“I am so happy you’re alive”

October 25, 2010

in therapy in session,through the looking glass

The most exciting, most surreal, yet most unnerving, and embarrassing part of the evening with David Sedaris (yeah this totally sounds like I spent some intimate hours with him, doesn’t it? THIS is why I have a blog: so I can alter reality with the power of my words) came when, more than half way through the book reading, he said that he often would get 10 copies of his books in a foreign language and would keep a copy while giving the rest away. “I just got this book today. It is in…” Chinese. Please let it be Chinese! I thought hard. My fists tightened. “… Chinese. So if anybody here who can speak Chinese, please come to the book signing table after this, just come to the front of the line and I will give the book to you.”

Oh my god! I cannot believe this is happening! oh my god oh my god oh my god!

“Me!” My heart pounding, my head spinning, I forgot I was in the middle of a jam-packed auditorium, I shot up, yelling, my right hand outstretched. Fortunately, the theatre was darkened. As fast as I stood up and made a fool of myself, I sank back down in my seat again. Fortunately I was surrounded by  the enlightened, liberal type so I only detected smiles and shared joy from my seatmates.

When the show was over, I stood up and immediately was crushed: the crowd swarmed the exits and there was simply no way for me to make a quick getaway. I decided to resign myself to the inevitable fate: I would be late to the table and the book would have been claimed, for shirley I cannot be the only Chinese person in the whole theatre…? If I give up hope now, it will save me from some debilitating disappointment. When things are too good to be true, you know it is too good to be true…

When I finally inched my way to the lobby, I got into a line that was surprisingly short. When I congratulated myself for the relatively short line, the lady in front of me kindly informed me that the line was for purchasing the books. I fought the crowd that were leaving the theatre to the other side of the lobby and saw a line that snaked along the corridor all the way back into the auditorium. As I accepted my fate and walked towards the end which I could not even see, something clicked. I did an about-face and marched to the front of the lobby where the table was.

“Excuse me, sir.” I said to the man that was at the very front manning the line. “During the book signing, he said he had a book in Chinese to give out and if anybody speaks Chinese, they should come to the table and ask for it.” I was so relieved when he did not dismiss me as an opportunistic nutjob and instead referred me to a lady who seemed to be in charge of the event. I repeated my line and she said, “Oh yes! Let’s see. We need to talk to his, ugh, his…” And she ushered me to the table as Mr. Sedaris was sitting down at the table.

I wish I could tell you that we had a sincilating scintillating conversation. Or that we hugged. Or that I took millions of pictures of him with his arm around me. (“Absolutely no photography allowed.” Several signs were strategically posted around the theatre, with one right by the table). Or that I licked him for the gals (after all, there was NO sign that said “Absolutely NO licking allowed!”)

Everything happened so quickly that I had no time to mentally prepare myself (and yes I knew I would meet him at book singing but I was expecting to psyche myself up when I was waiting in line! And no, I am not complaining about being able to skip ahead hours of waiting…) I was simply tongue-tied and brain-dead.

“So you speak Chinese?” He cocked his eyebrow. *melting*

“I can actually read this book. You see the two words literally means ‘Fire’ and ‘Flame’. And this is in traditional Chinese which means the book is from Taiwan and that’s where I came from!” I rattled off. He did not seem impressed or interested actually.

“I’ll give you this book and I can sign it for you. What’s your name?”

“Lin. L-I-N.”

“So Lin. What are you doing here?”

HUH? Is this a trick question? Should I say “I am here for your book reading?”

“Uh. I… live here?”

Certain that this answer was not enough, I added in rapid succession, “I came in 1993 and got my Ph.D. in theatre, got married and I’ve never left since.”

UGH. WHY did you tell him this? What the fuck does he care about this?! You are such an idiot!

“Is this book for you too? And it is Lin, L-I-N?” He asked as I handed him my copy of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. I nodded and idiotically pointed to myself.

I had an out of body experience right then and there observing and criticizing myself and yet there was nothing the out-of-body me could do to change the course.

“So, Lin, what are you doing here?”

I want to die. Ok, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic. I want to cry. I have no idea what he means by this question. Is it philosophical? Existential? Is he asking me about the meaning of life?

“What are you doing here?” He asked again.

“I came, I got married, I had kids, I never left. And now I am in suburban hell.” I said, barely able to catch my breath.

THAT. is my best shot. W.T.F, Self?!

Now I want to die.

