Compared with my last appearance on Letterman (which frequent readers will recall was aborted at the last instant), tonight's show was a piece of cake. In fact, it was almost too relaxed...I found myself ambling through my day, almost not getting to haircuts in time, loping around kind of sleepy and disoriented. I was concerned from an early hour: I really, really wasn't acting like a sharp, clever, funny talk show guest. I suspect it was half the sultry, unbearable heat and half the repetition--I was filled with an unshakable inner conviction that I would be bumped again, probably at the last moment, and no matter what I did I couldn't get juiced up and excited.
Jean-Michele and I rode in the limo to the Ed Sullivan Theater, and it still seemed unreal. We got out at the door in total contrast to the last time we arrived--no paparazzi, very few onlookers. Apparently Julia Stiles' stock is not as ultra-hot in the press as Freddie Prinze, Jr's is, which is probably just a relief to Ms. Stiles.
I went up to my dressing room and sat, feeling completely blank. My editor, my manager and my publicist (i.e. My Posse) came in and it was nice, catching up with everyone who runs the disparate pieces of my life...the funny thing is there are actually now so many OTHER folks who have titles that work with my life as a kind of commodity that we could never fit them all in the dressing room, which was pretty damn tiny. Nice, air conditioned, and they keep you supplied with lots of goodies, but very small.
By the way, I didn't mention it last time, but did you know you get PAID to be on Letterman? No, really! It's so interesting--they have to pay people, for reasons that are arcane and relate to work-for-hire rules with AFTRA. So you get $200 if you are on Letterman. Everybody does--Julia Stiles, Harrison Ford, everybody. I mean, for me it's pretty cool pay for a little work, but it must seem so funny with people who make millions. Then again, if I've learned anything being near celebrities it's that they are normal people under extraordinary attention, and who doesn't like $200? For some people it just pays for lunch...for me it's a wireless router. Either way, nothing to sneeze at.
(Also, you get paid whether you are bumped or not, so I have in fact already received a check from my last "appearance"...and it is pretty neat to get a check in the mail from Worldwide Pants. I was tempted to frame it or put it on the fridge, but then I wanted to buy that wireless router...and the router won.)
When I got on the stage, standing next to the set, (which is absolutely beautiful up close--I was mezmerized by the details on their faux Brooklyn Bridge) and I heard Dave actually introducing me, it became suddenly clear that I would not be bumped, and I experienced an immediate and painful flushing of adrenaline into my system, which must be akin to what junkies feel when they mainline horse. I actually felt sick and vertiginous for about one second, and then suddenly the world asserted itself, I grounded down into the floor and by the time the technician whispered go I was absolutely at the top of my game.
This was the first time I'd met Mr. Letterman--he doesn't meet people before the show, saving it for the interview. I think that's a good policy--it certainly gave us stuff to talk about. I was struck while we spoke at how fundamentally good he is at his job--he is nuanced and clear, and listens intently while broadcasting very clearly how long he needs you to speak for, whether to extend or retract a story, and what the next riff will build on from his side. He's been here for years and is a legend, so it seems simple fact, but I never thought much about his skills until I was suddenly playing with him...he is startlingly active.
I feel like I gave good interview--sharp anecdotes, clean transitions, nice engagement. It's an art form, interviewing, and I've been given an eighteen-month crash course in it. If anything, this was like my final exam, and while I will trust the judgment of the public and those who know me for my 'grade', I'm at least confident that I got a passing score, which is nice to be certain of.
After the interview I got to speak to Dave briefly, which was really nice. There's not much to say, but I was left with an overwhelming impression of transparency--that is to say, if Letterman says something on the air, odds are very strong that he feels and means it in real life. One of the producers and I talked about this and agreed emphatically with this assessment, but it's still just my blatherings--take it for what it is worth.
Other guests on my show (AKA Celebrity Encounter Time):
Julia Stiles: Seems like a nice woman. I ran into her as she was coming off, before I went on. I told her I'd heard good things about her TWELFTH NIGHT in Central Park, and she thanked me. I wanted to get free tickets, but was not able to connive them quickly enough. She is quite attractive, and looks substantially the same in person as she does on television/movies.
