Book Tour Traumas and Triumphs
While the idea of a book tour may seem glamorous to the uninitiated, it often involves challenges both large and small, though sometimes they are counterbalanced by grace-saving pleasures. Take this past Friday, when, on three hours of sleep, my assignment was to get from New York to Oakland, California for a 6:30 pm appearance that night. This trip by itself wouldn’t be too terrible, except that after Oakland I needed get to Austin for a 12:30 pm talk at the Texas Book Festival the next day. With no nonstops from the Bay Area to Austin that night, I rushed back to the airport at 9:30pm for the last flight down to Los Angeles. The trauma began.
Trauma: It’s 45 minutes before my flight to LA and the United Airlines line for the metal detector at SFO inexplicably snakes longer than it does even before Thanksgiving. It takes 20 minutes just to get to the first ID check, where the robotic, red-jacketed demon won’t let me through unless I find a way of stuffing my suit bag into my overstuffed tote bag. I try halfheartedly to plead my case, soon realizing that these people are Ninja assassins of non-negotiability. I pull the rip cord, hustle half a terminal over, and coast through the American Airlines checkpoint, three bags intact.
Triumph: My seatmate is named Adriaellis, a blonde Bikram instructor on the last leg of her journey from Hawaii to Los Angeles. She’s tan, preternaturally relaxed, with what looks like a Runic symbol around her neck. She shows me pictures of her verdant bungalow on Kauai. She is the human equivalent of Xanax.
Trauma: I arrive at the LAX Marriott at 1 am only to find an inert line of thirteen mostly Dutch travelers queued up in front of reception like Soviets on a breadline. The Dutch are patient, probably thinking that this is normal in America, while I’m feeling my inner-McEnroe starting to tantrum. The two receptionists couldn’t be less concerned at this ghastly traffic jam, showing the same heartless indifference you find at your local Best Buy.
Triumph: After three hours of sleep (and six over the past two nights), I throw on a sports coat and baseball cap, and head back to the airport. The crack-of-dawn flight to Austin arrives without delay. Listening to Busta’s “Fire it Up” fires me up as we pull into the gate.
Trauma: The taxi driver approaches the festival from the wrong direction and leaves me and my bags several blocks from the festival. It is 12:30pm, showtime, and I’m yanking my bags towards the festival, hotter and messier than Snooki after a night of Smirnoff.
Triumph: I scramble over to the lecture tent and am literally rolling my bags to the stage as the moderator is poised to give his introduction. Like a hot potato, I’m mic-ed up and taken to my chair on the stage. The moderator — Mark Sayre, sommelier at the Austin Four Seasons’ Trio and just named one of Wine & Spirits’ 7 Best Sommeliers — provides a masterful introduction. It is soon evident that my book tour co-speaker, the Austin Chronicle’s Wes Marshall and author of the terrific What’s a Wine Lover to Do?, has a practical, anti-snob approach like my own, and we mesh well. The audience can feel the love and responds in kind, with smart questions and generous enthusiasm.
Trauma: Wes and I are booked for a post-lecture radio interview in the Senate Hearings Chamber of the nearby Texas State Capitol. I haul my bags over to the building, up innumerable steps, and into the marble lobby, where security is tight as a knot, likely because Karl Rove is also on the grounds to speak at the festival. One of the many policemen – actually, a Texas Ranger, craggily, Stetson-ed and fully exuding the words “lethal force” – spots me and demands that I open my suitcase for a search. As tourists stream by, I drop to my knees ands struggle to open the suitcase, grateful that I left my foil-covered cuke at home.
Truimph: The interview is great fun and Wes, his wife Emily, and I repair to Max’s Wine Dive. It’s the end of this leg of the book tour. All is made right by the combination of a Nickel + Nickel Chardonnay and the restaurant’s signature “Texas Poutine,” an orgy of grit fries, bacon gravy, cheese curs, and house-made pickled jalapenos.