Thursday, February 01, 2007

And the award for a book signed in the strangest place goes to ...

from Jacqueline

I’ve been asked to sign books in various places outside the accepted milieu of the bookstore, but I think I took the prize for most original signing location this week. You think you had it, didn’t you, but no, I do, and here’s what happened:

On Tuesday, I had to go into the local hospital for a colonoscopy. Yep, I can hear the sharp intake of breath, it’s all downhill from here. Those of you who have already partaken of this experience know that what comes before is, generally, much worse that what comes next, but none of it is particularly edifying an experience. So, there I am, in a small ward on my own, first thing in the morning (note to self: get the first appointment, then you don’t have to go through the day worrying and starving). I’m wearing a groovy, tres chic little backless number, courtesy of the hospital, and I have an iv attached to my hand pushing sugar-water into my body so I don’t expire. And I am freezing. Eventually, two nurses with silly mop-cap accoutrements to the head came in, to wheel me down to the operating room where they do these procedures. One of them informed me that they were under strict instructions from their boss (that would be the head of nursing), to withhold all sedation until I did something for her. Now, let me tell you, if someone is about to do a colonoscopy, you want all the sedation you can get your hands on. That’s how I ended up sitting on a gurney, with two nurses (one with a nasty looking implement in her hand) and a doctor looking over my shoulder while I signed a pile of books. Then one of the nurses took the books and they knocked me out. Not that I’m complaining, heck, if someone wants to buy my books, I will sign them, any time, any place.

Moving right along – and I’m sure you’re breathing a sigh of relief here – I was reading The Economist this week (yes, really!), when I came across an interesting little article in the science section that has had me pondering ever since. Scientists have discovered that cells from the mother remain in a baby after birth, not to just sit there doing nothing, but to perform a more important task in the child’s body, and this work does not end as the offspring enter adulthood – your mother’s clever little cells remain in the body for the rest of your life. No, they are not there to nag you, to yell “I told you so!” when you go down with some sickness due to imbibing something you shouldn’t, but rather they are there to save you. The example given in the article was that of diabetic children. When biopsied, it was discovered that their livers (and other specific body parts) contained cells from their mothers, only those cells had taken over the job of producing measurable amounts of insulin. There were other examples given, which all pointed to something that you’d probably never read in The Economist, but to me points to something really transcendent, some elegance in the universe which is indeed love. I wonder how much of mother earth is within all of us, and how those graceful, beautiful cells might empower us to save her, and ourselves in these troubling times. It all reminds me of a man I met when we were both guest speakers at a fundraising event – you may have heard of him – the astronomer, Neil de Grasse Tyson. What an amazing man – he had us all transfixed the minute he began speaking. He began to talk about the universe with all the energy and conviction of an evangelical preacher, and asked us to recite out loud the components of a star, “Come on,” he said, “remember your science!” Then he repeated the components of the human body, and they are the same. “So,” he said, his voice lowered, reverential, “You really are stardust.” Don’t know why I thought of that at the same time as the mother-cell, but it all makes me think how wonderful life really is, and the responsibility we have to protect and cherish our environment and each other. We’re all kin, really.

Finally, on an inspiring note: As you know, I adore horses, and it’s been a bit of a rough week, what with that lovely racehorse, Barbaro, being euthanized. He was injured around the time my horse, Sara, was struggling with a life-threatening sinus infection, so I felt the comradeship of experience as the vets tried everything in their power to save him. Then today, a friend sent me a link to this wonderful piece of footage from The Netherlands. If you remember, in November last year, over 100 horses were stranded on a very small island during terrible floods, and it was thought they would die. This short film shows how they were saved. The English language is a bit so-so, and the music’s not great, but the horses will touch your heart.

I still haven’t worked out how to embed the link so that all you have to do is click – sorry! I’m the Naked Authors techno klutz, every community blog must have one.

And really finally: Paris is going to be a non-smoking zone. I love Paris, I detest smoking (can't help it, breathed in my mom's second-hand smoke throughout childhood, hate it), but the thought of Paris without smoking has taken something away. Yes,I know, cancer from someone else's smoke, but ... Paris is not Paris without the waft of Gauloise snaking past and choking you as you reach for your Dubonnet. Strange, really, to have such a double-standard.

And also in Paris, the lights on the Eiffel Tower went out last night, as they did in key places throughout Europe in recognition of the latest report on climate change - the collaborative work of top-gun meteorologists around the world and supported by over 2000 scientists- that says, in no uncertain terms, that we are really up a gum tree now, for as long as gum trees can survive, that is. This is where we look inside for the Big Mother cells, for that stardust, and really step up to the plate. Now is not the time for double standards. Otherwise we really will be dust, or drowned - and where will Paris be then, or New York, or San Francisco, or Miami, LA, London, Madrid. Think of those horses - who will lead us across the rising waters?

