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Never meet your heroes.

January 2, 2013

My dad was a social genius. He would wait on a bench in the front of a stained glass warehouse in Blue Ridge, Georgia, while Mother and I poked through salvaged window panes, finding a common thread with the owner by the time we phlunked our dusty finds on the check-out counter. Sunlight shone through all the stained glass in the room, shooting purple, green, yellow, red lasers across Daddy’s face.

“All right, Billy, nice to meetchoo,” he’d say while Mother signed the receipt.

“You, too, Robert! I’ll call you next time I’m passin’ through Calhoun,” the proprietor would bellow.

Daddy made friends everywhere: with cadets at North Georgia College, with a lone diner at Waffle House, even with a star player from my high school’s football team.

“What’s your phone number? I need to talk to your dad,” Lamar Cryer once asked me in economics class. I scrawled it across a piece of notebook paper and scooted it across his desk.

“Call me!” I smiled.

“Yeah right,” he snorted.

That evening after Daddy attended my soccer game, I found him and Lamar propped against the fence discussing what appeared to be something deep. I quietly unlocked my car and slunk low behind the steering wheel, admiring Daddy’s conversational grace from afar.

A decade later I’d like to think I’m pretty good with people, too. Either I’ve become more comfortable with my quirkiness or society has decided that weirdness is stylish — or both. My decisions to strike up a chat with random people at concerts, art shows or bars are successful for the most part. Sometimes I still fail big time, though. Last Saturday marks my biggest social flop to date, when after 8 years I finally mustered the courage to talk to Hardy Morris, lead singer and guitarist of Athens-based band Dead Confederate. I avoided confronting Hardy about my respect for his musicianship because of my husband Ryan’s succinct advice: “Never meet your heroes.” After all, if your hero turns out to be an asshole, your romanticization is destroyed: you can’t listen to their music/read their books/keep their painting on your foyer wall anymore, and it would have been best to not talk to them in the first place. For example, poet Kurtis Lamkin refused to take a picture with me at one of Georgia Tech’s reading events in the mid 2000s, and I never read his work again; similarly, Mary Karr talked to me like I was stupid, so I took my copies of Cherry and The Liars’ Club to Goodwill.

Hardy Morris was perfectly nice to me. The problem is that I stumbled up to him and his wife while intoxicated at the Earl.

“There he is,” Ryan tapped me on the shoulder, pointing to Hardy’s table, where he swigged a PBR prior to his show. “Go talk to him. He’s right there.”

“No, bad idea,” I slurred, already having enjoyed some moonshine my MOTHER of all people gave Ryan for Christmas.

“I talked to him,” noted local concertgoer Kenny Crucial.

“Just do it,” Ryan coaxed me.

The conversation went relatively well. I professed to Hardy that I think he’s fucking awesome, discovered that the song “Godfather” from Dead Confederate’s new EP Peyote People is about Neil Young and asked his wife what it’s like to be married to a rock star. I don’t remember her response or the subsequent Dead Confederate show. However, I fuzzily recall carping to Ryan after its conclusion, “Is that all? I wish they would play more.”

Equally drunk, Ryan pushed me toward Hardy at the merchandise table in the back of the room and said, “Go tell him then!”

“What about ‘All the Ang’s’ or ‘Mel’ Mah Mind’?!?! Ang’s! Ang’ssssss!!!” I yelled at Hardy, intending to request “All the Angels” and Neil Young’s “Mellow My Mind.”

Once I grabbed Hardy’s shoulder, he ran away.

I bemoaned my mistake all weekend.

“Dead Confederate just came on my iPod and I had to skip it. It was too awkward!” I sighed to Ryan.

By Monday morning, Ryan told me I wasn’t allowed to talk about it anymore.

Had my pre-Alzheimer’s father attended the show, he probably would have ended up spitting tobacco or sipping Yuenglings with Hardy by the end of the night. In fact, that image brings me a lot of comfort.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    January 20, 2013 9:59 am

    Good riddance to the Mary Karr memoirs. Those books were terrible! I’m glad Hardy was nice, but I don’t think I’d ever consider a celebrity a hero. Talented, yes. Unfortunately that quality doesn’t always translate into someone who is admirable in any other way or willing to sacrifice for others, which would be my definition of a hero. Aside from some outstanding act of heroism, I think I’d have to know someone personally to call him or her a hero.

    I hope when you recover from your embarrassment you can listen to Dead Confederate again. I really like that band!

    • January 20, 2013 10:14 am

      Good points on your personal definition of a hero. Maybe I can come up with another noun for someone whose artisanship inspires me. And don’t worry – I’ve moved beyond my humiliation and still listen to Dead Confederate. I’ll share the new EP with you – it’s so awesome.

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