I'm going to tell this story in parts because there is a lot to tell and I am in grad school and should be doing my homework instead of blogging. However, when you get to go to the Emmys you kind of owe it to yourself to write everything down so that your grandchildren can read about it while they try on your Emmys dress, no?
Ten years ago this October Matthew and I opened a small cafe in Montague, MA called The Lady Killigrew Cafe in a very old grist mill on a small river. We had no idea what we were doing and it showed, though in ways that people found charming and quaint (thankfully). Because we had no idea what we were doing we simply opened a cafe that we would want to hang out in: we made it look homey, served food you'd bring to potlucks, and communicated with our customers in ways that were humorous, direct, cheeky, and self-aware. We joked that we hoped McSweeney's never came to Montague; we would be found to have ripped them off entirely (they did come, but that's a different story).
We owned this cafe for three years and in those three years we met most of our dearest friends, survived grease trap blockages, dishwasher breakdowns, landlord shenanigans, and depression that seemed to have no bottom. They were the hardest years of my life (and I've raised a child on my own as a teenager) but I wouldn't trade them for anything. They were three grad schools in one and I am who I am largely because of them.
At the cafe we would host carefully curated events; from the onset we were completely self-righteous and snobby about what kinds of art, if any, we'd hang on our walls, and what kinds of readings and music we wanted to be associated with. We did not and do not apologize for this exclusivity in the slightest as it was one of the best business decisions we ever made. We became known for hosting events like Found Magazine and McSweeney's readings, concerts with Jonathan Coulton and experiential wine tastings with Matthew, as well as musical events hosted by the Autonomous Battleship Collective in which Dirty Projectors, Feathers, Death Vessel, and Matt Pond played. It was exciting, exhausting, and profoundly gratifying to appeal to these groups of artists we admired and every time we got the chance to host them we did.
On a weekend when Found Magazine was in town a man came to our counter and asked about them, explaining that he was a friend of Davy Rothbart, the founder, and expressed his sadness that he would have to miss him as he was leaving town that afternoon. I offered to take a polaroid picture of him (a real one) and give it to Davy later, so he posed with his 4-year-old daughter and left and I did give it to Davy, who was happy to see this man in the polaroid. This man had, before leaving, explained that he had been working on a book all summer in the cafe and Bookmill (a used bookstore next door) and that maybe we would like to read an advance copy and have a reading with him at some point. We said, "Sure, send it along!" while in our heads we were thinking, "Oh good lord, everyone in this cafe is working on a book, it'll probably be awful." We were at our most misanthropic at that point, being so tired of owning a cafe. Sorry about that.
Well, the book came. Its cover looked like a Dr. Bronner's label of sorts; it was littered with amazing and amusing little tidbits and what was inside was even better. I remember so clearly where I was when I cracked it open - at the bar at the Night Kitchen, the restaurant below us in the mill, having a post-shift cocktail. My jaw dropped as I realized that the man who had written the book was a genius and that the book was supernaturally funny. When the book came out we hosted a reading with him, of course, and have been friends with John Hodgman ever since.
When John was a guest on the Daily Show for the first time (for being the author of said book) we huddled around the television at the cafe after hours, squealing with pride and joy, amazed that he had made it on to such an amazing and esteemed show. And then very quickly he started showing up on television regularly in the "I'm a Mac" ads, and in movies and televison shows, and he wrote more books, and became a cast member on the Daily Show. We witnessed his fame rise from afar, seeing him in the summers when he and his family spent time in their summer house in MA and when we would visit them in NY. His fame has always felt distant and not a huge part of how I know and love him. He is a friend who makes excellent martinis, beats me at Scrabble every time, can talk to me thoughtfully and deeply about literally anything, and insists on watching incredibly weird videos late into the night.
Over the years he and his wife Katherine, of the pink blankets fame, have become some of our favorite friends. They, without fail, enliven conversations, are super smart, well read, and engaged in the culture without being dogmatic and overly political (like, I really learn from them when we talk and I consider new ways of thinking about whatever we're talking about, politics or not, without feeling like I'm in college again), are my kind of parents (the kind who raise awesome children and insist on grown-up time), and are funny funny funny. I liken Katherine to Tammi Taylor from the show Friday Night Lights - I just trust her opinion and moral center, though I do wish she'd say "Y'all" more often.
When John was invited to the Emmys for the first time as a cast member of the Daily Show 6 years ago Matthew, Zane, and I went to NY to babysit their children for the week. The following year I went alone to babysit again and I remember curling up on their couch, watching the show gleefully, in awe that I actually knew someone who was there (we can talk about my love/hate relationship with celebrity culture and trivia at another time, but let's just say that you want me on your Trivia Night team).
So, about two months ago I was sitting in my living room drinking my morning coffee when I got a text from John. I looked at it, looked up at Matthew and said, "No he didn't."