Fire in a Crowded Theater: An Evening With Lemony Snicket

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We found out about a satellite-broadcast event called An Evening with Lemony Snicket because Chris subscribes to an e-mail list for Virtual Fannish Devotees of the Unfortunate Events series. Tickets were available with release-day purchases of The Penultimate Peril at a few select locations. The location in the vicinity of Portland was in Gresham, a phrase which here means "way the hell and gone on the edge of civilization, especially for people living on the other side of the Portland area, like we do." Luckily Chris is a big enough fan to make the drive out there.

The Portland venue was the Lloyd Center 10, an excellent choice in line with Lemony Snicket's philosophy for two reasons: first, it is easily confused with the Lloyd Mall 8, meaning that some people heading for the Snicket appearance would instead wind up watching a nice happy movie, and second, it has an established history of denying that it is holding special events. When we tried to get advance tickets for special showings of the extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, this theater flatly denied any knowledge of it until the day of the first showing. True to form, attempts to confirm that this was the right theater for Lemony Snicket's appearance were met with statements that the staff could neither confirm nor deny the likelihood of any such event.

This strategy worked beautifully; I estimate no more than twenty intrepid souls were actually present for the Portland airing. They were not so cautious in New York, however, and the theater where the signal originated was jam-packed with kids.

Alas, Mr. Snicket was unable to attend, owing to a tragic mosquito attack. Instead, the presentation was conducted by a man who gave his name as Daniel Handler. Mr. Handler began with a dramatization of the mosquito attack, in which Mr. Snicket suffered a bite to the armpit, owing to having held his left hand up behind his head. This, Mr. Handler explained, showed the importance of the first of three moral lessons which he intended to present that night: Never raise your hand for any reason.

Mr. Handler then proceeded to read an excerpt from The Bad Beginning, with the audience providing sound effects. Next, he brought out an accordion, which he stated was to help reinforce the second moral lesson: If you see Count Olaf, run away immediately. He launched into a song which had this refrain:

...And if you ever see Count Olaf, count to zero, scream, and run away!
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run,
Or die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die,
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run,
Or die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die!

During this song, Brett Helquist, the illustrator, was busy with his sketchpad, and at the end, he revealed a most lifelike drawing of Count Olaf. Unfortunately, showing that kids these days are impervious to education, no one screamed or ran away. Mr. Handler then answered some questions of this sort:

Q. What was Lemony Snicket like as a child?
A. Shorter.

He also revealed the third moral lesson, which slips my mind now, but which was probably something about damning courtesy and turning on the backlight of your PDA screen so you can take notes if you find yourself in a movie theater attending a remote presentation with the intention of writing it up in a fanzine.

The evening concluded with an admonishment from Mr. Handler to get our copies of The Penultimate Peril stamped (stampers being available at all locations) so that we would all have solid alibis when the police came to talk to us later. In case the NSA is reading, I still have my ticket stub too.

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