Last Friday, the 23rd of July.
So, it all started around the tenth of the July, I got a call from my editor telling me that Nicholas Sparks had chosen Fluke to be the next book on the Today Show Book Club. The M.O. of the club, evidently, is to have a very well known author pick the book of a lesser known author. Now Nicholas Sparks is second only to J.K. Rowling in number of simultaneous books on bestseller lists, so whether you like love stories or not, he is very well known. I met him about eight years ago when he was at the Northern California Booksellers Convention in Oakland, where he was promoting his first book, The Notebook. He seemed like a pleasant enough guy, and we had a couple of friendly exchanges as we were signing books at adjacent tables, but that was about it.
Anyway, part of the agreement to do the Today Show Book Club is that you must tell no one. All the parties involved have to sign a confidentiality agreement, and if you tell someone and it gets back to NBC, they’ll cancel your appearance and send that obnoxious fucker from Fear Factor to your house to make your family eat worms. The surprise is a big deal, which is why I haven’t posted anything here until now.
So it began. Meanwhile, the process of remodeling on our house was going on, and the contractor we had hired to put in the floors and remodel my office got notice that he and his wife’s application to adopt a Chinese baby had come through and he had to take off for China. (We are taking them a case of Kung Pao Infamil as soon as they get back.) The painters were due in two weeks and there was no one on the island who could do the work before the painters came. Long story short, we flew Charlee’s brother over to do the carpentry. The bad news is that I was going to have to help because he doesn’t have a crew. For two weeks we installed flooring and did other construction things that I am totally not qualified to do — in 90 degree 90% humidity weather – and all the time I’m thinking, “I’m going to have to go on National TV for the first time with fewer than the regulation number of fingers.”
I survived filanges intact, but after we dropped Charlee’s brother off at the airport I realized that:
A. I had no clothes I could wear on TV. (I had thrown away my only pair on non-sneaker shoes because they turned green and fuzzy, as leather tends to do in this climate.) B. I had to lose 20 lbs in 4 days. (My only pair of non-scuzzbag pants were bought by a younger, skinnier fellah.) C. I had to get in shape, have my teeth whitened, and make a deal with the devil to make me younger. (My sorcery skills are way, way out of tune.) D. I had to figure out what I would say. (“Hi Katie, I truly enjoyed the video tour of your colon. I’ve brought a few Polaroids of mine to share with your viewers at home.”)
I’m writing this on Friday before I leave on Monday night for New York. Yes, the show isn’t until Thursday, but it’s twelve hours flying time, without layovers, usually closer to 15 hours, which puts me into NY mid Tuesday. The show films notoriously early in the morning, so I would have to be there at least by Wednesday, but if something went wrong, as it often does connecting through LA out of Hawaii, I’d be hosed. I thought the extra day prudent – especially since I might need to buy pants, shoes, a jacket, and get liposucted.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Well, I spent all evening trying to whiten my teeth with those little Crest strips. I used about half a box. They are kind of like cellophane with special whitening slime on them. You stick them on your teeth and then they slide off and you get whitening slime on your tongue. My tongue is so white it looks like I just licked the paint off a hospital ship. My teeth, sadly, are still a gray. Man, if I’d known I was going to have to go on the Today Show next Thursday I wouldn’t have smoked for twenty-five years.
So, perhaps I am a little vain, but only in the face of being seen by millions of people. Okay, I’ve officially just freaked myself out by typing out the phrase “millions of people”. You guys who have seen me speak before a crowd of tens have no idea how I can fold in front of a camera. Millions of people, and they won’t know that I can write a mean Jesus story, or that I will come to their house and help them move and they won’t even have to buy me beers – no, all they’ll know is that my teeth are a little gray and that I may be slightly cross-eyed. No, it’s this left eye, it’s sort of the stupid one.
NOTE TO SELF: Get eye patch before Thursday.
There is a good chance, however, that some act of terrorism will preempt my book club thingy. I have terrific faith in the power of irony. (If we let a random act of terrorism disrupt our appearance on the Today Show, haven’t the terrorists won?)
I left Kauai at 10:00 PM Monday night and finally got to my hotel at 4:30 PM Tuesday. This wasn’t a mix-up, this is how it is.
Anyway, I got backed up in security – kept setting off the metal detector. Look, I fly a lot, I don’t carry metal in my pockets. I know better. So I’m looking at the guy like, “Dude, you have to be joking.” But I go to the grope zone and he goes at it. And finally, after I get very close to losing it, it turns out I am carrying metal.
Tooth Whitening Strips in their little foil wrappers.
That’s right, all week I’ve been trying to whiten my teeth with those little strips, and because of it, I got sent to security. That’s some embarrassing shit, that’s all I’m saying.
Now, I iron. I’m ironing a jacket and two shirts and two pairs of pants. I’m not planning on wearing all of those, but, you know, I could spill coffee on one jacket and one pair of pants and one shirt, and then I’d have an emergency back-up. I’m not sending them out to be pressed because, you know, they could get lost. Fuck, the pressure.
Thursday Morning – Early
Woke up at 5:OO AM with my stomach tumbling. No going back to sleep now. They’ll bring coffee at 7:OO, at which time I can start freaking about my hair and stuff. It’s two minutes camera time, max, so how badly can I screw it up. Of course Nicholas Spark wasn’t supposed to get into town until late last night, so maybe he won’t be there. I’m very skeptical about this all coming off.
Turns out that all of the Borders Managers got news of the Book Club Choice yesterday so they could inform their staff in the morning – so when I got a note last night from a Borders person congratulating me I sorta freaked, thinking that someone had spilled the beans and that they would pull the whole segment.
Leslie Cohen, the Perinnieal publicity person, will come to get me at 8:40, so if I don’t pass out or burst into flames between now and then, I should be okay.
Where the fuck is the coffee!
AFTER THE SHOW
Well, my editor and my publicist picked me up in a town car and took me three blocks to the back door of NBC. They led us into the green room where Nicholas Sparks and his publicist were waiting with a couple of other guest who were scheduled.
The short of it, I didn’t throw up, Nicholas Sparks couldn’t have been nicer, and neither could have Anne Curry. I think I looked about 1000 years old on the tape, but that might be because I am a thousand years old. Either way, it’s over, now you know, and I’m off to airport to fly home.