Hello, dear blog. How I have neglected thee. Let’s talk about one of my favorite semi-famous people.
This evening I was re-reading one of my favorite David Sedaris’ books, Me Talk Pretty One Day, the copy of which is on loan to me via Lech-brary (my “book club” of sorts with college friends via snail mail) from my friend Amanda, who accompanied me the first time I got to meet David Sedaris. And then I realized I was using the same bookmark I’ve been using for the past month — a bookmark advertising an Evening with David Sedaris at Carnegie Hall — that David Sedaris himself placed in my copy of his latest work, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, when I went to see him a second time for his Brooklyn book signing last month.
Oh, and that Carnegie Hall event? I’m going to that too, thanks to Sean surprising me with tickets (that were supposed to be for my birthday, which is why I’m no longer allowed to open the mail). Is it possible to be an author groupie?
I have loved David Sedaris since I was in high school, when we read one of his essays in AP English. Being a nerd, I immediately checked out every book of his they had at our local public library. I fell in love. Such intelligent humor, such astute observations, such thought-provoking musings, all neatly wrapped up in short essays you can devour in under 15 minutes a piece.
People often ask me if I think I’d ever write a book. (Yes, really. It always makes me feel flustered and slack-jawed.) And if I ever did, it would be something along the lines of what Sedaris writes. I would never, ever, ever attempt to duplicate the craft he has so trademarked and mastered, but what he writes about — his life, real characters, everyday trials and emotions — that’s what captivates me. That’s what I know I can capture on a page. It’s like journalism, only you’re allowed to say when certain kinds of people annoy you, haha.
The first time I met David (we’re tooootally on a first-name basis now, of course), I was most awkward. This was my senior year of college, and I skipped an afternoon class and switched out of my college newspaper duties to drive with Amanda down to Houston for that night’s event. We got to the theater hall reeeeally early, and quickly realized we were BY FAR the youngest people there. But it didn’t matter because just there was David Sedaris, the man who had so wittily narrated the stories I loved, who had made me laugh out loud in public on the bus, who inspired me to write about the everyday book-worthy stories happening all around us everywhere we look and go.
At this particular event, he was offering each guest either a dirty or clean joke. I opted for clean. “Didya hear the one about the corduroy pillows?” he asked, while drawing a sketch of wart-nosed witch in my copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames with Sharpie.
“Um,” was my oh-so-charming response.
“They made headlines.”
Amanda burst out laughing, probably because I failed to laugh, too busy sweating profusely and trying not to gush out excessive praise to this stranger. Only later would I realize the irony of the joke, unbeknownst to Sedaris, as I would spend the next two years of my life writing headlines as a reporter and copy editor. (Not making them, thankfully.) If anyone should get and appreciate a good headline pun, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME.
This second time around, in Brooklyn’s tech-hip DUMBO neighborhood, I was going to play it cool. Even though I went alone, everything seemed to be going better. The crowd was mostly 20- and 30-somethings in jeans and thrift store sneakers. David engaged the audience in a gut-busting Q&A (“Did you ever draw or write anything in someone’s book at a signing that they didn’t like?”), read a poignant and hilarious chapter out of his new book about airplane travel and the limbo of airports, and shared some snippets of his diary entries from his worldwide tour.
Then I waited in line for more than two hours to meet a man I had already embarrassed myself in front of.
When I finally stood before him, he was eating a salad for a very late lunch and held up a Saran-wrapped deli cookie. “Are you hungry? Would you like my cookie?”
OH MY GOD, DAVID SEDARIS, YOU CANNOT OFFER ME YOUR COOKIE.
I will take that cookie home and keep it for decades until it is an archaic rock, and I will be the weirdo who brings it out when I have guests. “See this?” I’ll croon, gently stroking its stale, moldy surface. “This baked good was given to me personally by THE David Sedaris, most esteemed author of our present time. In my most authoritative opinion.”
Not a pretty picture.
“No, I’m fine,” I lied, praying my stomach didn’t growl audibly in the next five minutes.
Here’s the thing: David Sedaris spends at least five minutes with every. single. one. of his event attendees. Hence, the two-hour wait. But those five minutes are so, so worth it because he makes you feel like you matter. And the thing is, you really do matter to him, because these days he gets a lot of his writing material from the people he meets while traveling. He otherwise lives a fairly isolated life with his life partner in a tiny “hamlet” in southern England.
On this occasion, he talked to me about why he likes going to Le Pain Quotidian (because their oatmeal is excellent and you get to sit at a large table with strangers) and whether I was going to read his book or the one I was already reading (The Great Gatsby) on the train ride back to the Upper East Side.
I’m pretty sure after he meets me a third time at Carnegie Hall, we’ll basically be besties. (:
I highly recommend any of Sedaris’ books. My personal favorites are Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. And listening to him narrate his “Santaland Diaries” — the tale of his days as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s flagship NYC store, made famous on NPR’s “This American Life” — has become a holiday tradition for me.
Here’s a fun interview from May that David Sedaris did with Jon Stewart, in which he talks about his hilarious book tour experiences: