Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last Night with Neil

For my birthday, Diana enabled my Neil Gaiman stalking habit and bought me a ticket to see him on his American Gods 10th Anniversary Tour. Frankly, I was shocked the event wasn't happening in my living room, but I suppose they needed a larger venue to handle the crowds.

We got there over an hour early, not sure exactly how early we should be. We got street parking right away a half a block from the church where the event was to be held. As we walked up to it, Diana said "there's no line". Then we got past the corner and I said "there's a line." It was already around the block. So I took a spot and she grabbed food and we waited. Fortunately it was a nice night to wait. And just at the exact right moment, Diana's friend Kate showed up. Perfect timing.

We grabbed seats inside the church and settled in. Lots and lots of people. 700 or so, to be exact. All a little nerdy. I recognized a few people in the crowd.

He had an opening act. Musician Zoe Boekbinder came out and did a one-woman band show, the highlight of which was her rendition of Single Ladies:

Then TV's Adam Savage was introduced as the evening's master of ceremonies and he in turn introduced Neil. Neil's a very funny and entertaining guy. I could watch him talk for hours, and I did last night. Adam's also entertaining, but he seemed to have some highfalutin quote from some literary or artistic luminary to go along with everything Neil said. I wasn't sure if he was just that literate, or if the clip board in front of him was filled with platitudes. Either way it was a little odd.

The church made for good sight-lines, except for the hipsters in front of us who were snuggling and alternating between filming bits of it on their iphone and being hunched over their iphone presumably doing things with the bits they'd filmed. Here's an idea... how about actually pay attention to what your seeing? The guy sitting next to you was. Ok, he was hunched over a sketch pad the entire time, but at least he was still paying enough attention to produce this sketch of the evening.

At one point, Neil got up and read the section from American Gods set in San Francisco. Sure, he was pandering to the crowd, but they didn't mind. He talked about how he gathered ideas for the book, and told of a jet-lagged day in Iceland where he thought he saw "pony sushi" on a menu and stumbled into a tourist center to see dioramas of Leif Ericson's journey to America and thought "I wonder if they brought their gods with them".

They wrapped up around 9. I got sucked in and bought an autographed copy of the book, even though it's not my favorite, mostly because I wanted it as a souvenir of the evening. And I knew if I didn't buy it, I'd regret it. I also picked up one of Zoe Boekbinder's CDs. Not because I expect it to end up in heavy repeat on my ipod, but because I enjoyed her performance and wanted to support that.

Then Kate, Diana, and I went out into the Berkeley night and enjoyed a treat from Yogurt Park. And thus concluded my lovely birthday festivities. Thanks Diana!

And I will leave you with a clip of Neil Gaiman and Adam Savage being interviewed for public radio wherein Adam does Gollum performing I Will Survive (it's as funny as that sounds):

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.