Brush with Fame
Years ago I drove to a neighboring city where the author Pat Conroy ("The Great Santini", "Prince of Tides") was doing a book signing for his new book, "Beach Music". I took with me my very ragged copy of Santini and stood in an incredibly long line for my turn to have his signature on it as well as the new book.
The line took a long time to make its way to the table where Conroy sat and as I got closer I was able to see why. Pat Conroy took time to chat with every person. It was more than just a book signing. Conroy was a studier of people and talking to them seemed to make him light up from within. One man who was just ahead of me wanted to tell the author that he was--like Conroy-- a graduate of The Citadel and this sparked a warm conversation.
When it was my turn he took the books I offered for his signature and asked me what I did. Now, at the time I was the at-home mother of three boys who were 1, 5 & 6, but I was also a regular reviewer for a large newspaper as well as for a university press literary journal. I told Mr. Conroy that I reviewd books. He was immediately interested. I told him I had lost my bid to review his book as several other reviewers had already rushed to claim the privilege.
He said, "So what are you reviewing right now? I'm always interested in what others are reading and I'm making a list of their suggestions." I told him I was reviewing Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Love in the Time of Cholera". Conroy scribbled the title on a list next to him and then asked if I had ever read Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude". I said that I had and that I loved the magical imagery and the author's obvious love for food and its preparation. His books were riddled with it. Conroy--a man whose books include a similar tendency-- agreed and then right there quoted the entire opening paragraph from "One Hundred Years of Solitude". FROM MEMORY!!! I went home and checked it out.
A French couple stood right behind me and had their picture taken with Pat Conroy and then snapped this one of me. I got it in the mail about a month later. It hangs in my office.
Of course when I told my dad about the encounter he couldn't believe that I didn't tell Pat Conroy about my children. Hu-what??? It was a book signing. There were time limits. We were there to talk about books. What did kids have to do with books...in that context?
"Dad...he asked me what I did. I interpreted that to mean he wanted to know what brought me to that bookstore. Books!! Books are what brought me there. "
"Yes, but he asked you what you did, didn't he?"
"Yes, and I told him that I was a book reviewer...because I am."
"But you don't spend the greater percentage of your day writing. You spend it taking care of children."
"Yeah...but I don't think taking care of kids is what made me want to stand in line. And I don't think it would have been the best answer to his question. Is there a rule about how I spend my day that dictates how I can define myself?"
"I think there is...yes."
So....aside from my sweet father's incredible and totally exasperating need to see me as nothing more than June Cleaver with a college degree, I was still able to file that brief conversation with Pat Conroy under the AWESOME column when tallying up "Life's Experiences".
Have you had a brush with fame? Did that person turn out to be better or worse than you thought?