Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Meeting Neil Gaiman: A Moment in The Dreaming.

July 11, 2005.
It was a day that played out like a novel. I had gotten to Gateway much later than I had planned. (That thing called work can be quite bothersome when it wants to be -- as when you intend to meet Neil Gaiman and have your books signed.)
Iarrived at Gateway and it was nearly noon. By then the line had snaked down three flights of stairs and out to the streets. I felt a ball of dread and disappointment beginning to knot in my chest. I fought back tears at the thought that I would miss out on the chance to meet the father of The Endless. And then I get a message from my friend Pia. She was sitting somewhere in line surrounded by teens. I rang her and eventually found her. As I stood there in front of her, chatting about how long the line was... how the protocols had changed... and about my chances of getting anywhere near Neil Gaiman... it happened. Fortuity.
Dare we say... Destiny or should I play it safe and simply call it a bout of good luck?
The girl sitting in line across from Pia suddenly stood up and walked away. A berth had suddenly opened up in line - one that would put me about 100 people ahead of my original spot! And so I sat... and this is where the tale really begins. -- kage
We sat, Pia and I, chatting about this and that... wondering about our chances at getting our books signed... munching on donuts her husband had lovingly (and generously) provided for us. Being in line for eight hours with one friend and a hundred strangers as we waited for the gates of Fully Booked to open was less trying than I had expected.
For one, our social bubble built for two slowly expanded to include two college-aged boys sitting beside us. I was not to know their names til much later in the day but for this story's sake, I should tell you now that they were Andre and Bryan. The longer we sat there, the more companionable we became. We traded books to read, we shared the sugary donuts... and of course, we told tales. What better way to pass the time than to talk with like-minded pilgrims? So in between chapters and snacks, we chatted. And in between the words, the real tales were told.
Bryan was the more bookish of our two new companions. More prone to think before he spoke, his tale involved genorisity as he not only lent his book out to Pia for her to read... he later on offered to have her book signed as he only had one on hand and Pia had four. Never mind that we would eventually be told that we were each given only one book for signing. That is a detail that doesn't mar the essence of his story.
Then there was Andre... quick to comment and eager to be heard. He enjoyed the art of the novels more than the novels themselves. Or at the very least, that is how he portrayed himself to be. A true "fanboy", he knew all there was to know about Gaiman's world. Ah but there lay a twist in Andre's plot... for of course, there must be at least one unseen circumstance to all stories. For all his words in the nine hours in line, he was struck dumb at the sight of his hero. Frozen in place, he mumbled unintelligibly as Neil Gaiman scrawled a message on his book (which was Neverwhere if you must know).
Lastly, the tale of Pia, whose love for Neil Gaiman had brought out the Girl Scout in her. Armed with a portable DVD player, a bookbag and the aforementioned loving husband, she was ready to camp out. Her plan was to have him sign one book for her, another for her daughters. A third book (I am unclear as to which one) would go with Bryan. In the end, when we were told that we had to choose only one book per person, she wisely picked Nocturnes... his very first in the Sandman series. (As a post-script to Pia's portion of this story: I could not have had a better companion on this adventure than her).
All four, now journeying together in an interim alliance, kept ourselves entertained throughout the day. As we neared the doors of Fully Booked, the nervousness set in. And even then, only minutes til our journey's end, we brought in one more pilgrim to our fold. Her name was Ana... and she offered to let us use her camera for our photos with Neil Gaiman. As she put it "We Gaiman fans need to stick together."
And so, we each took our turn... meeting the man thousands of others had waited to see. A full day spent in line for 20 seconds in Neil Gaiman's presence. Each of us awestruck in our own way.
I, for one, was rendered speechless. Unable to think of something that did not sound trite, boring or cliche, I could only say "thank you sooooo much" in a manner best described as 'desperately grateful.' To which Mister Gaiman replied "No, thank you. And sweet dreams."
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I know not what he said to Bryan... nor to Andre ... or even to Ana for that matter. Because with our books signed, we each walked back out into the real world and, simply put, went on our separate ways. I only know what happened with Pia because at the end of it all, there was only myself and Pia... grinning at each other like loons.
I doubt I will ever see Andre or Bryan again. Ana I may manage to keep in touch with from time to time. She has photos for me on her camera... and I have got some photos for her on my phone.
People have asked me, "why didn't you trade numbers? why didn't you exchange email addresses?" Frankly, I think how it ended was rather apt for our communal experience -- quite like the way World's End wraps up when the storm blows over and the travelers all go off into the rest of their lives.
There were more stories I was told of the following day -- of the girl who drew up handwritten adoption papers for gaiman to sign, of the fan who gifted him with efficascent oil for his aching hands, of the photographer that had a chance meeting with the author inside the lavatory.
But those are are tales told around other tables, in other inns, at some other world's end. I am certain that there are more stories like these than there are stars in the sky. If you have one, send it my way... I would love to hear about it. As Stephen King (another great writer I hold in high regard) once said "It is not the tale, but he who tells it."
And are we not all the same kind of storyteller - with stardust in our eyes and the dreaming on our minds?
Quite coincidentally I chose to have Neil Gaiman sign my copy of World's End... primarily because it was the first of the Sandman series that I had read years ago... and also because Stephen King wrote the foreword. It all ties in very nicely dont you think?


Blogger Peewee said...

Kage, you are absolutely right - there are a hundred and one interesting stories shared and innumerable friends made in the gaiman event... And yes, meeting Neil Gaiman was truly an experience! I too was absolutely star-struck that I babbled and was dizzy after the signing and my hug* Got a Delirium Doll signed, he wrote "ummmm..." at the back of her head. I still have a hang-over and have spent atleast 20-minutes of my work-day checking out blogs of other people, just to relive the experience.

1:45 PM  
Blogger cat-ing-ka said...

check out pam's blog http://www.chillwinston.blogspot.com she has a pretty cool story too. meeting him is something you can definitely tell your grandkids :)

3:21 PM  
Blogger travelkage said...

Completely forgot to say: if you have photos or scans of your signed items send them to me as well if you'd like to share 'em. Lemme know so I can send you my email addy.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

You're a comics nerd? who knew...

didja know I have a friend who works at DC comics?

Email me, we'll "talk"...

10:09 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

"...and sweet dreams."

10:32 PM  

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