Friday, April 23, 2004

Livermore and Beyond

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve had a good internet connection. Let’s see, what’s happened since then? After Berkeley we went back to Santa Rosa and hung around my parents’ house all morning. I had a pre-interview for a radio show I’m doing tomorrow, and also an hour-long, live public radio call-in show that I did by phone with a station in Illinois. Once again, there were farmers calling in asking questions about the earthworms in their fields and what impact agricultural chemicals might have on them. It’s really quite gratifying to hear that farmers are so concerned about worms.
Then it was on to Livermore for a reading at Altamont Books in Livermore. We were a small group (including three people from my family, and maybe 10 or so total in the audience), but that was fine—I gave my usual talk and spent more time than usual on questions, showed off the worms, and that was that. That night we drove to Montara, on the coast, to spend the night. I had a TV taping in San Mateo the next morning and I wanted to be close so I wouldn’t have to worry too much about rush hour traffic.

The TV show is Henry’s Garden on KRON. It’ll be broadcast in the Bay Area sometime in June. It’s a very laid-back, funny show that Henry, the host, films in his own backyard. I pulled out my largest and most impressive nightcrawler, and it showed off for the camera, slithering up Henry’s arm and reaching a length of eight, maybe ten inches. We did a short segment on how to increase the worm population in soil, filming it all the way through in one take, and then I packed the worms up and we headed on to the next stop—Placerville, on the other side of Sacramento.

Placerville’s a charming little town in the foothills. Hidden Passage Books is a small shop and we had a small crowd again—maybe eight people—but they were very enthusiastic and everyone bought books and asked questions and we all sat around drinking wine and talking about worms, so what more could I want? The bookstore owners put us up in a charming little hotel on Main Street, and we spent the whole afternoon in the room, enjoying the luxury of a few hours where nothing was scheduled.

Up in the morning and off to Sacramento. I had a live in-studio appearance on a TV show called Good Day Sacramento. Now, here’s something surprising about being on TV: at both of the shows I’ve done this week, there was no real time or place to do anything about my appearance. When I first thought about doing TV, I assumed that I would show up and someone would do my makeup or whatever. It’s a good thing I had some media training before I did this, because my trainer explained that I needed to show up fully made up, dressed, and ready to walk on camera. Sure enough, that’s exactly how this has worked. I sat around in the lobby of the TV station, looking like a clown with all the blush and lipstick, blinking through my mascara, until a few minutes before my segment, when they marched me without ceremony onto the set, and I sat on the sidelines until it was time.

This was one of those chatty morning shows with two hosts in armchairs. I sat on the sofa and talked about worms, pulled out a nightcrawler and let it show off for the camera, and even took a few phone calls from viewers. Not all the calls had to do with worms—one woman called to ask about a strange insect that was eating her fruit tree, and I just had to make my best guess.

Both of the TV appearances I’ve done in the last couple of days have passed so quickly. I can’t believe how fast 5 minutes goes by on TV. Scott says I did pretty well, although it is so strange for him to see me in makeup (strange for me, too) that he can’t really tell whether or not I looked natural on camera. Everything about it seems so artificial. The worms, however, looked just fine.

All of these early mornings are wearing me out. We spent the day with family and all I wanted to do was crawl into the guest room and try to sleep. Tonight I had a reading at Avid Reader in Davis—a good crowd, including many friends and family—and an only-in-Davis question: when you buy worm castings from a worm farm, have the worms been mistreated? (Picture worms chained to some kind of machine where they are forced to eat and…well, you get the idea.)

I assured the audience that worms on worm farms are well-fed and cared for, and gently separated from their castings when the time comes.

We’re on the way to Novato now—another early morning tomorrow, but fortunately it’s radio, which means no make-up. The only thing worse than waking up to an alarm clock is waking up to an alarm clock and then having to slather TV makeup all over my face.

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