Wyclef Jean: Everyone in this band was absolutely wonderful to us--they talked to us, told me they loved my interview and were generally really open and attitude-free. They seem like a very good bunch of folks, and they radiate a lot of goodwill. This would be a nice group to be stuck in an elevator with...aside from their numbers, of course. And I don't know if they have mechanical aptitude. But excepting those things, they are a great gang.
One of their posse took all the food from the dressing room down with them, which I think rocks--it displays great frugality, a keen sense of when to step out of line (i.e. when there are really good cookies) and some chutzpah. I would have done the same, but I had an anniversary date to attend.
And now, my duties discharged, I will return to that anniversary date, already in progress.
Tonight I will be on Mr. Letterman's show with the lovely Julia Stiles and Wyclef Jean. It is also our anniversary, which we will celebrate in the traditional manner: we will go to a Brazillian grill, eat meat from swords and then see a sexy and smart French film. Props to Jean-Michele for planning this excellent extravaganza.
Oh, for the love of Christ.
I would have killed for this when I was ten.
Some important legislation you may wish to be aware of:
MPAA Requests Immunity to Commit Cyber-Crimes
The savvy folks at Netslaves proffer some free advice for Bob Pittman, formerly of AOL/TimeWarner, in dealing with the life changes he must now be undergoing.
Interesting article about executive confidence over at my old employer:
Do Amazon's execs lack conviction?
Just a quick note to let people know that I'll be reading tomorrow night at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble. Unlike the Galapagos event, this will focus on 21 DOG YEARS. It'll be fun--some reading, some question and answering, a CEO will be symbolically burned. Good times for all.
Barnes & Noble -- 7:00 PM
4 Astor Place
New York, NY 10003
Hope to see you there!
Tonight's performances of 21 DOG YEARS are cancelled, due to blackouts after the transformer explosion at a power plant in Lower Manhattan. We have no power at the Cherry Lane, which would really lessen your experience of the show.
If you need to reschedule your tickets for another night you may call the box office at (212) 727-3673 and the cahrming Sandy will take care of you. (If ordering tickets, simply use the Telecharge number from the Tickets pages...only call Sandy if you need to reschedule.)
From my inbox, where humor has apparently gone on holiday:
I was reading the article that CNN wrote about your new book and I was interested in finding out if Amazon could sell me the book. At least until I got to the paragraph that stated Spain, home of the laziest people on Earth. I am very sorry to hear this statement because it is a bold lie. I am Belgian but living and working already two years in Madrid [Capital of Spain]. Since I am an international consultant that has worked in 6 European [Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain] countries, visited about 30 countries and worked with about 30 nationalities, I think I can fairly state that my opinion has some value. My experience of working in Spain is that in general I am working more hours [all productive] then in the five other European countries were I was working before. Furthermore in recent statistics Spain is just behind Brasil and the United States in the list of countries where pleople work the most. Surely you have gone to the Spanish coast and found Spanish people that were on holiday or that had to work with 40 degrees celcius [extremely hot in farenheit], but this does not give you the right to generalize your findings to the whole of Spain. So I would like to know on what you base your opinion on calling Spain home of the laziest people on Earth. Lastly I ask you to remove this statement from your book and not express it any longer in public.
Following up on something I posted a few days ago, it appears that theMatt and Ben lawsuit threats are a hoax. This was an extraordinarily bad idea--I'd love to be inside the mind of the publicist who dreamed this up:
So long as no one hears about this, it'll generate great buzz for the show...
But don't we want people to hear about this?
So won't we inevitably get found out, and then have people pissed at us?
Er...no plan is perfect.
I am posting this from Bryant Park, where as I noted a few days ago the wonderful people at NYCwireless have worked with the Bryant Park administration to coat the whole park in WiFi. What a fantastic idea, seamlessly implemented. Incredible coverage, too--everywhere I've gone in the park I have had 100% signal strength, so I keep looking for where they have the node points--so far I can't find them.
From where I sit I can see the Chrysler building, the Empire State--it's an awesome view, and as the good people of this city saunter by and I cackle with glee at having wireless broadband in the park, it seems like a small slice of the future has arrived.
