David Sedaris says I’m first

Pretty much everyone I’m connected to is aware of my obsession with David Sedaris, whom I consider the greatest non-fiction writer of our time. I have been a fan since college, have gobbled up all of his personal essays, and was first in line to his southern Arizona reading two years ago, so it should come as no surprise that I was the first person to arrive at his Brooklyn signing last night.

A little before the sold-out show, Sedaris waved me over and said, “Hi! You’re the first one here!”

“Cool! I was also the first person at your Tucson appearance in 2010,” I recalled, sounding like less of a college fangirl and more of a pseudo adult loser nerd.

At Tucson’s David Sedaris book signing in 2010

With a copy of “Me Talk Pretty One Day”

“That’s great,” he replied. “And you live here now?”

That was when the complaining began. Out of nowhere, I lamented about New York City dreariness, which is all too reminiscent of London. It’s May and yet our days are gloomy, gross, and uninspiring. Sedaris didn’t need to hear my travails, but as a rather negative writer and individual himself (why I love him), he’s a good ear for venting. And he’s heard a lot worse than my gripes.

“Yeah, but I’m actually struggling to adapt to the temperature,” I said. “I’m solar-powered, coming from Tucson and the west coast.”

“You know, I’ve never been friends with the sun. That’s a good book title. ‘Friends With the Sun,’” he said.

And then he presented me with this in my embattled copy of “Holidays On Ice,” which survived a punch flood at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party that Carolyn, Hang, Jessica, and I threw during our final year at UA:

He has surely already forgotten about granting me that title, but I never will. I can say, however, that last night marked the end of my David Sedaris signing attendances. It was our third meeting, and having already told him that he’s my ultimate idol and that I’ve been the first person in line at two of his showings, I think I need to express my adoration for him in another way, which is through writing my own Sedaris-esque essays. No more bombarding him with my energy and over-eagerness. He already told me I was enchanting once. I just can’t go up from there.

Thankfully, he did confirm to me that he’s working on another non-fiction book. Before I said farewell to my favorite author, I said, “Wait, you’re not done with non-fiction, are you? Your non-fiction is just so incredible.”

“Nope, I have another non-fiction book in the pipe,” he said. “I’m going to read from it tonight.”

“Good, because the stories about your family are unbelievable.”

I’m sad to report that I was pretty down last night, even with Sedaris in front of me. The cloudy skies and rain, which aren’t going to improve anytime soon, rile me up daily. I’m starting to think I just can’t do this New York  thing year-round and that I should weigh my options once my lease is up in two years. I always want to have an apartment here  but would prefer to freelance from California October through April. There’s no way I can endure these cold spells long-term. The city is wonderful, the restaurants never fail to satisfy me, and the creative atmosphere is quite frankly incomparable, but the weather is hurting me in more than one way. My joints are aching and I’m grouchier than I’ve ever been. In layman’s terms, I’m not myself. I really haven’t been since moving back east in fall 2010. Maybe I just need more time to acclimate. Every time I visit warm locations, however, I’m reminded that day-to-day life does not have to be a never-ending war with the seasons.

On the other hand, I could learn something else from Sedaris, who has worked every odd job imaginable and knows much more about character building than I ever will. He has lived in numerous locations, including North Carolina and ever so dark London (where he currently resides, no wonder he’s not into sunlight!), so if he can find success and peace in chilly places, I can certainly do the same. Next time I feel like griping about NYC weather for the umpteenth time, I’ll channel Sedaris and act as if the sun is not my friend. Because it really isn’t. As a pale redhead, I should know this by now!

David Sedaris is coming to Brooklyn…I can die happy now!

Every other blog entry, I complain about living in Brooklyn, but the borough has a lot more to offer than I initially thought. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” author David Sedaris, my favorite writer of all time, will be visiting Brooklyn in early May!

He’s hosting a reading and book signing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on May 8, just in time for summer. This will be the third time we meet, as I saw him in 2010 and 2007 during his book tour visits to the University of Arizona.

The first instance we chatted, I confessed that I hadn’t yet read his books but was coming to his reading to get a signed book for my older sister, a big fan of his.

“Don’t waste your time on my books,” Sedaris said to me. “You have better things to do.”

I considered his advice until he recited a chapter of his memoir, which had me doubled over on the ground in laughter. Really. Inside my sister’s paperback book, Sedaris wrote that I was enchanting, a compliment I’ll never forget. That night, I finished “Me Talk Pretty One Day” in a single sitting and decided that Sedaris had the exact career I wanted for myself: To write books of essays on goofy life experiences.