“Well, it’s very nice meeting you!” He extended his hand and I shook it. After that there was nothing else I could do but leave, trying to ignore the murderous daggers shot from the long line of people waiting to be up close and personal to brilliance.

I walked out of the theatre and I began to cry.

.

.

I know this is what you are thinking right now... I am sorry, ok?!

.

On the way home I could not concentrate on driving at all. I kept replaying everything in my head (Yeah, like you haven’t heard that before…) obsessively going through every tiny detail in my less than one minute of face-to-face with David Sedaris.

It felt as though I was given the chance of a life time and I blew it.  <— Yes, I am a drama queen. The Court Jester in the Kingdom of Hyperbole. The rational side of me could see this perfectly. Now.

I wanted to kick myself but of course I couldn’t because I was driving, speeding away in the darkened highway besieged by sudden torrential rain.

What are you doing here? What does he mean by that? And why did he ask me the same question more than once? Is it a code? Did he want me to tell him a joke? Did he want me to tell him something more than mundane?”

Then it hit me. I wish I had made up some sort of story about my ending up where I am. I should have said I was an acrobat. A magician. An origami artist. I should have said that I ran away from the circus I was traveling with and I am currently hiding in middle America, trying my darnedest to blend in.

I could picture his mind going, “Damn. How come of the 2 billion Chinese people in the world, I gave my book to the most boring one?!” <— Yes. This is gross self-aggrandizement. The rational side of me could see this perfectly. Now.

All I wanted was a do-over. To turn back time so I could regale him with my wittiness. The bizarre, funny, yet strangely universal story of how I landed here. In this way, the story I told would be eerily similar to his.

Instead, I raced home and collapsed in my conviction that I would never be given an once-in-a-lifetime so grand as this one and the self pity that I had gone and wasted it. <— See above. Thanks.

.

.

It took me the whole day staring at the autograph, and finally asking my son to decipher it for me, to realize the word is not feces or feeble but feeling.

If anybody needs me right now, I’ll be wallowing in my chamber with my smelling salt.

O, woe is me, To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

{ 47 comments }

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

Dear all, as you can see I am behind on replying to your wonderful comments. Thank you all so much. I am so glad that YOU are alive too. 🙂 This blog really is great for my mental health: I’m able to share all my neurosis here and instead of judgement, I am showered with encouragement and support. You guys are the best enablers a neurotic person could ever ask for! 😉

p.s. Unlike my husband who sent me back this comment: You did great. By the way, there is a typo…

Bah humbug.

Robin October 29, 2010 at 7:57 am

I’m pretty sure if I met him or any other admirer I have I’d just stare, not knowing how to speak. So awesome.

vanilla north October 28, 2010 at 1:41 am

that was soo funny!!!

ps: l am so happy you are alive, also 😀
vanilla north´s last blog post…punctuation

Renee Fisher October 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

So funny! I’ve turned into a blithering idiot with other authors. David Sedaris would definitely have me blithering and peeing in my pants at the same time.
Renee Fisher´s last blog post…Why Ill be at The Rally to Restore Sanity

BigLittleWolf October 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

OMG. This is hilarious. I laughed out loud for real (with um… feeling). Any Russian copies? Damn. Missed my opportunity. Would have to be easier than Crime and Punishment all those years ago.

I think you did great! (And “What are you doing here?” – uh – I’d be stymied, too. As in, “What do you mean?” and then all you need is a comeback of “What do you mean, what do I mean?”)

Right.

You did GREAT!!!
BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…A Round of Applause for Healing Hands

Melme October 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I can totally relate! Even thinking about meeting/talking to my idols turns me into a mess of anxiety and self-doubt. When getting autographs after a show by one of my favorite musicians, if it hadn’t been for the copious amounts of [free] tequila, I think I would have lost my nerve to say anything. After a lovely, lighthearted chat, I went over every syllable with prejudice and convinced myself I was a gibbering moron (I don’t think the tequila helped with that). I kept beating myself up. “Gaaahhhhh! He must have thought I was so stupid!!”

I’m sure I’ll be the same hopeless mess if we get to meet Neil Gaiman when we see him in Austin next week (which, YAY!).

Sunshine in London October 27, 2010 at 2:43 am

What an amazing experience – special memories to cherish for always. I love how you write and your real-ness! You did fab.
Sunshine

Jack October 26, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I have never read any of his books nor would I recognize him if I saw him.
Jack´s last blog post…The Red Dress

Jack October 27, 2010 at 1:07 am

And this of course must trouble him to no end. 😉

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

LOL. Jab well received. 😉

secret agent woman October 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Oh my God, that’s amazing! I’m rarely jealous, but in this case I am. I saw him once (no personal encounter, though, damn it all) and he was so funny I had teares rolling down my face.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Funny how an event can trigger a lot of thoughts.

