BOOK TOUR BABY – Part 4
I have misread the schedule in Detroit. There is no down time before events and I have not arrived in my “media outfit.” I have not even showered as I had thought we were going to the hotel. The girlfriend-like media escort appears excited to see me. The book business in Detroit has slowed with the economy and the automotive downturn. We stop for coffee at a gas station and I make my ghetto latte, lots of micro-waved milk and then coffee. Looking at me piteously, she offers to take me to her house to shower. I accept.
At the local ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV , I am greeted warmly. But this is shaping up to be a cataclysmic, newsworthy day for the automotive industry, not the best time to promote a book of essays. This is the day that Obama’s deadline is up for Chrysler. They have to fill or kill in the corporate world.
As I sit in the TV station’s green room, my chances for getting on the air are moving rapidly into “snowballs chance in hell” territory. Obama is heading out to the rose garden to go live. It’s only a 30 minute news show at noon and they also have to cover sports, weather and commercials. I figure the viewing audience at this time of day is made up of mostly housebound elderly Detroiters and nursing home residents. These viewers are not book buyers. They drink percolator coffee and clip coupons and worry about the rising cost of medications. A hardback book is not on their list of “must have” items.
The media escort looks grim. “Pigs and cars,” she mumbles.
“What?” I say. I tear myself away from my blackberry and the messages about play dates and baby gifts for the third grade teacher and texts from my older children asking me to pick them up from school, as if they haven’t noticed I have been gone for three days.
“Pigs and cars,” she says again. “Your book tour is going to be brought down by pigs and cars.” I look at her blankly for a moment .
“You know, the swine flu and the meltdown of the whole damned automotive industry.” I see her point.
As a frequent traveler, I have become familiar with all the places a hotel can stash an iron and ironing board. This is because my single carry on is packed tighter than the organs inside of a body; socks balled like spleens, shoes pushed into corners like kidneys and pants rolled like long intestines. Someone has told me once that rolling rather than folding clothes prevents them from creasing. They lied.
It’s high time I just give in and go to Chicos and purchase entire ensembles made from 100% polyester that can drip dry over a hotel shower rod. Instead, the first week of the book tour I make the mistake of bringing things that need constant pressing; linen and cotton. By the end of each day I look like someone who has been held hostage in a bank for 12 hours.
For the next two weeks on the road I will not get home over the weekend and so I choose my next set of outfits very carefully. I seem to have picked each piece as a variation on a navy theme. The jacket is too big, remniscent of Linda Evans shoulder pads in Dynasty—but I’ve managed to create four different looks. Once I actually wear these ensembles, I end up at book readings looking like I’m headed to an IBM interview.
When I get home two weeks later, the way I feel about everything in my suitcase is a lot like I felt about my hand-me down maternity clothes after the second pregnancy. I wanted to take them out in the back yard, throw gasoline all over them and toss in a match.
I don’t do this of course, because I am way too practical and way too cheap. But I contemplate it. Instead, I will throw them in the dry cleaning bag, which is the next best thing to making them disappear. Let someone else deal with them and when they come back, obscured by plastic, they will stay that way in my closet for months until I view them in a new light.
One of the positives of a book tour, if you aren’t out boozing it up each night, is the time alone in a hotel room. For me it’s a great chance to check out the things that everyone else seems to watch on TV. I’m not a reality show watcher, so I’m pretty ignorant about some of the new programs like “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “Deadliest Warrior” where people practice stabbing at giant sides of beef meat with oversized ginzu knives.
I flip through stations with relay-team competitions, obese people on obstacle courses, rolling off suspended logs into the water or those iron Chef shows where fast-chopping, overwrought apprentices are reduced to tears over a failed sauce or salad dressing.
Eating is always an issue on a book tour. I set out expecting to eat healthy, and maybe even lose a pound or two. You tell yourself you can make smart choices because there will be so many healthy options on the road, as opposed to the limited selection in the home fridge. The reality is that because you are so often at airports for meals, you find yourself eating pizza, popcorn, fries and bagels as part of a square meal. You wake up too early in the morning to work out and by night time there is no energy to contemplate the hotel “Fitness Room.”
In the hotel room, anticipating a jam-packed day ahead I approach room service breakfast with the attitude of someone from the ill-fated Donnor party.
“You never know where the next meal is going to come from so I might as well eat hearty,” I tell myself. I order an egg white omelet with veggies, an English muffin, fruit plate and then I wreck it. I throw in some bacon for good measure, some “stick to your ribs” food as my mother would say. By the end of the three weeks it has stuck to my ribs all right. And to my hips and then it goes on to build a set of customized saddlebags. My penchant for eating bacon on the road is a little like drinking a Tab and then ordering an ice cream sundae. The navy blue form fitting skirt I have chosen is now straining a bit at the waistband.