Personal

Do Awesome Things: Mar 2 Electric Boogaloo – Sarah Vowell Unfamiliar Fishes reading/signing

I don’t know if this is normal, but it seems like it could be. I have these things that are inextricably linked to people in my life. Ex: I will never hear American Pie without imagining being in the frat house basement. I will never hear Travelin’ Band or Tom Waits or watch Top Gear without thinking of Ryder. Any kind of motorsport makes me think of my dad. The Three Amigos, swimming pools, cold coffee, or fly swatters? Aunt Sherry.

I have known Brianna for a long time, so there are many things with which she is linked: Eddie Izzard, The General by Dispatch, Napoleon Dynamite, The Hold Steady, and Sarah Vowell.

I don’t remember if I heard about Assassination Vacation because of Brianna, but I remember finding out she was reading it at around the same time. It was the first Sarah Vowell book I read, but not the last. I just checked the inside cover of her latest book, and I’ve read every one in the bibliography provided there.

Sarah Vowell is a nerd, but not just any nerd. A history nerd. She is also hilarious. Combine these two things, and you have my attention. She is easily my favorite living author. (Douglas Adams may win out if “living” is removed, though maybe not.)

When I found out Sarah was doing a reading/signing of her new book, the first thing I did was cancel my previous plans for that night, and the second thing I did was invite Brianna to come with me.

My previous plans were going to see a movie with my coworkers on the company dime, which was easy to get out of. Unfortunately, to set those plans, I had to cancel my previous previous plans: a standing board game night with Brianna and her fiance. Naturally, she gave me crap about canceling our original plans. So when I invited her to something on the same night, having canceled those plans for something new, I got even more.

The reading was great – Sarah read the first chapter, making additional jokes along the way. The new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, is about Hawaii and how The US became the foreign-land conquering super-power it is today when in a single year, they took control of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and some other places I can’t remember because I haven’t finished the book. At one point in the first chapter, there is a long description about a Banyan tree near the city center somewhere in Hawaii, and she talks about how if it weren’t for the diligence of the groundskeepers, the tree would take over the square, destroying the foundations of the neighboring buildings. Having read that part of the book, she set it down, paused and said “That’s what we in the business call symbolism.”

After the reading there was a Q&A, and she got some decent questions, and answered them in delightfully funny ways. After that, she signed copies of the book for anyone who stuck around.

I bought two copies, and had them both signed. One for me, and one for Brianna. Since she gave me a hard time about canceling plans, and because, in general, we have this kind of friendship, I decided to get her back. A simple autograph wasn’t enough, so I explained what happened to Sarah Vowell. She signed Brianna’s copy thusly:

Brianna's signed Unfamiliar Fishes

Everyone behind me in line seemed to get a kick out of this, so she personalized my copy, too:

My signed same

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