Someday I’ll marry David Sedaris*

“You studying medicine?” says the wheezy phlebotomist as he searches for a good vein on my outstretched arm.

“Ouch. What?” I say, wincing as the needle pokes my quivering vein like a nervous virgin on prom night. After a few awkward moments, he’s in and taking care of business.

Having scored, the phlebotomist, or Mr. P as I call him,  jams a cotton ball on my deflowered flesh and slaps on a bandage. His technique has all the grace of the Incredible Hulk dressing a Barbie doll.  I unclench my eyelids and glance at the plastic chair in the corner. Propped on my purse is the book I’m reading, “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris. I consider the skull on the cover.

“Oh, my book;  it’s David Sedaris,” I say.

Mr. P — a towering man well into his fifties, face blooming with gin blossoms, hands big enough to crush a puppy with one squeeze, and a generous tuft of white chest hair erupting from the top of his is button-down — knits his brow as he considers the name David Sedaris.

“Is he a scientist?”

No.

“Historian?”

Where’s he going with this, I wonder.  Maybe he’s never met a cigarette-smoking skeleton.

I explain that Sedaris is a humorist, author, and radio commentator. Then I wonder silently if commentator is even a real word. I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but decide it wouldn’t matter to a phlebotomist who doesn’t know who David effin Sedaris is.

“NPR?” I say, hopeful this would stir his memory.

“NPR, the radio station? Nah, don’t listen to it,” he says with a wet wheeze. (Mr. P is seriously the most unsettling phlebotomist I’ve ever met.)

As Mr. P labels the blood-filled vials and yanks off latex gloves, he stops to tell me his son is very smart. So smart, in fact, he began reading books at two and now is an international rep for a major publishing house. (Wow!) The change in topic lets me know Mr. P isn’t interested in any more small talk about this skeleton named David Sedaris.

Thing is, now that I am in love with David Sedaris and plan on marrying him someday, I assume I’m joining the worldwide fan club. Late to the show sure, but going over the storyline with anyone who’ll listen so that no one will suspect I slipped in through the back door.

OK, here’s how I change the subject: If you are not a wheezing phlebotomist and you know who Sedaris is, you still might not know that Sedaris kept a pet spider in his house in Normandy, France. It was a tegenaria duellica named Alice. He faithfully captured and fed her flies. He even took her to Paris on a train. Then, the situation got out of control and he had to let her go.

Does that story ever sound familiar to me. See? We are kindred spirits.

*Yeah, yeah, I know he doesn’t swing in my direction.

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SpongeBrain SquarePeg

Photo by Dan Storey 15 via Creative Commons

I’ve been table hopping book clubs for a while now, seeking the right fit, a good mix, and  readers of a similar stripe.

I’ve joined short-lived book clubs and tried to get into book clubs that apparently cannot spare an extra chair. My last two club meetings were clear examples of a square peg not fitting into the round roles.

‘Are you in my mother’s garden club?’

Since last fall, the young librarians at our up-and-coming library  have been hosting book parties: book club meetings in a trendy local bar. The experimental gatherings were wildly popular, attracting a wide array of readers. I felt right at home going alone to the first few meetings. Not so much last time, when I found myself sitting in a busy bar at an empty table keeping watch over a flock of “reserved for book party” placards. This was after I went to every busy table asking, “Book club? Excuse me, is this the book club?” and getting shoulder shrugs and quizzical looks in reply.

Moments before I gave up the table, the placards and I were joined by a raucous group of fresh-faced and firm-butted 20-somethings. Easily I had 20 years on them. I told myself, “Oh, so what?” and ordered a giant glass of white wine.

While I won’t say the evening was a disaster — I actually had some nice conversations with them based on my asking a litany of questions about their lives — I found it excruciatingly difficult to discuss the featured book. It was written by a 20-something about 20-somethings.  On more than one occasion, they referred to the book’s narrator as a “liberal douche” and a “fatalist fuckwad.” I am not an educator. Maybe teachers would know how to handle this scenario a little better. I am also not a U.N. ambassador, so the diplomacy thing started to wear thin after the first 30 minutes. Finally, I resigned myself to being outnumbered.

While the group had me beat in the education credentials department, (All had or were finishing graduate  degrees, which they admitted were keeping them busy until they could find work in this downturned economy.) I had them beat with life miles logged. Not that I could get any of them to recognize or respect that. While I was willing to listen to their literary analyses of the book, their listing of  the author’s fatal flaws and amateur writing errors,  I felt like their mother when I attempted to break down some possible themes of the book based on life experience.  In other words: Someday when you are in your 40s, you will look back at all the self-involved shit of your 20s and see it through a different lens.