Velva October 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I love you-you make me smile, you make me laugh. You make me want to put your head into headlock and give you a noogie until you just embrace the moment with David Sedaris. You have the Chinese version of his book, autographed to you personally, and you got to butt a line of fans. What fabulous evening.

Now, I need to hang my head in shame but, I have to go Google David Sedaris-it’s obvious he is a great author and I don’t have a clue.
Velva´s last blog post…Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Candy Bark

Unknown Mami October 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Grace when faced with greatness is so over-rated. I don’t know why you are here, but you made me laugh.

pattypunker October 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm

awwwww, i feel your pain. i get tongue-tied and twisted during brushes with greatness too. i believe he gets it, too. he’s very perceptive like that. (like i know him. obviously not. but all one has to do is read him and they know he an astute observer of human behavior) and if he knew you, he would absolutely love you, just like we all do. in my book, you should always go straight to the head of the line.
pattypunker´s last blog post…my mental illness

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best October 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

You are so hard on yourself! I didn’t think that was bad. It makes for a really funny and entertaining story. I’d be puddles in this situation. The messages Sedaris wrote in your book are awesome! I’m glad you are alive too. I’m attending his performance at the Appollo next Tuesday, hopefully I’ll have some sort of interaction.

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:45 am

I hope you have fun! And start thinking of a joke to tell him now! 🙂

magpie October 26, 2010 at 11:59 am

I’m so happy you’re alive = melt-worthy.

mepsipax October 26, 2010 at 11:15 am

You did fine….also, why would he write feces. Ewww.
mepsipax´s last blog post…Fatty McPhatass

Andrea @ Shameless Agitator October 26, 2010 at 9:12 am

WOW! That sounds like an awesome evening!
Andrea @ Shameless Agitator´s last blog post…Pumpkin donuts

Lisa October 26, 2010 at 8:25 am

You lucky thing! He’s one of my favourite authors, but the closest I’ll ever get to hearing him read is to download his audiobooks.

Thanks for sharing the experience!

Technobabe October 26, 2010 at 8:13 am

Your humor and chatty style always get to me. I am giggling happy for your triumph. I think of your achievement as success. You did get some words out and you did get autographs.
Technobabe´s last blog post…Botox

Elly Lou October 26, 2010 at 8:11 am

Damnit. He stole my line. We’re all glad you’re alive…me especially.

And you came off way cooler than I did the time I had Obama sign a book. They didn’t let me lick him either.
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Time Management is for the Unadventurous

Erica@PinesLakeRedhead October 26, 2010 at 7:51 am

You should have reached out, stroked his cheek, and quoted:

“I want my hand to know what excellence feels like”
Erica@PinesLakeRedhead´s last blog post…Eating Out and Other Peoples Children

writerwoman61 October 26, 2010 at 6:22 am

Wow, Lin! We read “Naked” for our Book Club, and I remember laughing out loud at several parts (not a good thing to read on the bus – people think you’re deranged!). I think I would have been just as starstruck as you were…congrats!

Hugs,
Wendy
writerwoman61´s last blog post…A Love Letter- Teenage Talent- and a Zombie Baby…

Brilliant Sulk October 26, 2010 at 4:50 am

I’m so glad you met him! But if I were you, whenever you reach for that book to show it off I would tell totally people it says “With a Taiwanese feces.”

Who wouldn’t be impressed by fecal matter?
Brilliant Sulk´s last blog post…Self – Portrait

Dufmanno October 26, 2010 at 3:16 am

He’s notoriously shy so it sounds to me like he spoke to you far more than he did anyone else I’ve ever heard of. This means he loves you so I consider that a huge win. Also, I love his reading voice. He always makes the stories even funnier when he tells them

Naptimewriting October 25, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I’m with Andrea. What a freaking generous thing to put in books.

Also? I have no idea what I would have said to “what are you doing here” I would have assumed he meant there, that night, and said, “I heard Amy Sedaris would be here. You seen her?”
Naptimewriting´s last blog post…Center of the Universe

Mary Lee October 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm

THAT IS FANTASTIC!!! You came, you saw, you met, and you got two autographed books! I think that’s great! (I TOLD you there were cool people in NC!)