On the more prosaic level, I still don't know quite what I am doing for this event tonight--guess that's my special gift and curse, like all good superpowers. I need to head over to Williamsburg and make certain everything is all set to go for the event--hopefully I'll see some of the people who are reading this over there, and you'll find out firsthand what it is I end up saying.
Torn breathlessly from my email announcement list:
You are cordially invited to a special event tonight at the Galapagos Art Space in lovely Brooklyn which will loosely serve as a launch party for the book 21 DOG YEARS and even more loosely serve as an opportunity to hear a number of funny and interesting folks tell stories about working. The tone will be light, drinks will be available at the bar on the premises, and if the speaking doesn't rock your boat, there will instead be dancing.
Galapagos also features a bottomless indoor lake of utterly still water.
MCed by the author of the book, Mike Daisey, the evening will also feature short and sharp bits from Lawrence Krauser, Amy Fusselman, Colleen Werthmann, Jean-Michele Gregory, and Clay McLeod Chapman.
Here are the particulars:
WORK AND WORKING
Tuesday, July 16th
Galapagos Arts Space
70 N 6th St.
(Take the L to Bedford Ave. stop.)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Hope to see you tonight!
Late, but a step in the right direction: Senate Passes Business Fraud Bill
This just in: 21DY MAY BE BETTER THAN REIGN OF FIRE!
Saw the show on Saturday night and just thought I drop you a line to say thanks for the great show. I picked up the book at the show (thanks for the autograph) and just started reading it on Sunday night. Needless to say it was very amusing, but alas REIGN OF FIRE called. Now you might of should I say should take this as an insult for it was the worst movie in creation. So I found myself halfway through the movie wishing I would have saved the 10 bucks and maybe some brain cells and just read the book it is much more entertaining.
My manager just shot this over to me, and it's really quite amusing.
Michael Lewis:After all, any CEO who is actually worth $25 million a year should be responsible enough, and decent enough, not to take it.
From the inbox:
If you buy my books I'll buy yours. Mine is "Psydececk" and "A History of Mammals." Can buy them the same places you can buy yours.
Lunch technology rules.
Some folks in the NYCFringe festival this year are doing a show called MATT AND BEN, about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and their lives changing after the script to GOOD WILL HUNTING falls out of the sky, suddenly giving them a shot at fame.
Matt and Ben do not see this as a light-hearted romp, and have chosen to sic their lawyers on the fringe production, being done in a garage for about $10 in production costs. Here's a link to the formal complaint...I like page 3, where they will be demanding 5 million dollars for each time the show is performed.
Apparently the fact that the show is performed by two women who look ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY NOTHING LIKE MATT DAMON OR BEN AFFLECK, in addition to them being female, has no impact on their contention that people may confuse this play with a factual, E! biography of the two actors.
Excerpted from a letter in my inbox this morning:
A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to meet your bete noire, Mr. Bezos, at an event in Toronto celebrating the launch of Amazon's Canadian branch, Amazon.ca. I happened to be wearing a cast on my arm I decided to try and coax Jeff to sign it. I can confirm that yes, Jeff has an unpleasant laugh "a brittle, joyous yelping in panic-driven waves" (as you say). 'Cause he laughed just so while signing "Customers Rule! Jeff Bezos."
Not knowing what to do with the cast since it was removed, I tossed it up on eBay yesterday.
Get your Jeff Bezos totem here.
I am sick of flying after book touring, but it would help alleve the ennui if I was onboard one of these babies. If it's ready for tests in 2006, maybe we'll actually be seeing them by 2010. Looks like the future to me, for what it's worth.
Okay, read this letter written to Hunter S. Thompson.
Now read this letter from Thompson to his literary agent.
You have to make your own fun, otherwise it would be entertainment.
My friend Glenn spreads the gtospel of roadchalking with this catchy title:
Road Signs for Vagabond Computer Users.
I had a friend in high school who's grandfather was the King of the Hoboes. No, really. He made us a kind of soup once, out of flower stems and water from a garden hose.
