Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Terror on the Road to San Francisco, Part 2

Back in February I wrote the first part of this story and promised you the second. I even had most of it written. Then my son spilled a Coke on the computer and that was the end of that. It took a little while to get back on track.

First, a reminder for those who wonder why the hell I'm writing this. Last year I wrote about the experience of having to go out and sell your book and how hard that is – “The Abject Poverty Book Tour.” I said you should "make personal legends out of horrid experiences." Sometimes bad things happen, but if you're lucky at least the bad things can make a good story if you tell them right. This is part of one of those tales.

To pick up the story, we had driven to San Francisco for our very very first book reading, and had been caught in the most hellacious traffic the world has ever seen. San Francisco is always a traffic nightmare. On Gay Pride Day it is simply suicidal. Somehow, we made it into the city and thanks to Tori we commandeered the very last available hotel room. That's where I left off.

The next morning dawned bright and clear and we were feeling a little better. We checked out of the hotel, had breakfast in a delightful coffee shop named Max's, and headed uptown to find the store where the reading would be held later that afternoon. We found it with little difficulty.

We had communicated with the manager only through e-mail, but she was expecting us, which after our Yachats fiasco was a big relief. She was delighted but puzzled to see us. We were really early, the event wasn't happening for another five hours. Having had the problems on the road the day before, we were taking no chances. We found the place, got there early and stayed put.

But we hadn't done much actual planning for what we were going to do. So after on hour of cooling our heels we went across the street to a restaurant, ordered a pair of hamburgers and started planning what we'd read.

I suggested I might read the opening of the book, then Mark could read a passage I'd picked out, short and funny. He looked it over and said, “Yeah, that's funny. I like that.”

I was puzzled. His tone implied he didn't recognize the material.

You don't remember that?”

No, I've never seen it.”

Mark!” I said. “You wrote it!”

I did?”

Word for word.

Mark and I work in a ping pong fashion. I'll write something, shoot it to him, he'll improve it and shoot it back, I'll take out the improvements, send it back, and it keeps going back and forth until we're both satisfied with it – or in some cases so bored with it that one us us finally just backs down. But this particular passage, about a page and a half, was virtually unedited. He'd sent it and it was perfect as it was. So it went in the book just the way he'd sent it to me. And he had no recollection of it.

That's how I discovered that he doesn't remember our writing. Once it's written, he's done with it. It shocked me. I can still, almost 10 years later, go through the book and tell you who originated almost any passage, and in general what kind of changes it went through. And I could do the same for Pirattitude!, The Pirate Life, and our Festering Boil series.

I'm an NOT saying this makes me better than Mark. Far from it. It's just the way my brain works, and the way his works. He's able to come up with crazy funny shit, inspired, but once he's tossed it out there, it's gone. He just doesn't remember it. My approach is more technical, more controlled and hence less inspired. Or as I sometimes say: He's the funny one. I'm the one who knows where the commas go. Which misinterprets both of us, but isn't that what humor is all about?

That discovery was the most important part of the hours leading up to our first public reading. The event itself was also memorable in several ways, and it was a book reading so it really bears mentioning in a writer's blog. But this has gotten WAY too long already, so I'll save it for a third installment sometime in the future. It will includes the reading and a rude audience member who wanted to talk but didn't want to buy our book.

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