It took me a long time to realize I had been misled all my life about Success. In the end, I discovered, you have to do a thing for yourself, simply because it pleases you. The thing itself has to be enough — all else is smoke and mirrors. There is merit and wisdom in picking a thing, devoting yourself to it, doing it beautifully, then setting it on fire. I learned, through much trial and error, that Fame is not Success.
This veneration of individuals, the gurus and cult figures, the phony idol worship, it’s all bullshit — people are just people, even famous people. Some of them deserve respect and admiration for their craft, sure, but so do all sorts of people. Fame itself is a vice, and a handicap; a careful-what-you-wish-for. Venerating fame is a sickness, and our society is terminally ill, while most of my favorite people toil away excellently in obscurity.
Anyways, you get the point. I’m not here to meditate on our collective obsession with gossip magazines. I’m here for Valerie June.
We met once, after a small show she performed at The Dock in Ithaca. She came out after the lights went up and stood by her merchandise table, where a line formed. Her hair was enormous and she was remarkably skinny. People came up to talk to her, and she talked to them. It was very sweet. Mostly though, people were talking at her, giving her their opinions on this or that, and I’m standing there thinking, “What are you telling Valerie June?!” So I got it in my head that instead I would just ask her for a hug, say thank you, then dip. This became the plan.
So I waited, and waited, and finally the last person left and she looked me right in the eyes. My mouth went instantly dry, as all my carefully cultivated opinions on fame shattered and rained down around me. I managed to ask her for a hug and, bless her, she gave me a good one. Then, having achieved my goal, I started to leave, and — she wanted to talk! She was asking me something or other, but at this point I was a robot working on its original line of programming: 1. Get hug 2. Say thank you 3. Leave. She’s being all fucking sweet and human and giving me this strange look as while she’s asking me something, I’m slowly backing away. I found myself saying “thank you, thank you” over and over again like a broken machine, while half-saluting her. Yeah, saluting her. Then I turned and lurched away.
So not my proudest moment. But I did get a hug from a talented and ethereally gorgeous woman. And I did get to eat crow and question my convictions, before having them reaffirmed in the best possible way. I’m sure it didn’t help me any that long before this encounter I had said out loud to friends (mostly joking) that I’d decided to swear off all other women and devote myself exclusively to her.
Don’t tell her that, okay? This has been embarrassing enough. But if you happen to run into her, maybe you could, I dunno, test the water a little for me?
I mean people are just people, right?
Even famous people?
“Well if you’re tired, and feeling so lonely…”
A Valerie June song