Friday Five

1. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Sometimes you just find yourself in the right place at the right time. Take last weekend. David Sedaris was in Brooklyn to kick off his 20-city US book tour for Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls(Yes, that’s the name of the book.) The terrific indie bookstore, Powerhouse Arena, hosted. They closed the store to the general public to accommodate the reading. A conservative estimate had about 300 people on hand. (This compared to my most recent reading wherein exactly two people showed, one of which was bookstore staff.)

Sedaris is one of those rare authors who is just as dynamic in person as on the page. He is engaging and witty and totally comfortable in a crowd. And did I mention hilarious? He had the crowd laughing so hard at times I thought I was at a Louis C.K. show.

Afterward we waited on a long, snaking line to get our books signed. The line was so long, in fact, that if I had known at the outset I might have left the store. And that would have been a mistake. At this stage in his career (seven million copies of his books sold worldwide) he certainly doesn’t need to be slogging it out on a grueling tour. Someone in the audience pointed that out. Sedaris said, “I love it. It’s exactly what I always wanted to do.”  It was clear that much was true. He takes his time talking to each person, looking them in the eyes and peppering them with questions. It was also clear that he gets a lot of his material for future books from talking and listening to people.

No doubt this kind of meet and greet takes its toll on a person, mentally and physically. When I got to the front of the line and he mentioned his back was getting tired, I nodded in agreement, as if I knew something about signing books for three hours.

He said, “I left my back scratcher in my other bag. Would you scratch my back?”

I just stared.

“No, really. Would you scratch my back?”

I glanced at his publicist who gave me a nod as if to say, Yes, he’s serious. He does this sort of thing all the time. We can’t control him.

So I stepped up and gave his back a good scratch.

“A little to the right.”

Look for a mention of me in his next book. Until then, check out what he inscribed in my book.

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

Have you ever talked with an author at a book signing? Do you have any celebrity sightings?

Here is a clip of him on Letterman a while back, extolling the virtues of the Stadium Pal.

 

2. FOMO. This week I received an invitation to a friend’s party and was distressed to realize that I was already committed to helping another friend  pick up some boxes she has in a storage unit.  I’d hate to miss this party. It’s going to be fun! Things will happen! Cool things! Things that are talked about for decades! What if I become The Blitz like that episode of How I Met Your Mother? Then my mind started whirring with ways I could do both. Maybe I could arrange to go to the storage earlier in the day. Maybe we could go another day. (And the sinister one…) Maybe I’ll tell her something came up. Something far more important. Of course. Does this happen to you? Please say yes. 

Not too long ago I read a blog post from Seth Godin about the fear of missing out (FOMO). He calls it a kind of “reverse schadenfreude of FOMO (the pain we may feel from others having good fortune).”

Somewhere, right this very moment, someone is having more fun than you.

Making more money than you.

Doing something more important, with better friends, and a happier ending, than you.

You’re missing out.

The only place joy can be found is right here and right now. Everyone who is selling you dissatisfaction is working for their own selfish ends.

Do you ever experience FOMO? 

 

3. Weekly photo challenge: Pattern. I don’t usually participate in the photo challenge because I don’t consider myself much of a photographer. But this week’s theme made me immediately think of this shot I took of the floor at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Something about the colors and repeating diamonds intrigue me.

Victoria and Albert Museum

 

4. Back to Basics Creative Writing Class. From June 10 – August 11, I’m teaching a creative writing class through The Loft Literary Center. The class is online so you can log on to download lessons or post your work at your convenience, say at six o’clock in the morning while wearing your bunny slippers. (Hey, I’m not judging.) This will be the fourth time I’ve taught this class, and I can honestly say that the students and I have a great time. We discuss craft, read like writers and share our work in an encouraging environment.

Here’s a quick blurb from the catalog:

In this online class, you will learn the essential building blocks of creative writing (fiction or memoir). Each class is completely devoted to one element of story to help you hone your skills in that area. Through structured writing exercises and analyzing master works, we’ll examine the key components of good creative writing. Whether you need some fixes for common plot problems or want to brush up on dialogue, these targeted classes will give you all the strategies you need to succeed at the craft of writing. This class is perfect for beginners who want to look at the mechanics of writing prose.

If you’d like to find out more, click here.

