The LA Diaries, Part Two

3/25/04 6:10 p.m. La Cañada
The worms and I arrive at Descanso Gardens. A guard stops us as we pull in. I roll down my window.

“Oh, you’re the worm lady,” he says. “Someone showed up here last week looking for you. She had the date wrong. She said she’d be back, though. So you’ll have at least one person here tonight. Come on in.”

Tonight I’ll speak in their main lecture hall. There’s a TV and VCR set up when I arrive. I’m going to hook my digital camera up to the TV and use it as a live video feed so the audience can see the worms in my hand. I call it the Worm Cam. They’ve been very excited about the Worm Cam here at Descanso. I make sure my cables are compatible with their TV, then I head out to walk around the garden for a few minutes before my talk. Descanso is known for their hybrid lilacs—they breed them to do well in warmer climates. The lilac garden is in full bloom, and even though the sun’s going down, the scent is overpowering.

8:45 p.m.
About 25 people showed up for my talk—not a bad turnout for a weeknight. Several people had worm compost bins and came to ask questions about them. A worm grower showed up, and a guy who runs a city worm bin distribution program, and a 4th-6th grade biology teacher. I talked for an hour, forgetting entirely to read from the book. This is a bad habit; Scott says I should read from the book at least a little bit so people will know that it’s a funny and readable book and want to buy it. He’s got a point, but I get tired of the sound of my own words & would rather just talk off the top of my head. I’m just so thrilled to have written a book I don’t have to read from—I can just talk about worms without even referring to it if I want to.
The Worm Cam went off without a hitch, although before I put the worms on camera, the large nightcrawler slithered out of the container I had it in (the lid was just sitting loosely on top) and started moving across the table. Fortunately I turned around and saw it there before it landed on the floor. That’s one thing about worms: when they are ready to go, they go. They are blind but fearless.

Anyway, afterwards people bought books, and I signed them. Everyone stood around and told me their worm stories and asked to hold the worms. My favorite story was from a guy who keeps his worms in a plastic storage tub that does not have any drainage holes in the bottom. He worried that they would get too hot in the back yard, so he set the bin in the swimming pool. It floated. Now the worms spend all day drifting in the pool, kind of like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. He only takes the bin out of the water when the pool guy comes.

Welcome to Hollywood.