Today, I am once again brightening your computer screens with a whimsical narrative. Yet, like most of my whimsy, this tale has a deathly serious point, which will not be revealed until the end. So keep alert, and bookmark this page if your boss walks by. Stay up all night if necessary, my friends. As you well know, our fragile democracy creaks in the balance tomorrow, and attention must be paid.
OCTOBER 13: POWELL’S BOOKS, PORTLAND, OREGON
Kevin Sampsell from the bookstore introduced me. I emerged from the stacks wearing a hockey mask and a blond wig. Under a blue-and-yellow lumberjack shirt, I had placed an extra pillow from my motel room, which made me look like a hunchback. It was Friday the 13th, after all. Approaching the microphone, I began screeching, like John Hurt in The Elephant Man. Kevin turned on a “spooky sounds” tape to a cut called “women laughing.” “Stop laughing at me!” I screamed, and ran away. Kevin returned to ask crowd to chant for me to come back. They did not chant. I came back anyway, dressed normally. I read, and played some more spooky sounds.
OCTOBER 16: ELLIOT BAY BOOKS, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
Jim from the bookstore introduced me as a “mild-mannered reporter from Chicago.” I adjusted my fake glasses and began to read. Midway through the second piece, my cousin Michael Dougherty shouted, from the other room, “Hey, back off, buddy!” He came into the reading room, dropped to his knees, and screamed, “Dear god, why?” He then informed us that someone had stolen his wallet. I removed my glasses and told the crowd to excuse me, because I had to go the bathroom. I dashed from the room, and Michael followed me, still screaming. We went to a hall, and, still screaming, he began to help me undress. I told him to please leave me alone. A minute later, I burst into the reading room, dressed as Superman. I returned Michael’s wallet to him and informed the crowd that they no longer needed to fear the anarchist scourge, as the government had sent me to protect them. I fled, returning in my normal garb a few minutes later, not noticing the sliver of cape sticking out from under my sweater.
OCTOBER 18: CLUB MESA, COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA
Rebecca Schoenkopf, a columnist for the Orange County Weekly who calls herself Commie Girl, arranged for me to read at an open mike at a punk bar in a strip mall. She took my wife and I out to a sushi restaurant, which was also in a strip mall. When I asked her why she had a leopard-print eye patch, Commie Girl replied, probably for the ten-thousandth time, that she had lost her eye in a rock fight when she was eight. The club had a very sticky floor, and beer in cans. Half Empty, a band, played. I asked them to play Wild Thing, but the bass player wanted to go home. Instead, the poets read. Most of them were quite good, though a disturbing number of poems were about drug addiction. One poet said, “this poem is about a friend of mine who died of a heroin overdose.” From the crowd, Commie Girl shouted “Boo!” She then informed the crowd that if they wanted to get into heavy metal night at a nearby club, it would only cost two dollars if they mentioned her name. I read, to general enthusiasm. Afterward, Commie Girl saw an old friend. “How’s it going?” he asked. “I had my breasts reduced,” she said. “Don’t they look great?” Indeed, they did.
OCTOBER 19: VROMAN’S, PASADENA, CALIFORNIA
The reading was held in the “scrapbook room” of this decidedly genteel bookstore. In between pieces, I attempted to sell a variety of scrapbooks, rubber stamps, and gift cards. Stacy Keanan, former child star of My Two Dads and Step By Step, played my sister Sharon in An Interview With My Sister, Who Is A Lesbian. A number of very intelligent book collectors approached me, having apparently concluded that I was actually the McSweeney’s Representative. To prove them wrong, Stacy and I answered questions from the audience, along with “Dave the Badger,” an adorable plush puppet that obviously bore no resemblance to me. This vital action banished any confusion on the part of the clever book professionals of Pasadena.
OCTOBER 20: MUSCLE BEACH, VENICE, CALIFORNIA
On a drizzly day, 25 people showed up at this most American of locations. After some wrangling with the local authorities, we received a day pass to the weightlifting area, and a very handsome man named Jimmy gave a demonstration, accompanied by King Kukulele, perhaps the only professional ukulele player in Southern California. I then read for half an hour, also accompanied by King Kukulele, interrupted occasionally by my new friend Goochie, who informed me that he’d never heard writing like mine in the Santa Monica jail.
OCTOBER 22: THE STARDUST HOTEL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Yes, yes, I really did give the reading in my hotel suite. We had free beer. The hotel informed me that a number of people had shown up the night before, including John, a union organizer, who showed up again. He was joined by Howard, a pediatrician who had to go to work at 6 AM, and two local poets, David Figler and Greg, what was his last name again? Oh, I don’t remember, but the poets were best friends from high school. Everyone enjoyed himself, or in my wife’s case, herself. I was exhausted and very drunk and attempted to remove my pants, but Regina stopped me.
OCTOBER 27: BOOKPEOPLE, AUSTIN, TEXAS
After a brief rest in Phoenix, where my parents fed me meat and allowed me to sit outside in the sun for a few hours unmolested by the horde, Regina and I arrived in Austin, which these days is the kind of city that tears down a beloved nightclub and allows it to be replaced with a 40-story Intel headquarters. Ah, the New Economy. I concluded my epic tour with free beer and a long bookstore reading. After answering many interesting questions from the audience, I donned a George W. Bush mask, and answered questions as George W. Bush, which angered a few George W. Bush supporters in the audience. Then I had Dara Wolkovich from the bookstore approach me with a large plastic needle, which I had purchased for $3.99 at a costume shop called Lucy In Disguise. “Do you have any last words, governor?” Dara asked. “Yes,” I said. “Please don’t kill me.” She injected me. I spasmed, twitched, dropped to the floor, and died.
The symbolic significance of this final act of my book tour will not escape the sophisticated reader, and all of my readers fall into that category of sophistication. I doubt that more than a small percentage of you will vote for George W. Bush. But no matter where you live, or whatever your political preference, I urge you to choose intelligently tomorrow. If we elect George W. Bush as our next President, we are truly a foolish people, and we deserve what we get. Dark days will descend upon us, a plague of evil flies disguised as compassionate conservatism. My readers, the world’s final, inexorable destiny depends on your vote. You know what I say is true. Therefore, I need write no more.