After high school graduation, I got the chance to go on one of those educational tours with a group of peers and my French teacher. We were in London for a few days and used our late afternoons to queue for tickets to shows. We saw Les Mis and got fantastic middle of the balcony seats to Phantom. ( I know. The two most typical shows ever, but we were high schoolers and band geeks so…there.) Seated behind us at Phantom was a group of twelve year old girls. We surmised from the cackling and tiaras that it was somebody’s birthday.
Moments before the show started, the cackling escalated. The birthday girls had locked in on a celebrity sighting: The Pet Shop Boys. It was summer of 1992, I think my friends and I were familiar with exactly one Pet Shop Boys song, but that didn’t stop us from following the herd of 12-year-olds at intermission to demand autographs on our Phantom playbills. Because that’s what you do with famous people, right?
However, we were so epically clueless, that after the show we ran to Tower Records (also a big deal) to desperately root through cds in hopes of finding an album cover photo to confirm our star crossed interaction. (Remember, no cell phones, no internet, no instantly Googling it. Thought process! Detective work!) As I remember it, we weren’t super successful and the signatures were illegible -one might have said Neil- so the jury’s still out.
In other encounters, I can confirm that I’ve been 5 people away from a sweaty Bret Michaels. I was across a small brick street in Athens, Ohio, from Hilary Clinton. I’ve hugged Cory Michael Smith and made inappropriate Oedipus Rex Mom jokes with him. It was random. I might have seen Claire Danes in an airport, if the whisperers around me were to be believed. However never in the presence of such “famous” people have I felt like such an epic dork as I did on Saturday.
About mid-week, I discovered at the bottom of one of her blog posts that Jenny Lawson The Bloggess was going to be two hours away at a free, non-ticketed event on a Saturday! Normally, when she tours for her books, she ends up at a book store about an hour away, but it’s always on a school night. The store wants you to buy the book from THEM (WHY! I already own it! That’s why I want to see her!) and stand in a long-ass line, and it suddenly seems too ridiculous and complicated. Trust me that I can make things ridiculous and complicated all on my very own.
I put out a whispered feeler on Facebook: “Does anyone want to go see The Bloggess on Saturday?” No bites.
Brain had to think about this. All the voices had to weigh in.
“You hate going places alone.”
“You’re always going places alone because your friends have families, and others, and football. Just go.”
“This is in downtown Cincinnati. This is strange. You don’t know this.”
“You have Siri! She’s a total cunt, but, ya know, she probably won’t get you killed.”
“You will die a fiery death because you hate driving in big cities. Even the city you live in freaks you out!”
“Why would you miss this opportunity?”
“Because parking! You don’t know the parking. You hate parking in parking garages! They are chockfull of rapists!” (I hate parking garages. Dank stairwells, and tons of claustrophobic cement, a million hiding spots.)
The voice that finally won made this argument: “You love her writing. She makes you laugh. She makes you write things. Seriously? What are you going to do with your Saturday that you haven’t done five million Saturdays before: yard work, talk to cats, run pointless errands, have no human contact, and accumulate projects you won’t finish then wonder where your weekend went. Don’t be a weak-ass bitch.” Seriously, this voice reminded me that I screamed and scared the hell out of my cats the night The Bloggess commented on my blog, and again when she followed me on Twitter. That sometimes her topics and format give me something to springboard off of in my own writing.
Saturday morning, I hit the road to the Books by the Banks Festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center which assured me it had over 5000 parking spaces surrounding it in the forms of garages and open lots. Peachy.
