Last week I had a true Portland experience.
I had the chance to appear as part of a live talk show at The Jack London Bar at The Rialto in downtown Portland. Hosted by Seantos (no other name required), the show, performed before a live audience, is a mix of art, culture, and sensation, as only Portland can provide.
I was there to promote my novel, The Christmas Carol Murders.
After I set up my books, Seantos let me know that we were running late for our 9:00 pm start time, while they set up the milk-chugging contest. My media mule, Evan, took an opportunity to check out the rest of the venue, while Seantos and I discussed possible interview topics. He was interested in the Ayn Rand angle of my novel (that made me very happy), while I wanted to talk about the connection between my novel and Astoria, my home town. Evan was able to capture this surreal moment; I’m pretty sure it’s the first time my face has appeared in a men’s room display of any kind.
Seantos told me that I would be appearing third on the list, after the milk-chugging contest got underway and after the performance by an artist called The Boy in the Bubble.
I also heard that our start time would be further delayed by the need to accommodate the sock puppet show that would play behind The Boy in the Bubble, who was going to sing for us.
The milk-chugging ended up being more sedate than I expected; two contestants, one young woman and a young man, were to be given one hour to consume a gallon of milk. The floor had been strewn with garbage bags and five-gallon buckets (I hesitated to think what those might be for).
Our event started exactly one hour late, as Seantos introduced the milk drinkers, and then The Boy in the Bubble, a nice young man I did not get to meet because he emerged from behind the “stage” already encased in his bubble (which, to me, looked like the bag a comforter from Bed, Bath, and Beyond would come in) attached to an air hose.
The Boy required regular air infusions from a mysterious source behind the stage. We failed to get a picture of the sock puppets behind him, who offered color commentary as he sang and talked.
Bubble Boy played one song, and then joined Seantos at the “set,” which made me think of those days when Johnny Carson would invite the young comedians to join him after their set. Boy talked for a few minutes, and then it was my turn.
Seantos was gracious and kind. He had read most of the book by this time, and complimented my use of humor and the strength of my setting in Astoria.
He asked several questions about my interest in Ayn Rand and why her philosophy was at the center of my book.
(I failed to ask the significance of the unicorn head that hovered behind my shoulder).
I had a chance to talk about my upcoming appearances in Astoria and Portland, and where interested readers could buy The Christmas Carol Murders. Seantos also told me that he hopes to have a video of the entire Showdown posted on YouTube within a week or so.
Because of the delay getting started, Evan and I did not stay for the entire show (it was a school night, after all, and I was fifteen years older than most of the hat-clad dudes and dudettes that were the denizens of the basement bar), and, unfortunately I didn’t sell any books. But I got to meet some employees of the Portland Mercury, and I hope that means they’ll give me a review and a feature when my next book, The Edwin Drood Murders, comes out next summer.
I’m thrilled that I got to be part of this ongoing piece of Portland performance art. It makes me believe that the parade has not yet quite passed me by.