I've always wanted to hear author David Sedaris read in person. We own all his books, both in print and as books-on-tape, and really, you should, too! Seriously, he's such an awesome storyteller, with perfect delivery and the most charming speaking voice --- so distinctive, so sweetly accented, and yet so snarky at the same time.
I've missed him the past few times he's been here in Seattle, 'cause the tickets always cost a lot. So I could hardly contain my excitement when I heard he was coming back to the Emerald City, and reading for free! Sadly, passes across town were snagged up so quickly that we were only able to nab passes for one of his readings, but our ever-optimistic Karen pointed out that we actually scored the primo of all three Seattle readings 'cause ours was in a smaller, more intimate bookstore (the lovely Bailey-Coy, which is right down the street from where Jeremy works, making the location even more ideal), plus since our reading was at 2:00 pm, chances are more devoted fans would be there, those who actually had to put in time-off requests from work. (Is it any wonder why we adore Karen?!)
And, of course, she was right! Bailey-Coy had set up folding chairs in the middle of their floor, and there was a quaint folding table with a pitcher of water, some lovely flowers, and a microphone set up only a few feet away from us. (I couldn't help but be wowed by the realization that if we had paid fistfuls of cash to see him at, say, the Paramount Theater, we'd be sitting high, high up in the cheap seats of the balcony where David would look like no more than an ant...yet, for free, we were practically in arms' length...okay, I'll stop drilling this point home!)
David arrived with a pretty brunette by his side, and ooh, it was like a rock star entered the building! This electricity of excitement filled the air, and everyone around had this silly grin on their face. David and his female cohort were setting up at the table. David picked up the pitcher of water, stared into it with a bemused expression on his face, and then placed it down on the floor by the table. Weird. He immediately began signing a huge stack of books that an employee brought over for him, we assume for his co-workers.
And then, when he was finished signing those books, he began walking up to the seated guests, asking oh-so-politely, "May I sign your book for you?" --- EEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Karen and I could hardly stand it! "May I?..." "May I?..."?!?!? Oh, my lord! He was so polite! So down-to-earth! So un-diva! So humble! My celebrity crush on the man increased a thousand-fold. We watched in star-struck awe as he proceeded to greet each fan personally, spending a few minutes conversing with each one as he autographed their books.
I can't deny that I was really, really nervous about what I was going to say to him! Usually, in the presence of someone I adore, I just get this glazed deer-in-headlights look and babble nonsensical stuff like, "Ohmigosh, Iloveyousomuch!" Ugh, quelle uncouth! After reading "Chicken in the Henhouse", an essay from his latest book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, my first instinct was to offer him the top of my head and say, "You can touch my head if you need to." (In the story, he explains that in tight situations, he feels a compulsion to touch people's heads.) But then I worried he would think I was a freak. So instead, I printed out a copy of the review I wrote of his new book, folded it into a tiny square like a note you'd pass to a friend in Algebra, and tucked it into my purse to give to him. I felt sorta goofy about giving it to him, because really, it was just the non-verbal version of "Ohmigosh, Iloveyousomuch!", but I had it tucked into my purse for safety, just in case I froze and couldn't think of anything better to say...
And then I asked him to sign another book of his from our collection to the both of us, and there was an awkward pause that felt like an hour but was actually more like a second. Okay, maybe even half of a second. My mind was blank, sweat was forming across my brow, and with shaking fingers, I reached into my purse and handed him the note, explaining that while I would never be as good of a writer as he is, I wanted to give him a copy of this review I wrote.
"Oh, thank you," David replied, graciously tucking the note into his pocket. "Actually, I don't really read my reviews, because I don't want to think, 'Oh, is that what you thought when you read this?'...I don't want to think, 'Is this what people expect from me?'..."
I swore I saw him squirm a little as he tried to explain, and I felt mortified. "Oh, gosh, should I not have given this to you? Would you like me to take it back?"
He looked confused, his hand almost reaching back into his pocket, and then he smiled and said, "No, my sister's here, so I'll just give it to her to read, and then she can tell me what you wrote." Someone standing behind him asked, "Which sister?" and David replied, "Lisa," pointing towards his lady companion, and all the stories I've read about her (particularly "Repeat After Me") came flooding into my brain. And looking closer, I saw the family resemblance and thought, "Well, duh!" (I was also charmed when David told the same woman standing so eagerly behind him, "Oh, you can go sit down, and I'll come to you later." Hee!)
