Friday, April 19, 2013

meeting a celebrity

Fridays are the days on which the local newspaper, the Hampshire Gazette, runs a column I always read. It is called "ID" and it is a Q & A with one individual ... where does s/he live, what does s/he do, what mistakes has s/he made, what books or music does s/he like, etc.

The columns are not uniformly interesting, but they are uniformly about one individual and I like individuals, however imperfectly they may describe themselves. I feel as if I am getting the "meat" of "meat and potatoes." No generalizations or conclusions or humanity blithely skipped over as in news stories or wise analyses. This is people. This is, somehow, real blood.

One of the questions reads: "If your could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be?"

The question seems to get to me every time -- to leave me somehow sputtering and searching in my mind.

In general, I agree with former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins who once observed in a radio interview that "Meeting your favorite author is one of life's most reliable disappointments." It is better to leave the bright lights of the mind to their own devices -- to enjoy their brightness but not venture too close. Up-close is a recipe for disappointment, for a dimming of the brightness. What has fame got to do with substance or kinship, after all?

But for all that, I can't help myself. There are a couple of people I wouldn't mind meeting. Charles Monroe was a mail clerk in New Marlborough, Mass., when he was interviewed in 1939. And there was once a radio program I could never find again ... about a pig farmer and his wife in Louisiana or Mississippi or somewhere down south. He came across as a plain-spoken man who worked his ass off and positively glowed with love and common sense and ... just being who he was... the kind of man who made me happy to be part of the human race.

It's probably just as well that these men are probably dead and I could never meet them. That way, the light and delight remain undimmed. It may not make a lot of sense, but "celebrities" are kind of fun.

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