Ok--who's in hog heaven?!!! I'm such a dork, enjoying my moment and a hurried and way-too-short conversation with Jon Katz, writer, blogger, farm owner, middle-aged guy, steer hugger, photographer. I'm still smiling after a great night at Barnes and Noble in Skokie.
If you know me, you know of my obsession with Bedlam Farm and Jon. Well, I don't think it obsession, maybe I'm just really into it--what he has to say about being creative, about "putting your lips to the world", about sending your voice out into the world. He has single-handedly inspired me to take a creative writing class, to return to my love of writing, to put my thoughts into words. He has taught me to believe in and question myself. To push myself into new territories like photography and blogging. To stop and see the world--large and small. His daily blogs, of which there are many, inspire me to continue on in a creative realm. For that--I am grateful.
It was a small crowd of about 50 people, which was great. I think 99 percent of them were dog lovers--which was creepy. Some had dog t-shirts on, Bedlam Farm hats, and some were almost wild-eyed with admiration and awe. Ok, so you can like dogs, and I do, but there is something strange about people who wear t-shirts with their dogs pictures on them. I try to stay away from those folks. But, this crowd was kinda loaded with them, and they wanted to talk to Jon, personally, about Fluffy or Muffy. I think I saw him wince once or twice. He was very polite.
When we first got there, they were just setting up. There was a short line forming and I asked the lady in front of me what the line was for. She turned around slowly and had this very strange look on her face. Her eyes were kinda big and glossed over and there was this weird smirk on her face. "I love Jon Katz," she says really slow "I have all his books". It was totally the Spongebob impression Em's been doing all week. I did all I could not to crack up and just headed her back into the question of what the line was for--we were getting numbers for book-signing order. I did a quick thank you and get away from her immediately. Joe was dying behind a stack of books. I could have killed him.
There was no shaking these folks. Now she was telling me how she reads all his blogs--yeah, hello?! And she emails him, a lot--okayyyyy. "I just love him" she kept telling me. I kept thinking "Oh, thank God! Joe will know I am NOT the weirdo here!" She and her daughter just happened to be everywhere we were and kept talking even though I wasn't really listening. I just wanted to throw up I was so excited to be there. But she wasn't the only one acting all roboty and fan obsessed. The place was LOADED with them. We found 3 seats together, separated by an aisle and quickly sat there--and tried not to laugh amongst eye rolls.
Katz came in, was introduced by a lovely woman, and started his talk. He talked of his dogs, of the farm, and of hospice. He told some great stories and had a gentle demeanor. He was soft-spoken and warm. He warned of treating your animals like children, talked of losing dogs, of mourning them, and then moving on to adopt another. He talked of the weird trend of people turning to their dogs instead of other humans for relationships. He stressed the importance of training.
Jon then read a hospice story from the book and I just sat there, mesmerized. For nearly 2 hours, Joe, Emma, and I enjoyed the evening. We laughed and smiled. We poked each other when he talked of getting a new pet right away when you lose one. We completely forgot how sad we were about Hen or how scared we were about Joe's job. Time stood still in that Barnes and Noble. This stranger came into my life and quieted my thoughts for a badly needed evening of happiness. I'm still beaming.
Question time was full of strange comments and thoughts--of people wanting to talk about their dogs with Jon. He was so not about that, but I don't think they noticed or cared. One girl asked about writing and I asked about the line of intrusion when you write or photograph someone. I think he was actually relieved to talk about that. Gosh--I think we locked eyes once or twice--I hope Joe didn't notice. Ok--so he's older and balding--I could have run away with him that instant.
I was lucky number six in line to meet him personally. Guess who was 4 and 5? Weird lady and her daughter! Ugh. I just stood behind them hoping they wouldn't start up again. But now, when she meets Katz.......... dude knew who she was! NOT kidding. He was like "Oh! I was looking for you." and gave her a big over-the-table hug! I was bummin'. Can you believe it?! Crap. I was jealous. I wanted the hug! I wanted him to look for me. Maybe I didn't have a weird enough look on my face.
It comes to my turn, and I introduce myself. "Oh yeah," he remembers me, "the blog!" he says remembering his writing about blogs that mentioned me. We had a nice conversation about photography and I thanked him for always encouraging and inspiring me to write, to photograph, and to be creative. He thanked me for the kind words and we smiled. I told him I missed his blog this week, as it had been a bad week. He asked if we were getting another cat, I told him "tomorrow", and without a pause, he said "Good!". I felt better. He signed my book "in memory of Henry" and you'd be proud of me that I didn't even cry.
We shook hands again, took a quick photo, he said "hi" to Em, and we were done. 30 seconds of love. It was enough--I am filled with sunshine today. I sent him an email this morning thanking him for a great visit. I joked that if his wife Paula grew tired of him, I would dump Joe and the kids in an instant--although we would have to work something out about the dogs in the house should they be wet and smelly. I hope I made him smile, even just a little. There isn't enough gratitude for the 2 hours of peace in my heart last night that he gave me.
I remember when I was little--little enough for a babysitter--I was reading a teen rag magazine with her when we ran across this contest. You could personally meet your favorite "star" by filling out the form. There were all these names like Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, or Donny Osmond in little lip shapes. You had to put lipstick on the one name that you would want to meet and they would draw names from these entries for one lucky winner. I can't remember if it was David or Donny that I chose, but I remember going over and over in my head what I would say to them when I met them. What would be cool? What would be witty? Would he really kiss me?! Oh, the possibilities. I wonder now how many days and nights it took of dreaming until I finally realized I wasn't going to win.
I won last night. Ok, so it was a late middle-aged man with missing hair, diabetes, a farm full of smelly animals, and a wife and daughter. But I wanted to, and I met, my hero. We talked, smiled and shared a laugh. It doesn't get much better than this.