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Surfacing

September 9, 2010

With the release of the New York Magazine excerpt of The Lampshade the story is now no longer living exclusively inside my head. It is out there,  and that always is an odd moment for a writer. Comments mostly but not exclusively favorable have piled on the magazine web site. I see  people on the subway reading about the human skin shade.  Questions are asked of me in interviews. It is a strange limbo,  because an excerpt is not the full book and assumptions are being made, impressions being formed on limited information. Still, coincidences continue.

I did an interview with John Kalish who does alot of stuff for NPR. I met John five or six years ago when he did a Morning Edition piece on a book of mine 12000 Miles In The Nick of Time which was about a journey my family took around the world. My oldest daughter,  16 when we took the trip,  was talking about our sojourn in India, a place the children found to be somewhat overwhelming. She told a story about how while all her friends were back in New York living what she believed to be a “normal” life,  she had been coerced into traveling through the Indian night in a second class sleeper which amounted to stretching out on the luggage rack.

“This man wanted to know about us,” my daughter told Kalish, “he kept asking `what is the name of your God?'” This segment made it to the final cut of Kalish’s piece and was broadcast across the country, including in New Orleans where it was heard by Skip Henderson. “What is the name of your God?” caught Skip’s attention. By this time Skip and I, after meeting in Clarksdale, Mississippi ten years earlier, had more or less fallen out of touch. Kalish’s piece, however, got us back together. We talked on the phone and renewed our friendship. Three years later Katrina hit New Orleans and four or so months after that Skip bought the lampshade at Dave Dominici’s rummage sale.

“So in a way,” I told Kalish after he taped the interview about the lampshade, “if it wasn’t for you doing that piece we wouldn’t be recording this one because that how I reconnected with Skip Henderson.” In this manner, I told Kalish, he had unwittingly played a crucial part in the lampshade story

Now, John Kalish is a very sympatico guy and an excellent interviewer.  For him radio has always been a mysterious medium, waves across time and space, a way to reach backwards and forwards through human affairs. Still, hearing of his ostensible role in the shade saga,  he could only groan.

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