crowd. The crowd size was helped considerably by ringers: Jill’s two sisters, various of their friends, and my brother-in-law, a former Christian Coalition honcho and Bush appointee. Plus the requisite college hipster/McSweeney fans. Again, the eclectic crowd I’ve come to expect. Good questions, lively crowd, lots of books sold. I even signed a book for Ralph Reed, which blew my mind in about twelve directions.
I’ve been working in an anecdote about Charlie when I talk. The other night when I was in San Francisco, I talked to Jill on the phone at about 10. When I asked her how Charlie went to bed, she told me he was still up. “What’s he doing up at 10?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, somewhat resigned, “Oprah was on and she was talking to Barack Obama. Now he’s all excited about Barack Obama and can’t go to sleep.” Obamamania has reached the Moe house.
When I got home, he told me, “Dad! Good news! Barack Obama is going to fix all the things Bush broke! Because Bush is the worst president but it’s going to be okay!” I love my son quite a lot.
TONIGHT'S SECRET PHRASE TO WIN A PRIZE (AT MAGERS & QUINN IN MINNEAPOLIS): "YOUR BOOK IS LIKE AN ORDER OF TERIYAKI WHERE THE CHICKEN IS THE INSIGHT AND THE SAUCE IS THE FUNNY". GOOD LUCK!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There's a new place in my heart and it's squishy and it's where Boston will now live. I love Boston. I flew in from Seattle, taking the full course of the flight to, I believe, successfully sell my seatmates on the book. Then, after some wandering around chaotic and LaGuardia-esque Logan Airport, I got a cab ride to the Bostonian Hotel from Ben Affleck's character in Good Will Hunting.
On the advice of a friend, I wandered that evening around the North End, seeing the Old North Church (Paul Revere's ride) and a bunch of places where Ben Franklin allegedly did things. Next morning was an hour on the phone and the air with Wisconsin Public Radio followed by bookstore drop-ins. And all the stores I went to, turns out, were quite well stocked with Conservatize Me. I mean, yes the streets don't follow any discernible grid or really any geometric construct. But, I don't know, it really feels like you're somewhere.
I got on the T train, found out I was going the wrong way, got on a different one, and was in Cambridge before I knew it. Cambridge! Where Harvard is! I know! I was stunned and thrilled to find my book in the Harvard Bookstore and something called the Coop, which is pronounced like a place you keep chickens and not a hippy grain sharing system. At 3:13 I decided to get back to the hotel and get some relaxing in before the night's reading. I had hoped to be back at the Faneuil Hall hotel by 4:30 or 5. But it turns out Boston is not like Seattle where you'll be on buses all day long. I was relaxing by 3:40. Zoom zoom.
The reading at Boston University's bookstore (run by Barnes & Noble) was a good time. As it often seems to be, it was a mix of politically aware baby boomers, young hipster McSweeney's fans, and two to three elderly people. I don't know why I tend to attract this crowd but the patter repeats itself in nearly every city. That's why it's a pattern, I guess. Making matters cooler still was that people bought books. Even the hipsters! I've noticed that in some cities, folks will come up to me after and say "It sounds like a great book! I can't wait to check it out from the library!" And, you know, uh, that's fine, I guess. And not everyone can or even wants to buy the book. But I can see now why the righty books sell better. Because that audience doesn't work in social services. They work in the for-profit or even the for-a-lot-of-profit sectors. They buy the book.
On to DC today where I'm hoping to drop in for a visit at NPR Headquarters. I wanted to visit there when I was researching the book but The Experiment was taking place and I would not allow myself to do so. So I just stood outside humming the All Things Considered theme song, like Spinal Tap singing Heartbreak Hotel at Graceland.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Ever have one of those days when, by the end of it, you look back on how the day started and you can't believe it was the same day? I did.
9am - leave for SFO airport aboard a shuttle bus that, after 45 minutes of driving around downtown picking up passengers, I began to suspect had no intention of leaving the city.