The Loft

 

5. Happy Birthday, Reggie! I consider today his birthday, but of course I don’t know when it is. Not really. Today is the day I adopted him. (Happy Adopt-a-versary! doesn’t roll off the tongue.) Five years ago today, I walked into the NYC animal shelter in Harlem to sign for a mangy English Springer Spaniel who had been brought in as a stray from the streets of the Bronx. Animal control had no information other than that. His fur was so gnarled and matted, the shelter staff figured he’d been a stray for months. He stank to high heaven. I brought him to a groomer where it took three shampoos and a close shave to freshen him up.

Reggie

The shelter had red-flagged him which means that he had responded inappropriately to temperament tests, perhaps by growling or barking. Overcrowded shelter + A red flag = End of the line. Reggie had been in the shelter for three weeks and was scheduled to be euthanized. They were not showing him to potential adopters and had taken his photo off the website. I suppose someone reading this might think me bighearted or benevolent, saving a dog who was on death row, but really in all the important ways the exact opposite is true.

He has taught me more about how to be a good human being than many of my fellow human beings. In fact one of the most important lessons he has taught me is inherent in what I know about his past or lack thereof. (For more, check out My Guru Has Fur.) As much as we want answers to all of our questions, we don’t always get them. We always want to know why, how and wherefore. We want closure. Well, sometimes, that doesn’t happen. I’ll never know what kind of life he had before he ended up a stray, if he experienced some kind of trauma or simply got lost. I don’t even know with certainty how old he is. But what I do know is that none of that really matters anymore. He is a light in my life and brings me indescribable joy. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

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51 comments

  1. First off, I am in awe you not only met Sedaris, but scratched his back?! I suppose you could say I have a huge FOMO on stuff like that. I can’t wait to read his new book.

    Also, how I would love to take your writing course, sounds like fun. I’ve never taken a writing course in my life. I just finished my Intro. to Lit class and it was the most interesting and fun class I’ve ever taken, makes me wonder why I didn’t major in English.

    And happy birthday/adoption day to Reggie! Dogs usually are the lights of people’s lives. I plan on getting a dog again one day.

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    1. Sedaris read one of the essays from the book at the reading. He added such an inflection to the words, I don’t think I’ll be able to read it without hearing his voice. What a treat!

      I thought you were taking nursing classes? But I’m happy that you enjoyed the intro to lit. I’ll tell you, I really like teaching the basic creative writing course. People are so interested and they tell me they have a few a-ha moments. Maybe I’ll see you in class. 🙂

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  2. Oh most important first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY REGGIE!!!! The day you came into Jackie’s life and she into yours calls for some seriously giddy celebrating! Cupcakes? Cake? Both!!

    Jackie, that story–and inscription–from David Sedaris made my morning (almost, but not quite, as much as Reggie’s birthday news, of course;)) My friend and fellow blogger Sherry Stanfa-Stanley recently got a postcard back from Mr. Sedaris and boy, is he awesome or what? I have great regard for authors who remain gracious and funny in all the hubub–that will trump all your author intros for a while, I’m sure:)

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    1. Hello, dear friend! How are you? I asked Reggie what he wanted for his birthday and he promptly ate a tissue found on the sidewalk. So, question answered. 🙂

      I, too, am so impressed by his generosity and humility. In fact, when he arrived, I was expecting an entourage buzzing around him, but he was by himself and began signing books immediately. What impressed me most what how much he listened – much more listening than talking.
      PS – I’m never washing my hands again. 🙂

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  3. Reggie is beautiful and I’m glad you recognised that in him and saved him!

    I always get fear of missing out, or rather fear of being left out then forgotten about.

    I have never met any proper celebs. Closest I came was a tv chef who came to cook at my school. He didn’t ask me to scratch his back though.

    My lovely cards have arrived at last, do you want me to put some aside for you? won’t put them on etsy for a couple of weeks, but could do PayPal 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hooray! Oh, please do put a packet of the cards aside for me. Yes, please send me the details of cost. You can send me an email with cost, etc? Is there a choice of artwork or is it a mixed set? Or I can wait for you to post them on Paypal, if that is easier.
      Maybe someday you can paint a picture of Reggie. His nose is tricky. Ha 🙂

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      1. http://artbyimi.com/2013/05/05/how-to-prepare-for-your-first-art-stall/ You can choose whichever you want from the ten cards in this blog post :-). They are £2 each… I think that is about $3. I can do a bit of a discount – I am posting 6 cards to a girl in hong kong too and charging £15 (about $23) including P&P. I think P&P is fairly similar to the USA.

