Saturday evening, August 14, almost two weeks ago, fifteen friends sat down to dinner. Art Olsen cooked, with help from sous-chefs and servers and friends, and I was lucky to be included. Thank you to Art, Tonnie, Tessa, Hannah, Nick, Kerri, Angie, Jarrett, Brian and probably someone else I am forgetting, for an unforgettable time.
Tessa, Hannah, Tonnie
The amount of training, practice, planning, procuring, cooking and eating that went into this dinner was mind-blowing. It deserves a proper story; that's why this post is long. (Read all the way to the end for more photos.)
Many, many years ago I worked with a smart designer at a smart office furniture company. My smart friend went away and started a smart design studio in Pittsburgh, then moved to Hawaii and opened an additional office there. On the first Friday of almost every month they throw a party. Smart. Here are their invitations. Your life will be richer for having watched each and every one, so be sure to click on "in case you missed last month..."
Late Friday I heard the mail come through the slot in our front door. Ewan was upstairs on a call and I had been glued to my computer for an hour trying to get some work finished before the weekend. Iona was bored and had been begging to play a computer game, and when the slot in the door banged, she jumped up to go get the mail. She came back with the stack saying, "What's this, mom? Can I open it?"
Iona was holding a large envelope with a bird drawn over my home address. For a moment I was confused. Who did I know who would draw a bird like that on mail? My friends Chris and Sarah came to mind. But no, the writing was wrong. Then I remembered, and I jumped up and down. I laughed. I made animal noises. Iona picked up on my excitement and yelled, "Let me open it, Mom! Let's open it! Is it for me?"
Inside the package was this:
A personal note! A note to me! A bird picture just for fun! That I didn't even ask for!
Inside that envelope was this:
The package was from Lynda Barry. The other day something I was writing made me think about her so I went online looking for her and found her web site which features on its home page her ebay store, so I bought some of her original art and that is what arrived through my mail slot on Friday. She wrapped the artwork like it was a special gift, which is was on Friday and always has been, ever since I first discovered her.
For almost twenty years now I've been a huge fan of the artist/writer behind Ernie Pook's Comeek,The Good Times are Killing Me and Cruddy. Lynda Barry and I both grew up in the Seattle area, though her experience was urban and mine suburban. She went to Evergreen (where hippies went) and I went to University of Washington (where you could get lost, it was so big). Lynda's comic strips always spoke to me, maybe because I'll always be fourteen years old, and her characters tend to be pre-teens and teenagers who twirl batons, eat popsicles and say, "Right on," and "Just because someone has lace-up hip-huggers does not mean they can control the world."
About fifteen years ago, when I was sort of unhappily getting used to living in a new place (having just left Grand Rapids, and wanting to be back in Seattle, but in love in Chicago) I dragged my nice boyfriend to the Printers Row Book Fair because books always make me feel better.
It was a hot day. We were sitting outside at a cafe eating sandwiches when I heard an announcer say that Lynda Barry would be reading on the main stage in five minutes. I jumped out of my chair and did one of those gasps that makes people around me think someone's dying, and three minutes later we were sitting in folding chairs watching this woman wearing a kilt with lots of fiery red hair sing a song while playing the accordion. I can't remember what she sang but I remember that she explained afterward that she gets nervous speaking in front of crowds, and she figured if she could sing in front of us then she could read. This seemed so cool to me, since I was afraid of everything, but public speaking was at the very top of the list.
After the reading I went up to buy one of her CDs and, as she signed it I told her, "I'm from Seattle too." It was all I could think of to say.
A couple years later a friend of mine, Verna, took me to hear Lynda Barry do a reading at a public library in Northbrook. Again Lynda sang a song before reading. I don't even remember what she read, but I remember being a total fan, and being there with Verna.
Since then I've mostly found Lynda Barry through Ernie Pook's Comeek in The Chicago Reader while sitting at the Charleston with Ewan. I'm really hoping I can do one of her writing workshops someday. And now I own this piece:
And soon I will win this piece in an ebay auction (be still, my heart):