Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Getting High on Oxygen at Wordstock Book Festival in Portland
Yes, all writers are on drugs.
I'm into two things: Extra Strength Tylenol - and the Piña Colada scent at the Oxygen Bar in Wordstock's VIP room.
Man, did I get high. I put on one of those nasty plastic tubes that go over your ears. It has nozzles that fit into your nostril, so you look as if you've just survived a liver transplant. And then my head began to spin.
After the first hit I started to sing the Danish national anthem. After the second, I shared my selection of raunchy Christian spirituals. They had to carry me out on a stretcher while I shouted, "My name is Richard Dawkins, I'll sign your fucking books now."
This, of course, all took place in my mind, except for the fact that there was an Oxygen Bar in the writers' VIP room at Wordstock - a VIP room so crowded it reminded me of a Polish concentration camp. The coffee was cold, but the people who worked there were hot.
When I arrived at the biggest book event in Oregon, I was met by an escort (no, unfortunately not that kind), then I was led in handcuffs to The Mountain Writers Stage to do my reading of The Tsar's Dwarf.
That was not a wise choice of venues. I'm from one of the flattest countries in the world, so after I started to talk I suffered from vertigo. Verbs fell off the page and crashed to an untimely death while I tried to concentrate on the great audience in front of me.
Apparently, I've gotten a reputation as an entertaining reader/performer which definitely is true when I'm not on oxygen. But it's hard to be a serious writer of lit. fiction when all you can think of is, "I gotta get back to the VIP room for some more oxygen."
So how does an Oxygen Bar look, you may ask? Well, before my first hit I was a middle aged writer with dandruff, but after two rounds of fresh scented air I turned into a gorgeous platinum blond with a nose job.
So yes, Wordstock was great fun. I signed about 15 books, met readers who wanted me to do books on tape, talked for twenty seconds with Chelsea Cain, for nine seconds with Monica Drake, and for seven seconds with April Henry. Then I hung out at Hawthorne Books booth where I harassed people into buying more of my books.
"I'll sign anything, even the Old Testament," I shouted.
Wordstock is a wonderful event. You can listen to 186 writers who all say the same thing. You can buy expensive tacos, attend work shops about adverbs, and run into people like James Ellroy and Sherman Alexie.
But now you have to excuse me. I have to get back to that cool Oxygen Bar for the newest and most popular scent, the Swine Flu.
Next stop on My Pretentious World Tour for The Tsar's Dwarf is Lingnan University in Hong Kong, China.