11am- fly to Seattle. I think I read a book.
1pm- land, catch a cab, tell him I wish to take the backroad highway to West Seattle, put up with his passive aggressive sigh, arrive home, shower, change.
3pm- arrive at KUOW to voice my weekly bit for Weekend America
3:45pm - have quick visit with my own family in the parking lot of Archie McPhee's of all places (Jill's sister and nephew were in town, they were all out running about)
4pm- begin drive to Bellingham
4:30pm- get stuck in traffic
5:15pm- seethe more
6:15pm- arrive in Bellingham, hasty dinner with dear friends Sean and Rebecca
7:30pm- reading at Bellingham's most awesometacular Village Books, a store I've long admired. Either there were bribes or the KUOW cache carries northward because the place was packed. Great energetic crowd, that made me ham it up more, it was almost theater. Afterwards, Sean and I went out for drinks (me, one small beer) with Village Books events maven Lindsey who manages to lure not just me - I'm easy - but even Jonathan Safran Foer up to her stoer. Also joining us: Lindsey's cool friends. Not joining us: bookstore cohort Jill who had a hot date with a man who's hear was like that of Rita Coolidge. But macho. Or something.
10:45pm- drive home
12:15am- arrive home, assist in the preparation of house for Kate's 4 year old birthday the next day
12:45am- drift off to sleep, thrilled to be home with family, thankful to HarperCollins for letting me have a day with family before beginning the second part of the tour.
TOUR DIARY: BOSTON sneak preview. People here talk different! And there are many bars!
Another day with not a whole lot scheduled during the day. This leads to more walking around San Francisco (because how often do you ever get to San Francisco?). I headed down Columbus toward downtown, passing the Zoetrope building. It's big and old and green and the sort of headquarters of Francis Ford Coppola's empire. A rather wordy plaque informs visitors that this was the place where Godfathers 1 and 2 were edited and mixed. They omitted Godfather 3 but mentioned Rumblefish. I stopped in at City Lights, the famous beatnik and hippie bookstore. It's not, apparently, a Conservatize Me bookstore. I think it's about time I realize I'm fairly mainstream.
Then I went to see The Departed. In that movie, everyone shoots everyone else. It's directed by Martin Scorsese. Made me a little nervous about the upcoming tour stop in Boston.
Back at my room, I had a phone interview with a print reporter for the Washington Post Express. As I tried to answer his questions, there was a knock at my door. A really persistent knock. For, like, five rounds of knocking. Finally, I asked the reporter to hold and I went to the door. "What?! What?! What is it?!" It was the guy delivering my jacket that I had pressed. I hope the reporter didn't overhear my lack of patience with the persistent laundry deliverer. I wasn't rude, just more exasperated than I like to get.
For that night's reading, we parked in front of a stop sign, altered to read "STOP and smell a flower." The reading was in Berkeley. Big crowd at Black Oak Books, a mix of politically aware boomers and young McSweeney's post-hipsters. I'm beginning to see this mix a lot. Also in attendance, semi-clandestine Republicans who I've also been seeing periodically. They're always quite polite. At the Q&A we had one of those "I challenge your assumptions" guys who does more commenting than questioning. When I didn't seem to loathe conservatives enough, he walked away indignantly. Lots of other good questions and even appearance by Ian, my former co-worker at a Seattle temp agency. Also at this reading, someone finally claimed the secret prize. I guess I need to get a new secret prize. The old one was a polka CD.
So new secret prize. Anyone who says YOUR BOOK IS LIKE A MERINGUE PIE EXCEPT THE MERINGUE IS INSIGHT AND THE PIE IS A BOOK.
Nick from Black Oak introduced me, just as he did at the Northern California Independent Booksellers' Association in Oakland a while back. As with everyone introducing me, I continue to be impressed by the high quality of writing on the part of booksellers. I just feel like sitting around and listening to them for a while but then I have to get up and talk.