(Hmmm. Hobos? Hoboes? Spellcheck doesn't know...wife is asleep...online dictionary isn't saying...grrrrr.)
And in a related story, one of my favorite parks has WiFi now, because this city is so damn cool. They have great movies at Bryant Park all summer long, and now I have an excuse to get work done while I am waiting for the film to start, holding a spot on the lawn. Multitasking!
"You know, I could run for governor but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business."
George W. Bush, 1989
Excerpted from tonight's stage management report for 21 DOG YEARS:
Customer Interaction of the Day:
A guy walks up to the box office and asks to buy three tickets for tomorrow�s show. He�s already seen the show once, during previews, but this time he�s bringing his nephew so he wants to make sure there�s nothing that would be inappropriate for a 14-year-old. Sandy looks at me so I tell him that there�s a liberal sprinkling of �fucks� and �shits� throughout the show. But the guy says, �Nah, I�m not worried about that. It�s the sex with his girlfriend.�
�What?� I ask. �There�s no sex in the show, actually.�
�Yeah there is. I�ve seen it once before. You know, the part where they clear the furniture away and they have sex on the floor? That�s the part I�m talking about.�
�No, seriously. That doesn�t happen in this show.�
�Yes it does! I�ve seen the show before. They have to move all the furniture!�
Despite not believing either Sandy or me, the man purchased three full-priced tickets for tomorrow�s show. Let�s hope he�s not too disappointed.
And now Qwest joins the fray. I knew corporate crime was a serious problem, but even I am becoming gobsmacked (left over Englishism) by the scale that is being revealed. I need to get to the theater, so more on this subject when I get the chance...
People often want to know what I would be doing if I wasn't doing a show about Amazon. While the truth is simply "a show about something else", in my fantasy life I would be putting my soul in hock so I could work with this guy who is researching beanstalk technologies for NASA. I've always been enamored of the idea, and it's really the most economical and sensible way to get yourself up into orbit--I'm glad to see some energy being invested in this arena. Give the article a read if your are new to the idea of space elevators--it sounds crazy, but it's so tantalizingly plausible that I think we'll see one within 100 years.
Ah, London--it would appear the weather will not be changing from steady drizzle during this brief visit. It's been a great hiatus for me from the humidity and heat of summer in NYC, so I'm actually loving it, even if every last Englishman I meet apologizes at length for their country's impoliteness.
The reading went well last night, despite my almost missing it--for reasons that are deeply unclear, my hotel has no clocks. You know, clocks--things that tell time? None. I left my cell in the States, which is how I normally have the time, thinking my hotel would have this quaint 18th century technology available. Bzzzzz. Sorry--that would be too bourgeois for a hotel right next to Hyde Park on Queen's Gate.
So I took a nap yesterday and left a wake-up call at the desk, which they executed. I showered quickly, came downstairs and after some confused messages from my publisher discovered that the hotel woke me 45 minutes after they had said they would--they called at the wrong time. With no other clocks it was hard to know it had happened for a while, and much hilarity ensued. When I confronted the staff they kept saying, "Oh, sorry," in a curious manner that somehow implied they were both not sorry and that I was at fault to some degree for not knowing a hotel of their caliber wakes people whenever they are good and ready. My bad!
I did make it to the reading in time, which was at the Pan Bookshop--a really lovely store near the hotel, and the staff was outstanding. In a classic European civilized touch there was free wine at the reading--THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA, I CAN NOT ADEQUATELY EXPRESS ITS BRILLIANCE. Wow. Just outstanding--with the free wine, which I'm certain wasn't all that expensive, suddenly a dry book reading is a wet (or at least damp) party, with folks happy to be there and more relaxed about why they came--after all, they get to have drinks! I'm thankful next week's WORK AND WORKING reading at Galapagos will feature drinking, because it really helps take the event up a notch.
I met James Wallis, a friend of John Tynes whose work I'd known about and respected for years, and Erich McElroy, an old friend from Seattle who has expatriated to London was there too, along with a posse he had thoughtfully collected. It was the most casual of readings, owing to the drinking and the setup at the bookstore--we sort of hunkered down, Oprah-style, around a big table and I talked. People interrupted me freely, which is so cool--first because it means they are engaged, and second because these were the kind of interruptions that work, from people who have ideas and opinions and are engaged. Really a lot of good fun.