The drive was fine until I hit the inner circle of Cincinnati and then things started merging and swerving, breaking off to the left, and unexpectedly arching over under. Cincinnati has hills! And tunnels! What the shit? The speed limit said 45 but everyone was going 60 and why can’t Siri clue me in to the next move a little sooner? We (Siri and I) took an exciting tour of some warehouses and then finally got back on track to the downtown that looked eerily like the intersections of downtown Columbus that I hate. I saw exactly one open lot twenty million lanes of traffic away from the left turn I was perpetually making. In a panic, I swerved in to the next visible, much dreaded, parking garage. Of course, there was no immediate parking near an immediate and safe exit. It was the third level for me. At least I could see the bridge into the convention center from my spot. Except… they weren’t actually connected. Yea!!
I sprinted down three flights of gooey stairwell, and then outside and back up three flights to the bridge. I got eighteen flights on the FitBit that day. Aside from escaping the parking garage, part of the panic was the time. The website had said that The Bloggess would be away from her signing table from 12-1:30 for a break before her author spotlight talk. It was 11:00 already and I envisioned a long line that would at least give me time to calm down and get my head on straight. All of her events appear to be really crowded, and full of crazies waiting to chat and offer her dead things or knitted genitalia (true story.) I had no genitalia or deceased items to offer, just the crazy.
Sweaty, wild-eyed, heart pounding from stairs and driving, anxiety laden, I burst into the ballroom full of authors, and….holy shit snacks…there she was. Without a line. What the hell, people! Heathens!
A smarter person would have gone to the bathroom, calmed down, gotten a drink of water, pretty much anything else. However, I am often not the smarter person, so I stood behind the one other human chatting her up and desperately tried to find the footnote to English teachers that I wanted her to sign.
I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, just that I sounded like an idiot.
The Bloggess: “Hi, how are you?”
Sweaty Me: “I just white knuckled through traffic so terrified!”
The Bloggess: “You’re like the fourth person to say that.”
Sweaty Me: “And I had to park in a garage which I hate. I’m pretty sure all the rapists are congregating by my car.”
The Bloggess: “Uh, huh. That’s the worst.”
Sweaty Me: “So I was looking for your footnote to English teachers for you to sign because that’s me.” (Holding out my copy of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened– kind of like this conversation.)
The Bloggess: “Oh, yea, found it!”
Then she signed it.
Sweaty Me: “Yes, I am magic for making it here.”
Sweaty Me: “Are you doing pictures?
The Bloggess: “Sure, come around here.”
Sweaty Me: “Thank you so much for being here.”
And then I walked purposefully away to text the friends who would understand that I was squealing and peeing inside.
And it was only 11:30. Her author talk wasn’t until 1:30. Now what?
Not being adventurous enough to explore the streets, I alternated between sitting in the lobby and doing what felt like very conspicuous laps around the author tables. I was aggressively accosted by an author who writes “cuddly mysteries without all the blood and gore.” Missed your mark, lady. She thought the cat on my t-shirt somehow was a link to the cats on her book cover. I promptly told her about Rita Mae Brown’s mystery novels and backed away. I chatted with Brett Harper, Charley Harper’s son-love Charley’s art, about cats. He dug my shirt as well.
Wandering the convention center, I finally settled in a spot adjacent to the room for the author spotlight talk and decided to use the time to start writing. About 45 minutes before the talk, the others began to arrive and queue up. The Bloggess’s tribe made it. Another fan and I talked about what epic dorks we were when we met Jenny. The other woman opined that Jenny was probably used to and understood such weirdness. She had only discovered the event at 2 a.m. that morning, and was delighted to have made it.
During her author spotlight, Jenny read two chapters from Furiously Happy, after a disclaimer about being “very sweary.” It’s inspiring to hear an author read her own work especially when it’s a chapter about passing out in doctors’ offices including the gyno which is oddly convenient due to the stirrups. She then took questions from the audience. One question about writing about mental illness prompted the response, “How boring are not screwed up people who don’t exist anyway, they just hide it well?”
She also talked about coming out of a bout of writer’s block while working on her next book (excited!). Sometimes to get things going or to just write a journal entry she starts with “This is what I want to tell you…”
So Jenny Lawson, oh great Bloggess, “This is what I want to tell you…”