This was my last night in the Bay Area. I'll miss it.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
TOUR DIARY: SAN FRANCISCO - DAY THREE OF FOUR
On the docket for Wednesday: nothing all day, Santa Rosa at night. So I had the whole day to fill/kill/THRILL! At the urging of my wife (who alert friends and readers know is much smarter than me), I decided against sitting around the hotel room and stewing about book publicity and in favor of perhaps seeing more of the city I was in, which was conveniently one of the beautifulest around.
On the advice of the concierge, I hopped a trolley car (I know!) and took it up a steeeep hill, all the way to Union Square. Trolley cars are noisy. Since I was alone and self-conscious and kind of a weird guy, I didn't want to let on that I was a tourist. So I tried to blend. Had a lovely walk around downtown and a stroll through Chinatown where I picked up a silk purse for Kate.
Something about SF: there are lots of little shops and restaurants that don't seem to be open in any reasonable or consistent manner. It's like a nice little business but then the door is barred but the lights are on. Vexing. It's as if all of San Francisco decided to start businesses and then sort of lost interest in running it and stopped showing up.
I also got good news on a couple of publicity fronts. The Washington Post Express, which is not a delivery service but a whole nother paper, is doing an interview that will appear the day of the DC appearance. The Express is a free shorter version of the Post that's handed out at Metro stations. So while the regular Post is well regarded, the Express is actually read. Also, the book will be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Thrilled. Terrified. All that.
We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge all the way up to Santa Rosa and Copperfield's: home of tremendous generosity, lovely teapots, and Louisa, the hostess who politely asked my permission to compare me to Barbara Ehrenreich and Lemony Snicket (permission granted!). I trotted out the SUV passage instead of the Nixon passage and it was well received. Lots of folks sticking around to chat afterwards, a few even buying books.
Next time: we find out if there are any liberals - oh excuse me, the word is progressive now - in Berkeley.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
On day one I went way down to Santa Cruz. On day three, I go way up to Santa Rosa. But day two was within the San Francisco city limits. I did a pleasant phone interview with Shepherd Express, which is not the speediest rounder up of sheep anywhere but rather an alternative weekly in Milwaukee.
Then I did this thing that I had never heard about. My media escort picked me up at the Argonaut Hotel and we went to four bookstores in an hour or so, dropping in, saying hi, signing every one of my books they had and moving along to the next. They knew we were coming so it wasn't a cold call but it was still occasionally awkward. Like, I wanted to make friends with the booksellers because a) it's good to make friends and b) then they'll recommend the book. At store #1 I noticed Noam Chomsky's Hegemony Or Survival and commented to the clerk (a dead ringer for the non-Jack Black employee in High Fidelity) that I had written the Amazon editorial review for that one. "We don't use the a-word around here." Tension. Dude, I'm just making small talk. "Well, now I work in public radio" I said. That seemed to help. But not much. "Okay, thanks for your time" I muttered.
Other stores went better, including Booksmith's in the Haight-Ashbury where everyone was way cool and I even met the owner. I wished I could have stayed and shopped. At some of the stores I offered to sign Mitch Albom's books too but they politely declined. Then back to the hotel for a phone interview with a radio station in Bellingham.
The reading/signing was at Books, Inc. downtown, a store that has been in business for, oh, about a month. Although sort of a long time before that as A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books (only the greatest bookstore name ever). Not a ton of people since getting actual SF press was tricky but a lot of enthusiasm and alarmingly large poster displays featuring the picture Jill took of me on our side deck.
Someone asked me if tour was a drag. It's not. It's an all expenses paid trip around the country where you occasionally go to bookstores where people who think you're interesting tell you so. But let's see how I feel round about Milwaukee late next week.
