Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, June 20, 2004


I went to go see David Sedaris at Kepler’s an independent bookstore in Menlo Park today. He was having a reading and a signing for his new book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I decided to ride my bike to the Caltrain station and take the train there, since the bookstore is right near downtown Menlo Park and the train station. My plan was to ride all the way back after the event, but more on that later.

The event was due to start at 2:00PM, with doors opening at 1:15PM. Knowing full well that David Sedaris draws huge crowds at these events I decided to get there early. I took the 10:14AM train, which arrived in Menlo Park around 10:45AM. I parked my bike and walked over to the store, to see what the line was like. It was about 6-10 ultra-fans, and it looked like some of them slept there! I decided that I should grab a bite to eat before queuing up.

I wanted to go get food from Stacks, a pretty tasty breakfast restaurant chain that has a location across the street from the store. However it was a complete zoo, and I didn’t think it was even worth my while to try to get some food to go from there. Instead I went to the cafe which is adjacent to Kepler’s, which turned out to have a pretty decent, so I ate there. Evidently I got there just in time, since there was a line out the door by the time I finished eating.

After eating I went in to Kepler’s to buy a couple copies of the book. I also tried to get a copy of The Iliad, since I decided to read it again after seeing Troy yesterday (I last read it while I had a broken leg in May of 1990). I talked to a friend of mine and he recommended a particular translation. Long story short, they only had one copy of it, of a translation that I didn’t want and it was part of a box set along with The Odyssey. They are ordering a copy of the one I wanted though. I ended up also getting A Walk in in the Woods by Bill Bryson sort of randomly. I read the first bit of it last year, while waiting around to see the second Matrix Movie… but that’s another story.

Anyway, after getting the books I go into line. It was about 11:30AM at this time. I took the crap book I am reading out of my backpack and started reading, but it turns out that there was to be other entertainment. Right in front of me was a group of four girls who were all recent graduates from Los Altos High School. They were also insane David Sedaris groupies. They each had handmade t-shirts showing their love of the man. And they also had signs: “Will you adopt us?” and “Will you marry me?” I told them that the first was very unlikely, but that the second was probably impossible. They were forced to sadly agree with me. While we were waiting in line they made a shirt which they would give to him, which they wrote a haiku on. One of the girls said “the only other person I would make a shirt for is Kofi Anan, and I don’t think that will ever happen”.

Besides being obnoxious in their love for David Sedaris, they were obnoxious in the way that only recently graduated high school seniors could be. They gossiped a lot, about sort of amusing topics. One of them is working for her mom this summer, building a database of contract clauses or something bizarre like that. Another one is going to Africa and will subsist on bananas. Then they pulled out their copies of the new book and read aloud one of the essays, each of them reading a section. And a reporter from the San Mateo County Times came over and interviewed them. How could I possibly read when all this was going on? I barely did.

Eventually 1:15PM rolled around and they let us go in. Since I was the 35th person in line (I know this because they gave us tickets to be used for the signing line after the reading) I got what I thought was a good seat. Little did I know that there was a surprise waiting for me….

The 45 minutes until the reading went by pretty quickly. I was actually able to read some during this time. David was actually around during most of this time, both chatting to the bookstore people and also signing a few people’s books. When the reading began in earnest he read an essay from his new book about how he writes stories about his family, and the way they deal with it. He then also read a few excerpts from his diary. They were pretty amusing. It was during the reading that the surprise of my seat became apparent. The old woman sitting next to me kept falling asleep and leaning over into me. After the third time I asked her if she was ok. She quickly quipped that she was just leaning over to see the speaker. I gave up and decided to just deal with it. After the reading he told us all that we should go and read a book called Random Family which he saw on a shelf and told us that he loved. It sounds fairly interesting.

After that he took a few questions. The first one asked about the movie option which was discussed in the essay he read. It turns out that he decided it as a bad deal and got out of it after writing the essay. He also told us that he never wanted to write a movie until he saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead. It turns out that he loves zombie movies, but he is pissed off that people always act so stupid in them. “Zombies basically have no brains, it should be easy to outsmart them”. He also told us about Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, who is he son of Mel Brooks. It sounds pretty amusing.

Finally it came time for the signing. David did something really funny. He said that anyone who was a smoker, and could produce their cigarettes would get to the front of the line. “Smokers don’t live as long, so time is more valuable to us”. I was amused by this, but it meant that I would have to wait for more than 34 other people before getting my book signed.

Narcolepsy lady quickly left after the reading and questions, and I was fine with that. After she left the three women behind me asked me if my arm was OK from her falling over on to it again and again. I told them it was fine. They complemented me on my graceful way of dealing with the situation, and laughed at how she snapped at me. I told them that I really didn’t know any other way to deal with it besides just sitting there, which they appreciated. They were actually just behind me in the ticket line, so I also chatted with them a bit while standing in line. I tried to convince one of them just to pop over to the side and take a picture, even if David Sedaris doesn’t really like to have his picture taken. Eventually she did end up taking the picture, while he was talking to the teenage superfans.

That might be the highlight of the day actually, because he tried to convince them that this should be the summer that they start smoking. Them all being rich Los Altos kids, the were all going to be traveling abroad this summer, and he convinced them that since it was so easy to buy cigarettes in other countries they would be foolish not to. He also told them that they should put themselves on a regimen, and that the first pack would be the hardest to get through, but it would be all downhill after that. It was brilliantly funny.

When I went up we chatted a bit about the fact that there are lots of software engineers in this area, which I said wasn’t necessarily a good thing, despite being one myself. We also talked about the weather in Chicago during the summer, and we agreed that it was much better here. “I love being able to wear a coat in the summer.” was the last thing he said to me before I thanked him for his time and left.

After the event I took the long bike ride home. I am not exactly sure how far it was, somewhere around 18 miles probably, although I ended up taking a pretty stupid route. It was a pretty good ride, but my backpack, with 4 books in it, got sort of annoying. It also helped turn my back into a giant ball of sweat. I stopped at a 7-11 when I was almost home and grabbed some Gatorade, which I drained in about 12 seconds upon arriving home. I then quickly hopped in to the shower and eventually wrote up this story!

posted by neil at 9:42 pm
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