Friday, July 03, 2009

Speaking of the Sedarises; Shackleton Speaks IV

David Sedaris has been staying with me this week. Rather, I have been staying with him, as much as I can. I have taken early morning drives, alone, to the store or the bank or where ever, before the rest of the family is awake these last few days(I'm on vacation so not commuting at the moment) so I can listen to the audio version of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I even played a couple of the (nearly) G-Rated essays for the kids. Being my kids, they loved them too. Shackleton is now putting in requests for "that depressed guy."

I didn't realize that David's sister Amy was also famous as a writer and performer. I stumbled over her on Youtube in a little Internet Sedaris stalking. (Did I mention that our plans for sponging off relatives on the Jersey Shore this week had fallen through?). She was charming and funny in a bunch of David Letterman interviews, if a bit manic.

So, having been hanging with the Sedarises these last few days I have this feeling that I actually know them. David's family is his best material and the fact that some little incident or description of a personal characeristic might embarrass a near relation is no reason for him not to discuss it - in punishing, unflinching detail.

It's pretty clear that all these Sedarises (six kids in all: Lisa, David, Amy, Gretchen, Tiffany and Paul - I told, you I am getting to know them) - are really bright, and kind of normal (they watched TV a lot as kids; their Dad was an engineer at IBM), but also that they are, to varying degrees, crazy. At least David is at least half crazy -like DSM-IV-diagnosable-crazy. Fortunately, it seems to be the half that allows continued function, like one bad kidney or a deaf ear. Or, more likely, his hinks (OCD and maybe some other stuff too) are a sine qua non of his writing, a necessary ingredient in the Sedaris alchemy. I remember a friend in college telling me that the great thing about Manhattan is that it's an island, and the terrible thing about is that it's an island. So, kind of like that.

As with all my enthusiasms, I am here to share. Upon learning of my recent Sedaris crush, the brilliant Lulu Labonne sent me this link to an episode of This American Life that includes a rib-binder from Sedaris and other great essays read by Sarah Vowell (another Lulu recommendation) and Anne Lamott. All three essays (and performances) are gems. So when you have 55 minutes or so and some head phones, listen through. Link to Lulu's pick

I would love to know what you think about them.

Shackleton Speaks IV

Fun with Febreze

I don't have the nerve/inclination/heart to lay my own loved ones quite so bare as David S. does. I mean, I went to law school and all, which means I am constantly thinking about unintended consequences, and the kids are still too small to really fight back - Shackleton, the brilliant but learning disabled heir to the Woolfoot Throne and Lands, can't even read properly yet. So, I try not to overshare. Still, he's just so funny, and maybe an agent will call and make him rich and famous if I tell about him, so here's some of what he has been up to lately.

First, a little background. One day last week it rained here in Biblical fashion. On that day, I was at work. When I returned home, the Understudy came outside (for the first time that day) and saw that the side door on the minivan had been left open, all day. Everything within four feet of the opened door was soaked. The next day, the van smelled bad. Really bad.

My kids watch lots of TV and the Understudy in particular is moved by commercials to want to buy things. Since she has no money, she wants me to buy these things. She is frustrated by my commitment to buying whatever is cheapest. She wants me to buy name brands, preferably heavily advertised things. She wants me to buy things that it is not clear any one should have or want. Like "Bagelfuls" and "Danactive" and air fresheners. After the car soaking incident, I agreed to buy a horking great spray bottle of "Febreze". This product is, as my kids could tell you, probably by reciting the commercial verbatim, is supposed to make bad-smelling fabrics smell better.

This morning, as I was trying to steam milk at our broken cappuccino machine, I felt something wet on my back. Shackleton was spraying me with Febreze

"Stop that!"

"It will make you smell better."

Then he sprayed the dog and chased her around the table saying. "I want to sniff you!" (Oversharing? It was the Febreze-splashed fur that he wanted to test, but even he knew this sounded sick-making).

Channeling Charlie Chaplin

The other night, while I was trying to read some blogs, Shack came down and asked me to find the top hat we bought for him at the Halloween store last year.

He didn't wear it for Halloween but we both liked the look of it so I bought it for him. Since I also like hat boxes, I had a good place for the topper and I told him where he could find it. Next, he wanted a shirt and tie and a blazer.

The only blazer he had was the one he wore at pre-school graduation (comically too small). His only ties are part of his school uniform and that wasn't the look he wanted. He found once-white dress shirt (also a uniform item) and contented himself with that. Then he asked for a golf club. I found one.

"OK," he said. "Now I need an assistant. Someone who won't cry."

Turns out he was trying to recreate a scene from a Charlie Chaplin movie The Idle Class that we saw here months ago. (The assistant had to be willing to be hit with the golf club).

Here's a bit of the movie - edited at the pace suitable to the audiences of 1921.

OK. I'm off. Happy fourth of July everybody! On that note, I was antique shopping very briefly today, just long enough to buy a vintage Union Jack for the pencil jar on my desk. The Understudy is fairly daring me to wave it at the parade tomorrow. Should I?