It seems Sedaris and I are meant to cross paths every two years. I first met him in 2007, so by our second encounter in 2010, I had already become a full-blown fan. Kendra and I were the first people to show up to his reading, and I sat in his chair until he arrived.

At Tucson's David Sedaris book signing in 2010

Waiting for Sedaris!

Kendra in his chair!

We were the first to have our books signed, and in honor of his latest book on talking animals, he said he would draw our animal of choice in our books.

“What kind of animal would you like?”

“A pig,” I said.

“You know what? I struggle with my pig drawing skills, so thank you for this opportunity,” he said.

As he sketched out the swine, I confessed I dreamed of emulating his career and thanked him for showing me exactly which path I wanted to take. This put him in an obvious state of discomfort, but he laughed and warned me of the awkward times that go hand-in-hand with memoir writing and documenting the behavior of others.

I covered this well in my 2010 entry about him, so here’s exactly what he told me back then:

“I wrote about this rude dermatologist and then my friend called him when the book came out. I was like, ‘FUCK! I don’t want him to see what I said about him!’ So you have to be prepared for that.”

And I will be. I hope. Perhaps he can further help me out with this when he gets to New York. I can’t get enough of his essays, so let’s hope he pushes out another book soon. I need more laughing material besides his essays, “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” and “That’s Amore.” Here are some of my favorite excerpts from those works:

Essay about David Sedaris’s crude hillbilly brother, Paul:

“‘The Rooster’ is what Paul calls himself when he’s feeling threatened. Asked how he came up with that name, he says only, ‘Certain motherfuckers think they can fuck with my shit, but you can’t kill the Rooster. You might can fuck him up sometimes, but, bitch, nobody kills the motherfucking Rooster. You know what I’m saying?’

It often seems that my brother and I were raised in two completely different households. He’s eleven years younger than I am, and by the time he reached high school, the rest of us had all left home. When I was young, we weren’t allowed to say ‘shut up,’ but by the time Paul reached his teens, it had become acceptable to shout, ‘Shut your motherfucking mouth.’

My mother was, for the most part, delighted with my brother and regarded him with the bemused curiosity of a brood hen discovering she has hatched a completely different species. ‘I think it was very nice of Paul to give me this vase,’ she once said, arranging a bouquet of wildflowers into the skull-shaped bong my brother had left on the dining-room table. ‘It’s nontraditional, but that’s the Rooster’s way. He’s a free spirit, and we’re lucky to have him.’”

Here’s a funny portion of the essay, “That’s Amore,” which is about Sedaris’s rude New York neighbor Helen:

“My only real constant was Helen, who would watch Hugh leave the building, and then cross the hall to lean on our doorbell. I would wake up, and just as I was belting my robe, the ringing would be replaced by a pounding, frantic and relentless, the way you might rail against a coffin lid if you’d accidentally been buried alive.

‘All right, all right.’

‘What were you, asleep?’ Helen would say as I opened the door. ‘I’ve been up since five.’
‘Well,’ I’d tell her, ‘I didn’t go to bed until three.’

‘I didn’t go to bed until 3.30.’

This was how it was with her: if you got 15 minutes of sleep, she got only 10. If you had a cold, she had a flu. If you’d dodged one bullet, she’d dodged five. Blindfolded.

After my mother’s funeral, I remember her greeting me with, ‘So what? My mother died when I was half your age.’

‘Gosh,’ I said. ‘Think of everything she missed.’

With the exception of my immediate family, no one could provoke me quite like Helen could. One perfectly aimed word, and within an instant I was eight years old and unable to control my temper. I often left her apartment swearing I’d never return. Once I slammed her door so hard, her clock fell off the wall, but still I went back -’crawled back,’ she would say – and apologised. It seemed wrong to yell at a grandmother, but more than that I found that I missed her, or at least missed someone I could so easily drop in on. The beauty of Helen was that she was always there, practically begging to be disturbed. Was that a friend, or had I chosen the wrong word? What was the name for this thing we had?

Helen fell in the tub and sprained her wrist. While she was laid up, I went to the store for her. Hugh took down her trash and delivered her mail. Joe, a widower now, offered to help as well. ‘Anything that needs doing around the house, you just let me know,’ he told her.

He meant that he’d change lightbulbs or run a mop across her floor, but Helen took it the wrong way and threw him out of her apartment. ‘He wants to see my twat,’ she told me.”