In my book, CONSERVATIZE ME, (have I mentioned I wrote a book?), I review various movies based on their alleged conservative messages. Among them are the three Lord of the Rings movies. I've received some scoffing from lefties on that since they don't see the connection. But Rick Santorum does.
Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic, "Lord of the Rings," to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.When you're trotting out Tolkein two weeks before the election, that's trouble.
"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.
"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," he continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Oh well, this is quite nice indeed. Oh my goodness yes. They’ve put me up in the Argonaut Hotel, which is right at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s an old cannery but has now become a swank hotel. They replaced all the cans with swank. I can look out of my window and see Alcatraz and boats and lots of tourists. The only drag is that I packed my toothbrush next to the deodorant. And the deodorant's cap came off. Aaaaand then I brushed my teeth.
Last night, my media escort David Golia drove me two hours (!) down the coast to Capitola, California, which is indeed right near Santa Cruz. Across the street, they told me. I was appearing at the Capitola Book Café and my name was up in reader board letters. Not quite a name up in lights but still new and thrilling to me. We had a good turn out as I spoke from a round information desk thingy. I read parts of the book about the Rexburg, Idaho mayor who renounces the Republican Party, the dawning of my Nixon man-crush, and I added my Toby Keith concert chewing tobacco hallucinations. That last part was new but seemed to go well.
In the front row was a guy in a cowboy hat, grey camouflage (I’ve never understood that – is it to hide among trees made of cement?), and , I kid you not, a toothpick in his mouth. So here I was making all these jokes about the right and all the while thinking, “I wonder if this guy is a representative of a lynch mob? And if so, what are the odds that the hippies in attendance would be prepared to fend them off?” But nope, just a regular guy.
David, the media escort, is a musician and big time music geek. In the four hours of round trip driving we had plenty of time to talk rock. It sometimes stuns me how much information about pop music I’ve amassed over the years. Perhaps this is my next book, something about pop music. Or I could leverage all that sports knowledge I’ve gathered up.
Just got off the phone with a reporter in Milwaukee who is doing a print piece on the book, then off to sign books at various stores, and finally read and sign at Books, Inc. in San Francisco.
I find myself with time on my hands for the first time in a while. Family’s at home. There are readings and interviews but they’re spread out. So I instantly convert that free time to stress: now is when I should accomplish ALL those things I’ve meant to do. Now. In the next two hours.
CONTEST: FIRST PERSON TO SAY TO ME “YOUR BOOK IS LIKE A CHALUPA BUT STUFFED WITH INSIGHT” AT ONE OF THE READINGS, GETS A PRIZE.
Monday, October 16, 2006
I may just take up residency here in the Portland airport. Free wi-fi AND the delicious coffee of the indigenous Coffee People. My flight to SFO is delayed so I just get to love it all more.
Yesterday I had a delightful phone interview with the improbably named Billy Sunshine Show. As you can guess, Billy Sunshine was apoplectic with rage. Fortunately, it wasn't directed at me but rather at the modern American right. He and his co-host/producer Barbara had actually read the book, which is always nice since it often leads to questions I hadn't heard before (Barbara wanted to know about the footnotes).
The day before I had been on David Gold's show. He's a conservative in the Bay Area and we had a lot of fun sparring on a number of issues related to political identity. He tends to call folks on the left "libs". I asked him if he called the other side "cons" or just "people" or "Americans". He wasn't sure. It got a bit shouty, more so than I'm used to in The Urbane World of Public Radio, but it was always civil and even friendly. Afterwards we both agreed it was fun. One caller said that if I couldn't get what was so great about Reagan, I was an idiot. Also that all liberals are communists and socialists. Sigh. This is the kind of dumbing down of discourse that I hope I can change just a tidge. Gold appeared to be embarrassed about the caller. I just feel bad that the caller has to go through life with such a filter. I don't think it helps you understand the world better to do crap like that.
