It's early in June, and I'm sitting in a small, brightly lit room in New York City, facing a TV camera, grinning enthusiastically and having a conversation with perky voices in my ear.
I'm doing what's called a "satellite media tour" to promote a book. For three straight hours I've been talking to perky TV News Teams all over the country, one after another, for about five minutes apiece. The only person in the room with me is Gary, the cameraman. I can't see the News Teams; I can only hear them via an earpiece. They all tend to ask the same questions, so I've been saying the same things over and over.
"So, Dave!" a perky news voice is saying. "Tell us about the squirrel in the woman's toilet!" The News Teams love this story.
Gary the cameraman winces. He has heard the toilet-squirrel story about 29 times today.
"Ha ha!" I say to the camera, as though I am delighted to be telling this story yet again, whereas in fact I would rather be undergoing a vasectomy via tire iron. But I plunge ahead, because it is my job to get my book mentioned on the TV news. It's not easy. I'm getting stiff competition from the Flesh-Eating Bacteria, which is the big story this week. The News Teams are crazy about this story, and are showing horrible scary color pictures of it every two minutes. I am appalled by the amount of attention they're giving this. I mean, it's not as though the Flesh-Eating Bacteria wrote a book.
I finish talking to the current News Team, and immediately I hear a new one in my ear.
"Dave!" a perky voice says. "What's the deal with these toilet squirrels?"
Gary the cameraman slumps. I think even the camera is slumping.
"Ha ha!" I say, and plunge ahead.
It's several days, and several cities, later, and I'm in Milwaukee, being interviewed on a TV show about books. The host is trying to ask me a question that begins "When did you first start," but he messes up and combines the beginning of "first" and the end of "start" into one word, so that his question comes out: "When did you [comical bathroom word]." He says this very clearly. He tries to be cool and act as though nothing has happened. I help him out by shouting, "What? What did you say?" He's still trying to gloss over it and get on with the interview, but now he's starting to giggle, a problem that only gets worse when his wristwatch, suddenly and mysteriously, springs off of his wrist and clatters noisily across the table. Now we're laughing so hard that juice is running out of our noses.
Literature: It's my life.
Now I'm in Denver, and I'm on a TV talk show with a country-and-western band from -- get ready -- Singapore. They're promoting their new record, "You Caned the Buttocks of My Heart."
No, I'm kidding about the song title, but I swear the band is real. They're called Matthew and the Mandarins, and they've just arrived in the United States on a tour to promote good will for Singapore. They do a pretty good version of "Margaritaville," but publicity-wise I'm wondering how well they'll do here, going head-to-head with big names such as Barbra Streisand and the Flesh-Eating Bacteria.
Now I'm sitting in a TV studio in Portland, Ore., waiting to go on a TV talk show. The other guests are Allen Ginsberg, the famous poet; and Charlotte, a dog employed by the local fire department to sniff out gasoline and other chemicals used in arson.
"Where's Allen Ginsberg?" I ask somebody.
"Here," says a little old man who has been sitting right next to me for 10 minutes.
"Ha ha!" I remark, suavely. Mr. Dorkhead.
Ginsberg, who is on a book tour, announces that he is very tired, then lies down on the studio floor and goes to sleep. Charlotte the Arson Dog, on the other hand, is energetic, bounding around the studio. She is not on a book tour.
At this point the show's hostess, her hair and makeup perfect, walks up to meet the guests.
"Hi!" she says.
Charlotte bounds over and, without hesitation, sticks her snout way up under the hostess' skirt, as though looking for an important arson clue.
Now I'm home, all done with the book tour. I don't talk much these days. Mainly I sleep. I've been having these dreams, but I'm sure they're normal. You've had them, too, right? The ones with the flesh-eating toilet squirrels?