I was in the parking lot at Book Passage in Corte Madera early Wednesday morning. I dropped my son off at school and was sitting in my car waiting to go into a yoga class. As I ate my son’s toast crust, I could see Mt. Tam in my rear view mirror, tall and beautiful.
Twelve hours earlier I had been in the same parking lot trying to find a parking space. Every space was taken and there was a long line for the complimentary valet. The lot at the DMV was full next door. I could see people pouring in from neighboring streets. Eventually, with the help of an older man directing me, I parked parallel beside a dumpster.
People were flooding in– like sticks bouncing along a gentle stream. They were already smiling and David Sedaris hadn’t even begun to speak.
David Sedaris was going to read from his new book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls at Book Passage at 7 PM. We parted seas and came, hundreds of us, from school, from work, from home.
I’d heard David Sedaris read his work once before at Berkeley Rep. I was in the front row and was surprised at what a small man he was – his insights and humor were so big.
I decided that he was the kid who figured out how to spray paint the walls with, “I WAS HERE!” But instead, he added, “I was here and this is what I saw…. This is what I noticed….” And because he was quirky and bright and honest and very, very funny, we stopped and noticed too– absurdities, contradictions and moments of humanness.
Inside the store, we made conversation with each other while we waited for the reading to begin. When you’re body to body with strangers it seems polite to introduce yourself. Where are you from? What book of his is your favorite? What do you think is a good book to read?
Every seat was taken. A few children sat on parent’s laps. I was in the standing room only section that spilled into every aisle and poured out through the main door. We buzzed, the room buzzed, the store staff buzzed.
Hundreds of people hugged their new book anticipating his stories, eager to get his signature. There were over 500 people there.
Kelly Corrigan who wrote Lift and The Middle Place was the perfect warm up band, getting the crowd laughing and ready with an introduction. After listing David Sedaris’s stunning accomplishments, Kelly said, “And now, I’d like to introduce to you two-time college drop out, David Sedaris.” We cheered.
And David who was sweet waved to us, smiled and then began reading. Of course he delivered, weaving stories about feeding a kookaburra that took us forward and back in time in a way that rocked us with laughter. We might as well have been swaying to the music.
He gave us stories and quotes about life. As an audience, we were connected with quiet sounds of recognition, with big laughs we shared and in sighs we felt. For such a little man wearing a bow tie and a funny jacket he told us he got in LA the other day, he had very, very long arms. What I mean by this is that he held all of us– captive, laughing, standing, body to body. And in his arms, we let go of our worries for an hour and enjoyed his storytelling. In some odd way, we saw ourselves in his life and he mirrored back to us the same. As a result, I think we each felt a little taller and a little more beautiful.
When I left, people were still in line. And David was still talking to each person who handed him a book. I watched people as they left the store. As they strolled to their cars, there was an ease to conversation, a gentleness to the walk, a surrender to this crazy thing we call life. And everyone looked softer. Maybe it was because the lighting was dim and gentle, but I don’t think so. I think it was because when that little man with the bow tie finished reading, finished taking questions, he said, “I am happy to sign your book and I’ll stay here as long as it takes. If I’m here after midnight, it’s fine with me.” With those words, his “I was here and I notice and I see,” was expanded. The writing he wrote on the wall said, “I was here and I notice and I see you.” For such a funny guy, his last line felt like a prayer.
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