Thursday, May 17, 2012

28 of 30: When I Held Out For My Hero

It was 9:45am and I was standing outside Capitol Radio in Leicester Square, drinking my coffee nervously. In about 15 minutes, Danny Wallace’s radio show ends, and by the hammer of Thor and the graces of Grayskull, I should be able to spring on him like nobody’s business.

“Relax, Earth…” my friend, L, kept saying.

How could I? I was about to meet (or was hoping to, anyway) my favorite author! My idol in every sense of the word. Danny Wallace was – and still is – my hero.

I first learned about him through my British friends, A & K (aka Mom and Dad), in 2008 when I visited them for the first time in the UK. Dad had just finished reading “Yes Man,” and swore it was the funniest book he’s ever read! Mom assured me I was going to love it. I really didn’t need that much convincing, so I bought the book at the airport for me to read on the plane back to LA. Needless to say, I laughed the whole flight back, and I bought all his books after that.

After reading everything he’s written, I realized I wasn’t just a fan of him as a writer, I was a fan of him as a PERSON. I admired his awkward and humorous take on his own life… putting himself through these random projects that inadvertently teaches him universal life lessons that are both poignant and funny at the same time. In his own little amusing and innocent approach on dealing with life, he’s found a way to make a difference in the world… and I really REALLY admire that about him… and I aspire to be LIKE him! As a matter of fact, this 30 by 30 project is my own homage to his “Yes Man” experiment.

And so when I knew I was going to be in London again for my 30th birthday, I knew I wouldn’t let the opportunity to meet him pass. 

It really wasn’t that difficult to plan the whole thing. I knew he had a breakfast show on XFM. I asked L to find out where the XFM headquarters was… and when she found out it was in Leicester Square, stalking him wasn’t even a question. It was purely simple; His show ends at 10am, so the plan was to wait for him outside his building and pounce on him when he comes out! EASY!

A few minutes before game time.
What I didn’t anticipate was how NERVOUS I was going to be. Too nervous that in the back of my head, I was secretly wishing it wouldn’t happen. It was awful! I’m usually pretty confident about these things… and most of you know he isn’t the first “celebrity” I was about to encounter. So the nerves really came as a bit of a shock. But then again, he wasn't just some random celebrity... He was someone that actually meant something to me... Someone I really admired... And I suppose that's worth a few butterflies...

Cut to L and I outside the radio station at 10:15. Still no sign of Danny. 
L took my camera and said she needed to start practicing taking photos. But when she took the camera from my neck --- the unthinkable, yet predictable thing happened: I spilled coffee on myself.

“Of course! Of course…” I said, shaking my head.
“Earrrrrth!” L said, wiping my sweater with some tissue.

“Ugghhh. I know. This is so typical of me. You just watch. He’s gonna come out right now,” I said, half jokingly as L was dabbing my chest.

And whattayaknow. He did.

Danny Wallace came out of the door, took one glance at me and L with our hands frozen right above my coffee drenched boob, and walked away.

“Shit, L. It’s him. It’s HIM!” I whispered, teeth clenched.

“GO, Earth. Just GO!”

This was it. Moment of truth. I tossed my coffee cup, and sprinted on after him!

“Uh… Mister Wallace??” I squeaked.

I was painfully aware of how much like a stalker I was at that very moment… Following a man, a few steps behind him, on tippy toes trying not to make too much noise because he was on the phone.

Shit – he was on the phone.

“L!” I whispered. “He’s on the phone! I don’t wanna be rude!”

“Just GO!” she shooed me away. “GO! Do it!! GO!!”

Oh L... Bless you for being an enabler.

I took a deep breath, and sprinted after him once more.

“Excuse me, Mister Wallace?” I said, louder this time. “Mister Wallace??”

He turned around, and almost instantly said – “Oh helloooo!!! Hi!”

I was momentarily confused. He said “hello” as if he already knew me.

“Oh! Hi… ?” I said, clearly surprised at his very cordial greeting.

“I saw your Facebook post!” he quipped brightly!

Ah. My Facebook post. Or should I say – Facebook POSTSSsss.

I posted that on XFM’s wall, on his wall, on XFM’s twitter page, and on HIS twitter page. I realize it might have been a bit much… but I needed to get his attention. And apparently --- I DID!

“Did you?” I asked nervously.
“Yes I saw it this morning!” He smiled. “How are you?” he added.

“I’m good! Oh my God, I’m so sorry about those posts… I didn’t want you to think I was some weird stalker…” – which admittedly, I kind of am.

“But… Blah, I’m freaking out!” I continued, fanning my face with my hands… “Okay.” I said as I gathered my composure.
“Hi, Mister Wallace! My name is Eartha, and I’m from Los Angeles, and I came to London to meet you, and tell you that you and your work have been such a great inspiration to me… and I just wanted to be able to tell you, IN PERSON, that you’re my hero.”

Bleugh! There! I spit it all out like word vomit!

I know it looks like I'm pulling him to me,
but he really did pull me in for a hug!
Mr Wallace, touched by my graceless honestly, leaned in and gave me a hug.
“Aww… Bless you… You're so sweet” he said. When he pulled away, he asked – “So what are you doing in London?”

“I came here to meet YOU!” I said happily!

“Aha-Ha!” he laughed. But it was an anxious, nervous laugh. I think I was doing a little too good a job of confirming the fact that I was, indeed, a stalker.

“No, no…” I added quickly before I could do more damage. “I came here to celebrate my birthday. I toured Europe for a couple weeks, then back here for my birthday where my friends threw me a little party… I mean it’s my 30th birthday, you know? It’s a milestone… I had to go all out.”