Last night was my reading at Powell's, the famed "takes up a whole damn city block" bookstore in Portland. When I got there, I learned that it was all coordinated by esteemed McSweeney's veteran Kevin Sampsell who also introduced me. Maybe 50-65 people at the event. I knew six of them and while the personal me was glad to see friends, the professional me was pleased to see strangers. I'm still stunned and delighted that strangers are paying to read my book and going to bookstores to hear what I have to say.
I was a little nervous to see hippies in attendance given that I empathize with Nixon in his battle against the hippies and generally read that part at bookstore events. But the hippies can take it. They are a docile race (and thus easily conquered if someone really wanted to, which no one does).
After the event, I went out for zesty macaroni n' cheese (hipster gourmet style) at a place in Portland that might have been called either Montage or Collage (but not, I don't think, Corsage or Fromage or Dressage).
On to the Bay Area to read tonight at Capitola Book Cafe. I think it's part of Santa Cruz. Billy Sunshine is expected to be in attendance.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I'm now actively despised on the right and on the left, at least among people who do their despising on blogs and comment spaces. Hell, that was easy. Earning enmity among the humorless hotheads is a snap, turns out. There's a phrase for the meaning of having a cross section of the constantly furious mad at you: doing something right.
Your "willing tool of the rightwing project",
ps. I'm also a willing tool of the Alan Parsons Project!
Friday, October 13, 2006
I'm in the blessedly wi-fi-packed Portland airport having just finished the first of two rapid fire trips to Portland, Oregon. I gave a talk at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association yesterday afternoon. It was this program where they had ten authors speak for 12 minutes each and we were told to not read from our books. I was scheduled to go on 9th. For a while, we were ahead of schedule and all the authors moved along briskly. But then someone went and mentioned that and the next author, a teacher by trade, happily gobbled up the loose minutes. The 7th speaker was my pal Ryan Boudinot, author of the darkly brilliant book The Littlest Hitler. He pushed us from "on time" to "way over" as he read his title story. That made the 8th speaker annoyed, which was a bad thing because she was already a poet so she's inevitably annoyed anyway.
She talked about how little respect poetry gets and then, as she tried to find her place in her own book to read something, she commented on how nice it was to have silence. And I'm thinking "the only reason we have silence is because you've lost your place". And then she talked about genocide for quite a while.
And then I had to get up and talk about my book and make jokes and try to have fun. A laugh was a lot to ask of the poor booksellers by this point but they did their best. Later at the book signing table I had a huuuuge long line of people waiting for me to sign. Which was awfully nice. So I think it was a big success.
On the air this morning with Thom Hartmann today, Portland lefty radio host. He's earnest but I got some jokes in. Flying back to Seattle to do Michael Medved's show at 1. I was scheduled to be on Rachel Maddow's Air America show too but that got postponed.
Update: Just got off the air with Medved. Nice guy. Had a lovely time. But conservative talk radio can be such a weird prism of reality. He said things like "well obviously the major network news organizations have a liberal bias and so do the colleges and even the high schools" and then move on to another point. And I sit there wondering if I should challenge that fairly ridiculous simplistic supposition or just let it pass. I let it pass and waited for my next chance to tell a joke. He obviously never met, for instance, every single high school teacher I ever had ever.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
- KCTC in Sacramento, interview with Scott & Sims, one of whom (I think it's Sims though it could be Scott) is wearing sunglasses!
- Interviewed by Dr. Alvin Augustus Jones for WCBQ-AM & WHNC-AM in Oxford, NC. And if you think he has a big name, wait til you see his big web site.
- Talking to Michelangelo Signorile later today for his show on Sirius. I hope there is no live spelling of his name.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I might have a chance to be one of them quoted people on the side of Starbucks' cups. They're interested, I'm interested, I've got the form. What ought I to say?
"I wish they had more locations"
"No, please, accept more money for this latte"
"I think the mermaid digs me. No, I mean the older hotter mermaid."
