(Admin note: we’re ending with this post of Flanny’s because I’ve blathered on long enough this week, but: check back on Sunday for an Oscars comment party, and editor’s choice comment is all the comments in the book recommendation post, because they’re great and now I need to make a list.)
Because Wallflower asked and then six people upvoted her asking, and because we are evidently in a submission drought, I am submitting the story of the time I met David Sedaris. Well, one of the times I met David Sedaris. (That’s a David Sedaris reference.)
Picture it. Detroit suburbs, summer 2005. I was a year out of college and employed at Starbucks. The ink on my BA in creative writing is still fresh and sharp and not blurred and smudged from frustrated tears. And I was in the height of my love for the Sedarises. All of them, but mostly Amy. These were the days when I watched Strangers With Candy non-stop. I would buy magazines because she was featured in them. Let’s be real about this. I would right now kiss Amy Sedaris directly on the mouth. With tongue. When I met her, right around this time as well at a reading, I introduced my best friend Jessica to Amy as “my best friend.” And Amy said, “Best friend??!!? Gay gay gay gay gay gay gay.” Amy, yes, I love you! Let’s get married and raise rabbits and sheep together please! (My fave pic of David and Amy, via jerriblank.com, is below.)
This is supposed to be about David. I think that must have been the summer Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim was released in paperback, and I found out that he was doing a reading and a signing at the Borders on Woodward (RIP Borders on Woodward). Unless I’m mistaken, I’d seen him read early in the tour in my college town, but I was with a whole bunch of people who just wanted to get to the bar and the line was really long and I needed to go buy cigarettes because I smoked socially then (who was I?!?), so I didn’t meet him. But when I heard he was going to be even closer to home I decided to go see him.
Except his reading was on the same day that I was supposed to go to Cedar Point with the aforementioned best friend Jessica and her younger brothers! I was not about to not go to Cedar Point. Was I supposed to miss out on the Mine Ride for a book reading? No. So I decided that if we got back from Cedar Point in time, I’d head down to Borders.
(That is a photo of the actual Borders, which is also where I studied for my GRE that summer, which was money well-spent! JK! What a waste of time and energy and my just above minimum-wage earnings!)
If I remember correctly, it was a typical disgusting hot, muggy as shit Midwestern summer day. I don’t know how we got down to Cedar Point, enjoyed ourselves, and got back home in one day, but we did. I think I got back to my house at 6-ish, and David’s reading was starting at 7. Something like that. So I decided I was going to go, but Jessica was tired and didn’t want to. So I would go on my own! But first I needed to unsweatify and take a shower. This story is thrilling and I am not long-winded. I have an actual degree in creative writing, guys! I really do! I am very good at storytelling!
Anyway, when I got to the Borders (in my very very cool champagne-colored 2000 Buick Century with a tape deck), the reading was already going on and the place was packed. I ended up, I think, standing on the stairs but behind a column so I couldn’t even see David. But I didn’t care because I’d seen him before and I was there for the encounter.
I was also very tired, but I had all the time in the world. It was summer and I was young, so this time the line didn’t phase me. I had my copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day ready to sign, and I knew exactly what I was going to say to him. Me Talk Pretty is my favorite of his books and “Go Carolina”–his piece about speech class and how it was mostly effeminate boys, “The Future Homosexuals of America”–is my favorite of his pieces, because I too suffered through speech class. “Thecond grade thpeech clath” as my old brother’s friend Keith called it because hahaha I had a lisp and mocking children is great. Every Wednesday, I would get pulled out of class (I was actually in fifth grade and I didn’t say my Ss like THs, I just said them extra spitty, thanks), and the other unintelligible freaks and I would leave our private school building and cross over a busy street to the public school where there was a speech therapist on duty. Now that I think of it, that seems insane! What school sends four ten-year-olds across a busy street unattended? And nerds that we were, we never skipped. We walked right there and right back, never even considering stopping at the Hot ‘N Now for some fries! God, baby Flanny, you are so disappointing!
(That is not my actual Hot ‘N Now. My Hot ‘N Now was torn down and replaced by a Family Video long before Yelp, where this picture is from, was even imagined. And now probably that Family Video is on its last legs, if not gone as well. Say la vee. Paved paradise, etc.)
And I was not a very good speech student, because I didn’t do any of the exercises. I was too cool. So I believe that I still have that lisp, although now I have to point it out to people, usually while telling this story, and they’re like, “Oh yeaaaah, you do.” And when people don’t notice it, I get mad. Like, I went to speech class and ignored my teacher for nothing? My one bit of rebellion and the lisp went away on its own? Bullshit! Oh, it’s there. It’s there and I’m not going to try to get rid of it. Get used to it, suckers!
Besides a lisp and a strong moral center, what I also had during my time in speech class was a boyfriend. Steve. (Steve also has a really great but super uncommon last name, so while I would usually use his full name while telling the story in person, I’m going to just call him Steve.) Steve was also in speech class and what was extra adorable is that he couldn’t pronounce his Rs. I had a lisp and he couldn’t pronounce his Rs! His name was Steve and mine is (spoiler) Carol! We could not pronounce each others’ names and we met in speech class and were literally the sweetest damn things. Ssssteve and Cawol! Cute! (A year or so later, I would have Tinesha break up with him for me. I am a non-confrontational kind of girl.)
So back to David. As I stood in that very long line for what must have been hours, I was planning was I was going to say to him, and I said it. I said, “I love your work, but I have to tell you, while it might be true in your case, speech class isn’t necessarily The Future Homosexuals of America. Because I was in it and I’m not gay.”
And David was adorable and slightly flummoxed as he got his pen ready to write. He said, “Oh yes, I’m sure. I was just making a generalization.”
And I continued, “And, come to think of it, my boyfriend was in speech class too!”
David said, “Oh yes, sure! I mean, if he’s with you now, I’m sure he’s not gay.”
And I laughed and said, “Oh no, my boyfriend at the time. He was in speech class with me. We’re not together anymore.”
David seemed less confident at that point. He might have even said something like, “Well, who knows, then?” And suddenly I was struck with a memory. Of Steve and me walking over to speech class and it beginning to rain. And me complaining about it and Steve acting like a gentleman and offering me . . . his umbrella hat.
So I said to David, “Actually now that I think about it, he did have an umbrella hat.”
And David frowned and said, “Oh, that’s a really bad sign.”
Which is funny enough! But then we continued talking about other things (mostly Frappuccinos, if I’m honest), while he signed my book. Guys, he was very sweet and nice. He’d clearly been signing for ages and I was one of the last five people in line, but he still had this great conversation with me. When he handed me the book, he might have said something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, I’m not a very good speller,” but I didn’t really register it in the moment. And then when I returned to my car, heart still pounding from the proximity to greatness, I opened up the book and found this inscription.
Oh Steve. Sometimes I wonder if he was, indeed, a future homosexual of America. And if he wasn’t, I wonder if he thinks about his speech class girlfriend who couldn’t say his name. I wonder if I was too quick to have Tinesha break up with him for me. Maybe he was the one who got away. Maybe we’re soulmates. Maybe someday I’ll find out, when I invite him to my wedding to Amy Sedaris. Amy Sssedarisss.