Meeting Michael Moore

If you happened to be watching C-SPAN or Book TV this afternoon, because you wanted all the hot Book Expo action you could catch, you might have seen Michael Moore being interviewed. If you did see that, the girl with the shockingly white t-shirt and the blue do-rag standing just behind the interviewer — that was me.

I had been wandering around the convention center looking for something to do. Most of the books had been put away and were long given out, my Simon & Schuster people were at lunch, and I didn’t know another soul in the building. It was then that I noticed I was standing beside Michael Moore, and he was about to give an interview. I figured it’d be a good thirty minutes well spent getting to hear him talk about Stupid White Men.

The interview was entertaining, but the best part was watching the crowd that had formed whole-heartedly cheer when Mr. Moore suggested Oprah should run for President. This was a collection of booksellers and librarians — these people couldn’t possibly love Oprah any more. I would love to be able to vote for the first Black female president. I certainly hope I get to do that in my lifetime.

After the interview was over, I debated talking to Mr. Moore. We had made eye contact a couple of times, since I was one of the first onlookers, but I didn’t want to be one of those annoying fans and totally Farley out in front of him. Particularly in Los Angeles you often pretend a celebrity isn’t standing right next to you. And my mom always taught me not to bother people by asking for autographs. But I wondered what he’d think about the Oakland Public Library book drive. I was particularly interested what he’d say to the criticism I’ve read that our donations of books tells the government that we’ll fund the libraries if they don’t, so they can keep cutting the budgets.

There was a rather large crowd of people shaking his hand, asking for autographs, talking about where he or she saw him last, and one publicist trying to push Mr. Moore out of the building. I rehearsed in my head what I’d say, starting with explaining how Oakland lost its funding and how helped raise all of these books. I reminded myself to say the words “dangerous precedent,” assuming they’d make me sound like an intelligent person with an agenda — someone whom he’d enjoy engaging with in discussion. I was a little nervous.

I was just about to forget it entirely when he turned to me. “I wanted to ask your opinion on something,” I said, showing that I was without autograph book or galley to shove in his hand. I waited until he had decided his next hour with his publicist. He then turned to me and ushered me over a couple of feet — like they do on television when you’re going to have a private conversation in a room full of people.

Here’s what I said: “The Oakland Public Library lost its funding recently, so I’ve been raising donations from — ”

And here’s where he stopped me. “That’s you? Oh, my God, that’s you?”

And then he shook my hand.

“I’ve been following your story! Yes, oh, it’s so good to meet you. Hi!”

Look, really, he went on for a few more words, but I don’t remember all of them in the right order, as the blood was draining from my body and I was mostly wondering how this conversation was the opposite of what I was expecting. I would have been more prepared for him to push me over and shout, “Out of my way, hippie!”

But instead he said that this was the kind of thing he’d like to do on his own website, but with a national focus. He’d been reading about’s book drive, and he thought it was “inspirational.” He asked me for my information to contact me about how to work together or to give advice on launching a campaign — and making a national book drive.

We were walking to the door and I was handing him a piece of paper that included my home number, my cell number, my email address, my web address, the pronunciation of my name (I’m not kidding), my blood type, my social security number, my three favorite movies of all time, my mother’s maiden name and the words “Oh my freaking God I can’t believe this is happening” scribbled like “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy” at the bottom.

“I’m giving you an autograph, for a change,” I stammered out. Ah, yes. That Second City training — always giving me the comedy edge. He politely chuckled, shook my hand again and said he’d contact me later.

And then as he was walking out the door he turned around and said, “I’m really impressed with this.” He pointed at me. “You’re a good person.”

“So are you, sir,” I said.

Cue the swelling music, girl faints on Convention Center steps, and all weekend minutes were immediately used by girl calling people and shouting, “Michael Moore called me a good person!”

Now, if that doesn’t get you to want to be on the donor list, I don’t know what does.

Even if we don’t end up working together on a book drive, it was nice of him to be so enthusiastic about the project. It was very flattering that he knew who I was. I’m so thankful to Jennifer Coleman, who put the story on the AP. I’m thankful to Shana Pearlman for having me on “Newsbeat” to help spread the word. I’m thankful for all of you who linked the book drive on your own sites, who talked about it to your friends, who mentioned it to your local libraries to get them thinking about how to create more awareness about our libraries needs. I’m thankful to those of you who got Plastic involved. I’m thankful to Jon Carroll for his mention, and to all of you who helped in any way. This was all done in just one month. Isn’t that amazing?

And if you need even more of a reason, here’s another great letter:

[readermail]This really feels good.

Inspired by your site, I went in search of small libraries that needed books.

I sent out a few books, 7 or 8 I think, and felt like a million bucks. I even went down to my local Branch to see how they were doing. Ya know, just to check up on them, feeling very Dad-like.

Then I got my first thank you letter.

“Wow! I am overwhelmed with the generosity our little library is experiencing. Today we received 4 boxes from different parts of the nation each with books from out wish list – among them one from you!

What an awesome boost to out little library your contribution is!

Out community has 349 people of diverse interests in it and works very hard to provide as excellent a library as it can on limited funds. A number of individuals have worked over a period of forty years to start and keep the library going as they deeply believe in the value of free access to ideas, information and entertainment for everyone according to their own needs and interests.

Thank you so much for participating in this endeavor. Your gift means more than the book itself – it expands the definition of community and warms out hearts. Sincerely,

Ellison Public Library
Scandinavia, WI

I just wanted to say thanks for pointing out something that I could do to make a difference.[/readermail]

Okay, so if you’re really ready to donate to the Oakland Public Library book drive, I found a few branches we’ve never sent books to before. This is the Golden Gate branch. At the time I write this, they only have twenty items on their wish list. We could send them everything they wanted in less than an hour.

This is the Lakeview Branch.

If you act now, you can send SpongeBob SquarePants to the Brookfield Branch.

The Temescal Branch also only has about twenty requests.

My Austin peeps and my Spanish friends might want to donate a book to the Cesar E. Chavez branch.

Unless you’re more of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch kind of gal/guy. (They seem to like knitting over there.)

Don’t forget the Rockridge Branch.

There’s our old friends at the Montclair Branch, the Piedmont Avenue Branch, and last, but not least, the Main Branch list.

To ship a box of books from your own collection, contact a library to ask where to send and how.

Don’t forget Berkeley bookstore Cody’s Books offers free shipping and has a list of San Francisco best sellers the OPL is requesting.

Thank you for making this the most extraordinary outpouring of selfless giving I’ve ever seen on the Internet (except for when all of you helped my friends out in that fire). How did I get so lucky? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Please, if you haven’t, go send a book. Michael Moore thinks you’re a cool kid, too.

Currently reading

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

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