If I were an old Jewish lady, I would cut in front of me too, because Etgar Keret is the shit. And tonight, he became even more the shit. My sense of his the-shit-ness was already pretty high before tonight, but to sit in that lecture hall at the Jewish Center hearing him talk about his parents' unsentimental relationship to their memories of childhood during WWII and the Holocaust, which were filled with as much comedy, joy, and exaggeration as they were deep suffering and loss, hearing him talk of his inability to write directly about his parents' trauma, hearing him read his short story "Shoes," which I wouldn't mind modeling all my own bullshit immigrant stories on, about a boy who visits a Holocaust museum, then receives a pair of Adidas (Guten tag!) as a gift, Keret's the-shit-ness rose to astronomical levels in my mind.
Here is me waiting in line and failing at it and then retiring to the next room for coffee and dessert, a much-needed treat, because as amazing as Keret's talk was, I was still barely able to keep my eyes open, a result of the arduous Monday-to-Wednesday teaching-tutoring schedule I have this semester, during which I expend much energy I don't have trying to get freshmen to unfreshmen their writing, their minds, etc.
Here is me, one of the last people in the lobby of the Jewish Center, which I'm almost certain is not the official name of the place, on my seventh brownie and third cup of coffee and second tiny bottle of Poland Springs, garnering the fake smiles and silent ire of the people serving the food because I have made the bold decision to cut out the middleman (tongs) and pick up the brownies with my best two fingers. Here is me waiting with my friends for another old Jewish lady who has cut in line to finish verbally pinching Etgar Keret's cheeks.
Here is me, approaching finally--the lady actually pinched his cheeks! how funny! but he took it like a gentleman, didn't he!
Here is me stuttering for a bit, staring at him (was he glowing, or was I having an aneurysm, was he having an aneurysm because of his own radioactivity, are aneurysms contagious?), and here is me asking him if he remembers me from last year, when he came to Syracuse and we sat for an hour in the lobby of his hotel and I ran a tape recorder and asked him one groggy question after another for the literary journal, which he answered ungroggily, with wit and warmth and a life-affirming lack of bullshit. Here is me opening my mouth in front of a writer I wouldn't mind switching frontal lobes with, if only for a couple stories, just to see how it would feel.
Here is me making a self of my ass:
"Hi, Mr. Keret."
"Uh, did you see the interview?"
"Yeah, someone gave me some copies of it earlier."
"Oh, great! What did you think? You didn't hate it, did you?"
"I didn't get a chance to read it yet, I've been--"
"No, totally groovy. No worries. We're all busy. All good."
"So, you are one of the editors?"
Here is me, crestfallen, because a favorite writer has forgotten who I am.
"I, I interviewed you. Don't you remember--?"
"Yes, yes. I remember. You're an editor now, right?"
Here is me, the opposite of crestfallen, because a favorite writer knows something about me. I am totally an editor now! Who has told him? Let me hug that person! And let me hug Mr. Keret!
"Oh, yes! I am! I mean...I am."
"Okay, I didn't mean to insult your memory abilities. I just wanted to make sure. So you do remember me, right?"
"I do...Do you have a book for me to sign?"
"Yes, in fact, I do, Mr. Keret. It's my own book. Which includes an interview I did with you in it. Do you remember it?"
"Yes, I said I do."
"It was at the Sheraton?"
"It was in the morning?"
"There was a voice recorder I had sitting on the table? Because it's cool if you forgot. I know famous writers are interviewed all the time. I'm sure other interviewers did a better job--"
"I said I remember you. I remember the interview. I'm looking forward to reading it."
"Great! Because I know it's been a whole year since I interviewed you in the lobby of the Syracuse Sheraton, when you were sitting there, in that fond chair of yesteryear, and I was sitting across from you asking you those questions of lore in an interview-type scenario? Ringing a bell?"
"Are you mocking me?"
"Oh my god, no! No, no, no, Mr. Keret. You're the shit! You're on my shit list! I mean, my The Shit list! Right up there with Walt Whitman and Bob Marley. Man, I wish I had interviewed those guys too. Wouldn't it have been cool to do a three-way with those guys? Ha ha! I didn't mean that in like a gay sex way. Ha ha. But like a round table gang bang of verbal cum shots on each other. Do you remember our interview, Mr. Keret? Did you enjoy it? Whitman was gay, by the way, did you know that?"
"I am very tired, young man."
"So you don't remember me?"
"Fine. No, I don't. I have no recollection of ever meeting you."
A moment later, as I walked away from his table of books distracted, embarrassed, Mr. Keret holding his forehead in his hands, having a real aneurysm, my friends ask me what happened. What did I say? What did he say back? Etc?
Shrug. "I don't think he remembers me."
Bummer, say my friends.
"Though he did allow me to pinch his cheeks!"