“Of course… of course.” He nodded. I knew he understood… he once did something a little out of the ordinary too before he turned 30. :)

This whole time, L was snapping away, documenting this monumental event for me! Danny looked over at her and introduced himself like a proper gentleman. I had to apologize to both of them for forgetting to introduce them to one another, claiming my nerves got the better of me. I was honestly just so flustered, I had forgotten L was even there! (Sorry, L!)

We did some small talk for a couple minutes, then he snapped his fingers and said – “You know what, I actually might have something for you! Give me one second…” and he pulled out his phone and dialed. “I have these things I can give you… and we can say that it is for an XFM listener!”
Oh my God.

“NO! No no no!!” I protested. “Please don’t give me anything! I didn’t come here to win anything! I really honestly just wanted to meet you!”

“Yes, yes, but this is good! Just one second… Hello? Dave?”

He was on the phone with his producer, who I assume is called Dave, and started asking him about these tickets that supposedly some listener have already won. He asked if they have actually released the tickets to the winner already… and that if he could please just have them instead.
During his conversation, I kept trying to wave at his face to get his attention, muttering words like – “please!” or “no need!” or “I don’t want…” or “It’s really okay!” and “stop stop!”

He kept shaking his head at me, and then finally said – “Hang on. Would you excuse me for a moment, please?” and he smiled and walked away to finish his conversation with Dave, privately.

My hero the fashionista! A gilete, a body bag, and funky boots!

“Oh my GOD, L! Oh my God! I’m so embarrassed!! I feel like an blubbering idiot!”
“No, no you’re doing fine!” she assured me. “Earth… when you were telling him he was your hero… Oh my God…” she paused, and then fanned her eyes dramatically. “Tears… I swear!”

“Me too!!! Waaah! I can’t believe this is happenning!!!”

“Okay, okay he’s coming back! He’s coming back!” L put the camera back on her neck and braced herself for more action!

“Right.” Danny said when he got back. “So are you two doing anything tonight?” He asked.

We were. But we weren’t about to turn down Danny Wallace! So L and I looked at each other and said, “Uh… not really. Just walking around?”

“Just walking around? Okay, well, I’ve got you these tickets. Really good seats at the Royal Albert Hall to see…”

Here it comes.

“… Paul McCartney?”

Holy Fuck.

“WHAT???” L and I both said in unison.

“Oh my GOD! Are you craaazy??? Jeeezas!” I yelled to no one in particular. I was completely freaked out that my hero was giving me and my friend free tickets to see a fucking BEATLE. At the ROYAL freaking ALBERT HALL.

Danny, looking really pleased at our genuine fan reactions, said, “Yeah! Great seats. Row 1. My producer, Dave, is coming down right now to give you the tickets!”

“Oh wow, seriously??? Seriously, Thank you, Mr. Wallace. But I honestly did NOT come here to win anything from you. I really truly just wanted to meet you, and that totally would have been enough!”

“Aww, I know…” he said, sincerely. “But this is my birthday present! For you! Happy Birthday!”

Damn it. He was amazing. I could have died, right then and there. My hero, ladies and gentlemen. 

Dave, the (really cute) producer, appeared soon enough with the tickets on hand!
Introductions were made, then small talk, then they handed me the tickets, and finally, sadly, the goodbyes.

I thanked Danny again for being so nice, and for the present, and told him how much a pleasure it was to finally meet him!
He gave me another hug and wished me well. He even said he was going to use this “hero” stuff as material for his radio show the next morning! How. Cool. Is. That?

We parted ways… Danny and Dave walked back to their building, and L and I walked to our tube stop. I waited for them to be out of sight before I allowed myself to completely lose it.

When I was sure they were gone… Yep. I completely lost it.

The words (or jibberish) that were coming out of my mouth, in full decibel levels, and on repeat and shuffle, were the following:
“Aaah”, “Oh my God”, “L”, “Eeeee” “I can’t believe this” “I’m dying” “Danny” “Wallace” “My heart” “I can’t breathe” and “Beatle.”

I was on the phone to anyone I knew who knew about the “Danny Wallace Interception” plan… Mom (A), Dad (K), Hunky C, Ginger T, my travel partner K...

I was suspended in disbelief. It started out as a silly plan. I literally just said – “I’m going to London. Ooooh I’m going to meet Danny Wallace!”
Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was actually going to happen… and it was sooo much better than I could have ever imagined. 
THAT… my friends… Is the power of thought… and the law of attraction!

Meeting Danny was, quite literally, one of the big moments of my life. I know it sounds silly. Most people look up to Princess Diana, or Mother Theresa, The Dalai Lama, or Nelson Mandela. And rightfully so!
But Danny Wallace’s influence on me is just as significant and impactful as the great heroes of our time’s influence on society.
I think what I love most about him is that he’s just a guy. Not a royal, not a politician, nor a nun. He’s an awkward man, living his life in the most entertaining and humane way that he could. People (like me) are able to relate to him through his writing. His stories and adventures make such a big and positive effect on his readers, even if the main point he is trying to make is just to reconnect with old friends, or to say ‘yes’ more. Simple, innocent, and funny. He just makes me feel like, even if I’m just me… clumsy and quirky and all … that I count. And that I, too, can make a difference.

That day, ouside Capitol Radio in Leicester Square… was one of the best days of my life.
For how many of us could say we’ve met our heroes after all?

The King and I

Watch out for Part 2 of this post -- Read all about My adventures with L at the Royal Albert Hall with Sir Paul McCartney :)