I wonder what it would be like to stand behind a podium knowing that everybody in front of you paid at least $30 to hear the things floating around in your head. I got to the Overture Center about 40 minutes before the show started. There was already a line for book signing. And there was a line for refreshments. By refreshments they meant cocktails. Faced with the two options, I wavered for only a moment before deciding to get in line for the book signing. Unfortunately, some guy wearing earbuds and diligently updating his facebook on his iphone told us he needed to limit the pre-show signing, but they would return after and David would be there as long as it took. So, I abandoned that line and wandered over by the elevator to get to my seat.
Soon enough, I was in my seat, marveling at my view. If I had been there to see a performance, it wouldn’t have been great, but I was just there to watch a guy read. The novelty was the fact that I now had a face and body connected to the voice I had heard while listening to his audiobooks. I had a silly grin for the first piece, I Will Not Be Running for President, for that fact alone. Of course, it was wry and clever the way most of his pieces are, but the fact was that I was there. I was in the same room (if you can call that a room) as this man. The idea of celebrity is a funny thing. I never really think about it, because I’m never interacting with celebrities.
I was in this room with the same man who had changed the way I thought about writing. Prior to reading his work, I hadn’t had any real desire to look into memoir or personal narratives. Granted, he doesn’t write memoir, he writes essays, but the concept is still the same. He made me realize that all the journals I had been writing in since fifth grade could actually amount to something. I spent years thinking I had to write either fiction or poetry. Since I don’t do poetry, I was limited to fiction. And most of my fiction closely resembled my life, which felt like cheating. I realized I sort of adored him for that – for making me realize there was potential in the thing I felt most driven to do. By the same token, I resented myself just a little for not having realized it on my own accord. So, while I love what he does, I love the the ways in which I have changed since reading his work.
I wonder if this is what other people say when they meet celebrities. I’m trying to imagine now, what it would be like to meet a movie star. I don’t feel compelled to make a connection to someone in a movie. Sure, I think Patrick Dempsey is good looking, but what would I ask him? What would I want to know about him? And while Kristin Davis plays my favorite character on Sex and the City, I don’t want to meet her. I might get a kick out of seeing them at the grocery store, but other than that, what would possibly come from that?
I stepped out a few moments before the show was done so I could get in line for the book signing. I bought Holidays on Ice (which I haven’t read. I’ve only heard “Santaland Diaries” on This American Life). I was the fifth person in line. When I saw him crossing the lobby to the table, I realized this was both good and bad. Good because it meant I would get home before midnight. Bad because I still hadn’t really given any thought to what I was planning on saying to him. I remembered that he likes to collect jokes from people, but I couldn’t think of anything other than bad orchestra jokes. (How do you get a cello section to play fortissimo? Tell them to play pianissimo espressivo. What’s the difference between a viola and a violin? A violin burns faster.) So I went with the first thing that came to my mind.
I handed him the book, and as he signed, I said, “I don’t have any jokes for you, but I do have something to show you.” I clasped my hands together and pressed the thumbs side by side. “I have two thumbs that are completely different.”
At that point, he looked up from the page. “Oh my gosh! You do! They’re completely different! How did that happened?”
“This one is my dad’s, and this one is my mom’s.” I wiggled each thumb accordingly.
To my delight, he pulled out his pocket notebook and wrote “Ashley 2 thumbs”.
The goal was to get David Sedaris to remember me. I doubt it will amount to anything, but maybe he’ll flip through it on a flight and say, “Oh yeah. That girl with the funny thumbs.”