Archive for September 8th, 2006

Will Someone Please Pick Up?

I'm at SFO, waiting for a red-eye to Washington D.C. while madly sipping the Peet's coffee I just bought (since, for reasons of our nation's security, I cannot take the coffee on the plane; and if I had hair, I couldn't take hair gel either). A phone somewhere is ringing. It's got a loud ring. No one is answering.

About a year ago, by contrast, I had a very pleasurable airport moment. A woman got on the loudspeakers and announced, "Ishmael, please call the operator." After repeating that message a couple more times, with growing impatience, she finally blurted out, "Call me, Ishmael!" I spun around in my little ticket line, hoping to share my delight at this unexpected literary reference, but people seemed more focused on getting a better seat. ...

Aah, the phone stopped ringing. This is good.

It's been a busy, challenging week for me. After a relatively labor-free Labor Day, I went around San Francisco with "Wandering Josh" producer Sean McGinn and our crew, asking people on the street what they thought of American history. And yes, I know that sounds like an incredibly vague question! But amazingly, people said wonderful, cogent things about their relationship to our country's messy past. The interviews were later cut together and ran near the top of the show we taped this afternoon -- in which I interviewed UCLA historian Gary Nash, author of The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America, which just came out in paperback.

Nash and his wife were flying up from L.A. this morning, so my producer, Lori Halloran, and I had our usual butterflies about whether his plane would get in on time, etc. (It did -- speeded along, no doubt, by the absence of excess coffee or gels.) My sister-in-law Nancy Sato, who quit her high-tech job a couple of years ago and became a chef, home-baked some delicious-smelling cookes -- forbidden to me by my diet, but described eloquently by associate producer Elizabeth Pepin (no relation to Jacques). As the time for taping approached, I tried to relax. Relaxation has been my main goal in this, our second season (the first new broadcast -- an interview with Michael Tilson Thomas -- will air on Sept. 25). So I just kind of thought relaxing thoughts. It was my son's birthday today, so that buoyed me tremendously. And I was really looking forward to meeting Prof. Nash, whose book has meant a lot to me.

By the time Lori and my director, Kevin Kastle, started blocking my little in-studio opening for the interview, I was feeling about as relaxed as someone with my DNA and upbringing can feel -- which is to say, pretty nervous, but not terribly. ...

Ach, the phone's ringing again! And people at my gate (across the way from where I'm sitting) are milling about in a manner that makes me feel the need to head over there. (My flight, scheduled for 10:10 p.m., has already been delayed till at least 10:30. Oh well -- more airport coffee for me!) So I'll just mention, before signing off for now, why I'm flying to D.C.: I'll be doing an improv tomorrow towards my upcoming stage monologue about democracy (it'll open at the Magic Theatre in S.F. next May 9). My audience will be young political organizers affiliated with -- among other outfits -- Democracy Matters, the organization founded by Golden State Warriors center Adonal Foyle and his parents (I had a wonderful time interviewing Foyle on the show last season -- you can watch that episode on this page). ...

Yikes -- they're boarding, apparently! Gotta go. Stay relaxed, just like your pal Josh, and I'll see you soon. And if you happen to wander by Gate 86, you might want to answer the phone. ...

2 comments September 8th, 2006


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