Student Work

Gift Rocks and Snort-Laughs with David Sedaris

by Lark Abbott / Jan 31, 2017

Admittedly, I didn't have that much experience with David Sedaris. There was that one article in the New Yorker (shopping in Tokyo for the inexplicable clothing of Kapitol), and that was pretty much it.

But of course, when you're invited to hear a world-famous author read (with the distant but extremely important possibility of meeting him), you can't say no. So off I went, my rucksack slung over my shoulder, my parents waving their handkerchieves in the distance.

The plan was that I would meet David (Schmader, BFI’s Creative Director) and a few of my unspecified peers at the Broadway Performance Hall, but once I arrived it turned out that I was the only kid who hadn't been struck down with the plague-like flu going around/wasn't possibly dead in a ditch somewhere. (I like to think I handled this pretty well, keeping the number of awkwardly squeaky "Oh!"s to a minimum.)

But all my fears were confirmed when we entered the theater. Everyone was older than me, and I could tell that they all had prior David Sedaris experience. I could smell it on them. I had visions of glares, muttering, David Sedaris getting up on stage and pointing straight at me. 

And so I breathed a metaphorical sigh of relief as the lights went down. No one had so much as glanced at me. 

I don't tend to laugh very much during performances. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that my laugh is, shall we say, snorty. (I usually end up doing this weird silent convulsing thing that's unpleasant for everyone involved.)

But here's the thing - David Sedaris is funny. By about halfway through I was guffawing with the best of them. (Some highlights include: a quip about how being a fox is like being a gang member, the goose named Denise, and his shirt. It looked like your average plaid shirt when he stood behind the podium, but when he stepped away you saw that it was in fact two shirts held together with a belt made to look like duct tape. It fell well below his knees. I thought it was beautiful.)

By the time the lights went up, I was definitely a Sedaris fan and also slightly hysterical. 

I walked out of the theatre in my usual art-induced haze, trying to eloquently express how much I loved it. It came out more like "It was so good". 

My dad materialized out of the crowd and we went downstairs. 

"Can we?" I asked, nodding at the table where David Sedaris sat signing books.

"Do you want to?" he asked. 

I nodded so hard my neck nearly snapped.

But we had already hesitated too long. In the two or three minutes it had taken us to get from the theater to the bottom of the stairs, a line had already formed. 

We were the last ones. I think we stood in line for an hour, but maybe I just got bored. You can only bounce excitedly for so long.

As we got closer to the front of the line, I started getting nervous. And then it was just the bookstore employees and the two of us and David Sedaris. What was I doing here? Maybe I should just run while I had the chance. At least that would be memorable. 

"Hello," said David Sedaris. (David Sedaris!) All casual.

"Hello," I said. All casual.

He asked me some questions that I can now (after lo these many days) only vaguely remember. Nor can I remember my answers, which is probably for the best. 

"They're a writer," my dad said after a bit.

"Oh?" he asked. "What do you write?"

"Plays!" I blurted. "And, um, stories? Yeah, stories."

He asked if I put on any of my plays. I nodded and told him about how my sister and I have put on a couple.

I've forgotten exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of "You don't know how happy that makes me—my sisters and I used to do that."

So there it is, folks - I'm following in David Sedaris's footsteps. 

"How old did you say you were?" he then asked. 

"Thirteen," I replied. 

"Fifteen?"

"Thirteen."

"Thirteen?" he asked, somewhat incredulously. 

I nodded, being at this point pretty much used to it.

"I always have gifts for teenagers," he said, to my great excitement. He opened a box full of pins from Tokyo.

"Which one do you think?" I asked my dad, holding up a red one and a red-and-white striped one. 

"Take them both," David Sedaris said. 

"Okay," I agreed quickly, before he could change his mind.

I picked up my book and my pins and held them against my chest.

"Thank you," I said, somewhat breathlessly. 

"Thank you for waiting in line so long," he said. 

I sort of nodded and shook my head at the same time. My dad said something eloquent like "no problem". 

"Write on, my friend," he said, doing that rock-n-roll thing with his hands. "Write on!"

I nodded again and grinned like an idiot and we left. 

Outside, I shouted "I JUST MET DAVID SEDARIS!" over all of Capitol Hill.