(This passage is from an event I worked with David Sedaris in 2008. I was inspired to unearth it after completing the Blog entry above about recent events I worked with Sedaris and Colin Powell).
The author arrives almost directly from the airport and I take him to the table where he will sign books. It is nearly an hour before he will begin the reading but he prefers to connect with the audience in advance. One man remembers previous visits the author made to the bookstore when he circled the waiting crowd, shaking hands and talking to people, all of whom seemed awed and shocked by the generous attention they were given by the star of the show.
He is talking to people now as they come to his table with their books open. He first gets the person's name. Then he asks one or two stock questions, “Who did you come here with? How old are you? Do you have a job? Do you like owls?”
Undoubtedly even an oclophobe would tell the author, “Yes, owls are great.” The author is already sketching a specimen on the title page and saying, “You know, when we hear owls we hear hoo, hoo. But, what owls are really saying is…” And here the author draws a cartoon dialogue bubble beside the owl beak and writes as pens in, I like black people. “We just don't know how to understand owl,” he explains.
Or the author will ask if the person likes turtles. Of course he/she does. The author is already sketching a small smiling tortoise without yet knowing whether the person is chelonaphobic. He then draws a boxy building beside the turtle and says, “This turtle is happy because they just built an abortion clinic in the neighborhood. (He surrounds the building with some twiggy trees), In the
forest.” Sometimes he explains that this new abortion clinic offers bargain $3 abortions or that the turtle particularly appreciates the bland architecture of the building.
One of the most versatile sketches the author employs is the Lincoln's last words drawing. “Do you know what they were?” He asks the person while he begins sketching a chimney hat and bearded profile. In the cartoon dialogue bubble he then writes one of several famous last phrases: “Diabetes is for lovers,” for which, he explains Virginia had been angry at Lincoln for saying because they wanted “Virginia is for lovers” to be their catch phrase and so they shot him. Other times the story is that Lincoln turned to his wife and said, “Friendship is a cancer,” and was promptly shot. The author finishes off each drawing with a small speeding bullet a centimeter from Lincoln's head.
The author also gives gifts to teenagers and graduates or people who tell him it is their birthday. These presents are the shampoo bottles and sample soaps provided by his hotel the previous night. An Aveda rosemary conditioner goes to a man turning 53 that day and a small jar of bath salts to a
brunette woman who’d graduated from the university and looks confused when the author hands her the gift. A finger nail sized bottle of Tabasco goes to a hipster kid and a pack of cigarettes to a 16 year old who says he read the author's work in his High School English class. His 17 year old friend gets a chocolate flavored condom. “It is chocolate flavored so the person giving you the blow job can taste it,” the author explains to the kid, “and so that your dick can look like a black man's. But, if you use it with a girl be sure to do it anally because you don't want to take her virginity,” he cautions. The boys gingerly hold their gifts, laugh nervously and walk away.
On the small stage the author read a story from his new book, which he tells the audience he is already tired of. He is more excited about reading passages from his tour diary. These are small pieces about people and their bizarre ways, like the stewardess who tells him that humans scrunch up inside in the pressurized compartments of planes just like aluminum cans do. That's why we get so gassy, she explains. And so, she and her coworkers release this pressure by farting as they walk down the aisle, an activity they have coined, crop dusting. The author also reads a story in progress, confessing at some point that readings are workshops for his writing. The story is a character's list of annoying phrases like "I'll never forget the time . . ." The character and two neighbors are standing around the pool watching 4th of July fireworks when one guy looks down at the water and says "I'll never forget the time my daughter drown." The character is incredulous; "never say never, we all forget things, for instance, I forget my father is still alive." Another phrase the character cannot stand is, "blind people are human, too." He rants about the blind and says the 80 year-old woman who fell off her lawn mower tractor and chopped up her body and died in the hospital deserved it. Everyone chuckles and looks around.
Maybe the author knows the confusion of audiences and how they will laugh no matter how uncomfortable they are. Or maybe he is sick of everybody: all the people who come to the table to get their books signed and to tell him he is the funniest person alive and who ask things like, “How can we be more like you?” (Honestly, somebody asked this). He sees hundreds of people a day. He just keeps signing books and making off-the-wall comments and giving away little gifts. The first woman to the table after the reading is a blind woman with a guide dog. She tells him she liked his reading. Maybe it isn’t because he made fun of blind people, maybe he simply hasn't fully decompressed from being on stage, but for some reason, he doesn’t banter with her as long or as animatedly as with the others in line.
Airports . Ballard . Bangkok . Brasov . Cal Anderson Park . California . Canada . Chicago . Columbia City . Columbia River . Crete . Eastern Washington . Ethiopia . Germany . Greece . Green Lake . Hawaii . Home . Laos . Los Angeles . Maui . Myanmar . Nevada . Romania . Seattle . Seward Park . Texas . Thailand . Transylvania . Vashon Island . Washington . Wyoming .