An Event: Hearing Sherman Alexie at the Book Festival

I left my motel half an hour before the scheduled time for Sherman Alexie’s reading—plenty of time, I thought, to walk two blocks to the Wilma Theater and get a good seat. As I turned the corner I saw the line stretched back three quarters of a block.

When the pedestrian light changed I rushed across the street and got in line just ahead of busloads of high school kids.  I turned and asked them: “Where are you from?”

“Everywhere,” the said, “Polson, Arlee, Ronan.”  I recognized the names; they are the rez towns north of Missoula.

Many of the kids carried books, sometimes two or three books, so they collect Alexie’s autograph. They were laughing, smiling, happy that they would get to see a person they truly admire

I left the kids behind and pushed my way through the lobby. I’d better get a seat, I thought. Those kids could stand, but my new hip and arthritic knees needed for me to sit.

I made a circuit of the main floor of the ornate old theater, but every empty seat I spotted was already claimed—and guarded by person who glared at me when I looked at it longingly. I made for the balcony.

As I looked up the rows of balcony seats I saw a man asking four women if the two seats at the end of their row next to the stairway were taken. When they said, “no,” and made room for him to pass, I stepped forward and followed him to the precious seats.

I waited and watched while ushers scouted out empty seats and directed late comers to them. Then the lights dimmed; welcoming speeches and introductions were made, and Sherman Alexie took the stage.

I won’t every try to report Alexie’s remarks. Like they say, “you had to be there.” He was hilarious and serious, insulting and ingratiating, happy and sad. Like I said, “you had to be there.

If you get a chance to hear Sherman Alexie, don’t miss it.  DON’T MISS IT.

As i made my way out of the theater, I saw the high school kids from the rez towns waiting to get their books autographed. I’m sure they did.


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