Alby's Words

in no particular order

Alexandria Dobkowski

Alexandria Dobkowski
Austin, Texas, USA
August 03
I was born and raised in Maine, where I attended a small private prep school and was taken into foster care at 16. Post legal majority, I spent time traveling the US, staying with friends and living out of my car. I settled in Memphis, Tennessee for several years, working for a book publisher. I am currently a writer, editor, and mother in Austin, Texas. Via Salon, I once debated with Camille Paglia over whether girls can rock.


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 20, 2008 9:49AM

Stephen King on My Barstool

Rate: 11 Flag

After reading a post that included a fun quote by Stephen King (Spoiler Alert by The Biblio Files), I realized that I have never gotten around to telling my Stephen King story.

Before you think that this is a mindless bit of star fucking, I would like to note that every Mainer has a Stephen King story. He does live there, of course, and when I think of all the people that might have a tale or two to tell on me when Open Salon propels me into literary superstardom—well, let’s just say it is a pretty long list. There’s also a great deal of local pride regarding Steve. It doesn’t matter that he mines Maine culture for his stories, or that he lives in an impossibly creepy house in Bangor. He’s ours, dang it, and if you are from a mostly forested state populated by the sort of people who make Alabama look like a bastion of intellectual refinement, you take what you can get.

When I was in high school, Steve came and gave a little talk, naturally because someone in the English Department had some connection to him. I don’t remember much about what he said, but I do recall his manner as being quiet, thoughtful, and rather genuinely nice. This might be enough to qualify as a Stephen King story, but maybe only if you moved there from away.

(A friend’s mom, whose family had lived in Maine for so long that they look down on descendants of the Mayflower voyage as tourists, had the ultimate Stephen King story: she dated his brother in high school. Unfortunately, she destroyed much of her Maine cred by marrying from away.)

One day, I was sitting with my friend Dice at the bar in Gritty’s, one of several pubs on Fore Street in Portland. Dice is a character unto himself. He’s a greaser, a poet, a local legend, and the nexus of an entire population of disaffected youth. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, especially music from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Seriously, if you want to know what was on the B side of any 45 released within those decades, Dice will have the answer faster than you can Google it. He will probably also own the 45 in question. Don’t even think you can put your hands on that 45, though, because while Dice hates everyone equally, he reserves his greatest antipathy for any one caught touching his records.

Dice is also my best friend, and while we sat in Gritty’s with our beers, we talked about the sort of thing best friends converse about: music, other friends, and impossible feats of derring-do. At some point I got up to use the restroom. When I came back, someone was sitting on my barstool. On closer inspection, I realized this:

Stephen King was sitting on my barstool.

Now, for those of you who think it could have been a case of mistaken identity, allow me to remind that no one else on the planet looks like Steve. I am not sure what happened to his originating gametes, but it is as if they knew their union would produce a horror writer and adjusted accordingly. Having seen him before, I recognized immediately his wide grin, blocky jaw, squinty eyes, and dark brow.

I quietly took a seat on the other side of Steve. He and Dice were in the midst of an animated conversation, and I realized also that Dice had no idea who he was speaking to. This did not surprise me, as Dice has no regard for celebrity. He will read King’s books but not pay attention to the image on the dust jacket. If Steve were a hot babe, that might be another story, one perhaps fit for King’s own telling. But there, at the bar in Gritty’s, Dice was just talking to some guy who struck up a conversation about oldies music because of Dice’s slicked back hair, sideburns, and leather jacket.

It was a meeting of the minds in that regard. Anyone who reads King’s books knows that he also has an affection for old cars, music and culture. And King was delighted to be discussing some of his favorite topics without ever once mentioning his writing.

A minute or two passed, and Dice, formerly engrossed, suddenly realized that I had returned.

“Hey Alix! Hey, that’s my friend Alix. Alix, this is Steve.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said softly as I shook Steve’s hand. I gave him an I-know-but-I’m-not-telling-if-you’re-not-telling look, and he smiled before turning back to Dice.

