Am sitting in a cafe, trying to complete the next book, when I was directed toward Adam Mansbach’s awesome piece, Hell is my own book tour.
Adam has been to hell.
So have I.
For me, hell was the Fort Hood military base. I was there four or five years ago, promoting “Boys Will Be Boys,” my biography of the ’90s Dallas Cowboys. The HarperCollins publicist at the time (I say “at the time” because these folks usually come and go like the fall breeze) told me she had lined up a great gig—”Military base, lots of sports fans. It’ll be great!”
(Note: They always say “it’ll be great.” Always. Book shop appearances. Malls. Panels. CVS blood drive. Wherever you are sent, a publicist will always promise greatness. Which I don’t resent at all, because publicists are paid to be optimistic.)
OK, great. I’m excited. Military base! Football fans! Whoring! I’m in Dallas, wake up at 5 am to make the drive. I arrive at Fort Hood, ready and anxious. I’d even done an interview with the base’s newspaper, hyping the event. “I’m excited to speak with the troops,” I say. “It should be lots of fun.”
I’m picturing a room. Forty, fifty chairs, filled with soldiers happy to take a break for the norm.
I arrive. I’m directed to Fort Hood’s Wall-Mart equivalent—enormous store with plaid shirts and toothbrushes and plastic nonsense. In the front there’s a stack of, oh, 200 books. “You’ll sit here,” I’m told.
Uh … what?
“We’re very excited,” a man says. “We don’t get many celebrities here.”
Uh … what?
I’m sitting, pen in hand. The awkward looks begin as shoppers pass. The expression is unmistakable—”Who the heck is this guy, and how can we pass without making eye contact.” They pass without making eye contact. Then—the announcement. “ATTENTION CUSTOMERS! JEFF PEARLMAN IS APPEARING IN THE FRONT OF THE STORE, SIGNING HIS NEW BOOK! JEFF PEARLMAN …”
I want to run. Hide. Scream. Cry. I’m booked for four hours. Four hours. I call my wife—”You’re not gonna believe this …”
I sell four books.