Today my friend Marla and I went on a writer’s pilgrimage to see David Sedaris in Tulsa at an event put on by Magic City Books. I can’t tell you how much fun I had. I mean, I really can’t. I’ve been sitting here trying, but it’s not working, probably because I only slept five hours last night, just got back from Tulsa an hour ago, and my brain is mush. But I’ll keep trying.
I woke up at noon today and had about an hour to get ready. Even though I knew the event would be outside and that it would be warm, I decided to wear jeans instead of shorts because I thought they looked cuter, and you never know when you’re going to meet Mr. Right or when David Sedaris will be so impressed with your pants that he’ll invite you to join him and his boyfriend for dinner. But thinking that I’d definitely sweat in the jeans, I slathered some of Dad’s Gold Bond Lotion all around my private parts. After I did, I thought, There’s probably a reason that stuff is in a green bottle, which is about the time my balls woke up. At first the eucalyptus just felt like a cool breeze on a spring morning, but then things stepped up a notch, and it felt like I’d used a peppermint suppository.
Marla and I got to Tulsa early, so we grabbed a great parking spot and walked a few blocks for lunch. Along the way we found two pink unicorns painted on a set of double doors, so we stopped and took a picture. I still I have no idea what was on the other side of those doors, but I can only imagine it was fabulous.
I broke all my food rules today. It felt great. For lunch I had a sandwich with white bread, creamy soup, and coffee with Irish Creme, immediately followed by a cookies-and-cream donut so big that it’s really a wonder I didn’t instantly become a diabetic. I even licked the bag it came in. Then Marla and I set up our chairs on the lawn where David was supposed to speak and went to a bar that I knew about because a guy once stood me up there on a night I had two tires blow out. (I was not impressed.)
The bar itself was really cool, and while Marla and I waited, I had two beers. Then we went back to the lawn to wait for David. Because my bladder is an overachiever, I had to pee for the second time in fifteen minutes, so I ended up buying a cup of coffee at a coffee shop because only paying customers could get the restroom code. Peeing is a patron’s privilege, apparently. (Say that five times fast.)
For the presentation, David spoke for forty-five minutes, mostly reading from his diary entries, many of which are in his new book, Theft by Finding. One of the stories he told was about a friend who–upon seeing a complete stranger on his or her cellphone–would often walk up beside them and say loudly, “Come back to bed, I’m freezing.”
When the talk was over, David moved across the street to an art gallery to sign books, and a long line began to form. Marla and I had pre-purchased books, which allowed us a spot in “Group A,” but we were still at the back of that section because–once again–I had to use the restroom. (To the guy whose kid’s asshole absolutely exploded in his pants, my heart goes out to you for all the hard work you did cleaning him up. In the future–for chafing–your son may benefit from Gold Bond Lotion, but I don’t recommend the kind in the green bottle.)
One thing I love about David Sedaris is that he takes a lot of time with his fans and doesn’t rush them off. It makes for a long wait–Marla and I waited over two hours–but I think it’s well worth it. Hell, at one point we saw a middle-aged woman sporting a sash that said, “Miss Emollient–Dark as a Turd.” Where else does that happen? I still don’t get it, so I assume she was seeking attention. But who isn’t these days? Anyway, the line snaked around once it got inside, so as Marla and I neared the autograph table, I was right next to this guy who had a PBS shirt on that said, “Be More.” (No pressure, right?) Honestly, it took everything in me to not say, “I’m doing the best I can, damn it!”
At the autograph table, David signed Marla’s book, “To Marla–You make me want to live again.” With others he drew cartoons–an ax with blood on it, something resembling a shovel. I have another signed book of his in which he drew an airplane–a crop duster, it says–a reference to a joke he’d made that night about a particular variety of farts. This is something I love about David, the fact that after all this time he’s still having fun, finding a way to make each person in line feel special.
I got to spend a few minutes with David and ask him a question about a statement in one of his books, as well as a couple of things he said in his talk tonight. I’ve been trying all evening to decide how much to say about it, since even though he’s probably already forgotten the conversation, it feels special to me and I’ll probably be processing it for a while. In short, David said that he doesn’t like to talk about his feelings, but instead likes to talk and write about experiences and opinions.
Fresh off three years of therapy (and writing a blog about it every night lately), not talking about my feelings feels foreign to me, so I almost said, “Oh my god, I know a good therapist.” But then I figured he probably knows one too and has a good reason for not talking about his feelings, especially to total strangers. Like, if I’d said, “WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS, DAVID?” it probably would have sounded like, “Be More,” and he could have easily responded, “I’m doing the best I can, damn it.”
Thinking about it now, what I love about David’s answer is that it seemed vulnerable and honest, which is pretty remarkable considering the fact that he’d just met me (again for the first time). So I just looked him in the eye, smiled, and said, “Thank you,” and Marla and I walked out. I was so thrilled about getting to spend even a few moments with one of my writing heroes that I accidentally stepped on a stranger’s foot. (Sorry, lady.)
When we got outside, Marla made a joke, and I said, “What’s that?” and she said, “It’s what he wrote in your book.” So I opened the book, and there it was–“To Marcus, Come back to bed, I’m freezing.”
There was a lady working the event tonight whom I overheard a couple of times anxiously telling people in the line, “It’s a long wait, but it’s worth it.” When we got close to the table, she said, “See if you can’t hurry.” Well, we didn’t, and I can only assume that she felt pressured, maybe sensing that some people in the line were upset by the holdup. But I didn’t sense any of that from David. Marla told me that he’s been known to spend nine hours signing books. Personally, I wasn’t upset about waiting, and if I had been, I simply would have left. (My therapist says leaving is always an option.)
It all makes me wonder if David’s so patient because he waited so long to be published. Maybe it’s because he’s doing something he really loves and that makes it easier to go above and beyond with people you don’t even know. Either way, it encourages me to be more patient with what may come in my life, to not put so much pressure on myself or anyone else by thinking, Be More, Be More–Talk about your feelings! Rather, I can remember that I’m doing the best I can, damn it. In fact, we’re all doing the best we can. Especially that guy whose kid shit everywhere.
Realizing this, I think, is like having a lover come back to bed. Suddenly there’s no need to rush, the world feels safer than it did before, and if ever so slowly, that which was freezing begins to warm.
Quotes from CoCo
"All great heroes, at some point, surrender to the unknown."