The Wisdom of Mac Rebennack
A few months ago, I made an arbitrary decision: No touring after May 1. No events of any kind, actually -- no bookstores, no library talks, no ribbon-cuttings at grocery store openings. So far, I have made exactly three exceptions to this rule: a May 6th event at Marymount in New York, a May 12th event for the Smithsonian, where Richard Price and I will be interviewed on stage by David Simon, and an October event in Indianapolis, because my oldest friend lives there. And, of course, there's Bouchercon in Baltimore, but that's a commitment I made almost three years ago, unfathomable as that now seems.
As I said, an arbitrary decision, according to the second definition of "arbitrary" - random, based on nothing. Technically, it wasn't even accurate, as all touring stopped de facto for me while my family took a 10-day "vacation" in New Orleans, encompassing both weekends of Jazz Fest. (Imagine the Bataan Death March with really great music, and you'll have a sense of our trip. Twice, I feel asleep on my feet while attending late shows at clubs, a new party trick that delights some family members. "At least you know she's trying," one cousin said.)
I had a good excuse for falling asleep on my feet: I was working every morning. One day I had to rush to the hotel's business center to print out a contract, then sign it and fax it back to New York. I was on the 12th floor; at the 6th floor, Dr. John got on. As those who read the Memory Project know, I racked my mind to think what to say and settled for: "I don't want to gush, but I am an ardent admirer." (I decided not to mention that his concert at the House of Blues was one of the ones where I fell asleep.)
Dr. John replied: "That's okay, darling, just keep on doing what you do."
A stock reply, no doubt, although we also chatted a little about how much work he has to do, and how there was no end in sight; he would be going into a recording studio once Jazz Fest wrapped. Still, it struck me as exceptionally good all-purpose advice: Just keep on doing what you do.
What I do is write and this spring/summer, as it turns out, I have quite a bit of writing to do. Which brings us back to a constant question: Is the book-a-year schedule too much? And, as always, I believe it depends on the writer. Whatever you think of my various books, they were all written on the same time schedule, more or less -- begun in January, finished by December. What the Dead Know, in fact, was completed on a crash schedule, delivered a month early so that Morrow could bump up my publication date. So far, I don't see any reason to change my ways. So far.
Just keep doing what you do, darlings, and I'll do the same.
If the Phone Don't Ring, You Know it's Me
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