April 30, 2007


This weekend Erik and I were treated to a wonderful evening watching the renowned humorists David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell read some of their material at the Arlington Theatre on State Street in Santa Barbara as part of UCSB's Arts & Lectures series.

I bought the tickets back in October, fearful that I would miss this chance to see them. I can't tell you how many times I've found out that one of them was in the L.A. area only to find out the tickets were long sold out. If I had only waited until the weekend after finding out about the show, Erik could have scored tickets at a student discount (or his, at least, saving me over $20), but I could not take that chance!!

Cut to over six months later. We started Saturday evening with a great heavy dinner of Indian food at the Taj Cafe, located just a few blocks down from the Arlington. The tandoori chicken and aloo matar was delish, and I should really be eating Indian food more often. Once I was able to extract my overstuffed-self from the tight confines of the restaurant booth, we ambled back up the street, stopped for a quick coffee, and made our way to the theatre.

I was perfectly content to stay sitting out near the fountain in the theatre's pleasant outdoor atrium, but Erik urged us inside, much to my fortune. We entered to find a couple of tables set up to the left, with hundreds of books piled equally atop one of them. Ah, they had Sedaris and Vowell books for sale that could then be signed. Yay! Also, curiously, they had two books that were not penned by the two authors of the evening: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, both written by Max Brooks. Once I had scouted the book availability, I made my way through the thickening crowd of people to where Erik stood waiting. He uttered something about them being right behind him, and I took that to mean that, yes, the powers that be had setup the tables for later book-signing right near us. But no. He meant that Mr. Sedaris and Ms. Vowell were standing right behind him, but of course I was too transfixed with the table itself to actually get what he was alluding to.

I got my bearings though, and through a clearing I spotted the two towering powers of the modern essay seated at the table. I was immediately starstruck and shared my observation with Erik, who modestly pointed out that, um, YEAH, that's what he was TALKING about! It took me a few minutes to get my heartrate slowed down to normal as I fought with myself internally about whether or not to get in line to get them to sign.

I realized I would hate myself, overcome with regret, had I not opted to get in that line, so I grabbed Erik by the arm, urging he accompany me into the line. The next ten minutes felt like forever as the line trudged slowly across the two tables while the two authors gabbed with their fans and signed their respective books (well, really, only one of them was doing any talking, but I'm making no judgments about that!).

Erik asked me if I had anything witty planned to say to either of them, and my answer came quickly: Absolutely not! I wouldn't deign to try my hand at being witty with these two. Not only would they eat me alive at any sign of a quip, but in person, they are both quite intimidating. Sarah is quiet and sullen and wears a permafrown, looking like she'd rather be anywhere but here. And David is, well David freakin' Sedaris! I imagine him sizing me up and ripping me apart behind those calm eyes.

So by the time it was my turn to hand Ms. Vowell the paperback copy of her latest book, Assassination Vacation, to sign, I could barely muster the pathetically-polite "Would you mind signing this for me?" She made no eye contact, took my book and answered, "Sure." Her even asking my name for addressing purposes seemed unreal, and the only thing I could do to not totally freak out was to try to get a handle on the second author, who was chatting with some executive-looking couple about the Four Seasons hotel they were staying at.

Erik later pointed out that once she finished scribbling her name on the title page, I appeared to have completely tuned her out. I don't remember it being like that. I remember being confused, worried - like everything was happening in a blur. Erik said he had to say "Thank you" for me, which made me feel like a complete tool as we sat waiting for the show to begin in the auditorium. But when that was all going down, I was just handing an extra copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day to David Sedaris. The David Sedaris. Oh. My. Gawd.

Right now, I can't remember how our brief conversation began, but it pretty much went as follows:

Me: Hi! Would you mind signing this?
David Sedaris: Not at all. What name?
Me: Julie
David Sedaris: J-u-l-i-e... and is that you?
Me: Yes.
David Sedaris: And who did you come with tonight?
Me: My boyfriend Erik.
David Sedaris: How long have you two been together?
Me: Two-and-a-half years.
David Sedaris: (gives me a bizarrely-wide, thoughtful grin, finishes signing)
Me: (notices the space between his two front teeth, wonders why he's smiling so big)
David Sedaris: Do you two live together?
Me: Very nearly.

I honestly don't remember what happened next. I'm sure he handed me back the book, and that I thanked him, and right next to us was the checkout register, where I paid by credit card, and inadvertently left one of the books on the desk. The girl at the register had to reach through the crowd to ask me if it was mine. i was clearly shaken by what had just transpired. I hadn't even had a chance to really eyeball what had been written in each book.

And now, I can't even remember when I first glanced at each signature - in that crowded pre-reading hall, or once we were sitting down. But I do remember how pleasantly surprised to read "To Julie - I'm so happy you're alive" penned by David Sedaris. What I do know is that I'm a complete wreck around any of my heroes, and thank goodness Erik was there to hang onto my arm and keep me level!

I don't think I have to say this, but the reading that came after the whole book-signing debacle (well, debacle for me) was WONDERFUL. They were both super funny. I can't wait until they both have new books of material out - though it remains to be seen how soon that will happen. Harrrrrumph.

posted by julie at April 30, 2007 08:03 PM