Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ira Glass Is My Friend

"Hi," he said. "I'm Ira."

I didn't respond automatically as I should have, temporarily bowled over by two contradictory thoughts: first, the sheer duh-ness of his statement (of course you're Ira Glass, that's why we're here); secondly, the absolute genuineness with which he spoke. He was introducing himself. He wanted me to know who he was. In those three words he connected with me on a personal, almost intimate level, and I could understand how he got people to tell him their stories and secrets.

"Hi," I said, a few seconds late to the exchange. "I'm Blue."

I had waited over ninety minutes to get to the front of the line. At first, in the back, when we were too far away to see, people were joking "it's taking so long because everyone's pitching him ideas for This American Life;" as we got closer, we realized it was because Ira was talking to everyone in the line; asking them questions about who they were, what they did, where they lived, what brought them out that evening, etc.

I'd bought his book even though I don't really think it is useful or necessary for me to get famous people's signatures on things; the real reason I bought his book was because I hadn't known until the moment I walked into the Borders that Ira Glass had written a book (they had advertised it as an opportunity to get This American Life DVDs autographed, and the books were a surprise), and by chance or fate the woman behind the counter told me this particular book was the very last copy in the store. That, apparently, is what it takes to get me to impulse-buy something. (I have a vision of the woman pulling out another copy after I leave the counter, and telling the next person who walks in that this, too, is the very last copy.)

So after Ira talking about This American Life and the Q&A I got in line, with this book, and waited ninety minutes (and read the first 130 pages) and as soon as I got close enough started watching Mr. Glass interact with everyone in line. It was fascinating.

After Ira Glass introduced himself to me, he asked me a few questions about my job and then said, over his shoulder to the Borders assistant, "All these people in Washington have such interesting jobs!" He was keeping track, too, because then he talked to me about some of the other jobs he had heard about in the past ninety minutes, and then he signed my book "Your Friend, Ira Glass." Then I said "Thank you very much," and he said "No, thank you very much," as if it had been the most generous thing I could have done, to come out this evening and buy his book and then wait patiently for him to autograph it.

It was an interaction both intimate and bizarre, in the way that I felt that Ira Glass was one hundred percent serious about what he was doing, both in terms of his radio show and in terms of every interaction with every person in this line. I left wishing I could be more like that, though I can't imagine how much energy it would take, to invest oneself fully in every conversation and to remember and track them like threads in a story.

But Ira Glass is, after all, a storyteller. And, for five minutes yesterday evening, my friend.


Gori Girl said...

Wow - he sounds like quite the mensch.

Would you recommend the book?

Blue said...

The book is The New Kings of Nonfiction and Ira Glass shares the credits with a host of other writers. Most of the stories in the book were first printed in The New Yorker so if you read The New Yorker regularly you will have already read them.

That's my polite way of saying "unless you have a chance of getting the book signed..."

Gori Girl said...

Noted. :-)