It was like I was sitting face-to-face with my own insufferable 25-year-old self: perpetual college student, angsty literary freak wrapped in layers of  irony and cynicism.

Eventually I realized they were just smashed.  I finished my wine and excused myself.

They may have been smirking at me just a little.

‘Did you go to school with my granddaughter?’

My community center book club experience wasn’t much better. In this case, I was easily 30 years younger than all the participants. While in the former case, all the attendees cradled iPhones and Blackberries in their palms to text each other from across the table,  the ones at this gathering were all about their manila folders of news clippings and mimeographs of book lists dating back to the Reagan administration. Conversation about the book of the month followed a very formal road until it ran out of gas. Then those in attendance slipped into what must be their usual banter: an update of ailments, hospital visit recaps, and their hatred and distrust of the Internet and computers.  While the hipsters barely waved bye to me when I left, I felt the tips of this group’s claws piercing my skin. They wanted phone numbers. They handed me several mimeographed sheets with margin notes written in pencil. They looked forward to me joining their ranks. They needed new blood, they said.

In both book groups I felt a  generational disconnect and a distinct imbalance in the reader demographic. To the older folks I was this young whippersnapper who didn’t a Viceroy from a victory garden.  To the hipsters, I was their mom.

More often than not, I’ve found myself in the equivalent of sitting in the wrong lecture hall in college and too afraid to get up and walk out.

The older I get, the more I feel my brain is like an old sponge. It still has the power to absorb but some of the content is questionable.

This post, by the way, has been rotting in my drafts folder since May.  At one time it was a fresh writing prompt  offered by the lovely San Diego Momma.

Family good; Godzilla bad

godz

 I had a nightmare last night.

In my dream, Godzilla is chasing Buddhist monks through the streets of Tokyo. Behind the city skyline is a mountain chain of books. Between the Godzilla-stomped city and book mountain is a vast expanse of paperwork and red tape. The valley is bustling with a throng of young Asian women collectively tearing through reams of paper and  tangles of ribbon in search of clues to their past. There may have been something about Thetans in there, too.

Did I mention I watched “Religulous” last night before going to bed? Did I mention I attended two author visits/book signings back-to-back? Did I mention that I’m not getting any sleep lately? The fact that I got enough sleep to have a nightmare should make me happy. But I’m thinking my brain is in revolt.

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The first book event featured journalist and author Mei-Ling Hopgood, who is on tour promoting “Lucky Girl.”

lucky

Hopgood was adopted before the wave of  Chinese adoptions began in the  1990s.  Unlike today’s well-oiled machine that is the China Center for Adoption Affairs, in the early 1970s, China adoptions were handled quite differently. There remained a seed of hope that a birth family and child could trace each other one day. This is no longer the case.
Hopgood’s story is unusual: Her birth family found her. She reunited with them in her early adulthood. “Lucky Girl” tells the story of that reunion and how she balances two sets of parents and siblings, one a half a world away. 
As an adoptive mother of a China-born girl, I have on ongoing interest in adoption outcomes, particularly in cases where a child reunites with a birth parent. It’s nice to hear a happy outcome.

The second event was a Q & A with Brad Warner,  member of the ODFx (Zero Defects) punk rock band (heydey in the early ’80s, play twice a year now), Japanese monster movie marketer, and Zen Buddhist teacher. Warner visited Detroit to promote his new book: “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate.”
(If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s taken from a popular commercial for yogurt.)

zenchocolate

I never know what to expect at author visits/book signings. I find my expectations can be pretty high. I’m there because I’m enamored with the author’s work or deeply interested in the subject. Sometimes I end up regretting the questions I ask. Almost always I say something inane to the person when its my turn to get my book signed. During Warner’s talk, I think I learned more about Godzilla movies, the somewhat futile attempt to resurrect Ultraman in the United States, and other monster movie stuff than I did about improving my meditation practice. But that’s OK; I’m still a fan.

I walked away from both events with a head stuffed full of information. So many questions and ideas were pouring out of me onto the pavement I almost tripped. When I got home, I read a “Dora the Explorer” book about archeology to my 3-year-old girl. Then I watched a movie disparaging organized religion. 

Either way, it was a batch of brownies added to a stomach already full of cake and cookies. 

I think my brain threw up.