I've got a slideshow and talk that I give at bookstores when a new book comes out, in which I give a quick overview of my so-called career, show some rarely-seen cartoons and illustrations, and generally try to entertain anyone who takes the trouble to show up. I've been doing this for a number of years now, and while the basic structure of the show stays the same, I'm constantly updating it and revising it. Yesterday I gave the latest version a dry run at a bookstore in Philadelphia. I was hoping this one would go smoothly, as my future in-laws were in the audience.
Didn't quite work out that way.
First, it turned out that the bookstore's slide projector didn't work, or wasn't there, or something like that - at any rate, it was time for me to start talking and somebody from the store was out trying to find somewhere in Philadelpia to buy a slide projector at the last minute. For which they have my undying gratitude - that was really above and beyond the call. It would have been much easier for them to simply say, forget about the damn slides, just shut up and sign the books. There were a few awkward minutes of fumbling on my part, like the Dad in Pleasantville who doesn't quite know what to do when his routine is thrown off for the very first time, but the projector finally arrived -- brand spankin' new, straight out of the package. The store wasn't going to be coming out ahead on this reading no matter how many books I sold.
So, fine, right? A small glitch at the beginning, maybe magnified a bit because I was a little nervous, hoping to give the in-laws a good impression, but no big deal. The projector showed up, the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, things went smoothly... until the end of the show, when the thumping began. Right above our heads. There was some kind of creature loose up there, behind the flimsy, lightweight drop-ceiling. Didn't want to think about that one too closely. Somebody suggested that maybe it was a pigeon, and it sounded like a reasonable explanation to me. The bookstore cat began to act very agitated.
The noise died down momentarily and I finished showing slides and started answering questions from the audience ... and then a rat, a huge goddamned rat (about the size of a pigeon, at least), ran through the audience and past me, with the cat in hot pursuit. They stopped at the end of the room, paused for a temporary standoff - this was a rat big enough to give even the cat momentary pause - and then whirled, and ran back past the audience - and then turned around and did it all over again. (Just to make things really special, the rat brushed over my future mother-in-law's foot on their second pass through.) I was wondering if it was worse to have a live rat running through the audience or to have a dead rat being being disemboweled by a cat at their feet, when the hunter and his prey finally disappeared around a corner into this little alcove where the porn magazines were stashed.
"Gosh," I said. "I guess that about wraps us up."
So it's off to San Francisco. I'm taking my laptop, and will try to file further dispatches.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK (SO FAR) ************** Reply-To: "JPS Library Account" From: "JPS Library Account" To: Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 17:40:13 -0600 MIME-Version: 1.0 X-Priority: 3 X-MSMail-Priority: Normal X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.3110.3 Dear Tommy-boy: Your 10/26 cartoon that exploited the death of Matt Shepherd for the purpose of attacking religious conservatives is one of the most abhorrent piece of crap propaganda trash I have ever seen. I am going to use the resources available me on the Internet to hunt you down, to find your very place of residence,, and force feed a copy of that cartoon down your throat one piece at a time. The Black Scorpion Fear my sting!
This is the cartoon.
Insanely busy since getting back from California. A full update will have to wait, for now, but I wanted to post this amazing ...
EMAIL OF THE WEEK
My wife and I really enjoyed your book lecture at Printer's Inc. two nights ago.
I thought you might be interested to hear that your comics were popular at the South Pole. When I spent 1996 at Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, reading your comics on-line helped me deal with the darkness and isolation. Your ability to succinctly satirize the B.S. being dished out by American media pundits helped this political junky weather the long sunless winter without the aid of newspapers or coffee houses. I would occasionally print them up and put them in our cafe for other folks to enjoy and discuss.
So, the isolation at South Pole station was not without its advantages. Imagine the '96 presidential elections with political cartoons posted everywhere instead of TV ads!
Thank you and keep it up,
Oh, if you want to see what's left of my South Pole web page, you can go to astro.uchicago.edu/home/web/cbero/.