I'm on Day 15, or possibly Day 73, of a 9-billion-city book tour. I'm surviving on two major food groups: the Bagel Group, and the Cream Cheese Group. I drink hot coffee constantly as I ride from interview to interview. I spill a lot on myself. This is good: It keeps me awake.
Right now I'm a guest on the noon news at a TV station in Albuquerque, N.M. I have no idea why I was sent here; I'm too tired to ask questions. Any day now I could find myself in the Ryukyu Islands, where I would use hand gestures to promote my book to the residents.
The Albuquerque noon news anchor person, a big, boomy-voiced guy named Ted, informs the viewers that today's Top Story is the visit of Hillary Clinton to nearby Santa Fe. The station has a camera crew on location; on the screen, we see a live picture, as it is actually happening, of waiters setting tables in a restaurant. Ted informs us that the first lady will be eating there later on.
Ted, who works alone, reads all the stories, including weather and sports. He also does guest interviews, which are conducted in two little chairs located about 15 feet from his news desk. This means that Ted has to keep shuttling back and forth between the desk and the chairs, which is tricky because (a) he has to keep talking, and (b) there's a fat microphone cable running down his pants leg. So the viewers see Ted booming out a story from his news desk, and then the screen will show some videotape as Ted, still booming, scuttles over to the interview area, dragging his cable leg behind him, Igor-like, so that when the studio camera comes back on, there's Ted, miraculously in a new location, with his guest. He could definitely use some on-air help. (Connie Chung, phone your agent.)
My interview lasts maybe two minutes and consists almost entirely of Ted and me punching each other in the shoulders with increasing force. This is fine with me; after two weeks, I'm sick of talking about my book. As I'm leaving the studio, I meet Ted's next in-studio guest, a puppy named June Bug, who is the Pet of the Week.
Albuquerque: Where the News Never Stops.
Here are some other book-tour highlights:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I appear on a TV talk show devoted to the issue of how bad TV talk shows are. One guest is a college professor who is billed as a talk-show authority. She watches talk shows constantly and has written a book about how bad they are. Appearing with her is a woman who, as I understand it, was involved in some kind of romantic affair, which she talked about on a bunch of talk shows; now she is on this talk show to talk about how she wants to put this painful episode behind her. The talk-show hosts and the talk-show audience all agree heartily that talk shows are very bad. I feel like a total sleazeball for being on one.
CLEVELAND -- For reasons that are still not clear, some radio guys decide that a good way to promote my book would be to take a microphone out onto a balcony and record the sound of me using a giant slingshot to shoot water balloons into the parking lot. One balloon explodes near a pedestrian, who looks up and scurries nervously away, no doubt heading straight to a bookstore.
LOS ANGELES -- I'm on a morning TV news show featuring roughly 17 perky anchorpersons, who take turns discussing news stories ranging in significance all the way from Mel Gibson to Heather Locklear. Also, there's a lengthy remote interview with -- I swear -- a sea lion named Clyde, who barks relentlessly into the interviewer's microphone, making the same noise over and over, reminding me very much of myself on a book tour, except that Clyde has a certain dignity.
While I'm waiting to go on the show, I overhear a conversation between two legal experts who are doing TV analysis of the O. J. Simpson Perpetual Trial From Hell. The analysts are complaining about how the trial has sucked all the free time out of their lives.
"I can't even make an appointment with my dentist," one of them says. "I'm going to wind up sending him my teeth in a box."
Today on Geraldo: O. J.'s Dental Victims.
Also on this book tour I got interviewed by Dick Cavett; a TV personality named Fred who wrote a book entitled "Onions, Onions, Onions"; Danny Bonaduce, the former "Partridge Family" child star turned radio personality; a radio personality called Smash; and another radio personality called the Greaseman, who demonstrated, on the air, at least six unusual ways to commit an act of flatulence.
Literature: It's my life.