More Notes from the Road

Friday, April 15, Santa Rosa

I left San Jose at 11 to get to Crissy Field in San Francisco at 1:00. There was some traffic on 101 so I sat on the highway for a lot longer than I thought I would. At fifteen minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, I was just turning onto Lombard, still a couple miles from the event and not sure exactly where it was.

Ah, this is what I bought the cell phone for. But the only number I had was the office number of the person who set up the event—not a phone that would actually ring where I was scheduled to be. Ack. But I made it just in time and waltzed in with my worms. They’d set me up in a meeting room with a projector and a laptop.

Oh yeah, I have some slides on a CD. Where is that CD? I ran out to the car and brought it in. By then a couple people were sitting in the folding chairs, waiting for me. A few more people wandered in before the talk started. But it was a sparse crowd, to say the least. I went through the slides and launched into my talk about how I came to write the book. Over the next half hour, more people wandered in, but most of them had kids with them. And I’m not talking about 12-year olds—these were 5 and 6-year olds. Should I shift gears and make this into a talk for kids? I don’t know. It’s hard to do, midstream. And is there anything about my standard sort of talk that is age-inappropriate? What can I say about how worms mate? Can I make my little joke about how Darwin noticed that worms would continue mating even if they were exposed to light, proving that their aversion to light was not purely instinct but somehow governed by the worms’ ability to make decisions, to choose between mating and diving away from the light?

I mean, how does that information compare to what kids see in the average Pepsi commercial? All these questions and more run through my head as I finish my talk and pull a couple worms out of the dirt and hold them out to the kids. They are mostly girls, and they are all eager to hold the worms.

Saturday, April 17, 2004 San Jose

I was on a radio show called Garden Talk at Santa Rosa’s KSRO for an hour this morning. We had a good time—the two hosts were really laid-back and fun, and we had lots of calls from people who had questions about worms. My hour on the show ended at 10 and I headed down to Carmel—about a 3-hour drive—for a talk at Thunderbird Books.

The Buick I rented makes a little beep when it’s about to run out of gas. Good thing, because I was just blasting down the freeway to Carmel and not paying the slightest attention to the gas gauge. I can just see myself stranded by the side of the road, breathing into a paper bag and trying not to freak out about being late for my next event.

But I got the gas in time and made it to Carmel with an hour or two to spare. Enough time to grab some lunch and do a little shopping for a TV appearance on Thursday. Everything I have with me seems a little too dressy—this guy films the show mostly in his own backyard, and he usually wears jeans, so I think I need to be a little more casual. Fortunately one of the women who works at Macy’s has seen the show, so she helps me pick some stuff out. Between the new clothes (two outfits, the first too formal and ultimately rejected) and the TV makeup, this is going to be the most expensive 5 minutes of my life.

The talk at Thunderbird went fine. There were only about 12 people there, but as always, they were enthusiastic and full of burning worm-related questions. Two people took notes. I pulled out the largest of the three nightcrawlers and it impressed the crowd with its antics. Of course, I spilled dirt all over the table and made quite a mess, but nobody seemed to mind.