        I’d love to have a go at painting Reggie someday. Love a good challenge 🙂 I do get in a minor grump when I can’t get it right straight away but its character building!

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      2. How wonderful! I will give some thought to which artwork I want. I think I’d like a mix of 6 cards just like the girl in Hong Kong. That would work perfectly. I’ll email you directly with my address, etc. this weekend. This week is busy busy. Good luck at the fair!

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    1. The whole time I was scratching his back, I kept thinking, “I’m scratching David Sedaris’s back. I’m scratching David Sedaris’s back.” I tried to savor the moment, but i know I was grinning like an idiot. 🙂
      Hope all is well with you Julia!

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  4. I loved this post Jackie. A few weeks ago in Boston, one of my friends met David Sedaris at a book signing, too. Her experience was not touchy-feely like yours, but somehow the conversation turned to her blog and he wrote down her URL on a piece of paper. She was so happy, now I know what she’ll be like if she ever wins the lottery. She’s moving to New York next month to start a new job at the Times, so maybe you guys will meet. She’s also a writer. I think you’ll click.

    I seldom have FOMO because what’s in usually costs more shekels than I can afford to spend since I’ve been on the fast track to get rich slow my entire life. But every so often I’ll follow the herd and do something in crowd-ish. For example, tomorrow, I’m seeing “The Great Gatsby”. My friend, Milton, gave it a rave. He urged me to see it with my martini-swilling fashionista pal, Coco. She’s on board to go with me. Milton also told me to tell her to pack a flask. Earlier this evening, my sister emailed me that it was a dud.

    Finally, Reggie. Your hound is such a handsome fella. I agree with Erika. I am also very happy that you two found each other. The weather was so beautiful on Friday. I hope you and he took a long leisurely walk and maybe threw a ball around. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Good luck to your friend at the Times. That’s quite a gig. We should all meet up when she gets settled.

      What a coincidence — I’m going to see Gatsby tonight too. We’ll have to compare notes. I’m just rereading the book now. It’s been many years and I wanted a refresher before the movie. Maybe I did myself a disservice because how can the movie measure up?

      I think tomorrow morning I’m going to take Reggie to dog beach at Prospect Park.

      I just got an email confirming that your book is on its way!

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      1. Yes, we must meet up when she gets settled; maybe we should redo Ping’s or you come up with a place in Brooklyn? You and I will resume our roles as tour guides since we know were such a fabulous team when we don those guises.

        So I saw Gatsby today. I enjoyed it very much and I thought it was some of Leo’s finest acting work in his adult life. He was terrific. I’d like to know your impression.

        Dog beach sounds like an excellent treat for birthday boy Reggie! Maybe toss in a biscuit or two, too.

        I hope my little tome meets your standards. It’s a featherlight read, a bit like the comic in a piece of Bazooka bubblegum, but hopefully a tad wittier.

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      2. The book has arrived!! I’m very excited to get started. I have an editing job to finish and then I’ll crack the cover. I’m keeping the mystery alive until then.

        I, too, thought Gatsby was great and thought Leo did a terrific job. Gatsby is quite a complex character and Leo handled it with aplomb. I overheard one woman remark that she thought the party scenes were too “Hollywood-ized” which was interesting because those scenes come almost word for word from the book.

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  5. Oh Happy Birthday Reggie!!!!!! And I didn’t know his history. I am so happy you two found each other. I know my pets love me, but they don’t know how much I have learned from them or how much they have enriched my life. It’s a shame they will never understand that.

    Love the Sedaris story. He’s such a character. have you read his holidays on ice? We love to read the Santa bit each Christmas.

    Hope you have a lovely weekend! Give Reggie a hug for me.

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    1. I can’t go to the Macy’s Christmas display without thinking of David Sedaris. I love the line that worse than a 33-year-old man applying for a job as an elf is the real possibility that he wouldn’t get the job as an elf. He’s great. 😉

      Reggie had a very nice birthday with extra treats and hugs. I hope Miles finds a dirty, used tennis ball in the park this weekend. 🙂 Will he share with Atticus? Ha.

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  6. Happy Belated Birthday, Reggie! I didn’t know he came that close to being gone. Thank heaven you adopted him, Jackie. Rocky was adopted, and I don’t want to know what his previous life was like. He too was so matted they had to shave almost all his hair off.

