Sometimes I like to play in alternate realities. IN one of these, Chuck Klosterman and I are acquaintances. What that means is that sometimes our circle of friends over lap and occasionally we find ourselves drinking next to each other and talking about the weather or maybe basketball. We joke and we think each other is a nice drinking buddy, but that's where it ends. Not even in my alternate reality would Chuck and I be friends.

One of my real life friends asked me why when I told him this. "Is it because he's 30 and you're in your early 20s and the age gaps is to big?" he asked. The answer to that is "no."

The reason for our acquaintance level relationship is because of the conversation Chuck and I had early in our alternate reality. It basically consisted of Chuck saying something amazingly profound yet really completely bullshit. I laughed at it, took a shot, and told him "I like you Chuck, but sometimes you're just full of shit." He counters this with a wonderful argument, to which I smiled and repeated my first statement. He raped a thesaurus to prove his point and I laughed. I then bought the next round of shots, told him he's still full of it, but then what do I know? We slammed the shots and then talked about our favorite NBA point guards. He left when I started to sing my "Bibby Baby Booster" song (I really have one - ask me about it sometime).

On Tuesday I got a chance to hear my alternate reality drinking buddy talk over at the Barnes and Nobel in Edina. 2 years ago I saw him in St. Paul for his book tour of Sex, Drugs, and Cocopuffs, which I recommend everybody read. It was a small crowd and a lot of fun. He asked US questions from his book, and we all got to take turns answering them. But that was then - before he made it big(ish) and before he was mentioned on the "O.C" (an experience, I think, that he took well. "Why should I be embarrassed? Free publicity is good!"). So I got to B&N early and met up with the friend who had pointed me into Chuck's direction 2 years ago in the first place.

First off: Chuck sounds like Neil from "The Family Guy." You know, the sweet AV nerd. He also has unproportionally long arms, which I find strangely attractive. And yes - his haircut can only be described as "Non committal." He seemed a bit nervous at first, but warmed up to the crowd easily. He read the passage from his new book, Killing Yourself to Live about being in Montana during the East Coast Blackout. The audience was receptive and laughed in all the right places.

But then came the Q&A, which is what we all were really there for. After a few opening questions, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and asked the real chuck the same question I once asked the alternate reality Chuck:

"As someone who has been described as a pop-culturalists, just how seriously do you take yourself? I mean, do you ever write something and then think 'Gee, I wonder if anybody will really believe this...'?"

The real Chuck answered the question well. "How seriously do I take myself? How serious can I take myself? I mean, I wrote an entire chapter about Zack Morris from 'Saved by the Bell,' how serious can I be?" But he then went on to explain further. Magazines such as The New Yorker critically talk about art and books, but these are things that are apart from their daily lives. Chuck wanted to think critically about things that are a part of his life, things that are closer to him and that he enjoys. Why should that be limited to things that are not close to us? So does he take himself seriously? Well, yes and no, but he is looking at and discussing critically the things he enjoys and finds fun.

I really liked his answer to this. Now - I should mention that while I was asking the question, the friend I went to the reading with had scooted away from me. Later, as we lined up for the signing, he teased me a bit about asking that question. Some people had chuckled while I had asked it in a - as he put it - awkward way. However - I liked the question that I asked. How many times do you GET to ask a writer these things?

When it came time for us to get our books signed by Chuck, I said I was sorry if he didn't like my question. "No, no!" he said. "It was insightful, I liked it." Of course - this could just be famous person speak for "I'm not REALLY going to tell you what I REALLY think - you basically said I was full of shit. Here's your book now go." But I think that he did enjoy answering that question, and it did help me see him in a different light; mainly, he doesn't take himself AS seriously as I thought he did, which is very comforting to know.

An LJ buddy of mine told me a few days ago in his LJ that pop--culturealists are, by definition, full of shit. But it's when people take that shit too seriously that things go bad. Is it fun to discuss whether the Real World has basically set new archetypes for our society to fill? Yes, yes it is. Is it okay to get into full-blown arguments about the merits of hair metal bands from the 80s and how those songs have shaped the course of music history? You betcha. But it's also in remembering the absurdity of it all that we remain grounded, because if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

"Other people!" my friend Timmy tells me, but that's neither here nor there.

Next time alternate Chuck and I meet at some overly crazy party and we stand in the kitchen taking hits off the host's pipe, I'm going to tell him "Thanks Chuck, you're not quiet as full of shit as I thought you were." (deep inhale) "...but you're still full of shit."

"Thanks,” he’ll tell me, "now pass the piece."