And If You Ask Me Why, I’ll Say . . .

On May 9, 2007 by Eden M. Kennedy

Two weekends ago I went to the David Sedaris vs. Sarah Vowell Celebrity Death Match up in Santa Barbara. Leah came up with her husband and Grace came down with her step-daughter; Jack bailed on me but I found a date at the last minute. A date who could both hang with and inspire the affection of a table of total strangers after I abandoned her in the restaurant for forty-five minutes while I tore home to get the tickets out of the envelope that I’d taped to the wall next to my desk so I wouldn’t forget the tickets.

And I tried and I tried but I couldn’t figure out how to make the whole thing Jack’s fault.

The Arlington was packed. They tag-teamed the reading, David Sedaris started with a bittersweet story about a child molester, then Sarah Vowell used her little, tiny voice to read a long piece about a nineteenth-century free love community in Oneida, New York. Then David Sedaris took another turn with a shorter piece about getting his hair cut in Japan by a man whose hands smelled like shit, and then Sarah Vowell read a shorter piece from her defunct advice column in which she was simply incredulous at the advice-asker’s problem, and so on and so on until it was time for a Q & A, at which I am sorry to report I forgot to ask him to sing the Oscar Mayer Bologna song as though he were Billie Holiday, which you have to do if you ever go to a David Sedaris reading.

But about halfway through the show I started worrying about where I’d parked. I totally lost track of at least two jokes while thinking about how, the second time I’d tried to park, my excellent spot on Anacapa from the first time I’d parked was gone, and I’d had no choice but to pay to leave my car in the Granada garage, in a dark corner on the second level, away from the staircase — the parking garage rape corner! So there I was, deaf to the hilarity around me, wondering if it would be possible to get all eight people I knew in that room to walk me to my car after the show?

Later, as we closed the bar at Opal, I confessed this slightly but actually not totally absurd thought to Leslee, who immediately understood and gave me a ride in her Jeep all the way into the parking garage, up the ramp, and onto the hood of my car. Well, not really onto the hood; she just got real close to the trunk and then covered me with her Glock and a hand grenade. With the pin pulled.

I love having friends.



22 Responses to “And If You Ask Me Why, I’ll Say . . .”

  • I obsessed about something equally routine whilst hearing Sarah Vowell read that very piece about two years ago. Maybe something about those two authors and their combined neuroses makes people remember rather than forget their troubles?

  • I am sooo jealous! Is this a traveling show? I must look into this. David Sedaris slays me. I’ve read some of his books three times and they just don’t lose their charm. And Sarah? Her delivery is exquisite.

    Also? Your recent travels with the ladies? Jealous of that, too. Would love to hang with that group of amazing blogger babes. I am but a groupie, an admirer from afar (but in a non-creepy, totally good way). Oh, but to have been a fly on the wall….

  • Ooooh, me jealous. Opal’s been my favorite since waybackwhen (when it was called Brigitte’s).

    If you haven’t, you must pick up the Toad The Wet Sprocket live album called “Welcome Home” recorded right there under the stars at the Arlington ;)

  • Because friends minus a letter are just fiends.

  • Norm, it was so much better as Brigitte’s.

  • I just saw David Sedaris last week, and had the most amazing experience attending his reading. He even signed my much-thumbed copy of “Dress Your Family…” AND signed a random popcorn bag from Japan for my 10 month old son (who will never ever get to play with it). And, all that to say, someone asked him at the reading to sing like Billy Holiday and he DECLINED! I was completely bummed out. But still, I got to meet him, which was like meeting Jesus and the Dalai Lama all in one.

  • You got to go see Sarah Vowell? Damn, save me a place in the jealousy queue, willya?

    One of her pieces from a few years ago (“American Goth”, is so embedded so deeply in my psyche that it’s hard to see someone in black mascara without thinking “Becky?”. No, I won’t explain – you’ve got to go listen to it for yourself.

  • When learning about the Harlem Renaissance, I had an English professor declare “No one has had a voice like Billie Holliday, before or since”, and I immediately thought “B-O-L-O-G-N-Aaaaaa” in the Sedaris/Holliday voice. Hee.

    I’m jealous you got to see them both.

  • The automotive equivalent of milk coming out your nose: I almost drove my car off the road one winter night in ’92 when the radio produced “Silent Night” as sung by David Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf as Billie Holiday. That just never gets old.

  • Everyone needs at least one fiend or friend who can handle a hand grenade.

  • I’m filled with envy. This evening sounds perfect, aside from the mad dash home for the tickets and the distraction of the possible rape scenario. A real grown-up night out full of sparkling wit & drinks. Wish I’d been there.

  • I’m jealous…not of your anxiety because I have plenty of that each and every day…I love Sarah Vowell. If she had been my history teacher, I might actually remember when major world events occurred.

  • Sarah Vowell’s voice makes me weep with joy – that kind of joy that also makes me want to kick small children in the aisles of Target.

    I’d like to kick Catherine Deneuve, too, but I don’t need Sarah’s help for that.

  • I went to see David Sedaris a little over two years ago. I asked him to sign a book for my-then fiance, now husband.

    Without pausing or blinking, he wrote:

    “Dear Neale,

    Surprise! Christina is pregnant.”

    Best day of my life.

  • Sounds like a really great time. And that’s pregnancy brain if I ever heard it. Trust me, I know of that which I speak.

  • Leslee sounds awesome. Reminds me of when my son was in the hospital, and my best friend from high school showed up unannounced with food, flowers, and a change of clothes. I hadn’t even called her to tell her we were in the hospital, so preoccupied was I with my son. She had just heard about it when my mom ran into her mom at the grocery store, and decided we needed some backup. When I asked her how she found us, she just shrugged and said, “There aren’t that many hospitals in New York City.”

  • Ha! I tried to get David Sedaris to sing like Lady Day when he did a reading here in Missoula four years ago. Despite my charming manner and polite request he declined then, too. Now that I’ve read your account, and that of other posters, I’m guessing Sedaris gets asked so often he simply refuses out of hand.

    The greatest point of the evening was when David signed my copies of his books. He noticed right away that I had bought them used because the pencil price notations were still in the upper right corner of the first page. Stupid me forgot to erase them before bringing them to the theater. He jokingly commented, I was embarrassed, and when I came away from the table I opened the first book to see what he wrote:

    “To my cheap friend Rebecca. Thanks, David”

  • I went to see David back in October. During the Q&A; I was *this* close to asking him to do Billie Holliday. Reading here, am I ever glad that I didn’t! I would have been so embarrassed if I had done it and he’d declined.

  • I was mortified, greentshirt. I didn’t have my public speaking chops just yet, and still I managed to talk myself into standing in front of that sell-out crowd and practically begging Sedaris to sing something, anything, as Billie. He abruptly dismissed me and moved on to the next question. I’m sure my face was ten shades of crimson as I slithered down the aisle to my seat.

    Oh well. I still love the guy.

  • Nice site. I have a daughter named Eden.

  • I am SO JEALOUS of you right now. I hope they come to Boston, or that they haven’t already come to Boston and I missed them. If they came and I missed them, I would have to immolate myself on a pile of all their books that I own just so I could both end the sorrow and have something fun to read in the afterlife.

    (And D. Cohn, commenter up above a bit? Yeah, pink goth. So funny. That’s my favorite Vowell thing ever, and I have truly loved every Vowell thing I have ever heard or read.)

  • I’ve actually had the pleasure of playing cards with Sarah a few times in Chicago.
    It’s a riot if she starts talking trash at the poker table in that voice of hers.