Afterward I was taken to a steakhouse, where I ate a huge amount of British beef--as a man who lives dangerously, sometimes it is necessary to exist at the edge of danger and possible brain damage from free prion-laced meat. I was struck by a number of short and pithy observations about London and its inhabitants as I sat at the table--they aren't earthshattering, and in fact may seem common sense, but these are the ones that come to mind.
***Everyone smokes, and your forget how many people don't smoke in America now until you see people doing it without guilt or shame.
***Brits are not believers in the idea of INTENSITY in their food flavors, but they do love TEXTURE. Brit food has great textures.
***People really do less like models here than in LA or NYC, but for me it makes the average person look more attractive--I feel like I'm on a level playing field.
***The streets are crowded, but American street sense is utterly unhelpful--totally different kind of traffic. People walk slower than New York, avoid eye contact and are more apt to get out of your way.
***The popular radio in restaurants and stores is still playing hits from the 80's, and it isn't retro--I think they are still playing them from back then. Phil Collins still has a home in his homeland.
***It is still a great joy to wander here down the streets in the dead of night, under the watchful gaze of the city's windows and doors, the streets well-lit and polished. This is my favorite walking city, bar none.
I have five interviews today, some meetings, scads of stock signings and then a plane back to Brooklyn. As whirlwind trips go, it rocked.
London: Sitting in easyEverything, the freakishly ubiquitous UK internet cafe, I am struck again by how strange it is to be here. I lived in London when I was in college, as part of a by turns blissful, tormented and ecstatic study abroad program, and though I've been to the city in the decade since then I've never shaken the feeling of muted salaciousness damply lurking beneath all the black umbrellas. Today is London the way I like her--mistily raining, a Monday morning, traffic-ey but polite, foreign-feeling but written immaculately in the Queen's English.
I'm staying at the Gore Hotel, which is quirky and well-apportioned, but the main reason for all the nostalgia is my location--I'm a stone's throw from Hyde Park, a gardened city park much like Central Park and much unlike it, that figures large in my personal mythologies. I've been walking there all morning, seeing all the places I remember--a few changed, but most blissfully constant despite almost ten years having passed. I had a lot of good adventures in that park, mostly of illegal and illicit varieties that are too dirty and interesting to get spilled in this blog. That's what we have literature and theater for--the juicy bits.
I stopped by a Waterstone's and signed a bunch of copies of 21 DOG YEARS. Pro: they had a lot of copies. Con: it was in the business section. If this book keeps getting shelved that way I will have to keep dealing with the waves of resentful Future Business Leaders who buy it and then discover that I don't have Fascinating Effective Insights Into The Phenomenon That Is Amazon.com.
That is to say, I actually do have some insights into that, but I find them singularly dull and unengaging which is why A) I am not a member of the corporate world anymore, and B) I have not chosen to become a business writer. Nevertheless, the force of expectation is strong, and when people see AMAZON.COM they expect a TELL-ALL BOOK, which they expect will have to have some Life Plans and Business Bullshit. I am considering writing an appendix to the paperback that addresses these concerns, just to help people feel like they received value for their money.
In the meantime I must dash off and spelunk more of my old haunts in the few hours I have before the book tour people structure all my time--I'm working on a show set in part during my time in London (not this trip--when I lived here in college) and some reminders have been very effective in driving old thoughts back up from the murky depths, like bad fat carp that hug the pool bottoms in expensive Cantonese restaurants. There's a church, converted into a theater, that plays a prominent role--I'm going to see if I can make it there in the time I have left.
Wherever you are, enjoy your Monday--it's not like they happen every week. Oh, and if you are living in the UK please keep reading the next entry for details on my book reading tonight--it'd be lovely to see some faces, and having had more contact with the Hare Krishna than my UK publisher, I am not entirely certain if this is a well-publicized event or if I will be reading to a nice lady and her dog from Southampton.
