The LA Diaries, Part One

For technical reasons too tiresome to go into, I still have not figured out how to blog from the road. I swear I’ll get this working before the next trip, but meanwhile, here are my belated blog entries from the last several days, all originally written the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, usually while I was sitting in a café or in my lonely old hotel room.

3/25/2004 12:14 p.m. LAX
The worms and I landed without a hitch. I have a magnificent nightcrawler with me—as long as my hand without even stretching out, and male sexual pores so large I don’t need a magnifying lens to see them (from an earthworm’s perspective, I guess you could say this is a well-hung worm), along with a lesser specimen as a back-up and several red wigglers. They seem perfectly content stashed in a Rubbermaid container in my carry-on, and we made it through security with no problems.

My publicist set up a radio interview for me this afternoon at 4:30, but yesterday she told me I should just call the woman (Nancy) as soon as I landed to see if we could do it earlier. Fine with me; I’m giving a talk across town at 7:00 tonight so that gives me a little more breathing room in my schedule.

I’m supposed to have my newly-purchased and much-hated cell phone with me, but I don’t. That, too, is a long story with many tiresome technical details, but the short version is that I won’t be reunited with the phone until later tonight. So I call Nancy from a payphone at the airport. She’s not there. I leave a message and explain that I don’t have my cell so she can’t call me back. I head to North Hollywood to check into my hotel.

2:10 Beverly Garland Holiday Inn
This place is named after a mostly forgotten film star from the old days. The hotel is crumbling badly, and there are signs everywhere boasting about an upcoming face lift. I don’t know if Beverly Garland herself has had a face lift, but the analogy is apt, and I wonder if a nip and a tuck could really restore some glamour to this place. I’m staying here because my brother’s getting married this weekend. This is the wedding hotel.

At the front desk, they tell me that they can only give me the wedding rate until Saturday night. On Sunday, I’ll have to check out and check back in so they can charge me more. But I get to stay in the same room, the front desk clerk tells me with a smile.

They also charge $9 a day to park my car here. I don’t tell them about the worms—who knows how much more they’d tack on to the bill if they knew I’d have a half-dozen annelids sharing the room with me.

I call Nancy from the room and leave another message. She calls back a few minutes later. It’s a shame I didn’t have my cell, she tells me. Now I’ll have to drive all the way back to meet her.

It’s OK, I say. I’m in LA. I’m prepared to do some driving.

3:14 Culver Palms United Methodist Church
I meet Nancy in the parking lot. We’re going to use one of the church’s meeting rooms to tape the interview. She’s got all her equipment with her: just a tape recorder and a single microphone, which she will pass back and forth between us during the interview. She still edits the old-fashioned way, she tells me. She transfers the cassette recording to reel-to-reel and sits in front of the TV, cutting the tape with a razor blade and splicing the interview together. She says she knows it would be faster to do it on the computer, but she hasn’t gotten around to setting that up.

Knowing that, I try to do the interview straight through with very little fumbling around or starting over. She asks why I wrote a book about worms, what surprised me most in my research, what’s going on with the earthworms in the Minnesota forests—questions I’d been asked before, questions I knew how to answer. I’ve done a lot of phone interviews lately, so it was nice to do one face-to-face. It’s a more lively exchange when I can look into someone’s eyes and see their reaction to what I’m saying.

Nancy wanted to meet the worms, so I pulled out a nightcrawler and set it on her palm. She said she’d like to put me and the worms on her TV show sometime, too. The problem is, she has to raise the money to distribute each episode once it’s taped. Do I have any ideas about how we could raise some funds for an episode on me and my worms? she asks. I tell her I’ll think about it. I put the worm back in the dirt, we wash our hands, and the worms and I head into late afternoon traffic for my next event in Pasadena.

(tune in tomorrow…)