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What would you say if I told you that you could take part in a fabulous seder opportunity TODAY?

This evening we hosted a passover seder with our normal tuesday night crew and visiting distinguished author Helen DeWitt. From her blog yesterday we learned that Helen is visiting our our humble Massachusetts, apparently scoping out local Barnes and Nobles. Normal people would give that sort of information that a casual hmmmm and let it go. Normal people don't do stalky things like send their favorite author an email inviting her to a passover seder less than four hours away.

At 1:30pm I sent this note:

Hi Helen,

I saw from the blog that you're in the Boston area this week.  On the small chance that you're doing nothing this evening and the even smaller chance that you might be interested, I wanted to invite you to a passover seder we're hosting in our home this evening in Bedford (about thirty minutes north of where you're staying).

The more I type this the more I realize what a bizarre thing it is to invite a stranger to dinner, especially on extremely short notice.   I assure you we're not ax murderers.  We're just fans of the blog and saw you were in the general area and wanted to extend a little hometown hospitality.  But it's so hard to strike the right tone over email, so of course if this invitation seems creepy then absolutely feel free to ignore it and sorry to bother you.

Leah Archibald
[phone number and address here to indicate legit-ness]

Turns out if you want to go about inviting dash kidnapping a visiting author, this is apparently the way to do it. Ten minutes later Helen wrote back and accepted the invitation.

Wait what? That really happened?

My first inclination was to panic. I'm a bit rusty on my German, Japanese, and ancient Greek. What on earth would we talk about in the car? My French is up to speed of course, but who's isn't? Also, the front seat of my car was covered in trash. That last bit at least was actionable.

Front seat clutter deposited safely in the trunk, I picked up Helen at her motel. In person she is just as lovely and brilliant as she is in her writing. If you haven't already, you should pick up her fabulous book The Last Samurai. Buy it second-hand and send Helen an appropriate contribution (see link and explanation here in the right-hand column).

Of course, Harvey took the visit of a foreign dignitary as a challenge to prove he is still the most important celebrity in the house. He screamed non-stop from six to nine. This from a boy who usually plays quietly and then goes right to sleep. Says his mother. Her word for it will not be taken.

Rascal on the other hand was a gracious host and begged at the table only so much as was endearing and not so much as to make himself a nuisance. In an upset victory, the good child award goes to R. Puppykins.

I for my part pulled out my most bizarre stories for our guest. You want to convince someone that you're not a crazy stalker? Talk about how you buried your placenta in the back yard! Or how you can buy a sheep's uterus at H-Mart.


Despite the yelling and the craziness and the running up and down the stairs to set the pumps on a basement that is once again completely flooded, Dan and the cool kids acquitted themselves well, pulling off a wildly acceptable seder.

Next time in Jerusalem! Or whatever... next time with a bigger table. Or with more vegetarian options. Baby steps. Although I don't know what we could do for a more exciting guest participant. Is Umberto Eco still alive? He is, isn't he. Can any of you guys muster an email in Italian?.


This is a charming story. Of course I read it on paperpools, which I first learned of from LanguageHat, although I had already read The Last Samurai.

Well played Andrew. Dan learned about The Last Samurai originally from LanguageHat as well. The blogosphere is sometimes a small place ;)

Sounds like a seder Elijah could be proud of ;)

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