Over the weekend, I made the seven-hour drive to Portland, Oregon, for a David Sedaris reading at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. David Sedaris is my biggest inspiration and in the days leading up to the event, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning.
As an author myself and a lifelong book nerd, it’s surprising even to me that this was the first author reading I’ve ever attended. When David stepped onto the stage, my heart fluttered like it used to when I saw my favorite bands in concert in my college days.
David already inspired me through his writings, but as he walked off the stage at the end of the evening, I took a moment to absorb the charismatic, genuine, and seemingly fulfilled writer that had just made more of an impression on me than I ever expected. I rushed out to the lobby with my copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day, my favorite Sedaris work to date, willing to wait in line as long as necessary to get my book signed.
David amazed me by taking the time to have a real conversation with every single person who approached him at the signing. I’d been able to hear some of the conversations of those directly in front of me in line, and as I waited my turn, I daydreamed about what we would talk about. Some people told him they were writers and wanted to talk about reaching out to him when they become famous one day. I decided early on I would avoid such a conversation; I wanted to truly talk with him, not to him, and I didn’t want to look like I’d come to his reading to push my own agenda about wanting to be a well-known author one day. After all, I’m sure he hears this all the time.
As David was signing books, he was also eating his dinner—a plate of snazzy-looking food presumably provided by the hotel next to the concert hall. As the woman in front of me—one of those up-and-coming authors excitedly discussing her aspirations—was getting her book signed, David actually offered her some of the bread on his plate. There were three or four slices of bread, and the woman awkwardly declined, stating, “Oh no, I don’t want to take your dinner from you.” David responded by ensuring her he didn’t even want his bread, and he was hoping to get rid of it. The woman thanked him kindly but still refused the bread.
After 45 minutes in line, it was finally my turn to step up to the table. Next to the signing table was an empty table where, earlier in the night, an organization had been set up seeking potential blood marrow donors. David began our conversation by mentioning how quickly they ran out of forms after the show, and voila—our discussion was centered on transplantation.
But, of course, David knows how to keep things interesting. What started off with a comment about bone marrow donation quickly turned into his fascination with the fact that the first penis transplant was recently performed. David doodled a random picture in each person’s book, so as he spoke excitedly about what penis transplantation means for men born severely less endowed, he drew a bloody ax on the Me Talk Pretty One Day cover page.
After he finished his doodle and added his signature to the page, he asked if I wanted some of his bread. Playing it cool, I responded, “Well, I did overhear you were trying to get rid of it…” He urged me to take a slice and I tried not to seem too eager as he motioned to the plate. I did take some bread, though not because I was especially in the mood for it. I was certain that eating David Sedaris’s bread would make me inherit his magical powers. After David closed my book and pushed it toward me across the table, I thanked him as well as I could without squealing and toddled off to the exit with the bread cradled in my hands like it was a Faberge egg that needed protecting.
I walked back to the hotel with my mom and my best friend, who had accompanied me to Portland but not to the reading. We sat in the hotel bar while I recounted my evening, all the while nibbling on the bread (which was delicious, by the way) until every last crumb was gone.
It’s silly, of course, to say that I ate David Sedaris’s bread for good luck. I know that wherever my writing takes me, it is because of my hard work and dedication and not because of a piece of food David Sedaris didn’t feel like eating. He had inspired me long before I drove 400 miles to see him, and long before he drew a bloody ax in my book, and long before I snatched a piece of bread from of his plate. At the reading, David told a story about being 33 years old and wondering how he was going to go about becoming famous. At 29 years old, I wonder the same thing, but I’ve learned—and still learn—a lot from writers like him. And even if 20 years from now I find myself sitting on the other side of that table, offering my food to my fans and talking about penis transplants, these authors will continue to inspire me.
Have you ever traveled a long distance for an author’s reading? If so, what drew you to that particular author that made it worth traveling so far?