it’s the return of pop culture friday!

September 13, 2009

i did really intend to make this a more regular “feature,” but i don’t always like the questions posed. it’s a hit and miss thing. anyway, this week: celebrity encounters.

i have a couple, i suppose, depending on how you define “celebrity.” i used to do freelance work for michael mcclure, for instance, and although i found that really exciting and impressive, i’m not sure other people would. i was briefly introduced to dean ween (my favorite ween) once, after a 4-hour ween show that is probably the best concert i’ve ever been to, but he was shit-faced and i didn’t say much more than “great show.” at the same club 3 years later, while leaning on a wall and waiting for my friends to show up, i had a 2 sentence conversation with jason isbell where i gave him bad directions (other band members, fortunately, knew where they were going). i did not act like a spaz during any of these encounters (not even when i met mcclure the first time, and i was only 20 and pretty spazzy then). i also once walked right past the drive-by truckers at hardly strictly bluegrass. i did not talk to them, because my friends prevented me from chasing them down and making a fool of myself.

these are all minor stories though. minor anecdotes, really. i think my best celebrity encounter is actually 2 encounters, but with the same person. when i was in high school, i fell absolutely madly in love with the beats. i bought a copy of the beat reader at a socialist collective bookstore in seattle my senior year (forgoing things like lunch to pay for it, as i didn’t have much spending money) and carried it around like my bible. it’s still stuffed full of random notes and print outs and other effluvia of the time. and then i moved to berkeley and started working at a publishing company and then one day i was walking through the office (i sort of remember this as being during finals week one semester, so i was heavily sleep-deprived), going to pick something up from the printer, and the publisher stops me and says “meet gary snyder.” i managed to squeak out some polite nice-to-meet-you type of thing, but i was so startled and unprepared and awe-struck, i scuttled back to my office pretty quickly.

a couple years later, still working for the same company, i ended up at a conference in davis where gary snyder happened to be giving a reading. it was a freaking fantastic reading. i cried, and i don’t usually get that into public poetry performances. anyway, afterward, i had bought a copy of his most recent book for a friend of mine and was having it signed and he looked at me and said “i know you. you work for [my publisher]. what’s your name again?” and so i told him. and then he said “hold on, let me write this down. i want to remember it the next time i’m in the office.” and then gary snyder wrote my name down. i was 22 and it was a high point of my life. (sidenote: gary snyder is really short, which i found startling, because in my mind the writers i’m really into are all larger-than-life.)

now, by themselves, these are just somewhat amusing stories that mostly just tell you about the kinds of cultural figures i find important or interesting enough to wig out about. but it does sort of lead me to thinking about the nature of celebrity and art and the difference between public and private personas, which is actually something i think about rather a lot. and with that lame teaser, i’m ending this post, because on friday when i started this post, this is where i wrote myself into a corner. in trying to tie the post and my thoughts on the nature of the artist-consumer relationship together, i couldn’t make it all flow right. i’ve thought about the topic a lot, and i think i’d rather just have a spontaneous post on it later on. so, for now, you get a bunch of lame half-cocked stories about my encounters with celebrity, two days after it should have gone up. sorry.


One comment

  1. Ooh, Gary Snyder. I’m jealous.

    I’m also amused that two of the previous four encounters happened when I was with you, but if you had asked me the same question I would not have remembered them.

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