Sarah Vowell may read this post, so please don’t leave stupid comments

I’m sick. I have a cold. I slept for about 15 hours last night. And I probably should have stayed in this evening, buried under mountain of blankets, but, thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend, I happened into some tickets for a reading by writer, historian and public radio personality Sarah Vowell. I felt like crap, but it’s not too often that people whom I admire come to town, so, I loaded up on cough syrup and my friend Bee’s turkey noodle soup, tucked my copy of her latest book under my arm, and started hacking my way across town in the cold.

The idea was to approach Vowell, wow her with Clooney-like charm (George, not Rosemary), and then ask her to accompany me back to the Dreamland Theater after the reading, to shoot an interview segment for Dreamland Tonight. It didn’t occur to me until I got there, standing beside her, but there’s really not a way to ask someone you don’t know to accompany you across a strange town at night to be interviewed by your “puppet” self, without sounding at least a little crazy. And it further complicates things when you’re dripping sweat, pastier than that guy in the movie Powder, and have to keep wiping your nose on your shirtsleeve. But, I did my best.

I told her about the show, explained what it is that I think makes it special, and asked her to be a guest. And, in response, she just kind of stared back at me blankly. In a moment of panic, I think I may have added, “I’m not crazy,” and motioned to Linette, as if to prove that I’m at least sane enough to attract a mate. I don’t know that it helped, though. After another moment of silence, Vowell asked me where she could see the show online. it was a perfectly reasonable questions, and I should have been ready for it. But I wasn’t. (We still haven’t set up a webpage for the show.) After a few moments of hemming and hawing, I told her that I’d repost an episode here, on the front page of, and gave her the URL. And, that, in case you’re curious, is why I’m putting this video back up on the front page tonight.

Dreamland Tonight * Episode One from mike ambs ☂ on Vimeo.

While she politely folded up my note and stuffed it into her pocket, I rambled off a few other options for her to consider. I said that, if she couldn’t make time that evening, to be interviewed by Puppet Mark in person, that maybe we could do a Skype video chat sometime in the future, or even a telephone interview, which the Dreamland Tonight crew could later reenact with puppets. Anyway, my hope is that she watches the video, likes what we’re doing, and agrees to give us half an hour sometime.

And, I should mention that her reading tonight was great, as is her new book, The Wordy Shipmates, which is all about John Winthrop and the folks who joined him in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She really is an incredible humorist, and I look forward to the possibility of interviewing her in the future, so please keep your fingers crossed.

[Special thanks to the folks at the Ypsilanti District Library, who not only arranged to bring Ms. Vowell to town, but also gave me the opportunity to speak with her this evening. Our community would certainly be a much darker place without them.]

This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Dreamland Tonight, History, Mark's Life, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Compra
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 3:52 am | Permalink


    Run as fast as you can before Mark has a chance to put you into a “human centipede” with local celebrities James Mann and Steve Pierce!


  2. Kristin
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I love listening to her little voice on her audiobooks. Assassination vacation was so great.

  3. Leslie from A2
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Did you tell Vowell that her participation would include puppet Mark supervising her free tattoo?

    I’m sure that would’ve won her over!

  4. Gerald
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Oh, I see how it is. When we don’t say anything, Mark screams profanities and shakes his fist at us.

    Now that he’s trying to impress a girl, it’s all “please don’t say anything stupid.”

  5. Hot Knuckle Lover
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I think you should have opened with: “Hi, I’m Mark Maynard. My blog has been ranked the ninth most influential political forum in Michigan, but it’s number one in worldwide Google search results for ballshaving!!!

  6. elviscostello
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    We were there last night as well, and I too appreciate the YDL sponsoring guests to speak. However, when the 1st sound system went down, and they replaced it, I had a difficult time hearing anything after her piece on Hawaii.

  7. Kim
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    She mentioned last night that she owned one of John Brown’s hairs. She didn’t mention, however, if it was a head hair or a public hair. I mention this simply because Hot Knuckle Lover brought the subject up.

    As ball shaving would put more historical hairs on the market, there’s a chance that she would not only not be freaked out by the subject, but be quite supportive of it.

