‘God Damn It, You’ve Got to Be Kind’

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. And because one of the things we do when people die is remember our interactions with them, I’ll offer this brief story of failure of nerve. In 1995, or maybe early ’96, Vonnegut came all the way to Orono to give a speech at the Maine Center for the Arts. Afterward, a few of us English grad students were going to meet him for a while, maybe have a drink. I went to the speech, which was very funny, as well as very crabby and predicated on the idea that every kid needed to be in a gang…and then afterward, I met the man himself and shook his hand. Then there was going to be this little get-together, with glasses of wine and no doubt Pall Malls (mmmmm, Pall Malls) but I never found out where because I lost my nerve. I got shook. I think what I wanted more than anything else was to talk to the guy without a bunch of other people around, or maybe I was just more afraid of saying something stupid than excited about hearing him say something wonderful; but either way, I shook his hand and made some kind of excuse to the faculty member organizing the group, and then I kited out of there to Pat’s Pizza and wrote for a while.

Don’t know why I did that.

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