Nerdtastic! I miss those sandals :(

“It was purely accidental that I was born fluent in English”

Well, everybody, I had the pleasure of meeting nonfiction author/essayist/humor writer David Sedaris this evening, and it was quite inspiring.

As I’ve said a million times, I met Sedaris when he came to Tucson in 2007, so this wasn’t our first encounter, but it was most definitely our first meeting since I started reading his books. He’s the sole reason I’ve decided to pursue non-fiction and memoir writing, and I made that known during our talk tonight.

Kendra and I arrived at the Tucson Music Hall about an hour before Sedaris was set to give his reading. We were the first people at the door. Call it dorky, but imagine meeting your favorite celebrity or athletic figure. For the sports desk at the Wildcat, it would be like interviewing Shaq, something that a few of the sports writers have had the privilege of actually doing. It’s equivalent to talking to Shaq for the sports lovers and Brad Pitt/Megan Fox for the Perez Hilton addicts.

Anyway, Kendra and I purposefully sat in Sedaris’s signing area until he finally arrived. It actually caught us by surprise when he walked up.

I immediately jumped out of his seat, apologized, and he said, “Oh, that’s okay! Hold on, I’ll be right back!” and went to go chat with the UA Bookstores representatives for a second.

He came back, and I was the first person to get my book autographed.

He said, “So, I draw animals in every book I sign. What kind of animal would you like?”

Because I grew up drawing pigs, or rather, “Wet Porky” in my junior high school homework assignments, I told Sedaris to draw a pig for me. He said that he struggled the most with pigs, so he thanked me for letting him practice on my book.

I told him that I met him in 2007, when he came to the UA, and I went on and on for another thirty seconds about how he’s exactly what I want to be when I “grow up,” and I thanked him for putting out his works because they really inspired me to go forward with my nonfiction dreams and write about the weird people and things that I encounter in my life.

I can’t explain it, but I felt really comfortable around him, more so than any other celebrity that I’ve ever met. It probably has to do with the fact that he’s led such an unusual, bizarre, unconventional life. Those types are always the greatest to spend time with.

Anyway, I gave my speech and probably looked like the biggest dork ever, but he seemed pretty amused, and he thanked me for reading.

Then he went on to warn me about how awkward it is to write about real people and things that happen because these individuals end up reading the works later on down the road.

He specifically said, “I wrote about this rude dermatologist and then my friend called him when the book came out. I was like, ‘FUCK! I don’t want him to see what I said about him!’ So you have to be prepared for that.”

And I am…Or at least I think I am.

Sedaris also asked, “What do you do?” in such a way that didn’t seem like he was actually asking what my career was or anything…It came across like, “What do you do with your time?!” So, I said I was a writing and French student at the university in Tucson, and I once again thanked him for everything he’s ever written.

He asked Kendra the same thing! She said she was a pre-nursing major, and he was like, “Pre-Nursing? What’s that?” Weird!

It was a good thing Kendra and I got to the Music Hall as early as we did because the entire place was packed that night. I didn’t even bother going to his second signing at the end of the night, I’d still be waiting in that line.

I just have to say that this was one of the most inspiring events I’ve been to in a very long time, mostly because I would love to emulate Sedaris someday. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll at least try to get there.

My favorite thing about Sedaris is that he’s not arrogant, and it’s just so obvious. He must be self-involved to some extent, especially to be a memoirist, but it doesn’t show. He’s approachable, hilarious, human, talkative, interesting, and really down to earth. I’d like to think that his insane life story has contributed to his humble ways. He’s just been through so many weird experiences and met so many crazy people, he couldn’t be a snob. That’s my image of him, and it’s staying that way.

Plus, he mentioned that he’s very critical of his work. He won’t read reviews, and he said, “I’m not a fan of my own writing. I re-read one of my essays once, and it made me envious of those whose works are out of print.”

He said he recommends other books over his own, but he suggested we read When You Are Engulfed in Flames because most of the essays from that ended up in The New Yorker, and “The New Yorker only publishes good work.”

Unfortunately, Sedaris won’t be writing about his crude brother anymore because his brother, who calls himself “the rooster,” has a kid, and Sedaris doesn’t want the little girl to read crazy stories about her dad later in life. None of that would phase me, but that might make me a bad person. Both of my insane brothers each have two kids, and that’s not going to stop me from publishing our explosively funny family stories one day! Maybe that makes me a bad aunt.

Hopefully, I’ll get to meet Sedaris for a third time. God willing, we can actually have a legitimate, long conversation at that point, because I honestly feel like I could talk to him forever and ever and exchange unusual stories.