Thursday, November 17, 2011

"it's my job to write everything down, to take obsessive notes..."

As anyone with kids can attest, they are somehow magically their very neediest in the morning if you have a hang-over. Or morning sickness. It's like some kind of irritating prescience they have. At the point at which you are your weakest, your very own neediest, there they go with their pain-in-the-ass demands for attention and breakfast.

So it was this morning with Puppy. Normally he gets up, he eats, he does the business, he plays a smidge, we walk, then he curls up fast asleep and I write and stare and do my own morning stuff. This morning, because I was tired from being out on a school night to see David Sedaris in a packed house at the Marin Veterans Auditorium, Puppy didn't sleep even one wink. We went for a walk, we played, he bit the shit out of everything in sight. Finally, I had to bribe him into his crate with a peanut-butter smeared toy so I could have a moment's respite and peace, head in hands.

Admittedly, going to see someone read their stories on a school night does for most people a wild late-night make. But I remind me that we also had to go to Safeway afterward to pick up our respective breakfasts for today (since, typically, we were out of food). Adding that errand for cereal, milk, half and half and bread means I got to bed two hours past my bedtime. And completely amped and wound up at that, mind racing, replaying the sounds.

Because seeing Sedaris read was really and truly great. So inspiring. I didn't know what to expect, never having seen him read before, having only heard him on the radio or read his words at my leisure on the page. So when he strode out, papers in hand, blue keds on feet and opened his mouth, for a moment I was a little stunned by the sound of his voice. And then I started laughing.

And laughing.

I was happily aware of three things for the next two hours:1) that I was probably laughing too loud (and long and lingeringly and anticipatorily), 2) that, man, that Sedaris can put a story together, and 3) that damn, wouldn't he be just the kind of person I could hang out with forever?

He started with a story called, "I'm not running for President," written last summer. He also read, "Atta Boy," which I think I also read in The New Yorker. He read, "You're Trash. You're Trash. You're Family's Trash." He read entries from his diary, jokes he'd heard at book-signings, adventures in airports. There was more, but I can't remember it all right now, all blurred up as it is by the tears running down my face, their droplets all over the inside of my glasses. There were times I wished for Pause, Replay, because a sentence was so delightful. I wished for the lights to be on so I could scribble. But instead I just listened and laughed and laughed, swept up in the communal laughter of 300 or so people packing the house.

And only a little distracted by the woman sitting to our right who felt it necessary to explain exactly who Monica Lewinsky was to her 12-year-old daughter, right in the middle of the joke. Really, that can wait. Given the enormous cock also featured in that joke, and Lorena Bobbitt, and the knife, Monica’s the least of your issues.

Sedaris took a few questions at the end of his reading. My favorite thing he said was in response to a question about whether he ever exaggerated in his stories. He responded that the things he wrote were true even if people don't believe that they happened the way he said they did or that so-and-so said what's in the story. It's his job, he said, to be observant, to write everything down, to take obsessive notes on what happens every day. When you write every single day and you write down the crazy things that happen to you, that you overhear, that people say to you, well, there it is: who needs exaggeration? I’m paraphrasing, but that's what I took away. I mean, that’s what I wrote down, since that’s the precise point at which I started scribbling. I basically scribbled all night in my head, his reading just setting me off. It’s self-serving, really, to remember that part of what he said, but I selfishly need and want that reinforcement of my own tendency to scribble. For whatever it's worth.

Interesting that he chose to recommend a book about China as he was closing his remarks, interesting only because of the flack he got recently about what he’d written about China. People were unhappy with his descriptions, with what seemed to be a basic derision. Interesting.

I also loved something he read, a line in one of his diaries, about how what if the people we are at the airport is really who we are? That cracks me up so much.

I want to read and re-read everything he's ever written. His stories are so well-crafted, their arc so elegant. So much to learn there. And so much funny.

Wow, it was good to laugh last night, to listen to someone's brilliance in his own voice. Completely worth the pain-in-the-ass neediness this morning. Completely.


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