Trendysomething in somo
Literary lead-on: David Sedaris wants what he can't have
They say that my generation is one without heroes. I don't know who other people my age look up to: maybe Barack Obama, or Shakira, but probably just Ashton Kutcher and Snookie.
Personally, I always found inspiration in writer David Sedaris. In high school, I'd cut class to read his books on the upper level at Agora, sipping cheap Greek wine, coughing through packs of Lucky Strikes and taking careful mental notes.
I never wanted to emulate him. He hadn't graduated from college, had a history of drug addiction and crossed a line of self-satisfaction that I once tried so hard not to breach.
But in the spring of 2006, I jumped on the opportunity to see him in person at the Wortham Center. After his reading, I spent almost an hour rambling around the underground Theater District parking lot before reemerging to the Wortham lobby to find a still-standing book signing line. I'm not one to be easily star-struck, so I casually picked up one of the for-sale copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day and began reading a favorite chapter.
Before I knew it, the desk of books for sale had been packed up, the registers disappeared, and I had effectively shoplifted Sedaris' hit volume.
Already at a total loss as to where my car might be, I decided to wait out the confusion and attach myself to the end of the book signing line. Perhaps because I was very last in line, David seemed to pay special attention to me, asking if I'd attended the lecture alone, and then encouraged me to touch the lining of his sport coat.
"I got it today on sale at the Gap," he boasted, "but you'd never guess it."
When he asked what my plans were for that night (it was already well past 11 p.m.), his agent, the only other person in the lobby besides the two of us, interrupted with, "David, that's enough."
I never had an actual crush on Sedaris — he's much too old — but I was flattered.
Yesterday (and four years later), I made a night-of impulse buy of tickets to see Sedaris' engagement at Jones Hall. Remembering my parking lot panic, I hitched the light rail downtown, only to find myself escorted off the train within 10 minutes by a police raid checking tickets. I had, in fact, bought a ticket, but only a credit card receipt printed from the machine.
After the embarrassing dismissal from the rail car, I explained my innocence and got off the hook, yet was made tardy by the need to wait for the next train.
Arriving at Main Street Square, I bolted for the Theater District, which led to another close-call with a moving violation citation for jaywalking. Ultimately, it was an enjoyable performance, but I spent a fair amount of the time in my nosebleed seat wondering what I would say when it was my turn at the book signing. After describing the way he'd hit on me when I was just 20-years-old, friends and colleagues had convinced me that I needed to reignite his flirtations.
I knew I was in trouble earlier that evening when I found myself sitting naked in front my closet thinking, "What underwear would David want me to wear?"
I'm being facetious (although he holds covetable connections in publishing). Yet somehow, I had high expectations of linking the 2006 missed connection.
The post-reading book signing line was monumental. I had a nice position in the center, but when I tried to take a picture of the scene with my phone, I got a slap on the limp wrist from a security guard and was escorted to the back of the line as punishment.
"At least I'll have my one-on-one," I surmised to myself.
After a two and a half hour wait (and a marathon reading of The Daily Beast that drained my phone battery), I finally was face to face with the lit celebrity. (Of course, this was after I'd caught him giving me "the eyes" countless times.)
I can't recount our conversation word-for-word, but I'm sure I communicated some amount of charm since he said, "London needs more guys like you," with an uncanny twinkle. (He recently relocated from France to the UK capitol.) He then reached into his National Public Radio tote, retrieved a roll of Trojan condoms, and handed one to me.
I couldn't tell if this was an invitation or just a subtle way of saying, "You're so handsome, you have no other option than to be incredibly promiscuous!"
I began to walk away, feeling mildly violated, but mainly just confused. As I turned, he whispered in my direction, "Psst! Do you like my blazer?"
Had David remembered me and our touch-the-jacket "moment" from so many years ago? I had no way of knowing whether he was referencing our casual encounter or if he simply had a very small repertoire of lines for young fans. He then raised his hand to his forehead and saluted me.
No, "See you later," "Call me," or "I'm in Room 300 at the Lancaster." Just a salute. And really, I didn't want any more. He had proven himself as fairly unstable, and if there's going to be an unstable person in any relationship of mine — it's going to be me.
Back at the rail station, it took about 20 minutes to register that Metro was closed for the night. With my dead phone, I walked to Hearsay to have somebody call me a cab.
"Aren't you the guy ... who was the life of the party at your holiday office dinner?" the bartender asked as he closed shop.
I may not be an internationally renown self-referential writer, but it's nice to know that in select Houston circles, I have a reputation for fun times. I held my head high as I ducked into the minivan taxi waiting outside the bar. As Elgin faded into Westheimer, we passed the once-beloved Agora, and I thought of a naïve teenaged Steven, enraptured by a strange writer's words.
Almost instinctively, I raised my hand to my forehead, and with a crooked grin, saluted my former self.