Yesterday I pointed out that all I seem to do anymore is ask you to buy the book. And on the air I badger people pledge drive style. So here are gifts.
It's the mid-80's Lakers telling you not to do drugs via "rap music". Here are some ways they do so:
1. Huge grandma sunglasses
2. Golf shirts
3. Kareem not even showing up at the same time as the other guys at the studio but still calling himself "the captain of the team"
4. Kurt Rambis rapping
5. Lots of rapping in the "I'm (x) and I'm here to say" fashion of the day.
6. Mob of children.
7. Horror, horror, horror.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The fall pledge drive at some radio station where I work began today. So between that and the publicity for the book I now spend almost all of my time trying to get people to give up their money for something that I call thought provoking.
It will all pass.
Meanwhile, enjoy Strindberg and Helium.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I’m in Oakland, California, home of my Mariners’ much better operated division rival, at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association conference. I had been asked to deliver a 12 minute speech about…something. The book or me or books in general or something. I was intimidated a bit but then I realized I had been working on this thing for, all told, 27 months. So 12 minutes? Not so hard. I was told it was a big success. Whew. Then today I signed a ton of books for people who had never heard of me.
Also today, I went to the Barnes & Noble in Jack London Square and there was the book. I know: a book in a bookstore? Wha?! But it's still such a thrill.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
710 KIRO in the greater Seattle area. Pretty sure I'll talk about the book, not sure if I'll talk about Tony Snow calling Foley's messages to pages "naughty e-mails" and what that says about conservatism and Republicanism. Pretty sure we won't talk about Dave Reichert's unspeakably tight t-shirts.
Also, tonight is the big official launch party for the book at the Big Picture in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. Come on over! You're welcome to ask me about Reichert's t-shirts there.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Some time ago, I posted this in this here blog:
Thursday, May 12, 2005
A Brief Update
So it turns out I'm writing a book. It's tentatively planned, I don't even want to say scheduled, for October of 2006. This is something I've been working toward for a long while and I'm grateful that it's happening. Not sure what it means for this blog but my intention is to keep it going. You probably won't need to check it more than about once a week but I will endeavor to post whenever I can.
Well, here it is October 3rd and the book is out. In fact, it started showing up on people's doorsteps yesterday if they ordered through Amazon. But as of today, it is also in stores. Not sure if the Barneses and Nobles will have it, probably depends where you are. But if not they can order it. Me, I'm going down to Elliott Bay Book Company in downtown Seattle tomorrow to see it on the shelves. For as long as I can remember, I've been going to that place and often wandering by certain shelves and picturing my book there, generally right after Dennis Miller, alphabetically.
I want to thank readers of this blog for your help in this effort. A blog keeps a writer in shape. And especially when you know people are reading it, it makes you work harder at it, even if all you're doing is typing out some weird thing your kid said about God and dinosaurs or something. I have found the book writing process to be fascinating, exhilirating, exhausting, frustrating, and different than I ever expected in almost every way. On the little business cards they've given me to hand out it says that you can learn about my next book by going to AuthorTracker.com. And I was all, What next book?! No plans yet. But I do hope to do this again.
It was over a year of research, writing, and editing. Now it's all publicity. Did I mention it makes an outstanding gift?
Anyway, thanks. If you read the book, I hope you enjoy it. This guy in Buffalo did.
And here is a picture from the Seattle Times that you may find unsettling:
Sunday, October 01, 2006
ME: You guys want to go to church today or go to the Farmer's Market and buy fruit?
KATE: Fruit! Farmer's Market!
KATE: I don't like church!
KATE: They make me go away with babysitters.
ME: And you want to stay with Mom and Dad.
KATE: Yeah. I love you.
CHARLIE: I don't like church because it doesn't make any sense.
ME: What do you mean?
CHARLIE: All they want to talk about is God and Jesus. And it doesn't make sense. All the stories are just so weird. All day long they talk about that every day. It bugs.
ME: Fruit makes more sense.