Wednesday, May 23, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 58

I'm in Argentina.

Spent today at Conrad, my publishers. I managed to do a press conference before lunch despite having no voice at all. I mean, none. Nothing. Nada. Zip. When I open my mouth this is what comes out: "... ...."

The press conference only worked because Cassius, my editor at Conrad, spent the last four days with me as my translator and all-around help. He sat next to me at every signing I've done since I got to Brazil and listened to the answers I gave to the questions people asked. He learned that, mostly, if you ask me the same question, I'll give you the same answer, or similar. And he heard those answers over and over again.

So at the press conference, they'd ask a question, like "Are you working with Terry Gilliam on the Good Omens movie?" and I would simply lean over to Cassius and whisper in his ear, like the godfather (his simile), or like a particularly large and malevolent glove puppet (mine), and mouth "Can you take this one?" and he'd do three minutes of stuff he'd heard me say whenever I was asked the question before -- and he'd say it in Portuguese, which was more than I ever could.

Then I signed lots of books for the people at Conrad, went off and ate lots of dead raw fish for lunch, and off with Cassius to the airport, where we sorted the stuff people had given me into CDs and letters (which I took with) and everything else (which he's boxing up and sending to me). He got me through obtaining my ticket, and got me checked in, while I stood and smiled and said ".... ...." from time to time. It was meant to be "Obrigado" -- Portuguese for "thanks" but nothing ever came out.

The inability to speak was a bit of a liability when it came to trying to find out why a plane to amsterdam was leaving from my gate, and why the buenos aires plane wasn't. (It was late arriving. But I got here eventually.)

So now I'm in Buenos Aires, where the french fried potato is all the vegetables there are. (I ordered the macrobiotic salad from the menu in the late night eating place we went to. It looked wonderful from the menu description -- all avocado and sprouts and stuff. The waiter explained, in Spanish, something which apparently conveyed the idea that this was simply something they put on the menu to lure in unwary tourists, and they didn't actually expect anyone ever to order it, let alone eat it. I asked what salads there were [silently and in English. Andres, who was minding me here, said it aloud and to the waiter and in spanish]. The Menu had a huge list of excitingly described salads. The waiter ran a thumb up and down the list, then pointed his thumb, hesitantly, to the "chopped up tomatoes and hearts of palm in salad cream" salad. "Is very good," he said, which someone must once have told him was the English for "This is all we have in the fridge in the kitchen". So I looked at the menu again, and decided I really didn't want to eat organs or steak, and settled in the end for some Chicken, and French fried potatoes.)

On Friday I'm told I'll be on a radio show with John Cale -- who I've spoken to on the phone, but never met (you should read his autobiography, What's Welsh For Zen? It's wonderful and Dave Mckean designed and drew and photographed it -- so tomorrow (thursday) I plan to say nothing at all. Not even whisper. I want my voice back, dammit. Otherwise Friday's radio show will consist of Cale saying sonorous and interesting things in a transatlantic Welsh accent, while I occasionally add to the mix by saying, in my own transatlantic English accent: "... ...." and "...... ......" and even, on occasion, "....... ....".

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