I was outside on my lunch time walk on Monday when I happened to check Twitter, only because Henry so rudely got off the phone with me because he had to like, do his job or something, which silly me I thought his job was being my lunch time therapist but OK, you go on and do your other job then, bitch boy.
The very first tweet I saw was from Lisa, a girl I only e-know from Twitter; she had two tickets that she couldn’t use for a Stephen Chbosky lecture/book signing that night at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall and was giving them away, the only catch was that they had to be picked up at her office downtown.
Chooch loves Perks of Being a Wallflower.
I work downtown and could easily get the tickets.
I just want to go home after work!
SHIT SHIT SHIT.
It was one of those classic Good Mom vs Lazy Person throw-downs. On weeknights, I am very against spontaneity. Do not text me from across the street wanting to “drop by” or I will have a stroke. Sometimes I miss my “I go to 15 post-hardcore shows a month” phase, but I’m very happy going home straight after work, changing clothes, eating dinner while watching roller coaster videos or Kpop music show performances on YouTube, exercising, watching a k-drama, and going to bed, with a hearty mix of “Henry Harassing” sprinkled in between. This is my post-post-hardcore life and I don’t hate it.
I had to force myself to think with the non-hermit side of my brain and consider the kid. This would be a cool opportunity for him and I should at the very least put in a modicum of effort.
So I texted Chooch a screenshot of the tweet, partially praying he would say no.
Instead he said, simply, “YES.”
So then I responded to Lisa and asked if the tickets were still available.
She said THEY WERE.
UGHHHHH. NOW I WAS IN TOO DEEP. CONTACT WAS MADE. I asked where her office was and the ticket hand-off was made quickly and painlessly.
OK look, for as much as it pained me to have an impromptu social engagement to attend instead of going home and begging Henry to take us to some far-flung amusement park, I knew that this was a cool opportunity for Chooch. He read “Perks…” over the summer in Korea, on buses and subways and planes, even at G-Dragon’s pension, and it’s what inspired him to want to start a book club at the Teen Center. I think he’s at that perfect age where certain books are resonating with him. And ever since we read The Outsiders last year (it was required reading), he’s always on the prowl for more coming-of-age books.
He really connected with Perks.
Henry dropped us off at the Carnegie Library. Chooch looked so cute and scholarly in his khakis and a nice shirt! He was READY for this. Henry had bought him a new edition of Perks and I bought him Chbosky’s new novel, “Imaginary Friend,” from a stand up at the front of the room. It’s approx. 500 more pages than Perks, so good luck with that, Chooch.
I wanted to sit somewhere in the back, but Chooch marched right over to the front of the damn place and chose the fifth row. He probably would have sat closer if he could have but the first three rows were mostly reserved for Stephen’s friends and family.
We had a good 30 minutes to relax and people-watch. The crowd was super diverse. Everyone from college students to the elderly turned out for this, and before long, the venue was full.
Oh yeah, it would be beneficial at some point to mention that Stephen Chbosky is from Pittsburgh, so this is even more special and meaningful. And the movie version of Perks was filmed here too. In fact, the Rocky Horror Picture Show scenes were filmed right down the street from my house at the Hollywood Theater.
I haven’t read the book (I started to when Chooch was sleeping on the plane to Tokyo) but I have seen the movie so I know the gist of it and can totally see why this book would mean so much to kids in the formative years. In fact, when I posted about this on Instagram that night, numerous people commented to say that book saved them in high school. How amazing that must feel to be the person responsible for writing something that made practically a whole generation of kids feel understood, seen, less alone. And now it’s being passed on to a brand new generation. Pretty amazing.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Stephen Chbosky. Would he be all navel-gaze-y? Drunk? Super awkward? Nope, he was outgoing, funny, honest, and full of energy. He was full of interesting and entertaining anecdotes, read a chapter from his new book (“I closed my eyes during that because I wanted to be able to visualize it better,” Chooch told me later), and then answered some questions from the crowd.
Chooch LOVED it. He hung on every word, laughed at all the jokes and stories, and applauded with a certain brand of sophisticated zeal like he was at the motherfucking opera. His attitude might be questionable at times, but this is my favorite Chooch-age so far. We can do things like this without him getting bored and antsy!