Karen, of course, came prepared with a total kick-ass conversation starter for David: having recently returned from a trip to London, and having read that he and his partner Hugh now live there, she recommended an excellent restaurant for him. He lit up, "Oh, I've been there! It is really good! You know, another really good restaurant is [something something --- I can't remember the name of it]." Later I asked Karen about this restaurant he mentioned and she told me, "Oh, that place is really posh."
She had two copies for him to sign, one for herself and another, explaining with a laugh, that was a surprise gift for someone to thank her for a favor. David wittily wrote "To [her name which I can't remember], We owe you, David Sedaris". Hee! And then in Karen's book, which she asked him not to address to anyone in particular, he wrote "To ______"...Hee again!
[In our books, he wrote "To Mike & Janice, Seattle's fun couple" (AWWWWWWWWWWW!) and then in the other, he wrote "Thanks for the nice review". (Yaaaaaay!)]
To Karen's left was sitting a cute stranger, and when David was signing her book he asked, "Are you Greek?" and she smiled and said she was. David continued, "When I sign books for people, I usually just address them to their first name, but with fellow Greeks, I like to add their last name, so what's your last name?" Hee!
At one point, we noticed him talking to a little girl, maybe eight or ten-years-old, and we were so charmed at how sweet David was, crouching down to talk to her. And then the Bailey-Coy had a trivia contest to win his CD box set of book readings, and YAY, the cute little girl won one for knowing his elf name was "Crumpet".
He started with "Possession", a story about he and Hugh apartment hunting in London, and then taking a trip to Amsterdam a few months later where they visit the Anne Frank house and he realizes it's the perfect place for them.
He followed this with a reading of "The End of the Affair", a story about he and Hugh catching a showing of the Julianne Moore/Ralph Fiennes film. As he read, I noticed how he seemed to anticipate each burst of laughter from the audience, his hand reaching for his glass of water to sneak a sip synchronized with his readings.
As he read, I felt very lucky and very sad at the same time, 'cause Jeremy wasn't with us. He had asked to get off work early in advance for the reading, and then as his shift was winding down, his manager said he had to stay until 3:00 pm! We were all mortified. Jeremy felt sure that David's reading would be over at that point, and was sorely disappointed. At first, I encouraged Jeremy to just walk out and leave and come to the reading anyway, but then I felt like a bad friend for encouraging such behavior. [*blush*]
Karen had mentioned that at past readings, David would sometimes read passages from his diary (!!!). I had read in articles that sometimes he would sing as Billie Holiday (!!!). So we were anticipating something pretty awesome...and he did not disappoint! We were treated to a reading of a story David was working on for a short story collection about relationships. It was very sweet and talked about when he and Hugh had first met, and a little about David's first relationship and things like that. Before he began reading, he was all, "If you don't mind, I'd like to read this story..." If we don't mind?!?! Again, I was floored by his manners. And then again, at the end of his reading, he said, "Thank you for letting me read that." Thank us?! No, thank you, David!
Following his reading, he opened the floor to a Q&A session. I don't recall the original question, but he did share a story about the French teacher he wrote about in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day who had apparently gotten really mad about the story he'd written about his experiences in her class. David explained that he actually really liked the woman and felt bad that she felt hurt by his writing. Someone also asked about his brother, and David said that he hasn't seen his niece since her birth but that he'd be visiting her during his day off on this book tour. Someone also asked if he would ever be interested in doing TV stuff like his sister Amy did with "Strangers With Candy", and David scrunched his cute nose and said, "No, not really. Amy does her thing with Steve and Paul, and that's her thing." Anyway, the whole exchange felt so relaxed and informal. It was really nice.
After the Q&A, the Bailey-Coy employees directed people to line up to the left of his reading table for autographs. We all got up, folded up our chairs and placed them neatly to the side. Everything was very orderly and calm.
Since we already had our books signed, we just hung out over to the side for a little bit. Karen had mentioned that at one point during the reading, she had turned around and spotted Jeremy, yay!, so our eyes scanned the crowd for his smiling face. Mike and Karen walked over to the side to take more pictures of David signing autographs, and I managed to find Jer at the cash register, buying a copy of the new book. Turns out, he had made it to the reading during David's last piece, hooray! So at the very least, he got to hear the exclusive story.
Mike and Karen made their way through the crowd over to us, reporting that David had lit up a cigarette and was smoking in the store! That's so cool!!! Karen had to get back to work, so we hugged her goodbye, and then Mike and I hung out in line with Jer, who sadly was towards the end of it, crunched up to the front door of the bookstore. But, hell, we so did not mind getting to see David again.
David drew a cute lil' jack-o-lantern in Jer's book, citing that "each one is different and special, like a snowflake", and then we were done, and we left the bookstore in giddy giggles.