Happy 4th of July! In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I'd bring to our international guests attention the fact that I will be in London for 36 hours to promote 21 DOG YEARS, and I will actually be reading in that great city, at:
Pan Bookshop -- 6:30 PM
158 - 162 Fulham Road,
London, SW10 9PG
Phone: 020 7373 4997
The fireworks were delightful from the rooftops of Brooklyn, and Coney Island was every bit the human cesspool you'd have expected it to be that day--a delightful mess of bodies, water and folks selling beer on the beach. They sell everything on that beech--umbrellas, mangos on sticks, beer, ice water, fruit, hookers, crack, everything. That's civilization--too many people, but all the beer you can handle.
Portland: Last night was the reading at Powell's City of Books, the massive, multi-block new and used book store that happily dominates the city of Portland. It's an inspiration--even after seeing eighty or so bookstores on this tour, Powell's is so far above and beyond the scope and scale of all the others that it's like walking on the moon...when I came down to Portland from Seattle over the last few years on trips I always visited Powell's, and it was delightful to be reading there. Great turnout, much stronger than I expected, and it struck me as I was speaking that it has already become old hat--in just a few weeks I've gone from brand-new author type to an old hand. Granted, I'm a performer by nature, but it was still funnny to feel how rapid that transformation has happened.
The hotel I am at, the Heathman Hotel is very weird--it's a nice, upscale hotel like the other's I've stayed in, but the doorman is dressed in tights, wig and old English footman livery. Even stranger, when my friend Amanda dropped me off at the front at 2am they were loudly playing jazz Muzak out the front doors, which apparently is the Heathman's soundtrack all day long. I fell asleep thinking about what it must be like to wear those tights and wig while listening endlessly to the looping tape of Kenny G-inspired licks over and over. You see? There's always somebody with a worse job than you.
In one of the final, secret signs that the New Economy (now known as the OLD New Economy) has breathed its last, Yahoo! Internet Life has folded. This wasn't hard to see coming, from my perspective--I've been twice offered writing assignments by these folks that turned into wild goose chases, with missed phone calls, weird returned emails and sheepish apologies about, "Dude, we are sooooooo sorry we had you revise that, like, five times, because...uh...I dunno." At least I know now for certain that those pieces can be sent to different publications, because they won't be showing up in the magazine. C'est la vie.
Seattle: I've been in Seattle less than thirty hours, but I can't believe how much ground I've covered. Five interviews, eight stock signings, a dinner with family, two constructive meetings and a kick-ass reading. Now that it's all passed, I'll be flying out of here in an hour and a half to land in Portland, the last leg of the latest book tour.
I lived in Seattle for five years, and returning now is the first time that I feel distance from here--when I last visited in December it still felt like a kind of home, but now it is much further away. After months of constant exposure to New York's scale and speed, Seattle seems a little quaint and tamed--it's hard to believe this is the same city that intimidated me when I moved here in 1996.
I kept dreaming of moving back here today, buying a house on Bainbridge Island by simply spending the ridiculous amount I do on rent for a mortgage payment, then taking a ferry into town whenever I want a dose of culture and living in some degree of silence, with the water and the trees. I'm being a little silly--I think the attraction is that I could then simply remain an author, and not have to perform anymore, which right now sounds like a fantastic vacation from my life. Truth is, I would last about a week.
Over a hundred people were at the Elliot Bay reading, overfilling the room and really welcoming me back to Seattle. We had a great time--I riffed on a variety of subjects, some old friends and some brand new. The interplay was fun, and I read a couple of text sections I was really happy with--it was a real pleasure to get such an incredibly warm reception before a hometown crowd.
After the reading we sojourned up to The Rosebud, one of my old haunts on Capitol Hill, and much drinking ensued. Considering it was a Monday folks gave as good as they got--a bunch of us made it to closing, and I was touched by the friends and family who stayed late to say hello and chat with me. Staying out late with old friends cost me all my sleep today, but it was worth it to reconnect with so many folks. I didn't realize what a rich man I was before today--after months and months of hard work, I'd forgotten how many people cared. I hope I get to keep my dual citizenship between NYC and Seattle.