On September 18th, I got on a plane from the East Coast to San Francisco. Boy, was I nervous. The airports had just been re-opened. I thought someone might try to hijack our flight or maybe blow it up. There were only about 10 people on that plane. I spotted one guy who I thought might try to take us down and watched him carefully. I figured I would tackle him hard if he made a run for the cockpit. I fell asleep shortly after takeoff, and when I woke up I noticed the flight attendants eyeing me suspiciously. They followed me to the bathroom and stood right outside the door while I did my business. They'd pegged me as the hijacker! We landed safely and the guy who I'd thought wanted to kill us was met by his wife and children.
I got to stay in a beautiful hotel in San Francisco. I love hotels. They were nice to me there because business was down. Most of my media interviews had been canceled, so I spent the day rolling around on the big bed and watching TV. Before the reading, I met up with the mysterious young writer J.T. Leroy, author of Sarah. J.T. rarely ventures from his home and is so shy and reclusive that some have taken to speculating that he doesn't really exist. I myself was unsure.
He showed up at the meeting point in a Walgreen's parking lot, wearing giant sunglasses and a platinum wig from the set of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He came with me to the bookstore and threw up in the bathroom before getting up and reading some of his own writing in front of the audience. I introduced him as "Veronica Chambers" so no one would know who he was.
After San Francisco, I went to lovely Portland, Oregon. I stayed with author Pete Rock. Pete and I walked around Reed College, where he teaches, and I marveled at all the pierced appendages on the students. One guy was walking around in his socks. Afterwards, I did an interview with a radio station which, they explained, could only be received through cable television, so people had to turn on their TVs to listen. I wondered if anyone actually did that.
The Portland reading was at Powell's on Hawthorne. Afterward, we went out to eat, and I ate a hefty cheeseburger. I hadn't eaten a cheeseburger in quite a while.
Next was Seattle, where I did a radio interview for a radio station intended only for blind people. We spent a good portion of the time discussing the cover of my book, which seemed strange. I didn't eat at all that day because that cheeseburger in Portland had really filled me up.
After the reading though, I was hungry again, and so we went out and I ate some fish, which was a better choice. Then I invited everyone back to my hotel room and we cleaned out the minibar, a fairly dumb move since those little bottles are expensive! I wonder now if Knopf will charge me for that.
In the morning, it was rise and shine for a 6:15 am flight. I've flown more this month than I ever have in my life, and I've seen a lot of nice American cities. Air travel in the month of September 2001 was uneasy for me, but it was worth it. I enjoyed reading from my book in all those new places, and it's a pretty wonderful feeling when someone you don't even know asks you to sign a book. At the end of the month, I went back to NYC, where that first reading had been rescheduled. I felt funny standing up in that big damaged city, asking them to pay attention to me and my writing. But they did. Even now, it seems we've all still got a little time for books.
Arthur Bradford is the author of Dogwalker. See Review page 25.