Last night I and departing mediabistro EIC Elizabeth Spiers attended the 32nd “Little Gray Book” Lecture, the reading series founded and hosted by New York Times Magazine contributor John Hodgman, whose almanac of earnest-sounding fake trivia, “The Areas Of My Expertise” is now available to satisfy all your hobo-related curiosities.
You may recall that we got lured into Hodgman’s fanciful world via our interest in NYT Funny Pages cartoonist Chris Ware, and found ourselves compelled by the disembodied voice on the podcast, accompanied by disembodied organist Jonathan Coulton (whom you may also recall we literally suspected might have no body; that is to say, be the ghost of a long-dead organist). We are relieved to report that both Coulton and Hodgman are alive and well and put on a hilarious, diverse and delightful show at Galapagos last night.
It was one of those quintessentially New York evenings, the kind that delight your brain but also your heart a little too, but still carries you through a potentially mawkish moment with some well-timed wit and an offhand reference that reminds you that one of the pleasures of this city is how keen and smart and curious people are. (Oh, come on. New Yorkers love to feel smart; we love the company of smart people whose jokes we get.) Plus they fed me at the end. FYI, people, that’s how you win my heart.*
Hodgman opened with an explication of the Little Gray Books Lecture, followed by writer Mark Adams talking about fasting and bringing up painful memories of Yom Kippur, and also the fact that I hadn’t eaten dinner (Hodgman gave Adams a lovely compliment in his introduction, describing how Adams quietly comes in and contributes to various magazines, leaving them better than he found them). Adams was presenting on actual historical
figure/fitness/publishing/fasting guru Bernarr McFadden, and tried to emulate his hero by hoisting Hodgman up in the air whilst prostrate on the ground (master of levitation, that one). Next up was a positively thrilling lecture on the Tango by impassioned Yale professor Robert Farris Thompson (aka “Master T” – seriously), author of the similarly-titled book (“Tango“), who hummed, thrummed, and hip-swivelled his way through a multimedia presentation that had us all ready to throw a leg around our partner and a rose between our teeth (to the dude standing behind me: sorry). Coulton then treated us to a caring and tender acoustic rendition of “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot** that really made me feel like his anaconda felt tenderly toward what I got in the back of my Honda, followed by a song about hobo paradise on the “Big Rock Candy Mountain”; and singer/accordionist Cynthia Hopkins, who sang in harmony with her daughter via video screen and then led us in a sing-song. The accordion: Not just for the polka anymore! Then, at the end, they brought in delicious pizza. Which was considerate, considering the event had lasted 2 1/2 hours and certain people were hungry, and proved it by having seconds. (By the way, the pizza was OUTSTANDING – the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce to crust, with a sweet tanginess that stayed with you long after your slice was lamentably gone. I did some recon – Anna Maria Pizza, 179 Bedford Avenue, 718-599-4550. New favorite pizza place.)
The point is, it was an excellent event. And you know what else? I do like big butts. I cannot lie.
Check back in a few days for the podcast here; in the meantime, drop everything you are doing and go listen to Baby Got Back. Nothing will make you feel more like a woman. I’m talking to you, Lloyd Grove.
*There has been precedent. A well-timed pizza can work wonders.
**Not a real knight (that’s Coulton’s joke; we liked it. Also his song about Ikea, which warmed our pseudo-Swedish heart just this weekend (yay Tulsta chair slipcover!). Coulton, as the Swedes would say: “Bra, bra, mycket bra!” I would add “Jag har inte pojkevon” but I’m sure you get that all the time.)