Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First Time

Guest Blogger: Laura Bridgwater

When I heard last year that the Grammy-nominated humorist David Sedaris was speaking at the University of Denver, I called friends who share my Sedaria Hysteria. This was an opportunity to hear greatness—or at least laugh so hard that we considered wearing Depends.

The four of us brought our favorite Sedaris books—in my case, Me Talk Pretty One Day—to get autographs. I’d never asked for an autograph before. I was the 40 Year Old Autograph Virgin (this was a Mom’s Night Out—don’t we know how to party?)

Known for his unconventional book signings (apparently he knows how to have a good time, too), Mr. Sedaris drew a cartoon profile of Abraham Lincoln on the title page of each fan’s book. Next, he asked each fan a different question, and based on the answer, he attributed a comment to Honest Abe via a speech bubble. It was like an entertaining progressive story for those of us waiting in line and it went like this:

“Do you have any pets?” he asked. When the fan answered, “Yes, a turtle,” Sedaris wrote in Abe’s speech bubble, “Turtles make good pets.”

To the next fan in line, he asked, “What do you drive?” The woman said, “A Ford.” To which he wrote, “Fords sometimes run over turtles.”

Then it was my turn. Instead of drawing Lincoln on the title page, I asked him to scrawl his John Hancock on page 40 (his Lincoln wasn’t that good and I have to be different—but that’s another story). No problem, he said, but when he turned to page 40, he paused. Don’t tell the librarians or teachers, but I damage books--highlighting favorite parts, circling words, littering the margins with exclamation marks, stars, and shorthand that I frequently can’t decode upon a second reading. I’m harder on a book than a preschooler with a new pack of crayons and a fresh coloring sheet.

His eyes scanned the page and found where I had scribbled a question mark over his phrase “tongue-sized cutlets.” Now, I know what “tongue-sized cutlet” means, but when I had been reading I wanted to know why he decided to say tongue-sized. I was interested in his word choice. Eventually I figured out that he frequently uses food references to describe body parts. My favorite? The Vlassic-pickle nose on an old woman.

So the Master of Mockery, continuing the progressive story, wrote in my book, “Tongue-sized cutlets are super.” And then he stuck out his tongue. Way out. Like Rolling Stones out. And all I could think was, “My acupuncturist wouldn’t like the looks of that.” And with that, I was no longer an autograph virgin.

I recently bought tickets to another of Sedaris’ appearances. I’m reading his latest book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and paying close attention to what I underline on page 41, because I’m sure we’ll stand in line for his autograph again, and as much as I admire his writing, there are some parts of David Sedaris I don’t want to see.

Laura Bridgwater is a freelance writer and free-range reader. She won first place for humorous personal column writing in the 2008 National Federation of Press Women Communication Contest.

Do you have an author autograph story? Have you touched the sleeve of greatness or seen a body part that maybe you wished you hadn’t? If so, share your experience here. I'd love to hear about it.

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