The seasons, they go round and round. The painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on a carousel… of time.
No song lyrics of the last 40 years better describe my current state of mind as I clear the halfway hurdle of my nationwide book tour. Over the last month, as I have passed a dozen cities through my wide-mesh literary sieve, an Olympics has gone down, with many inspiring tape-delayed moments backed by the most debased prose ever written by an American hand. George W. Bush simpered his way through a Presidential debate, yet still emerged with a patina of respectability around his little weenie head. The Serbs stormed their Parliament, and the Seattle Mariners began their inevitable march toward their first world baseball title. Meanwhile, I’m still standing. Better than I ever did.
I have so many memories from the last month, which I have been sharing with you in this space from time to time, both in fictional and non-fictional form. I will never forget the people and places I remember. How could I? Yet so many memories are still to come. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Austin, I am coming for you, and we will have so much fun. Albuquerque, I apologize. I must cancel. But next time, I promise. We will go round and round and round in the circle game. You can expect something like the following:
September 22, Chicago. Quimby’s.
Local poetic impresario Greg Gillam threw me a “graduation ceremony.” I wore a light- blue cap and gown, the colors of my home city. Attendees received a free graduation program. I marched up from the basement to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Thax Douglas, another local poet and legend, read a poem dedicated to me and presented me with a videotape featuring a rabbi talking about the nature of love. Bill Savage, a professor of literature at Northwestern University, introduced me. I gave a commencement speech. Shappy, yet another local poet, sang the theme song to The Greatest American Hero and dedicated it to me. I read “Interview with My Sister, Who Is A Lesbian,” with T-Bone, a local comedian and actual lesbian, playing the part of my sister.
September 23, Chicago. 57th Street Books.
My reading was interrupted by Crazy Pants, a bare-chested lunatic who wears some really crazy pants. He humped me to the ground. Later, “Andy,” a jealous rival, insulted me. We conducted a foul-mouthed shouting match. I ordered Crazy Pants to attack Andy, but he attacked me instead and ripped open my jugular vein. Then I signed books.
September 27, St. Paul. The Ruminator Bookstore, formerly known as the Hungry Mind.
I performed A McSweeney’s Home Companion. Sang “Hello,” the Lionel Richie song, and read the introduction to my book. Did a commercial for “Heartbreaking Biscuits of Staggering Genius.” Read “Lesbian” with my friend Beth, who played Emmylou Harris playing my sister. Took dedications and questions from audience. Sang “I Just Called To Say I Love You” to two couples about to be married, one of which secretly told me that Shellac was playing their wedding. Read “Lake Minnesota Days.” Sang “On the Road Again.”
October 2, Ann Arbor. Zingermann’s Delicatessen.
Met Janet Fletcher of Napa Valley, who was signing her new book “The Cheese Course: Enjoying the World’s Best Cheeses.” Ate some cheese. Ascended to catering room with 35 people. Performed to unstoppable backdrop of 1940s jazz. Conducted sandwich-eating contest with Aryana, a social work graduate student, and Sean, an elementary school teacher. Aryana and I ate corned beef. Sean, a vegetarian, had a Portobello mushroom sandwich. Contest rules stipulated that we also had to eat pickle. Aryana was no competition, but she did pour my water. Sean and I went down to last bite. We tied. He received free book and sandwich. Aryana received discounted book and free sandwich.
October 3, 5:30 PM, Toronto. This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.
Conducted scavenger hunt with 25 contestants. Jonathan Carson found first book, priced at $30 Canadian rather than $22, the normal price. He was upset, so we bargained down to $25. He said he’d give book to sister for Christmas. Nice young woman who is, I believe, named Zessie, found second item, a free book. Three art students began bothering me, trying to determine whether or not I was a real person. They wore wigs. One had a whiplash collar, and another a fake bloody tissue in nose. Peter, in a graduate program in publishing, found third item, a book containing promise of dinner with me. Peter, my wife, my Canadian publicist Amy Cormier, and I went to dinner. He ordered a steak.
October 3, 9:30 PM, Toronto. The Horseshoe.
Appeared onstage with Galore, excellent local rock band. Sang “Wild Thing.” Read from book. Answered questions. Paid tribute to departed Pierre Trudeau. Made crowd rise to tape of Billy Bragg singing “The Internationale.” Marched into crowd, triumphant. Signed books. Talked to art students, now convinced of my true nature. Beat one of them at arm-wrestling. Returned to hotel. Watched Presidential debate. Thought, “George W. Bush. What a little fucker.” Slept.