Tuesday, October 26th was a day at the office we all wanted to end quickly. Not that it was a bad day by any means. It wasn’t raining, we weren’t in bad moods. We wanted it to end because that night we were all going to see Jess Walter read at IFOA. Needless to say we were all very excited. We had all heard tale of how charming and funny he was in person and couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. And so it was with great angst and bitterness that we all began our 8 hour day at the office.
To add to the long day of work that sought to keep us from Jess was a last minute, unexplained meeting at noon. We had all been invited rather last minute with no real idea of what the meeting was about and furthermore why the heck it was at noon! In attendance were many of the higher-ups, or grown-ups as we call them. Some of us began to feel a tad concerned. Last minute meeting? They’ll bring lunch? Managers? VP? What was happening!!!! Are they feeding us as means to console us when we are all systematically fired! Did they think a full stomach would placate us?
Needless to say we all spent the morning emailing each other furiously, spewing conspiracy theories every which way. Yet none of our guessing, speculating or worrying could have prepared for what lay ahead. If only we had known. We could have been ready, more prepared, and personally, I would have skipped that morning’s breakfast and the previous night’s dinner. Let me explain.
We arrived for our meeting sullen, confused and anxious. We idly chatted about unimportant things waiting for our imagined axe to fall. Then something miraculous happened. Something beautiful and greasy and heart cloggingly fantastic. The door to the boardroom opened and the one and only, our first love, Jess Walter walked in. And he wasn’t alone. He brought some friends. He brought some double downs.
A brief history about our group, Jess Walter, and the infamous birdwich. Apparently Jess is an admitted eater and enjoyer of the DD and had caught wind of the fact that several of us Savviest of Readers had recently taken a bit of a field trip to KFC on D-Day to indulge in some fried mush and take some years off our lives. Therefore it seemed only natural that he would surprise us and treat us all to an even earlier grave. What followed was a nearly two hour feast of most epic proportions. We had Double Downs, fries, coleslaw, gravy and twice our recommended daily intake of sodium. To the left: Jason can’t handle the DD. 1500g of sodium is not for the faint of heart.
We were joined by President and CEO of HCC, David Kent, who indulged in a DD of his own! It truly was a surreal lunch. We chatted with Jess about his book, his in-progress next book, and many other exciting topics. Jess was amazing. He was just as funny, humble and down to earth as we’d hoped. He had us laughing through mouthfuls of Colonel’s secret sauce the whole lunch through. Our once dreaded day at the office had become the best we’d ever had, and we haven’t even gone to IFOA yet! To the right: Jess telling us about his next project. Top secret info. He only talks about it to his best of friends.
It turned into a blustery night as we headed to Harbourfront, but the seats were packed in the Lakeside Terrace, and the air felt warm as we waited for our boy Jess. I think it was the moment we took up an entire row of seats that we realized that in the world of books, we were groupies, and Jess was our Keith Richards. Jess took the stage first, and bounded into his reading of the first chapter of The Financial Lives of the Poets. Although we’ve clearly all read the book, hearing Jess read aloud brought out the undeniable poetry of those first few pages. $9 gallons of milk, and tales of “the bent boys, baked and buzzed boys, wasted red-eyed, dry-mouth high boys” of the 7-11 made us want to read this book all over again.
Jess finished his reading with his classic manifesto about moms and their thongs (don’t just take our word for it, read for yourself in chapter 4), and perhaps for the first time in IFOA history, not just cheering, but whistles and “woo hoos” erupted from the general direction of our row. To the left: Jess making us giggle like the book-groupies we are. (especially Justin, it seems)
We had to sit patiently through the next reading, but during intermission we shuffled up to the front, and said something along the lines of
“ohmygodthatwasamazingwhatagreatreadingthankyousomuchagainfortodayIlovethepoemmoms intheirthongswhatagreatchoicethanksagaincanwegetapicture?” (Editor’s note: and that was just Brad!)
I hope you enjoy our photos from our day with Jess Walter. From double downs, to moms in thongs, it was a day this book club won’t forget for many moons, and Jess will remain in our hearts, and stomachs, as the first love of the Savvy Readers.