We could’ve been seeing Michael Jordan, the reunion of Led Zeppelin — or even Duke courtside at Cameron — and I still wouldn’t have gotten a bigger reaction from my 10-year-old son.
He was all gaga over Lemony Snicket, the snarky writer guy behind the 13 installments of “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” He was coming to Greensboro.
“Dad,” Will told me in a hushed tone he reserves for, well, nothing. “That is huge.”
I didn’t get it. I picked up the books. I watched him race through the series. I turned to page 89 in “The Miserable Mill,” met Foreman Flacutono and started reading about him banging pots and shouting at some kids named Klaus, Violet and Sunny.
The Baudelaire orphans.
“Get up, you lazy midgets!” Flacutono shouts. “The Lucky Smells Lumbermill has no time for dawdling! Get out of bed this instant and go straight to work!”
Shows me what I know. Not much.
On Tuesday, fans of Lemony Snicket started lining up outside Greensboro’s Barnes & Noble at 9 a.m. — nine hours before his book-signing of his latest twisted tale, “The Composer Is Dead.”
They came to get their wristband. By 2 p.m., when wristbands were handed out, a line snaked through the store. By 6 p.m., when a round-faced man in a pin-striped suit and an old-school punk haircut walked out, the place was full.
“Approach, oh first in line!” Lemony Snicket yelled, hand in air.
His fans came. And they kept coming — all 500 of them — until 9 p.m. They brought in “The Miserable Mill,” “The Penultimate Peril,” and of course, his new book for him to sign.
He didn’t disappoint. The writer guy found his stage.
“If a child is still awake at the cocktail hour then you’re just not parenting right.”
“Let me put the date here. This is your alibi. So the police know that you are here.”
“Who’s this for? Your grandma? Oh, you’re just saying that because she’s your ride home.”
And then there’s the exchange with a little-voiced girl named Alli.
“Hello, Alli. Do you have a nice mom? Now, on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being the best and 1 being a vicious murderer — how would you rate your mom?”
“Ten,” the little girl said in her little voice.
“Ten?!” yelled Lemony Snicket, a few feet from Alli’s picture-taking mom. “In those pants?!”
He’s Lemony Snicket to Alli. But he is Daniel Handler to his old teachers.
Handler is 39, writer, husband and father from San Francisco. He once sang soprano in the San Francisco Boys Chorus, played in a band called the Gothic Archies and wrote prank letters to newspapers about trivial news items.
He signed his letters “Lemony Snicket.” The name stuck.
But get him behind closed doors, away from his adoring fans, and he’ll bob and weave like an Olympic middleweight about the origins of his pseudonym, the impetus of his new book or the popularity of a series that has sold 60 million copies worldwide.
But watch him out front, by the doors, with pen in hand, around a crowd.
Kids are everywhere, books in hand. They’re stoked about the so-called dying art of reading, especially if it’s a pot-banging foreman lambasting three orphans and reminding them about the need to be assiduous and diligent at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill.
Now, I get it. Big words and all.