Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New York, New York

At noon, we rushed in a cab to the studios of WNYC am/fm for an interview with Leonard Lopate. For those unfamiliar, he is an veritable icon in New York broadcasting, known for his ability to know something about everything. We started talking about the rudimentary studios in which he first worked, a rough wooden table set up on sawhorses that had massive microphones bolted to the table. I told him that I briefly worked in a temporary radio studio in Columbia – it was literally a card table and a portable mic. The interview went well; he asked good questions, we both laughed. It was a good conversation, which is all an interview should be at its core. When he asked about Paris restaurants, as usual, my mind reeled, trying to find one or two, when I have a seeming endless stream going through my brain. Anyway, I ended up talking about marrow bones, which he liked, noting that Judith Jones was in the day prior andtalked about eating calf's brains in Paris. After the interview, the door opened and his next interview walked in -- and bam, it was Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet. She won’t remember, but years ago, I went to her bookstore reading in Seattle when she toured for Tender to the Bone – a memoir with recipes. She was pleasant, nodded, Leonard started to explain my book and a producer waved us out so they could start her session about Christmas cookies. You can listen to the interview on the WNYC site.

Later that evening, we held the final big book store event at the Borders on Columbus Circle. The event was promoted around the store with big banners which Mike and I dubbed “Big Head Kat” photos. Literally, my head was five times bigger than my real head. We wanted a special treat, as we did with our final official independent bookstore (Left Bank Books in St. Louis). So I spent the afternoon shopping for cheese, chocolate and wine for the audience. It’s hard to do this for a bookstore event. Will there be two people, ten or forty? We have a new favorite wine place in the west village called Basically, it’s a guy who keeps 100 wines in stock, with 50 of them under $20 each. They’re available online but only for people within the city, as the wines are delivered by van. So far, he’s never steered us wrong, and he’s a nice guy. If you’re in New York, check him out.

Anyway, I rushed home, threw on makeup and went forth into the cold, foggy and slightly rainy night. Good luck with a cab right away, but then we sat in traffic for 40 minutes, arriving only minutes before the reading. The Borders people were great – loads of books, lots of signage and we ended up with an audience of about 45 people. I started right in with anecdotes, asking people why they had joined the reading, and then starting the backs story to the book, etc. I thought it was going well. But then one guy gruffly got up and walked out, griping “what about the book?” Hello, it’s a memoir – this IS the book, I thought. It was unnerving, and hard to move past, actually. But it was a great crowd, and about a third had read it already and had excellent questions. One woman asked “Now that you’ve achieved your dream, now what?” A good question, and I’m not sure that I have the answer. Another person asked about the paperback. I just learned the answer today. It’s coming out from Penguin next October, so we’ll be on the road again this time next year.
One of the best thing about doing readings on the road is the chance to see people you don’t often. Among them was Kim, a friend I rode through the Loire Valley on a bike trip ostensibly to look at chateaux, but really just ended up eating a lot of cheese and drinking a lot of wine once we were all “chateauxed out.” Phoebe Damrosch, author of the wonderful book Service Included also came, fresh from her own events in D.C. (Prompted by her, I called to get reservations for Per Se in January.) My editor from Viking, David, took my joke about being available for book pitches gracefully; evidently some woman took him up on it afterward. Back when I was writing obits at the Herald-Tribune, I met Jan, now consummate New Yorker who works for Newsweek.

The evening ended, and the Borders crew started taking down all the signs. “Wait,” I said. “I want that.” It was one of the huge banners with Big Head Kat. My mom took that photo, and whenever I see it, I think of her. Now, I’ve got a eight by four feet banner with her daughter’s huge head on it. So, Mom, I hope you’re not reading this, because I’ve just disclosed your Christmas present.

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