Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

The TSA and medical conditions

Bags are packed and at my desk, and I’m ready to leave for Milwaukee in a few hours. Sarah is in Philadelphia on business, so she will get back, get a taxi, and then come to my work and pick me up. Then, off to the airport and the hideous security crap. Wish me luck.

You know, I never had a problem with the TSA, until maybe a year ago. Before that, I always got through, no problems. Now, for some reason, they constantly fuck with me. The worst of it was when I was in California earlier this year, and I still had my knee brace. The brace has hinged metal pieces on either side, and sets off a metal detector more than a handgun would. And I can’t take off the brace without completely taking off my pants. Now, if you go to the TSA web site, there’s a lot of nice wording about how to treat a person with a medical issue: they can’t touch the brace, they can’t take off the brace, they can’t ask me to take it off, and so on. Well, on my return trip, they made me go into a little room, undress, and take off the brace so they could test it for explosives. I’m sitting in a back room with no pants on while some dumb fuck is asking me if I follow hockey or not, seeing as I live in New York. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

So, yeah, I don’t like the TSA. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

Speaking of travel, I’ve been reading this Henry Rollins book that’s a travel journal over a couple of years, both from spoken word tours and from an effort to burn off a ton of frequent flier miles and go to weird places. He goes to Kenya, and then to Madagascar, sleeping in tents and seeing the wilderness. The sights and animals and native people all sound interesting. It must be something to sit on the shores of the Indian Ocean on an island that is almost untouched by man, with no pollution and nothing but green around you. On the other hand, he also did the tour group thing with a bunch of insufferable people, usually old, just wanting to take pictures of stuff they’d seen on TV, not really getting the context.

Rollins is a capable writer, and his life is interesting. This is where the whole “It’s not about what you write, but who you are” thing comes into play. People buy his books because he has this sort of cult of personality surrounding him. People want to be his friend, or be him, and because he’s been in bands and movies and whatever, he has that infamy. He could sell a hundred times as many books as I’d ever sell in my lifetime, even if he wrote a ten-word poem and repeated it for 200 pages. He doesn’t need to write anything marketable, because there are enough frentic completist record collectors who absolutely have to have one of everything he produces. People worship him, but they don’t give a shit about how his writing stands up against David Foster Wallace or Raymond Carver. He’s a celebrity, and people like that.

And Rollins is interesting, but he’s also a bit of a prick sometimes. (To be fair, this is sort of fading with age, though.) And he goes on and on about his need to be alone, how he wishes he could vanish in the woods or whatever, and while I find his life or his lifestyle or his travels interesting, I think a lot of this philosophy of his is bullshit. And I wonder if that’s what he truly feels, or if fame has made him feel this, or if it’s all an act. Maybe he’s a cool guy if you know him, but the closest I ever would be to knowing him would be getting him to sign my napkin and shake my hand after a show.

I think that’s the thing that bugs me about signing books. The people who most want me to sign something are the ones that least know me. How is a squiggle of ink on a page going to change things? Who’s going to rush home with an autographed copy of Rumored to Exist and wrap it up in 10-mil plastic? Maybe people want me to sign books because they think they will go up in value, or someday I’ll be famous, but the truth is, even if I went on a ten-state killing spree and got caught by the feds tomorrow, that book wouldn’t fetch more than $50 on eBay. (All of this is also rather stupid in that if I could sign every book and zine I’ve ever published in about an afternoon.)

Crap. Lunch is over and I need to go work. I’ll be back Monday (although who am I kidding, I never update this thing…)