    That is so cool about David Sedaris! I’ve met a couple of cookbook authors, but it was like an assembly line and they had no time to talk.

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    1. In some ways it’s better not having Reggie’s background details. When I adopted him, he got a clean slate. I try not to create a story for him based on my assumptions – which is not easy when you’re a writer and prone to coming up with juicy details!

      I didn’t know you’d adopted Rocky. Now I know why he is a tough cookie!

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    1. Reggie had a wonderful birthday celebration with his favorite liver treats and lots of belly rubs. I think the adoration in his eyes is because he is looking for the yummy treats. 🙂

      So nice to hear from you. Hope you are doing well!

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  7. So… did you tell David Sedaris, ‘ You scratch my back, I scratch yours.’!? Hahaha… I’m guessing probably not, but… you know. What a cool story! I met Cris Carter at a signing when I was a kid, but I don’t think I’ve ever met (or seen) any other celebrities.
    And (of course) very, very happy belated birthday to Reggie!!! Wishing him many, many, many more!!!
    🙂

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    1. Ha! No, I didn’t say that, but the whole time I was thinking, “I’m scratching David Sedaris’s back. I’m scratching David Sedaris’s back.”
      Also I have not yet washed my hands. 🙂

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    1. That’s a great question! I’d spent time volunteering for a local rescue group who had seen his photo on their site when he first came into the shelter. The group contacted the shelter and they said they’d only release him to a rescue group, not an average adopter. So I went to get him because his time was up at the shelter. And the rest is history! 🙂

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      1. And can you recall why did you think that he should be your dog? How did he – or rather, his photos – conquered your heart? And turned he out to be that dog you expected?

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      2. When I saw Reggie at the shelter, I just “knew” I was supposed to take him home. I felt an immediate attraction to him. I always wonder about that moment because I’d met other dogs before him and none of them captured my heart as immediately as Reggie did. He is sitting my feet right now, hoping I will give him another treat. 🙂

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  8. Several years ago I was at a Wendell Berry signing and he looked at me in such an unnerving way, it felt like he could see my whole self suddenly and thoroughly. I think he withdrew my innards for a few seconds, and I’m not sure I passed the test.

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    1. Oh, I’m a fan of Wendell Berry’s writing. It must have been exciting to hear him speak and then meet him — even if he did kind of look through you. 😛
      Have a great week!

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  9. Happy Birthday Reggie!

    I’ve never heard the term FOMO, but I love it.

    It would be totally fine to tell your one friend that “something suddenly came up.” Didn’t you ever see the Brady Bunch Movie when Marcia used this line on the dweeb who she was supposed to go to the dance with, because the Big Man on Campus asked her out?

    On second thought, that didn’t work out so great. Looks like you’ll be lugging heavy boxes around, getting all hot and sweaty and probably wrenching your back out of joint. But I’m sure that would be LOADS more fun than some dumb party.

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      1. Just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to get to know David Sedaris. I’d heard of him, of course, as I don’t live totally under a rock, but this was the kick in the pants I needed. I checked out Diabetes with Owls on CD from the library and am enjoying it immensely! Wish I could write like that.

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      2. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the audio book. Hearing him read in person adds a whole extra dimension to the essays. If you listen while you’re driving people in passing cars will wonder about the crazy lady laughing hysterically by herself.

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  10. THAT SEDARIS STORY!!!!!! Oh my goodness! I love it! I was just excited to read that you attended the reading . . . but the back scratch? I mean . . . I’m speechless.

    Also excited to hear you’re teaching the Loft class again. Very cool.

    And yes to FOMO. I think that’s a big piece of the iPhone “addiction” for me.

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  11. David Sedaris asked you to scratch his back?! I would find it somewhat alarming to be asked to do something like that, but you got the coolest book dedication out of it! 🙂

    Happy Birthday to Reggie! How smart of you to see his potential. He’s such a lovely dog and sounds like a wonderful companion.

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    1. I’ll admit, I was confused at first. I thought he was kidding! Could he really want me to scratch his back? It’s such an odd request. Though I have to admit it was a neat experience. 🙂

      Reggie is a terrific companion. He brings joy into my life every single day. I hope Rosie is doing well!

      Nice to hear from you!

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  12. Jackie, I’ve been away too long. Reading what you write is like seeing into my own mind and reading all the things I haven’t gotten around to writing, only better – and with different experiences, of course. Love this new format – love reconnecting here, and a very very happy belated birthday to you!

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