I saw David Sedaris read again last night. How many times now? Three come to mind easily. The time in DC, George Washington University. We didn’t have tickets. A rumor spread, more seating would open up, people should wait at the door. Susan and I got there first, the front of the line. Our friend Lloyd had the same idea. He showed up with a date. The four of us hung out for hours hoping to score tickets. They set up additional seats in an aisle ten rows from the stage. Among the best seats in the house. The show was a blast. I laughed so hard, I almost wet myself.
That time we saw him in Frederick, Maryland, after we moved to Gettysburg. I liked that one too, but not like the time at George Washington. No one forgets their first time, that’s how the saying goes, right? That first time was magical, no topping that. I saw him another time, too, I think. I can’t remember where. That night was flat. Either he was off his game or I was. I strained to hear. I hadn’t bought hearing aids yet. I don’t think I got my money’s worth.
Last night Susan, Eli and I went to the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg. I have no idea why an irreverent, gay author would come to my tiny conservative town, but he sold out the show. He read three new stories and a mess of diary entries. God, he can write. I enjoyed going with my teenage son. In an auditorium full of forty to seventy-year-olds, Eli stood out. He saw his government teacher there. “I think I’ll talk with him about it on Monday. Probably good for some extra points.”
A few weeks back, Alafair Burke, an author, came to speak at the library where I work. Cocktails, a book signing, a reading. Sort of a swanky event, we made some money on it and proved our value to our donors. I had to work. Susan and Eli came for the show. Walking out, Eli told me how much he loved it. I really like who my kids have become. As we wrapped up the night, with Alafair saying her goodbyes to a gushing staff, I said “Even my seventeen year old son loved it.”
“Wow, that’s a tough audience. Thanks for telling me that.” Maybe it’s not as tough as she thought. Did I mention that I like who my kids have become?
Last Christmas, Susan bought me a Master Class session with David Sedaris. Six hours online with Sedaris teaching hacks like me to become better writers. I’m not sure I got much out of it. He didn’t tell me anything new. “Just write,” he said. “Write every day.” A couple of years ago, I read his book “Theft by Finding.” Four hundred pages of diary entries from when he first started writing through the middle phase of his career so far. It was easy to track his growth as a writer. Early on, the book was a bunch of terse observations. By the end of the book, each entry as clever and thoughtful as his published essays.
Sedaris is the reason I became a writer. He showed me that I could draw from episodes in my life and write them into stories. I’ll never be as observant or wry as Sedaris, but I think I’ve become a clear and consistent writer, and I’m able to tell relatable stories.
When I published my first book, the local ‘arts council’ arranged a book-launch reading. A well-publicized event with the weight of a respected organization behind it, people packed the room, I read two stories and answered questions. What a rush. A few weeks later I tried to repeat the experience at an artsy bar. I wound up reading to my brother, Susan’s parents and one friend. I haven’t read in public since.
With last night’s show approaching, I’ve been thinking more about public reading. I recently told Sophie I’d like to produce a podcast of one of my essays. She thought that sounded like a cool idea. By chance a blogger I follow released a podcast and described the app she used to produce it. So here it is, the Other Stuff on Spotify, I read my story What’s a Bit. If you listen to it on Spotify, It includes a couple of related songs. If you don’t subscribe to Spotify, you get only me.
A blog is a ridiculous place to publicize this podcast. I already know everyone here is more likely to open a browser and read the story, but when I linked it on Facebook, I only heard crickets. I’d like someone to hear it. I made an earlier podcast, too, Dead Man in the Surf, but I recorded it on my phone (rather than using a microphone) and the clarity sucks. Plus Susan gave feedback that including an opening song without any introduction confused her.
Sedaris killed his reading last night. I loved all three of his stories. Each had a mature, comfortable pace and painted vivid pictures in my mind with prose. His diary entries had the whole place screaming with laughter. If you’re unfamiliar with David Sedaris’ writing, here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite stories: Dinah the Christmas Whore.