  8. Alice
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Don’t listen to them, Sarah, Dreamland Tonight is a lovely show that showcases what is best about the little town of Ypsilanti, Michigan. It’s funny, sweet, and kind hearted. I’d liken it to a newer, more relevant Prairie Home Companion. You would be an ideal guest and I think that you would have fun too.

  9. Edward
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    It would be cool if you could befriend the people at the Ypsi Marriott, or wherever it is that visiting luminaries stay, and get them to allow you access to their rooms. You could leave tiny puppet handprints on their stuff, and maybe leave a few polaroids of puppet Mark looking through their suitcases. I think they might find it endearing.

  10. Posted April 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi loves you, Sarah!

  11. Posted April 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I think puppet Mark needs to interview puppet Patrick Elkins, which must always appear with some sort of puppet on his hand (a puppet puppet).

  12. Annie Palmer
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    she would make a more interesting guest than stewart beal, that’s fer sure.

  13. notoneofthecoolkids
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Hope you feel better soon Mark.
    Could be allergies…but if it’s this cold virus that is going around…you may be in for a long battle- my doctor said there is a cold virus this year that the meanest he has seen in years.

  14. Posted April 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky enough to see Sarah speak when she came to Dowagiac a few years ago.. I can’t believe I missed her in my own town! I would LOVE to see her at the Dreamland!

  15. Michael
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I was there last night too, and wanted to ask her about what her childhood was like, but I couldn’t work up the courage. If she does do the show, I’d like for you to ask her, OK? And if there’s a nice way to ask her, I’d like to know if she thinks she’d be as popular with a voice that weren’t so distinctive. I don’t mean that as in insult. I like her written work. But I think her voice had to help her get started in her career, on the radio.

  16. Oneiroi
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Ten bucks says Vowell will kick Patrick Elkins’ ass in the falafel eating contest!

  17. Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    If I catch something before my trip to NYC next weekend I am blaming you and I will get you back, I swear.

    She was very entertaining and politely signed two of my books. One of them for my kids, I hope they read it someday. It will be payback for making me watch “The Incredibles” 50 times this past winter.

    Oh and I asked her if she knew any cool history about Michigan. Wait for it, she said, “No.”

  18. Havvah La Leche
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to say I’ve missed most her radio stuff but I’ve always loved her NY Times op-eds.

    Mark, if the interview happens, I think the most important question you can ask her is why she looks so damn much like the character Audrey Tautou plays in Amelie?

  19. James Madison
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Vowell’s reading was much fun and very informative. Such a reasonable and thoughtful person! Many thanks to the Ypsi library folks for arranging this appearance!

  20. dan gillotte
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I suggest that you threaten, er I mean persuade her by threatening to make a puppet Sarah Vowell that you’ll interview instead.

  21. Posted April 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Vowell, for those who are interested, has yet to reach out to me…. It may be time for me to initiate phase-2 of the campaign.

  22. annie palmer
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    does phase 2 include a charming handwritten letter and accompanying portrait?

  23. Kim
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing that phase 2 involves a frivolous lawsuit.

  24. Posted April 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    If I know Mark Maynard, phase 2 is the seduction phase.

  25. Anonymatt
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    If the campaign fails, it’s probably because you tried to emulate the wrong Clooney.

  26. Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Yes, my plan, I’m somewhat ashamed to say, is to make myself up like Rosemary Clooney and seduce Ms. Vowell.

  27. Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    And, Ms. Rafaeli, that photo is worse than high-def goatse.

  28. Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone have a transcript or recollection (or link to one/anything) on her piece about Hawaii? I’m very interested in hearing her take and looking forward to her book. Thanks.

  29. Hot Knuckle Lover
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Phase 3: Send a letter to her agent apologizing for the mistake and explaining that you can’t extend any official offers until your national syndication negotiations are completed. Add the caveat that if there are any cancellations in the interim, Ms. Vowell may be considered as a substitute guest if you are given due prior notice of her availability and she agrees to your standard stipulations.

  30. Bella Tara
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Has the campaign of seduction begun?

  31. Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I have gone so far as to buy a big blonde/grey wig, a mumu, and a bunch of padding. I’ve yet, however, to buy my ticket to New York. I will keep you posted, Bella.

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