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Elephant In The Room

IMG_4095.jpg    Towards the end of 2016, I got to see David Sedaris read some of his essays in Oakland. I assume that everyone reading this knows who he is, but if you don’t, let’s just say that he does what I do, but infinitely better and gets paid lots of money to do it. This isn’t a cue for you to stop reading and Google “David Sedaris.”

David Sedaris

     So, anyway, I knew that after his readings, David likes to meet his audience and get to know his adoring fans—for better or worse. I also know that he lives in England, which I thought was a massive “in” for me to have more than a minute to try and charm his socks off. Then I would give him a copy of my book of essays, which of course he would love, and then the following week he would write me a letter, because, what, you think he’s going to send me an email or send me an invitation to be on Snapchat? No. David Sedaris would write me a letter.

     I would be invited to the next show as a V.I.P. and we’d go for dinner and a midnight movie, after which we’d laugh and make fun of the movie and then volley sarcastic comments back and forth about the guy manning the concession stand. David Sedaris and I would become best friends and hang out all the time.

     His boyfriend Hugh would be jealous, but not really, because even though David Sedaris and I really like each other, it’s just not THAT kind of a relationship.

     I imagined us in a situation: a mix up over tickets at an airport or something, and neither of us making a big deal about it because we didn’t want the other to know that we had already started writing the story in our head. We would go to a restaurant and a disheveled waiter would approach our table and butcher the dinner specials, mispronouncing every word that he had just read off of the board, as if he was relaying them from a series of foreign language translations that eventually made its way to English. I would look at David and say, “It’s okay, I’ll let you have this one.”

     I’d tell him how an editor at Harper Collins once said that my writing reminded her a lot of his and then watch as he tried to contain his laughter while slowly shaking his head. I would become irritated, but he’d be right, and I would always be fearful that he would throw the “at least I didn’t have to self-publish my stories” line at me.

      So coming back to the day of the show. It was four days after the Presidential Election and held at The Scottish Rites building by Lake Merritt in Oakland. It was the same day that thousands of people gathered to hold hands around the lake in a beautiful demonstration of hope and resistance amid the desperation that gripped every sensitive, intelligent, and caring human being. And the fact that we all had to walk past this massive event was the elephant in the room when David Sedaris walked onto the stage.


      David was shorter than I imagined and wore colorful culottes, that at first glance I mistook for a skirt. The elephant was still in the room though. He finished reading his first essay, and as the audience laughter started to die down he said, “I’m sorry, but holding hands around a lake? That’s why people make fun of liberals. I mean, at least push Republicans in the lake.” Which he later apologized for and said that if anyone should be pushed into Lake Merritt, it should be the people that didn’t vote. Which I think was generous of him.

     Two observations about him: He spoke for an hour and 40 minutes and I don’t recall him flubbing a thing. Secondly, as he was reading, he would pull a pen from his shirt pocket and edit as he went. If you have ever read in front of a large group of strangers, you will know how difficult this is.

     Now, I’d love to tell you that I met him, gave him my book, and thoroughly charmed him, but the morning of the show I woke up with such a rotten cold that I thought about getting rid of my ticket. I didn’t want to be that guy sneezing and sniffling for two hours, ruining the show. So I took a lot of cold meds and just about made it without a sneeze. I got out as quickly as possible. I figured I’d get to meet him another time.

      Anyway, in my mind, this essay of how I contrived to make sure that David Sedaris didn’t catch a cold, would be his favorite story of mine.