See you next week. Have a great weekend. I'm off to look at hybrid cars!


  1. I once signed books at a convent, but your story beats mine. Were those nurses wearing rubber gloves while handling your books?

  2. from Jacqueline

    Um, actually, they were wearing rubber gloves, and I wasn't awake to see whether they put on fresh gloves after I signed the books. Hmmmmm ....

    I remember the convent - that was the one I couldn't do due to a dreadful case of double-booking. It certainly does sound like a good candidate for "strangest signing location."

  3. At first, as I scrolled down and came upon the photo, I thought you were sharing a snapshot of your colonoscopy pix. Next time, perhaps?

    As Jacqueline knows, you can't drive home from the procedure because of all those wonderful meds they give you. Therefore, you need a friend (preferably a good friend) to give you a hand that day.

    True story. On my first date with Renee, I asked her for a BIG favor. Would she consider giving me a lift home from my colonoscopy the following week? She regarded it as an odd request -- not as enticing perhaps as a weekend in the Bahamas -- but she agreed. I knew then I wanted to marry her. And she knew just how damn romantic I was.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Oh, you old romantic, you, Paul! That girl must love you to bits. "Hey, babe, wanna drive me home from my colonoscopy?" The pick-up lines don't get much better, do they? I don't remember the drive home, though my husband tells me it didn't stop me talking. I'm sure he wanted to add, "More's the pity!" Fortunately, he does a good impression of Anthony Hopkins in The Remains Of The Day - bringing tea and toast for me as I languished in my semi-comatose state.

    Actually, this time I didn't get pix, though I had a very nice photo of my endoscopy a few years ago and thought it looked like the birth of a black hole. Bring on the purple pill!

  5. Paul, what a guy! And what do you have planned for the faboo Renee on Valentine's Day? Wait...don't tell. Let us guess.

  6. Any root canals on the calendar?

  7. from Jacqueline

    Oh, don't even get me started on root canals! As it happens, everyone at the dental office where I go for routine torture (I am just terrified of dentists), comes along to my local bookstore talks/signings. I get up to speak, and there they are in the front row - the dentist, his wife, the receptionist, the two hygenists, the nurse - heck, at least I know I'll be alright if I lose my crowns or something.

    (See, very British, the first thing we worry about is losing a crown!)

  8. Not to worry, too much, about San Francisco for a while if sea levels rise. Map in yesterday's local paper shows what would flood first - mostly the very low places like SFO Airport "reclaimed" from formerly open waters or marshes.

    However, bad news, already too much salt water washes into the City's sewer system for its celluar good. (Those interconnected cells...) Suspect that's more thanks to diverting so much fresh water from the Sacremento Delta to SoCal and the Central Valley farms than global warming so far.

    Anyone recall the serious California draught complete with water rationing in the 1970's?

  9. from Jacqueline

    And they wonder why SFO is always socked in, even on a good day? The luminaries of airport planning did the same thing with Gatwick in the UK - ooh, look there's a marsh, perfect for a runway! Trouble is, marshland never loses its character, even if you pave it over - and where there's marsh, there's mist.

    Don't recall the 70's drought, I was still in the UK then - and boy, did we have our own droughts, with reservoirs running dry and, in places, stand-pipes set up when running water was cut off to save water. Might as well get ready for more of the same, unless, of course, it's flooding that gets us@

  10. Hey Alice- I remember the water rationing in the 70's. I was in high school in Southern California and being that at that time all I really cared about was whethter or not I had a date to the varsity party, the thing I remember about it was the very clever Northern California saying ( it is a separate state you know) "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down!"

  11. A lady came into The Bookseller to the Stars in the last six months and purchased an Eve Arnold photography book. Throughout payment, she enthused that she was so pleased that we had the book because she was about to go and get the book signed. With the amount of local authors that we have (about 87 last count), I naturally assumed that she was a neighbour. The cusomer was like,

    "Oh No, I'm on my way to see my mother in hospital.."

    "Ahhh, Are you going via a signing somewhere else then?"

    "No, Eve Arnold is in the bed next to my mother and I thought, you know.... just in case..."

    I swear that's a true story or Cornelia will strike me down in vengeance. xx

  12. It all goes to show that you can't look a gift horse in the mouth, so stike while the iron's hot! And if that means you get books signed in the hospital, so be it!

  13. just read this out on phone to my friend who is having a colonoscopy tomorrow and feeling very sorry for herself. gave her a good laught. p.s she was sitting on the loo as she has been most of day and grateful for "light relief" regards Ruby Brett