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John & Hank All the Way Down

31 Oct

Lucy must have sensed how excited I was when I got home because she clearly knew I was going out again and refused to eat her dinner. That upset me, but not enough to keep me home. I was going out to see John & Hank Green!

As I pulled up to Portland’s Revolution Hall, I saw the bus. I didn’t know they were travelling by bus! It seemed to blend right into the neighborhood.

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I was early because I thought it started at 7, when in fact it started at 7:30. Fortunately, the doors opened at 6:30, so I didn’t have to wait long to find my seat, where there was swag.

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Inside the bag was a poster, a signed copy of Turtles All The Way Down, and a tour brochure. The brochure had letters – one to “people who are only here for their friend/      child/partner/sibling”, another to “the people who are here by themselves”, and a third to everyone.

One of the up sides of arriving an hour before the show is that I ran into a few librarians I knew and watch as the hall filled with excited fans of the brothers. Although John Green writes for young adults, I was not the only unaccompanied adult in the room. And there were not as many young people as I expected. There were plenty, don’t get me wrong, just more people closer to my age than I thought there would be.

Slowly, but surely, the hall filled. And then, the show began.

John came out first, alone and did a reading from Turtles All The Way Down,  which is the reason the whole tour was happening in the first place. After the reading, he spoke a little about his own experience with OCD and the importance of novels. Every novel, he said, is a way to live in another person;s consciousness, to see the world through other people’s eyes. I knew that already, but it is always good to be reminded that reading builds empathy.

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After that serious bit, Dr. Lawrence Turtleman came out. (It was really Hank in a turtle suit.) He gave a funny, sciencey talk about the Carl Linnaeus, how animals are classified, and how tuatara have boney protrusions instead of teeth, among other things.

This was followed by John answering questions about the book. One of the questions had to do with the conflict between writing expository and narrative text, which as a teacher of writing, piqued my interest. He spoke about how reading really good expository texts, like the essays of Joan Didion and the works of Toni Morrison, can help shape writers and teach them to write narratively in their expository text. Hey, That’s what I try to teach my students every day!

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A live version of their podcast followed with a Q & A that was simultaneously serious and hilarious. Hank sang some songs that had me watching the ASL interpreter as much as him because he sings fast, complicated songs with a lot of science thrown in.

John came out again and spoke about Amy Krouse Rosenthal. He told us of how she helped him during a difficult period and taught him that the soldiers of WWI sand “We’re here because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. And then he asked us to sing it. I got weepy.  A beautiful denouement.

 

There was an encore that involved another sing along and then we all went home, encouraged by the words “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

 

 

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