Your answer was terrific–had you said much more, there would have been an uprising behind you. He asked, you told him. Well done.

PS, We’re ALL glad you’re alive.
Mary Lee´s last blog post…Mummy Dearest

Randa October 25, 2010 at 9:19 pm

The only “famous” person or people I have ever met was the band Blink 182. Way back in the year 2000…And I was wearing my intramural basketball t-shirt that had my nickname on the back of it with a big toilet on the front. We were the Urinators…Anyway! So we got up there to get their autographs and I didn’t have paper so I said sign my shirt “just not on the Chode” (nickname) The only one that laughed was the drummer. Travis Barker. That was all I said to them. “Don’t sign my chode.”
Email me if you want to know what a chode is…
If I ever met David Sedaris I would probably just stammer and pee my pants. And not excuse myself.
Randa´s last blog post…Paranormal Hobo Ghosts Cats Glee Halloween!

Stacia October 25, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Maybe he wanted to meet you in SantaLand. If only you’d dressed like an elf?
Stacia´s last blog post…My Haunted House

Miss B October 25, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Oh, god — I saw him in May when he was here, and it was Just That Good. Plus, he had an ASL interpreter on stage with him, and the dozen or so times that this guy had to sign Freaky Mothafocka…that alone was worth the price of admisison. God.

I, however, did not have the patience to wait in line for an hour to have something signed (and really, it would have been just to meet him, because I don’t really care about autographs), nor was I a speaker of…I think the language of the night was Swedish? Dutch? I can’t remember.

So you did way better than I, lady.

p.s. I’m also glad you’re alive.

Tiffany October 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

oh, i would have been the same way. i’ve done a lot worse with people far less impressive than david sedaris. the cashier at the grocery store could be like ‘so, how are you today’ and i get performance anxiety and fall apart.

love david sedaris and am so jealous you got to meet him.

and, ps– “THIS is why I have a blog: so I can alter reality with the power of my words” is perfect.

MacDougal Street Baby October 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I know exactly how you feel. I once asked Erik Estrada to sign my ice-cream cone. I was only 10 years old but I will always regret the moment. For years I thought, if only I had been wittier, maybe he would have fallen in love with me.

Andrea October 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

You know all this self doubt you put yourself through? I’m sure it’s exhausting for you — but for me, to read about it through your eyes, it makes me ADORE you (maybe because I relate).

And “I’m so happy you’re alive”??? Even if he were to write that in every single book he signs, that is the most AWESOME and simple and profound saying to write to someone. I love it!

SisterMerryHellish October 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Lin! This sounds EXACTLY like something I would do. I’d be standing there, overwhelmed with being so close to him, and be so distracted I’d think his repeatedly asking “where are you from” was like being asked “what’s the meaning or life!”

I’m so glad you got to see him and cut to the front of the line!

Dufmanno October 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Holy shit Lin! Her wrote the same thing in MY BOOK! I’ll scan it and show it to you!
More proof we need to get married.

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

YES!!!! Then we can have a party and invite everybody! I want to wear a sexy tux, will you be ok with that?

Catherine October 25, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Oh Lin,

I am so happy you’re alive.

With a Taiwanese feeling,
Catherine
Catherine´s last blog post…La La Land and a little Sidney Poitier on the side

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

So glad it’s feeling you are referring to.

Nina October 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm

awesome!! ^^
Nina´s last blog post…To The Sea And Back

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

^_^;

virginia October 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm

I love David Sedaris read two of his books, can’t remember the title, but I remember a chapter called the christmas whore. Love him.

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

That’s from Holidays on Ice. LOVE that book. Laugh out funny. You’re right!

Tom G. October 25, 2010 at 5:56 pm

You are too funny! You did just fine in the presence of greatness. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t have even been able to speak.

If it will help any I’ll be glad to sign something for you. Although I would probably write “To Lin with Feces”
Tom G.´s last blog post…The post where I add another 10 years to my time in Purgatory

Wicked Shawn October 27, 2010 at 9:17 am

I am totally with Tom on this one. Uh, HELLO….first time I met Pres. Clinton, forgot to even SPEAK!!! You did wonderfully!!!!

I adore you and your writing!!!!
Wicked Shawn´s last blog post…I Am the Master of My Fate The Captain of My Soul

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm

I adore you back!

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm

It seriously is very tempting to say Sign my boobs for me! But that would be extremely inappropriate.

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