By the time you read this, I will be home. At least I should be home. On a book tour, you never know. I might be stuck in a St. Louis radio station, between Oasis records.
Which is not an exaggeration. There I was, out on tour for “Tuesdays With Morrie” — which is a small, inspirational book about an old man who is dying talking to a young man about what’s really important in life — so naturally I was ushered into an FM alternative rock station, where a disc jockey introduced me by fading down the volume on — I’m not kidding here — the new Oasis single.
“Yeah!” he bellowed. “That was from their new album …and now we have a guy with a book about the meaning of life. But before we do that, Mitch …how about that Stanley Cup, huh?”
Now, I don’t want to be one of those writers who whines about a book tour. After all, the publisher could just leave you home, hoping people will discover the book if it accidentally falls off the shelf and lands on their heads. Besides, thanks to book tours, you get to travel the country, meeting experienced interviewers, some of whom actually have read a book. Not yours, of course. But somebody’s.
Also, you get to learn new things about radio and TV. For example, I always thought AM stations fell somewhere between 540 and 1700 on the dial. Not true. I did a station so small, its number was “4.”
One station actually was located in the back of a house. I don’t think this one even had a number, unless it was on the mailbox. The “studio” was a room with a window. And the window was open! And sure enough, smack in the middle of our interview — which was live — someone started mowing the lawn.
So the interview went like this:
“Mitch, tells us about rrrrRRRRRRRNNNNN ith Morrie?”
“Well, it’s rrrNNNrrrnn of a book . . .”
Lots of travel, little sleep
Still, authors can never do enough radio interviews, since you never know whether the guy mowing the lawn will need something to read before he starts weeding. And since these tours are usually booked out of New York (where the motto is “The rest of the country is all hicks, so what’s the difference?”) you often end up at places where reading is not the top priority, such as the country station, the oldies station, the farm report station, “Good Morning, Akron,” “Lunchtime in Akron,” and “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy in Akron.”
And then you fly to the next city.
Theses flights, by the way, frequently leave at 10 p.m. and arrive the next city at 1 a.m. You get to your hotel at 2:30 a.m., and you are booked for a TV interview at 6:05 a.m. This ensures that the viewer will remember your book because, when he sees you on the screen, he will say, “Hey, Ethel, c’mere and look! He’s got bags under his eyes like Edward G. Robinson!”
Of course, not all TV appearances are grueling. I did a show on a financial station in Chicago. As I fixed my tie, the host told me to relax and not bother.
“Most of the screen is covered by the stock market ticker anyhow,” he said.
There was the rock station in Denver where the host was named “Floorwax.” I am not sure why. There was also the interview in LA with a Jewish TV network in which the host promised to get to my book “in just a second. But first, Mitch, let me ask you the obvious question …why don’t we have more Jewish athletes?”
There was a Midwestern station where the host asked me to write my name and the name of my book and the subject of my book on a piece of paper, which he could read as he went along. There was also a Chicago host who — 10 seconds before we went on the air — asked me this: “In Macbeth, what was the name of the second king who gets killed at the beginning?”
There was a woman in Seattle who interviewed me on a Radio Shack cassette player. And there was a nice man in Santa Cruz, Calif., who not only put me on his show, but carried my luggage to his car and drove me down to another station.
It was the first time I ever tipped a host.
Long and winding road
Anyhow, as I said, I do not want to seem ungrateful. I have been on some wonderful shows on this tour, with real microphones and everything. And the book was kindly reviewed by USA Today, the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune, and not one of them mentioned a lawn mower.
But you do have to wonder, when you’re doing “Wake Up, Tacoma” — in between a dog trainer and a rosebush expert — just what impact you’re making.
Then again, in a world where the hosts are named “Floorwax,” how much does it take to make an impact?
Anyhow, I’m home now. I think. I hope. And despite all the crazy stops, I’m told the book is doing well, and I want to thank everyone who is making that possible. Especially Oasis.
To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581.