By dumb luck and good chance – I was co-hosting a show and had to step out of the theater for a moment to discard a busted cheese calzone that had been whipped at me (according to my own instructions) by author Sam Lipsyte a few minutes earlier – I met a couple of my rock and roll heroes from the late 1980s. They were each front-men and chief lyricists of their respective bands, and have since been enjoying creative solo careers.
It was difficult for me to conceal my enthusiasm, because each of these guys was responsible for an album that has made a kind of indelible mark on my development from a boy with a kind of passionate relationship with music, to a man with a steady and intimate relationship with music. (I used to play music at 4 in the morning, drunk, and grope around the room for sex. Now I listen to music while quietly uncorking wine and preparing fresh tofu scramble. Then, later, a little drunk on wine, I grope around the room for a bookmark.) And it helped that both of these musicians came across as incredibly warm and friendly and curious.
While I was in the middle of recognizing them and heaping each of them with a stammering helping of rekindled adolescent adulation, someone else at their (large, last supper-esque) table yelled out to me, "do you have a blog? I recognize you from it."
Since I've started performing comedy and doing readings and engaging in other attention-seeking activities, I have been recognized on the street at total of one time. I remember planning for this moment for months, like some kind of creepy sociopath with delusions of grandeur. In my imagination the meeting always went well. I saw myself taking the recognition in great stride, say, "thanks a lot. You have a spiritual day, dude," and then resting my hand – palm down, fingers splayed – over his heart, before disappearing into a Bigfoot Truck with "Billion Dollar Baby" written on the side in glitter paint.
In reality, I allowed myself to feel incredibly uncomfortable during the entire meeting. They were a nice couple who had recently seen me perform stand-up. I remembered them, partly because they had struck me as an odd couple, and partly because the woman was from Rio and spoke very little English, and I spent some time onstage giving her and the rest of the audience nicknames from City of God. "Doughnut," "Three Braids," "Spring Break," etc. We were all three walking in the same direction, and this was a major contributing factor to my discomfort. We kept traveling together, block after block, and soon it became clear that we were about to hop on the same subway as well. I didn't know how to say goodbye, and I didn't want to just tell them I was done talking to them – I had decided I was done talking to them when the male half of the couple told me that his neighborhood in Queens had been beseiged by a plague of "monkeys, if you know what I mean" – because I desperately needed these two strangers to think I was a really awesome guy.
So here's what I did: I pretended I needed to catch a cab. I let them get on the subway – on my subway – and then I walked about 15 blocks out of my way and got on the same subway line at the next stop. I ended up being late to meet with a friend, because I was trying to accommodate my awkwardness and a couple of strangers' (good?) impression of me. When I arrived at my destination, I apologized to my friend, explaining, "I had to flee and hide from two friendly, supportive fans."
When I was recognized last night, I had a moment where I felt very flattered and surprised. Then I looked around at this table full of accomplished musicians, writers, and other artists, and thought, "to date, my web site is my greatest (and only) achievement." And then I heard something faint and familiar – the sound of my heart caving in.