I mentioned in my last post that bad experiences can became great stories.
"Ask us about Modesto," I said, "or San Fransisco, or Yachats ... there is an upside to the 'Abject Poverty Book Tour.'"
Naturally, a friend wrote over the weekend and challenged me. "Wjt about Modesto?" he said. He is actually from Modesto, and a little touchy about it.
Well, there's too much to tell in one post. But every now and then I'll roll one of them out, just for fun. There's probably an object lesson in there somewhere.
Today I'll tell you about Yachats.
First, know that Yachats is pronounced ya-hots, equal stress on each syllable. Not YA-chits or anything like that. It's a small town on the Oregon coast, a short drive south of Newport, which in truth is also a small town but next to Yachats it's Gotham.
This was probably in early 2004, before we actually had self-published the book. We wanted to be ready in case we ever developed an audience and a need to entertain them. At the urging of our great good friend George, Mark and I had put together a stage show, heavily dependent on audience participation (because why should we do all the work?) But the only place we'd been able to perform it was for George's beginning acting class at the community college. We needed a real audience. I had heard about a community festival with a pirate theme to be held in Yachats and called the organizer, who as it happened owned a bar in the town. That may be germane to the story.
I want to be very clear here. I talked to the woman. I did. I talked to her several times. She was delighted, even excited, to have us come down. She gave me the details - when, where etc. - and said she'd see us there. If I hadn't spoken to her, how would I have gotten the details? Hmmmm?
So we drove down - me, Mark and Tori and George and his wife Barb, who were along for moral support. We got to the community center where they were setting up. I introduced myself and my cohort to the woman in charge, the woman I'd spoken to three times on the phone.
She looked at me like I was from some other planet. I explained who I was and why we were there. She said she had never heard of me, didn't know anything about me. Looked at me as if wondering if she should call the police.
We got it straightened out and performed, although she never admitted we'd spoken. It's not like they were operating on a tight schedule. Mark and I went on, did our schtick for about 20 minues, got an okay response. It would have been better, I think, if people could have heard us. It was a big, echoey hall and there was no mike. We did out best. George and Barb and Tori laughed a lot, sometimes with us, sometimes at us.
We also met Cap'n Bogg and Salty, the six-piece pirate rock band out of Portland, who were also performing. I guess you could say we opened for them. They had brought their own mikes – and instruments and amps and cords and all that stuff – so people heard them fine. They were great. Their names were actually on the posters. I'll bet they even got paid. And I still carry on an e-mail conversation with them. Kevin and Loren, by the way, the heart of the band, now write for the Disney Channel's "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." Good goin', guys!
It was a weird experiene, but we learned a lot. It came in handy a year later when we got to Las Vegas and the promised microphones didn't show up at our gig. By then we were used to making do.
To this day Mark insists I made the whole thing up. He claims I never talked to the woman before we drove out there, that I planned to just brazen my way onto the stage, that it was a big hoax on my part. He can't explain why I would have done that, but in the years since, whenever we found ouselves in a sketchy situation (like Modesto,) he has looked at me with one raised eyebrow and said, "This isn't another Yachats, is it?"
I don't know what I can say to convince him. I swear I talked to the woman, she agreed to let us perform. If she couldn't remember it later, it might have had something to do with the bar.
So if there's a lesson here for when you're on the road pimping – I mean marketing – your book, it might be this: Things will happen despite you best efforts. Roll with them. Have fun. No matter what happens, get on the stage and do your thing. Their failure to execute shouldn't stop you from doing what you went there to do.
And don't make business arrangements with a person who spends eight or more hours a day in a bar. That just seems logical.