On Saturday evening I was lucky enough to get some time off and make a trip down to Woodstock, NY where I got to see one of my all time favorite authors. Augusten Burroughs has been one of the most prolific memoirists of my time and I’ve read them all. His subject matters are often dark but he always seems to find a way to find the humor without losing the tone. When I found out he was going to be speaking I snatched up two VIP tickets and found a friend to take with me.
We left Massachusetts at about 4pm and made the 90 minute drive down to Woodstock. It was a beautiful drive down the NY Thruway and then down the windy but green and plush Route 212. I’m psychotic about being early to everything, afraid the worst is going to happen. We were there by 5:30pm and our meet and greet wasn’t until 7:30pm. We parked the car and started looking for places to eat. We found the Bear Cafe, just a few steps away from where we parked. We entered the all ready packed restaurant, sat at the bar and started to peruse the menu. I decided that I wanted to something that didn’t make me feel heavy and yucky. That I was about to meet one of my heroes had me all ready nervous. I ordered a caesar salad with chicken. My friend orders a flat bread pizza that included ramps and goat cheese. I ordered a vodka cranberry, she ordered a beer. We toasted and reveled in the fact that, for the night, we felt like normal human beings. Dinner was wonderful, the garlicky ramps were delicious. My salad was exactly what I expected it to be. We still had an hour to kill but at that point there was a wait for seats at the bar so we paid our bill and left the restaurant.
Rain was starting to pour down, we could hear thunder and lightening in the distance. We walked over to the theatre, the land surrounding it was lush, green, and had a beautiful rocky stream. After a few moments of enjoying the scenery the rain started to come down harder. My friend and I needed to use the rest room. We walked into the lobby of the theatre, there was only one employee standing in there. We asked him where the bathroom was and he pointed us down a spiral wooden stair case. It was a dank basement, with not very good signage. I found the men’s room and went in to do my business, leaving my friend to fend for herself. When I finished I walked outside the bathroom and waited by the staircase. A few moments later she came out. She had a devilish grin on her face.
“I’m pretty sure I just walked in on Augusten Burroughs in his dressing room.” She was nervous, giddy.
“So glad I brought the cool kid.” I said and we both laughed. She didn’t know what he actually looked like so I pulled up a picture on my phone and showed it to her. We spent the next half an hour talking with a lovely women from the Midwest, who was actually there for the whole festival. Then, at about 7:20pm, a car pulled up and out of the car walked Augusten Burroughs. He walked right past us, I nudged my friend to let her know that was him. She looked puzzled. We both spent the next few minutes making up stories. Well he probably just went out to dinner? Maybe he had to go back to his hotel and get something?
At 7:30 we were led down the spiral stairs again to a small room with the rest of the VIP ticket holders. I felt slightly out of place, clearly these people had been at the workshop for the past two and a half days and had created a bond. My friend and I just had each other. We both quickly grabbed a glass of wine, to calm our nerves. Augusten was on the other side of the room making small talk with some of the other guests. Out of no where a line started to form with people asking him to sign his new book, that we purchased upstairs. We got in the line and started inching our way towards him. My friend and I chugged our wine, we didn’t want to be holding a glass of wine when we met him. I approached first and started making small talk. We both went to the same community college and grew up in the same area of Massachusetts. We talked about theatre and people that we new from the Northampton area. He signed my book and I introduced him to my friend. As we walked away I could feel the nervous energy releasing with my breath. The room we were in was packed, and stuffy so we decided to go upstairs.
By 8:30pm we were in our second row chairs, waiting for Mr. Burroughs to appear on stage. We both read a few pages of his new book THIS IS HOW, Proven aid in overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude, & More. For Young and Old Alike. The book doesn’t come out until May 8th. I’m glad we got an advanced copy of it. He appeared on stage with author, Johnathan Van Meter.
The next hour and a half were spent talking mainly about his new book and his tumultuous life. He dispensed a lot of great advice. One of the best quotes of the evening was ‘It’s not your past that is haunting you, it’s you that’s haunting your past.’ He talked about drinking, molestation, suicide, anorexia etc. Basically the theme of the evening was that you can get through anything as long as you continue to have forward motion.
The trip home was filled with rain, dark wet highways and reminiscing about the experience. So glad I got to be there and I’ve made a note that I want to go back and explore the town of Woodstock closer one day.