To be fair, this is more accurately Dice’s Stephen King story, as I was content to listen to a conversation that evoked rusting fenders lost to wooded dumps and the haunting sounds of doo-wop emerging from a decaying porch in the chill darkness.

After a while, Steve finished his final beer and excused himself. “See you around,” said Dice. “See you around,” replied Steve. He looked at me and said just, “Thanks.”

“No problem, Mr. King.”

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Cool story! I'm definitely a fan of Mr. King's, though he did cause me many an uncomfortable night with a full bladder, because I was too scared to walk down my darkened hall to the bathroom for relief.
I love this story. Mr. King is one of those people who seems so goddamn likeable, every story I read. I haven't ever gotten my knickers twisted in writerly jealousy because not only is he preternaturally talented, but a career like that couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
I agree Madeleine (is that your real name? I love it) and J.P. Although I might add that King's career couldn't have happened to a nicer guy or a worse guitarist .
Great stuff, Alix.

Stephen King is also a sort of unofficial protector of Lake Kezar, in the Fryeburg area (he owns some property there, so I understand).

I've never seen him on any bar stool in any Maine joint I've been into.

You've got one on me there, Alix.
Excellent story! I almost had the pleasure of meeting Steve, when he came to my neck of the woods to give a talk at a local university. Unfortunately, I was working that day and didn't find out he would be there until the day before - too late to bow out of work.
I'm still hoping he comes back again - I've a well-worn copy of The Stand I'd like him to sign. :-D
Oh, I should add the following (after reading your bio) - girls DEFINITELY can rock. Any doubts should be put aside by Joan Jett and Nancy Wilson, to name only two.
I love this story! I write horror myself and though I think I would have written it no matter what, King was the one who made sure I followed the path already laid for me - I read everything he ever wrote, no matter how obscure, even the shorts in the fetish porno magazines like "The Raft" in "Spanking Lesbians".

Was that TMI?

Thanks for sharing!
Geez---I thought I read all his stuff too---but somehow "Spanking Lesbians" was one I missed. Great post though. Thanks!
Nice story! Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, also a horror writer, looks less weird. Quite nice, in fact.
Glad y'all liked it. I read Kind myself, but not quite as religiously (I have a particular affection for his non-horror stories).

Another King story told to me by a friend in Bangor is how he came to be a published writer. Apparently one of his little ones (maybe Joe?) was in need of medical care, and the check from his publisher arrived in the nick of time.

After reading this over at Salon proper, that Steve story has a new poignancy.

Oh, and Sandra! Now you've got me curious. Any writing you can direct us to?
I read this earlier today and gave you a thumb's up. I like your style and appreciated this story. My husband LOVES Stephen King; has everyone of his books> Me, I think he is interesting, but I am not a fan of horror...Ouch, I know that takes me down a peg, but I don't like to be startled or scared. Great post!
Really terrific story. I think Mr. King is a tremendous storyteller. I always include one or two of his stories in all my classes for study. Plus, I remember reading some of his novels late into the night and being scared crapless.

Also, wow. His son is kind of hot there. Sorry. I'm so shallow.
The best meeting with a celeb is when it's not about the celeb part, just that you were there and he was there and both of you were being who you are — humans, with stories and feelings and passions and a beer (or, you know, whatever).
Great story. I agree with Kat - the best celeb meetings are when you just happen across one of them when they're in their normal-human form. Most of them are just people, and like to do normal people stuff. It's odd the first time you encounter this, but it's true!

It is a bit hard to fathom, however, that the man who gave us "The Longest Walk" and "The Shining" could really be all that super nice and friendly and normal. Did you follow him out to his car and look in the trunk?

Hmmm... on second thought... Maybe it's best that you didn't.
That's so amazing that you all were just sitting in a bar and having conversations and your friend didn't even realize who the famous Steve was. In interviews and stuff he always come across as real sincere. And of course, he's a great story teller. I loved his book about advice for Writers, very inspirational.