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Big, Starstruck Dork

2003-08-20 - 12:12 p.m.

The following is an alphabetical list of people that, were I ever able to have a conversation with them, it would inevitably result in me breaking down into Wayne's World-esque "We're not worthy!" scraping and bowing:

Tori Amos, Cate Blanchett, Margaret Cho, Toni Collette, Ani DiFranco, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Eddie Izzard, John Cameron Mitchell, Toni Morrison, Mira Nair, Terry Pratchett, Lou Reed, Tom Robbins, Salman Rushdie, Meryl Streep, Stephen Trask, Dar Williams, Jeanette Winterson, and Jack and Meg White.

Which is not to say that these are the only artists whom I appreciate. There are other authors, filmmakers, musicians, and comedians whom I have been deeply moved by. But these people have all had profound affects on me with their performances and their works of art. I know that given enough time with them, something along these lines would happen:

Neil Gaiman: "So what brings you to Minneapolis?"

Me: "Well, I was visiting So'n'So, who, as you know, is an old friend from high school, and I was thinking about UMinn for grad school, so why not check it out, y'know? I had no idea you and So'n'So had been having coffee in this bookstore for the past few months."

Neil: "Well, I'm having a dinner party later, and I'd love for you to bring over some of those chocolate covered strawberries So'n'So's told me so much about. Tori and Terry are both coming, and their huge chocoholics."

Me: "Sure, what time?"

Neil: "7:30"

Me: "Okay, I'll be there with plenty of strawberries for ya . . . and Terry Pratchett . . . and Tori Amos . . . I'M NOT WORTHY!!! I'M!!! NOT!!! WORTHY!!!!! I'M SCUM!!! I SUCK!!!!!"

At which point, I'd feel really bad, because Neil would have run away screaming.

I mentioned Neil specifically for two reasons. First, he is indeed good friends with Tori Amos and Terry Pratchett, which means that the three people whose writings (be they narratives, essays, or song lyrics) have played enough of a role in my life to be considered a Bible of sorts, could conceivably all have dinner together. Second, Neil is apparently very good about answering any kind of questions from fans on his website, and I wanted to ask him some questions about the relationship between his novel "American Gods" and Tori's album "Scarlet's Walk," both of which are deeply concerned with "The Soul of America."

But I can't do that! I'M NOT WORTHY!!!

Ironically, I actually have met some of the people listed above, albeit in settings not conducive to conversations, and kept my cool. I had Dar Williams sign a t-shirt of mine at an after-show meet'n'greet, and she responded to my praise of her music with a simple thank you, having heard such praise countless times, no doubt. I attended a Tori Amos meet'n'greet, and had her sign a book for me (one in which her lyrics appear) and I got to talk to her a little about a peace rally I had been working on. She didn't seem terribly captivated, since she was dealing with at least 50 other screaming fans at the same time, but the next night she recognized me in the front row at another concert and she came up to me, took my hands in hers, and thanked me for working for peace. I nearly passed out, and my hands still tingle every time I think about it. The best encounter I had, though, was probably with Margaret Cho, whom I took some time to praise and thank during a Q&A when she performed at my university. I gave her a souvenir mug that I got when I took my fag hag to the prom, and she seemed genuinely touched by the present and eager to put it on her "Love Altar," where she collects all the gifts that she has received from fans.

So I shouldn't feel weird about wanting to e-mail Neil, or talk to Terry Pratchett when he comes to town to do a book signing in October, or, when I think about it, send a fan-mail to any one of the people listed above. But I can't, because I'M NOT WORTHY!!!

I also shouldn't feel weird because I know people who are considered "celebrities." I happen to be well-acquainted with a prominent Chicana author through my mother. I've also met and bonded with a number of cool people in the Austin music scene. When I first went up to these people, I was intimidated, and asked myself what business I had asking these people if they wanted to grab a drink. But then we had the drink, and another, and then dinner sometime later, and in the end they wound up being happy to see me whenever I saw them, and if that's not friendship, it's certainly a damn good place to start.

So I was worthy. I am worthy. But I still don't feel it, with the aforementioned celebrities, and I can't imagine how I could ever feel worthy of their company.

I want to come to these people on equal footing. I want to make my opus, or opuses, or opi, and be able to say, "Here, read my book, it actually got published!" or "Thank you for coming to my play, what did you think of it?" I don't want to be the typical starstruck dork that I am, jumping up and down and flailing my arms and shrieking in a voice high enough to deafen the poor person I'm so eager to shower affection on.

But that's not going to happen, because I'm going to be a starstruck dork no matter what. Do you know how much of a starstruck dork I am? Well, I'm a fan of a certain website, and I actually have e-mailed the person who runs that website, once to give her a bit of praise, another time to contribute a little something to her advice column. When she e-mailed me back, and then later when she not only PUBLISHED my letter to the advice column but AGREED with what I had said, I felt like the kid on the block with the new swimming pool. To paraphrase Cartman: "I got an e-mail back from one of my favorite websites; who wants to touch me? I SAID WHO WANTS TO FUCKING TOUCH ME?!?!?!"

Yes, I'll admit, I get off on status. I love being the guy who knows the singer, and the guy who knows the author. I love having the shirt signed by Dar, the Tori story, the cup in Margaret Cho's house. I think that's the main reason I want to be able to come to these people with something other than screaming adoration. I don't want to leech something off of them, to try to manufacutre a moment of "Well, Jeanette Winterson said I should follow my dreams, so I must be cool!" That's just silly. I want to come to them and say, "Here, this is mine. This is what I put out into the world. I hope you like it." I want to be able to stand on my own two feet as an artist before I ever try to say anything more than fifty words to them.

Fortunately, "Hey Neil, I was reading American Gods and saw a line that wound up in "Virginia" on "Scarlet's Walk." What sorts of connections do you or Tori see between your two works?" counts as less than fifty words. So I'll get on that eventually. I need to work my way up to it.

And maybe someday, I can jump around a room screaming "Toni Morrison liked my book! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" Because my inner brat is never going to go away.

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