I’m back in San Francisco for a week. That week is almost up. I’ve been doing events of one kind or another for The Adderall Diaries almost every day. On Wednesday, in San Jose, I interviewed Denis Johnson. He said he didn’t read that much anymore. He said he watched a lot of situation comedies. He was on his way to Los Angeles next to pitch a television show. He also said that before he won the National Book Award he had never received a fan letter from someone who wasn’t also a writer.
I’ve been thinking about that, about how many readers are also writers. When I’m doing readings in people’s homes I’m reaching people that are completely disconnected from the literary world, or literary scene if you’re looking for a more pejorative description, which I’m not. It’s slow going, reading to twenty-five people at a time, selling books like Tupperware. But it’s rewarding in ways that defy explanation.
But the other day I went an entirely different route. I did an event at the home of a friend who frequently teaches writing classes. It was called “On Creating The Adderall Diaries,” a ninety minute hybrid class/reading in which I lectured on the process of generating memoir using my own book as the jumping off point for discussion. I read from three relevant sections of the book, one that dealt with memory, another that introduced a character that didn’t want to be written about, and a third that engaged with the issue of false epiphanies.
Admission was the price of the book and included a copy. There were more than thirty people in my friend’s living room. They were all writers and they had come to the class to work on their own writing and now they all had my book. But how many of them would read it? I wasn’t sure. But they seemed to enjoy the class very much.
Then yesterday I went to a free clinic in Alameda for H1N1 vaccine. When I arrived there was a line that stretched for three blocks, thousands of people, almost everyone pushing a stroller or holding a baby against their collarbone. A woman behind me blew her nose and an old man coughed loudly. He looked like he was dying. I thought it would be ironic if I caught flu while waiting for the vaccine.
It was a crisp November morning and the children, the four and five year olds, ran screaming back and forth. The parents shared knowing looks. Between them moved a common language. They were justified, united by a desire to save their children.
We were herded into a giant courtyard. A security guard in dark blue called out for pregnant women. I had brought Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas with me so I waited inside the controlled chaos of the pandemic reading about Argentinean soccer poets and John Lee Brook who died in Los Angeles in 1997. Brook was widely regarded as the best writer of the Aryan Brotherhood and, according to Bolano, one of the best California poets of the late 20th century.
It had been two-and-a-half hours, and by now my face was burned and the children were crying instead of running around and playing games. A woman in a tan shirt said something into a mega-phone but I couldn’t hear her. She moved closer and said it again. And then she came to where we were, still two hours away from the medical trailers. milling on the painted asphalt, waiting for life and survival but looking as if we had been rounded up for slaughter. She announced that there was no waiting at the Ira Jenkins Center. She said it was accessible by public transportation, which turned out not to be true. But it didn’t matter.
Soon I was at a table eight miles away. I snorted the mist, the nurse telling me when to breathe and when to exhale. I stepped back outside. I came across a Motel 6. I considered getting a room. Why not? I was vaccinated. But that didn’t make sense. I lived here. I continued past, noticing a prostitute in the parking lot. Her shirt started two inches above her belt, her curly hair died with streaks of orange as if her head was on fire. I supposed she was beautiful, but only from a distance. I passed a row of closed down hotels. I had developed irrational fears. There was a post-apocalyptic Holiday Inn. Its name still clearly etched in shadow on the cinder block relief. I realized I was close to the airport, but not that close. Then there was the sun at the top of a Days Hotel, followed by the Charlie Chan Café. I came out onto the main road, which was interrupted by a highway, as if the cement was fighting. It was like two dogs, the highway mounting the road before sprinting off into an underpass. I was walking, following signs written for cars. Then the stadium came into view and I knew I wasn’t far away.
Get Notes From Book Tour in your email by signing up for The Daily Rumpus. Not all notes are posted on the site.