I thought it was nuts that this is his first book in 20 years, and I let imagining him in a dark room with one desk lamp and a bunch of empty whisky bottles on the floor around his slipper’d feet, but then when he was being introduced by some library woman, I was reminded that he’s also a screen writer and director, and yeah, he’s been busy between those two books, writing the screenplay for Rent and Beauty & the Beast (the movie) and directing Wonder.
There was a good discussion about inclusion of physical differences and LGBTQ representation in books and films, and he really seems to get it. It did get a little tense though when a girl in a wheelchair borderline attacked him for not using a boy with facial differences in his film Wonder, but he explained that they did try to find a candidate for the role, but only one child who fit the description applied and he just couldn’t do it so they had to go with a child actor and use prosthetics. The girl in the wheelchair compared this to a white person doing black face in a film instead of a black actor being hired. I think there is a fine line there, and I saw both points, but I didn’t think her comparison was fair. Stephen pointed out how incredibly difficult and mentally taxing it is for child actors and said that this particular boy, with no acting experience, was just unable to handle it. But that since then, Stephen has been working with an organization whose specific goal is to train and hone actors with all types of differences so that he can be sure there is broader representation in his future films.
What do you guys think about this? It was a very fragile, sensitive topic but really worth talking about and even though the girl who asked the question was combative and kind of rude, it really opened the floor up for a good discussion and I was glad that Chooch got to hear it and have something to think about.
After an hour or so of that, it was time to get in line for the book signing, which OF COURSE started on the opposite side from where we were sitting and literally our whole row was OLD PEOPLE and none of them were in a hurry to get up, so we had to go the long way to get to the end of the line and I thought Chooch’s head was going to explode.
He was SO PISSED. Especially because the four people next to us when a different way, cut in front of a bunch of people and somehow got in the front of the line while we were about 50 heads back.
The girl in the wheelchair reappeared with her friend and service dog and was EXTREMELY ANGRY that the line for the book signing was blocking the entrance to the wheelchair lift. The girl behind me was standing directly in front of it and exclaimed, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see it there!” and the girl in the wheelchair snapped something about “how could you not see it?” and then she got in the wheelchair lift with her dog and it just sat there for an excruciating amount of time and Chooch panicked and hit the “down” button a second time for her until it eventually began its snail-like descent. She made me so nervous!! I didn’t want her to yell at me!
Suddenly, Chooch said, “I can’t wait to get out of here and finish programming games on my calculator.” The ultimate dork, you guys. My son. God love him.
After about 45 minutes in line, we finally made it to the table. There was a couple in front of us and right after the guy had his book signed, one of the library people came over and stopped his girlfriend was moving up in line and then waved over an older couple from out of nowhere.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Chooch cried. “We literally just got Fast Passed. AGAIN.”
This always happens to us at amusement parks! Right when we think we’re next, the ride attendant is like, “Sorry guys” and then lets some dumb Fast Pass d-bag take the back row from under our noses.
I don’t know who these people were, but Chooch said that the lady was signing a CD or something for Stephen’s wife and then they took a selfie together, but it didn’t seem like Stephen knew them!?
Whatever. It was eventually Chooch’s turn and he was like FREAKING OUT. He shyly said, “This is my favorite book tied with The Outsiders.”
“Wow. I will TAKE that tie!” Stephen said happily, and Chooch’s face was so red. It was amazing. It’s not often I get to see the shy side of my kid, let me tell you. But meeting Stephen Chbosky definitely was an awe-inspiring moment for him and for a fleeting second I thought to myself, “MAYBE CHOOCH WILL WANT TO BE A WRITER” but oh god, I don’t want the poor kid to be tortured. I was a miserable, suicidal sack of insecurities when I used to fake-write. Now I just crap-blog and life is so much better! WOO!
Look at this. So cute. So presh. So there’s-something-in-my-eye. I’m glad I put my selfishness in my back pocket for once and indulged Chooch in something that mattered to him. I drag him to enough of my concerts! He’s earned this.
Later that night, I was texting Janna and she said she’s never actually read “Perks” so I asked Chooch if she could borrow his copy.
“I mean I guess,” Chooch sighed. “But you should let her know that there are things called libraries.”
He’s such a dick.
I loved this then and I love it even more now. THANK THE GOOD CLIFF BURTON that younger persons still read. And for moms who get the importance of reading and take the kids to such events. So much fucking win here.