Originally published November 20, 2002
After my book, Surviving on the Streets, came out, my publisher set me up with about 30 radio interviews to promote the thing. And I’m doing another radio interview by phone tomorrow, this time with CKNX-Radio in Onterio. (“HEY THERE CANADA this is ACE BACKWORDS comin’ at ya’ LIVE from Berkeley, California!!”) (spoken in hokey radio-announcer voice)
I’m painfully shy, so I’ve got to force myself to do these interviews, in the hopes that they’ll sell a few copies of my book. The ones on the East Coast usually start at 9 in the morning their time, 6 in the morning my time. Usually, I’ll sleep in my office (which is more like a storage locker than an office) the night before. The phone’ll ring, wake me up from a dead sleep usually right in the middle of a weird dream where I’m being chased by monsters and swinging a baseball bat at flying zombie bats:
“Huh? Wha-? Huh-loow?”
“This is WCMC in St.Louis, Missouri! You’re on the air in 15 seconds!!”
“So Ace, tell us all about your new book, Surviving on the Streets: How To Go Down Without Going Out. What is the meaning of it?”
“Well, uh, its about stuff, like…uh, street stuff, ya’ know?”
“That’s fascinating! So tell us, Ace, who ARE all these homeless street people, how did they end up on the streets, and what’s the solution?”
“Well, its kind of complicated…um…”
“Great, just great! You sure have some interesting stories in your book here, Surviving on the Streets. What’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you?!”
“Well…this one time I was eating out of a garbage can and, uh… this guy hit another guy with a bottle…”
“All that and more, in Surviving on the Streets by Ace Backwords! We’ll be right back after this commercial message!!”
So I thought I’d prepare for this upcoming interview by actually re-reading my book. I hadn’t looked at the thing in 6 months, and, one fringe benefit of all the drugs I’ve taken is that my memory is completely shot, so it was like reading the thing for first time. (A while ago I came across some old comics of mine on the web that I hadn’t looked at in 10 years — I had completely forgotten about them. And it was great, because for once I could read them the same way as the audience without knowing what the punch line was beforehand.)
So I wade through the first couple chapters, and I’m thinking; Man, this is really great! This really is a great book! It’s entertaining, it flows along, it’s got all these interesting and original observations! Why, I really am a genius after all!
Later that evening, I pick it up again, read a few more chapters, realize: This is horrible! I have no writing talent! It’s banal and boring! I can’t even keep my present and past tenses straight! I really and truly am a complete and utter fool!
And who knows. Do YOU know? It could be anything, couldn’t it? And that’s just how my mind works. I have no moorings. For people like me, reality is up for grabs at every moment. I think most people cling to “consensus reality” because it gives them some kind of anchor. Even if it’s bullzhit, it gives them some kind of stable ground to fall back on.
People like me, I literally don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth from moment to moment. So it makes it difficult to do these interviews
Well, I gotta cut this short and go work on my clever sound-bites and witty ad-libs. THIS WAS ACE BACKWORDS! COMIN’ AT YA’ LIVE FROM THE CAMPUS COMPUTER TERMINAL!!!!!!”