Yesterday I attended Douglas Coupland’s reading from "Hey Nostradamus". I admit it. I haven’t read the book but I will. I own a few of his books and have read a couple others. I’ve come across his articles in magazines over the past decade or so. The books I have read resonated with my soul. That much is true. So, of course I want to meet the man behind the words.
Douglas is a funny man. On stage, he spoke of many things. Many things that made me laugh inside. Many things that I cannot tell you about as they have already been forgotten. Now that I’m 30 my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. Perhaps my bad back is a contributing factor (Chronic back pain can result in a loss of 10% of grey matter. Did you know that?). Or maybe I think too much about nothing and my brain has purged the useful information. Or maybe I live in a world of constant media motion and my thoughts don’t have enough time to latch onto memory. All quite plausible.
A couple thoughts that I vaguely recall:
Cell phones ring long after the owner’s bodies are cold: A cacophony of sound attempting to contact the dead.
There is no need for pretension. I paid five dollars to see Douglas Coupland be himself and that is exactly what I got. Now that is strength of character (on his part, not mine). Much better than a tenured professor who likes to play around with his own intonation, and preen himself into an image of David Crosby while attempting to impress the audience and himself (while really only making an impression on my gag reflex). No, I’m not judgmental.
So, Douglas told funny stories. He related to themes in his book. He read from it. Then a local TV newscaster asked him some questions. Listening to him talk comforted me because he had to think about the answers. Sometimes he stumbled, jumped from one thought to another or lost his train of thought completely. I like that in a person. It’s a mirror of me. It makes me feel less stupid. Not everyone can be eloquent. Not all eloquent people can be interesting. There’s hope for me… unless I’m neither.
After a few questions from the audience, we shuffled our way over to the signing area. I get nervous when I meet people I admire. My poor friend had to endure my incessant chatter. Not pleasant for the guy ahead of us in line either, I’m sure.
The local TV station was filming the line up and interviewing people willing to speak their minds about Dougie. The aforementioned guy ahead of us in line was interviewed. My friend fled in a panic. She’s not into stardom or celluloid recognition. Hmm, guess they don’t use celluloid anymore, right? I digress. "I digress" is a pretentious sounding and overused expression. Once again, I digress. I noticed the guy being interviewed had ever-so-slightly trembling fingers and a small nervous twitch below his lip. Ah, he was nervous. How endearing! Next, the newscaster asked if I had something to say. I emphatically said NO.
Finally, we’re in front of Mr.Coupland. He shook my hand. I said "Hi, I’m Melanie. Just like on this piece of paper", and then shoved my books toward him with the little slip of paper with my name spelled correctly on it (A man went down the line earlier handing out these papers so we could speed up the process). The books are Girlfriend in a Coma and Microserfs. I requested him to personalize GIAC as it is such a "freaky cosmic" book. As he went to sign the page, he realized his name was already on there. "Did you buy it that way?" he asked. I nodded. He said he’d better sign it again a couple of times to prove that it is his signature. He then signed Microserfs and pointed to the back photo and said something about the photo being taken 12 years ago, how young he was, and how old he is now. I told him he’s distinguished or something similar. He counter offered the word "haggard". I didn’t know what to say. He went on to say something about being old, the passing of time and how he’s 43. I told him how I recently turned 30 and have noticed the passing of time as well. He asserted that 30 is the best age to be. He loved 30 to 34. Life is good…you're done with your thirties, your parents like you, you have energy or something (ok, i can't remember if he said that or not). It's when you hit 40 and it all falls apart (again, I'm paraphrasing) . I asked him if he had advice for me to prepare for 40. He told me to live in the moment and enjoy now. I said I would remember his words and maybe at 40 I’ll be okay because I had his warning. I wish I could remember this. It was a good little conversation we were having. I even asked a couple good questions. Give ME a camera and a microphone! More than that, I wanted to sit with him in my friend’s living room. Even better, I wanted him to be part of one of my board game parties. He would fit right in. After all, he is just "one of us".
He said hello to my friend and attempted to shake her hand. I think maybe she didn’t extend her hand or the timing was off because they had to do a little handshake dance before connecting. It was humorous. Douglas was amused. He asked my friend if her name was Irish. She said it was Norwegian (??). I butt in and said "what? I thought it was Irish too." She said "no, my family is Irish. The name isn’t." I’m shocked. Truly. I can’t remember what else they talked about.
I knew our time was up but I had one more thing to say. I told him how Girlfriend in a Coma is particularly interesting for me because two of the characters are born on my birthday which is September 2nd. The birthday also belongs to Keanu Reeves. The characters in the book are Megan and Karen. Same initials as Keanu and I have. Spooky (I don’t tell him about all the other weirdness I found in the book). He is surprised and questions me. "Really, that is Keanu’s birthday?" he asked. Yup, it is. I concur. He then said "well, really, it is all about you". I countered "thank you for confirming that. That's what I thought". After all, I do think it is all about me! That book is freaky! Well, ok… not ALL about me (or is that not AT all) …but there are some things that make me believe in an universal conscience.
We smiled and parted ways. I’m pleased I had the chance to meet Douglas finally after all this passing of time. And it’s always an eye-opener to have someone whom you admire tell you completely objectively that you’re overly self-involved. Ha, no kidding. Funny thing, the truth doesn’t hurt when it comes from Douglas Coupland.