Getting Lost in Paris With David Sedaris

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Dec 01, 2017

What did the American humorist and author do when he was given a taxidermied genuflecting lamb? He took it home, of course.

Where are you right now?

I’m in Manchester, in a freestanding little chamber in the lobby of the BBC building, and nobody can see me. I call it the TARDIS from Doctor Who. 

Where did you go on your last trip?

It was a lecture tour of the United States. I went to 40 cities in 43 days then I went home for four days to England. Then I returned to America for a book tour and I think I went to 25 cities in 30 days. Then I came home and the next day I started my UK tour. All I do is travel.

Are you getting pretty good at travelling to a new city every day?

I’ve always been good at it. I mean – not to blow my own trumpet – but my lecture agent represents a number of writers and I don’t know that any of them would put up with my schedule. A lot of the places I go to are like, you know, Wichita in Kansas and Columbia in Missouri. When I was young, if a comedian on TV said, “I’m going to be in Wichita on Saturday,” you’d think, “What a loser.” Actually, though, anyone can sell a theatre in New York, Chicago or Miami. But if you can sell a theatre in Wichita, that’s saying something.

When you enter a hotel room, what’s the first thing you do?

I check if there’s a bathtub. More and more often, in new hotels, there’s just a shower and I think, “What if I had a baby?” You don’t give a baby a shower. And I love a bathtub. I find the time – I make the time – to take a bath.

Do you have other strategies to make being on the road more enjoyable?

I did get myself some little Bose speakers. They don’t weigh much and I’m constantly thinking about how much my suitcase weighs. People give me a lot of things when I’m on tour. Once, somebody gave me a taxidermied lamb that was kneeling down. Her father was a taxidermist and he said, “She taxidermied this herself.” It was beautiful. I had it shipped to my house. I wrote her three thankyou letters. Even if somebody gives me something I don’t really like, I write a thankyou letter. But I don’t always, kind of, keep it. Every now and then, though, someone is right on the money and I appreciate that.

Do you prefer to wander the streets or check maps?

My last inclination is to ask anybody for directions. I’ve wasted so much time in my life wandering around when all I could have done was ask, “Where is there a Starbucks?”

Does your partner, Hugh Hamrick, mind asking?

Oh my God, no, he would never ask anybody for anything. It’s funny, because I thought it was a straight-man thing but it’s just a man thing. I can ask questions like, “Are those your real breasts?” or “When was the last time you touched a monkey?” But I would never ask where something was. 

Have you ever been lost?

Oh, yes, especially when I moved to Paris. I’d think, “I’ll just walk around the block,” but you don’t realise the block’s not square. The block is shaped like a star and, before you know it, you’re terribly lost. Every time I came up on the subway, I thought, “Wasn’t I just here?”

What was your typical childhood holiday?

We would go to the coast of North Carolina and rent a beach house for a week in a place called Emerald Isle. In 2013, I went back there and bought a house for my family. The houses there all have punned names, like Dune Our Thing or Clamelot. Our house had a dumb name so I changed it. Now we all gather at The Sea Section.

What’s the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced?

Probably when I first went to Tokyo and lit a cigarette then realised that nobody else had one. So I crushed it and looked around for a trash can but there weren’t any. That’s why you have pant cuffs. You don’t want to put a cigarette butt in your pocket. When you travel so much, you watch other people and do what they do. I’m always amazed when I’m in London with somebody who wants to stand by my side on the escalator and it’s like, “Have you not noticed that nobody stands side by side on the escalator?”

Which destination was a surprise to you?

The Philippines. Manila is what the United States would be like if the Republicans had their way. You are either rich or you have nothing. And the rich people live in gated communities and the poor people live in boxes.

When you’re on tour, do you get to go out and see the sights?

Most often I don’t. But I sign books for hours and hours so I get to talk to people. And if I had the choice, I would rather talk to somebody. I’ve been to Australia many times and you can ask any Australian, “How much did you pay for your house?” and they will tell you. If you asked a French person that, they would have you arrested. But with an Australian person, you can then say, “How much money do you make?” and they will tell you. I love that. Australians are so open and chatty and generous with information. I know that sounds like I’m pandering but I’m not. I wouldn’t want to live in Australia because it’s too hot.

Top image: Ingrid Christie

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