Sedaratives: Sarah Vowell

Sedaratives: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell
Facebook icon Share via Facebook Twitter icon Share via Twitter

Dear Sedaratives,

Over the last few months, I’ve developed a crush on a librarian. He’s not exactly a hottie, but there’s something about him that I find irresistible. Maybe it’s the argyle sweater or the pear-shaped body. It just drives me wild. But I don’t have the guts to ask him out. Do you have any suggestions?

Kelly Lawson
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Kelly,

Why not enlist his help on a research project explaining the etymology and implications of the phrase “Adlai Stevenson moment”? This might allow you (a) the hair-sniffingly close physical proximity involved with the presentation of research materials—and here I suggest, assuming his library has yet to transfer its analog collections to digital, that you “accidentally” drop a roll of microfilm, unspooling it across the room so the two of you, on all fours, can rewind it together—and (b) a ­casual way to assess his position on verbal bravery. Like, if he seems turned on by Stevenson’s rhetorical gumption toward Soviet Ambassador Zorin in 1962, he might be similarly impressed if you ask him out in 2006. If he hesitates to answer, just bark, as Stevenson did so famously and so adorably, “Don’t wait for the translation—yes or no?” He will be very charmed by this, especially if you follow up with black-and-white aerial photographs of possible first-date locations. If you have limited helicopter access, you may simply type in the library’s ZIP code and order one of the U.S. Geological Survey’s photos taken from 20,000 feet. (www.usgs.gov)



Dear Sedaratives,

I have an abundance of dryer lint in all different shades of grays and whites. I usually fashion baby wigs with the stuff. Can you suggest other creative uses for my fuzzy matter?

Gary Brewer
Mesa, Ariz.

Dear Gary,

I cannot. However, I would caution you to remember it’s not the destination but the journey where dryer lint, like so many things in life, is concerned. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 15,000 dryer fires every year in the United States, causing tens of million of dollars in damages. So your seemingly stupid hobby turns out to be quite civic-minded and safety-firsty. Way to go, you!



Dear Sedaratives,

I’ve found lately that the hints I read from Heloise every Sunday in the newspaper are becoming less funny and more useful. Am I getting old, or just more practical?

Jamie Spears
Aspen, Colo.

Dear Jamie,

I wouldn’t know. My hometown newspaper, a little old rag called the New York Times, does not stoop to publishing comic strips or ladylike advice columns, unless you count the op-ed pages under the current reign of editorial page editor Ms. Gail Collins. At press time, Ms. Collins’s page counsels our president to dissuade his visiting Nigerian colleague Olusegun Obasanjo from amending the Nigerian Constitution to allow for a third presidential term, a “foolhardy” tactic the Times fears will spark a civil war. Advice which, to answer your question, is both practical and hilarious, except for the glaring omission of how club soda might also help.



Dear Sedaratives,

As a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical concern, I spend a large portion of my day behind
the wheel and have taken to preparing hot meals on the engine block of my company-issued automobile. The meats and shellfish come out just fine, but I’m having trouble with the grilled asparagus. I’m not sure if I’m wrapping the foil too tightly, or if my choice of olive oil is to blame. Please help.

Thomas Mullen
Washington, D.C.

Dear Thomas,

Gee, that’s terrific that you can take time out of your busy schedule of turning America’s elderly into Canadian drug smugglers while further guzzling the gas that insures our dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously contributes to the global warming that will eventually drown the entire tri-state area so as to Alice Waters up your otherwise Willy Loman existence. According to Ms. Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables, she parboils asparagus spears in boiling salt water for one minute before throwing them onto a grill.



Dear Sedaratives,

I am an Orthodox Christian and have always dated Orthodox guys until now. I met a wonderful man at Trader Joe’s and am now head over heels in love. My family won’t accept our relationship, however, and now I don’t know what to do. Should I break up with him in order to please my family?

Kate Mobley
Portland, Ore.

Dear Kate,

A Trader Joe’s just opened here in Manhattan! What are their snacks you recommend? I remember enjoying some of their ched­dar soy crisps in the Bay Area a couple of book tours ago, thanks to a thoughtful media escort who uses the phrase “socially conscious” more than one hears back East, but lately I have more of a thing for sweet potatoes.



Dear Sedaratives,

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday (the big four-oh!) and I’m suddenly plagued with self-doubt. I guess you could say that I’m part of the so-called “Intellectual Elite.” I read several books a day, I’m fluent in five languages, and I regularly attend the opera. But since my birthday, I’ve become acutely aware of my shortcomings. I don’t know how to change the oil in my car, for instance. And I don’t enjoy professional sports. Is this something I should be concerned about?

Jason Sanders
New York, N.Y.

Dear Jason,

Is one of the languages you speak pussy? I ask you: what requires more masculine stamina, lollygagging on a couch in one’s pajamas during the NBA playoffs while receiving constant noisy sustenance from the good people of Frito-Lay, or sitting in a stiff seat wearing a stiff tuxedo suffering through two straight nights of Wagner’s eleventy-hour Ring Cycle and getting the evil eye from stout divas in horned helmets if you so much as unwrap a cough drop? And if you really want to learn how to change the oil in your (lemme guess) Saab, I’m thinking a guy who’s managed to effortlessly conjugate five kinds of subjunctive verbs can speed-read Auto Repair for Dummies, for crying out loud. Plus, according to Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe to you), “There is but one truly se­rious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Hope that cheers you up—if you’ll pardon my split infinitive.


More Reads

Sedaratives: Fred Armisen

Fred Armisen

Stuff I’ve Been Reading: May 2006

Nick Hornby

La Zona Fantasma: Run, Everyone, Run!

Javier Marías