Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Fatted Calf of a Humble Literary Rock Star

Last night I met David Sedaris. Well, "met" might be an overstatement. We talked for about five minutes while he signed a book for me. In hindsight, it should be one of the highlights of my life, but I was too tongue-tied to really get much out of the meeting. And I doubt I made much of an impression on him. But he was impressed with my shoe size. So I've got that going for me.

For those of you who don't know, David Sedaris is the most excellent awesomest writer ever. Or at least, my favorite writer at this point in my life. He's the author I use as a model when I fantasize about being a famous writer. You know, while I avoid all the actual writing I plan to do and blog about stupid shit.

So last night Sedaris gave a reading at an Indianapolis book store to promote his latest book. I was one of hundreds of people who showed up, like literary groupies, to hear this rock star author perform. I went with my friend Jim, and we had to wait in line for over an hour to get into the tent they had set up just outside the store. (The store itself was a small room, but since Sedaris insists on having all his readings at a bookstore, they had to set up a tent to accommodate all his fans. I appreciate his sentiment, but it was a logistical nightmare.)

The reading itself was a bit of a disappointment. He only read one real longish essay, the thing for which he is famous, and a few other shorter items that I'd already heard before. He read some items from his diary, many of which were funny, but commenting on current events is something more the purview of The Daily Show, and not something that I drove two hours to hear. He also read some bad "man walks into a bar" jokes he found on the "interweb," as he calls it. Again, it was entertaining, but not what has made him famous. I would have liked to hear a few more humorous, touching, and poignant essays on his crazy family and entertaining history.

Oh, well. After he spoke, he said he would stick around to sign books for as long as people were there. I knew the line for the signing would be gargantuan, and I was getting a bad headache from hunger and having stood in line for so long. So Jim and I left to go get dinner. I really wanted to get my book signed, but I'm not very patient and I absolutely hate waiting in lines and large crowds. I decided that if after a nice leisurely dinner, Sedaris was still there signing books, I'd get in line.

Hah. How naive of me. Jim and I went to a brew pub and had a great dinner. An hour and a half later we went back to the bookstore. Sedaris was still there! Excellent! But there was still a long line. At least you could actually see his table from the end of the line, but it was moving very slowly. The cool thing about David Sedaris is that he doesn't just sign a book and send you away. He has a conversation with each person. He'll ask you something about yourself and then writes something in your book that's personal. This just makes him the coolest famous person I've ever met. Also, I think, the only famous person I've ever "met."

We were at the end of the line, but it was taking forever, so Jim and I went across the street to have another beer. After a leisure beer and conversation I went back to the bookstore to check on the line. The line had moved from the tent to inside the bookstore. I got in the end of the line and waited. And waited. And waited. I had plenty of time to plan (er, obsess about) what I wanted to say to him. When the line got short enough, I tried to pay attention to what he was saying to people. One group of fans brought him some dinner from a restaurant they'd been at, which I thought was really cool. Damn! Why didn't I think of that?!?

When only about a half dozen people were left, he showed us all his calves. During the reading he told us about his "best" physical feature, his very muscular calves. During a conversation with one of the book signees, he pulled his pants up to his knees and reached up on a shelf to show us his calves. They were impressive!

After an hour of standing at the end of the line, around midnight, I was up. With a thumping chest, I told him how much I enjoyed his writing and how I wanted to write like him. He asked me what I write, and whether I'd been published. This would have been a great opportunity to tell him about it, but talking about my own writing wasn't in the script I'd worked out over the last hour, so I froze. Instead, I told him about the plight of being a small man (like him) and getting called "ma'am" on the phone all the time. (Something he'd written about before.) He asked me a bunch of questions about my size (height, waist size, shoe size) and we commiserated about being small men. For comparison, he's taller than me, has about the same waist size, but a smaller shoe size. He raised his eyebrows at this last bit of information. I was sheepish and changed the topic.

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him, but he'd spent the last four hours signing books, and I didn't want to keep him too long. Today, I think of all the perfectly witty ways I could have responded to his questions, but last night I was too tired, star-struck and tongue-tied to make an impression.

Here's how he signed my copy of his book: To Tim, I look forward to reading your book.

He's so cool.

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