I Tried It ... Being Buddies With David Sedaris
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s the thought that counts.
By Hope Strong IV
Two white-tailed deer hang on a wall in my house. The one with a larger rack is named Hugh, and the one mounted to look as if it had just heard someone chamber a cartridge into their rifle we call David. As in Sedaris. The first thing my wife and I realized we had in common when we were dating was admiration for the famous author. It was confirmation we both had a cultivated sense of humor.
Recently, when David Sedaris was scheduled to come through Jackson, Wyoming, not far from where we live, for his first-ever book signing in these parts, she and I wanted to tell him about his important role in our relationship. And, as a thank you gift, present him with a framed photograph of the two taxidermied animals we’d named after him and his partner, Hugh, a man we’ve read so much about that we think of him as a family friend. I imagined Sedaris’ first question upon receiving the picture of Hugh and David, the deer, would’ve been, “Did you shoot them yourself?” Or maybe, “Which one is me?”
Tickets went on sale around a year ago and sold out in a matter of minutes. We were put on a waiting list like a couple of high school hopefuls looking to get into their top-choice college. So when we found out that we’d scored one of the hotel packages that came with two prime seats to Sedaris, we danced around the kitchen. Janice had never been a night away from our 2-year-old son. It was going to be a big night.
The highest honor would be if Sedaris was so impressed by the framed photograph that he wrote about it one day. I daydreamed he’d begin his diary entry by recalling, “Jackson — an attractive couple approached at tonight’s book signing and presented me with an extraordinary gift, though the man was old enough to be the woman’s father or at least one of my ex-boyfriends.” But I got nothing.
It’s no wonder he saw two dressed-up WASPs coming at him and even a thoughtful gift didn’t do the trick. We came across as boring.
Five or six ahead of us in line at the signing was my wife’s co-worker Chelsey and her younger sister, Anna Reigh. They’re pretty Mexican women who dress like punk rockers, and Chelsey has a bunch of tattoos. Sedaris was, understandably, charmed. And no doubt overjoyed at the living proof that his writing crosses cultural boundaries beyond the rest of us Rocky Mountain expatriates from a stuffier land.
With scores of appearances and thousands of adoring fans on his book tour, I imagine Sedaris has to pick and choose who he engages with out of self-preservation. To be on stage for over an hour, maintaining the intelligent wit he’s famous for and then suffering another book signing? It’s no wonder he saw two dressed-up WASPs coming at him and even a thoughtful gift didn’t do the trick. We came across as boring.
When it was our turn, I thanked Sedaris for coming to our state and introduced my wife. Janice is pretty tall, and I’ll bet that didn’t help. Part of Sedaris’ bit that night was about being short. He used descriptors like “diminutive,” even “Lilliputian.” I explained the 13-year age gap between me and my wife, and Sedaris said he didn’t see it.
“Oh, good,” I said.
“Well, that overhead light is right in my eyes,” Sedaris squinted without smiling.
Personally, I wasn’t looking for a witty inscription, just an acknowledgment of the thoughtfulness of my gift.
Not yet far enough along to tell our friends or family, my wife confided in Sedaris that she was pregnant. This got his attention. He suggested naming the kid Huckleberry if it was a boy. Now we were getting somewhere. Since we were talking family, I told him we had a 2-year-old son named Hope Strong V, thereby showing my hand in order to move this budding friendship along. The family name has always been a good conversation piece throughout my life, but Sedaris just blinked and looked over my shoulder like he was considering a smoke. In retrospect, I think my suffix further distanced us.
On stage, Sedaris had told us about annoying people at signings who’d asked for something shocking on the title page of their books. One young man was getting a book signed for his mother and wanted a real humdinger. Sedaris said he wrote, “Your son left teeth marks on my dick.” Personally, I wasn’t looking for a witty inscription, just an acknowledgment of the thoughtfulness of my gift. And maybe an invitation for a drink after his signing. I’d mention how I’d never been to England, and he’d tell us to come stay at his place whenever we made it across the pond.
Upon receiving the framed photograph of the white-tailed deer duo, though, Sedaris offered only a furrowed brow and a quizzical look. We’d brought along an identical photograph of Hugh and David for him to sign, for us to take home and frame. “Two bucks worth,” Sedaris scrawled slowly and deliberately across the top, and then handed it back with a smile.
I’ll never know what he did with my gift. And though it may have been pitched in the trash at the end of the night, I let myself believe Sedaris cherished it. Alone in a hotel at the edge of Wyoming and homesick for Hugh, I imagine he placed the photograph on his bedside table that night. And before turning out the light, he slowly shook his head and laughed a little through his nose at how aloof and stoic Hugh’s taxidermied counterpart looked in the picture. And how that was just like him.
On our walk back to our hotel, Janice suffered my over-analyzation of the anticlimactic interaction. In the end, I figured getting snubbed by David Sedaris can be considered high compliment. Still, I hold onto the hope that he’ll write about the two bucks someday. Either way, we’ve got our own story now, and a picture worth at least a thousand words.
- Hope Strong IV, OZY AuthorContact Hope Strong IV