When I heard David Sedaris would be giving a book reading at the Borders a few miles from my apartment, I was ecstatic. Some people get their kicks taking body shots in dive bars on Friday nights; I pant at the thought of seeing a favorite writer in the flesh. And who better than Sedaris?
I had seen him once before in 2003 when I was in college and he stopped in Santa Barbara to give a reading and signing in the theater on our campus. The stories he chose made the audience roar with laughter, and though myriad signs were posted demanding there be "No Photography" in the darkened theater, I was "that girl" in the 8th row who forgot to turn the flash off when I snapped my picture. (Yes, I was a rebel in my heyday.)
After the reading I got in line to meet him. I'd been practicing in the bathroom mirror what I'd say when I was face-to-face with this literary master. I thought perhaps we'd briefly discuss the merits of the New Yorker, or his research tactics for his stories. Instead my mind went blank when I approached his table. "I'm, uh, like, your biggest fan," I managed to stutter, turning bright red at my idiotic statement. He laughed, though, and told me he'd be more than happy to sign my books. He asked my name, and after telling him "Crystal", he signed my first book with "Ha ha, You have a slutty name". I giggled like a school girl. The man can seriously do no wrong. Then he asked what I wanted to do with my life, and I told him I wanted to write books. So he signed my second book with "Crystal, I look forward to reading YOUR book. ~ Dave."
I know, it's kismet, right? There's a picture of me in the throes of ecstasy afterward outside of the theater, holding the two books and looking like I just won the lottery. Flash forward to last Friday, and you can see why I was so amped to see him again 5 years later, especially with where I was in my writing career. Love couldn't come as he needed to work on a project, so I went by myself, bringing my copy of his latest book to get signed. I was prepared for a thrilling night where much hilarity would ensue. Well, let's just say the night fell somewhat short of my expectations.
I showed up an hour early to try and get a seat, but by the time I arrived there were none left. I quickly found myself standing in a sea of mustached women with frizzy hair and names like "Mary-Kelly". Most of them, tired of standing for more than 5 minutes though they could have used the workout, sat cross-legged around me on the thin industrial carpeting, as if waiting to see the second-coming of Lilith Fair. One woman on the floor in front of me even had the audacity to wear these in public:
Oh she seemed quite proud of herself that she was sporting the latest in amphibious footwear while those around her still wore their faded Tevas.
Because the event took place on the second level of the Borders, it began getting hot and muggy in the crowd of at least 100, crammed between Yogi Berra coffeetable books and camping manuals. I began to grow irritated with the group I had chosen to spend my Friday night with. Not only did they smell like BO and dress like extras on Roseanne (I can forgive both these points), they had bad, loud attitudes. I could hear them snapping at one another about cutters in line and views being obstructed from their pow-wow on the floor. They nitpicked about this or that, only cordial with those they came with. I tried to make friendly conversation with a couple sitting near me but was treated like I had landed from another planet. Unnecessary hostility toward strangers never fails to make my blood boil. They were so different from the crowd I was a part of when I first saw Sedaris. The longer I stood there, the more annoyed I got. They reeked of everything I despised about Virginia but never fully realized until that night.
When I lived in California and used to imagine people from Virginia, I would think of Elizabeth Taylor in "Giant" -- all class and kindness, with an interest in social politics and penchant for horseback riding. That misconception quickly dissipated upon my arrival in the state with my various run-ins over parking spaces and spots in line at my local grocery store, and further eroded at the Sedaris reading last Friday. Prior to Sedaris' entrance, I was treated to a buffet of high-class manners, fashion and etiquette by Virginia's finest.
Then I began to wonder...what if it's not Virginia at all? What if these people are just his fanbase? That they're like this all across the country and it was a mere coincidence they happened to be different that night in 2003? Then a pang of fear shot through me. Was I just another one of them, convoluted in my notions that I was different? This last thought struck me after a girl/woman with thick glasses and offensive bushy eyebrows begging to be plucked kept turning around and sneering at me in capris made from what looked like floral motel curtains.
You know the saying "You are what you eat"? Well I also think you are what you read. But I came to the conclusion right then and there that though I'm a "Sedaris fan" (whatever that may be), I'm not a.) pretentious, b.) emo, c.) impolite, or d.) dowdy. In fact, I was so turned off I left right after the reading without getting my book signed.
Yes, I was sad about the whole affair until I started my car and put my foot to the pedal. Suddenly aware that I wasn't the one wearing the ridiculous "FiveFinger" footwear, I drove off, happy again.
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