“You Have A Little Fish” (A Wolf At The Door: Part II)
The main reason we had The Wolf come visit us when he did (hint: read Part I) was because our favorite author, Neil Gaiman was doing a signing for his new book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”. Putting on our best duds (I bought my first vintage reproduction dress for the occasion) we very excitedly grabbed our books and Gibby’s ukulele, and headed to the Alexander Theater.
The theater is a stunning location that I am glad is currently being restored. We checked in for our special reception tickets, received our copies of “Make Good Art” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and waited to enter the theater.
It struck me as lovely that there were all sorts of walks of life in line for the event. Doctor Who Shirts on twenty somethings, white haired and elegant women, men in ponytails wearing Super Kabal shirts, and fellow vintage enthusiasts in lovely circle skirts and bow ties.
Finally we entered the theater for the reception where there were tasty curry sandwiches, wine, fruits and cheeses. We nibbled our tasty food and sipped the wine, listening to people around us talk about their favorite works and other times they’d seen the author. At one point a fan approached us, asking if we were characters from one of Neil’s books she had yet to read. We took this as a good sign.
As we stood in line to enter the theater house a voice behind us said “There he is!” and sure enough, there was the back of Neil’s very distinctive head of hair. He was already surrounded by fans and at first I thought, “Let’s not rush him,” but when I saw that he was taking pictures with people (which he was not going to do during the signings) I rushed over with my camera and my little plushie fish, the boys in tow.
Did I say plushie fish? Yes, yes I did.
After meeting Amanda Palmer in March (yes, I need to blog about that too) and giving her a little hand made gift, I decided that I would do that for every person I admired when I got a chance to meet them. Since I was having Neil sign “Smoke and Mirrors”, I decided to make him a gift from his story “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” which features a koi called Princess that magically bore the lipstick print of a forgotten silver screen star. I made the fish from felt, colored it with watercolor pencil and a bit of gold eyeshadow, and placed my own lipstick print on the fish. I gave her little button eyes, a reference to “Coraline” a book I purchased at the same time as “Smoke and Mirrors”.
The group around Neil was about six people deep and just as I was about to think I was never going to make it to him, Neil called out, “I’m sorry, but I need to get a drink before I murder someone” and promptly made his way to the bar, right where I was standing. He received a glass of white wine and a bottle of water and as he was talking to a fan about Doctor Who, I saw his eyes flick to the fish in my hand. The conversation ended, and he turned immediately to me and said,
“You have a little fish,” with a smile on his face.
“I have,” I said, and told him it was Princess. He took it from my hands, exclaimed excitedly about the lipstick mark and assured me it would travel on the tour bus as a mascot with a knitted Idris and two knitted Cthulhus. Gibby took this wonderful photo:
After that amazing encounter, we entered the theater house, getting to sit in the third row and I was able to stop fidgeting enough to take pictures of the stage.
Neil Gaiman took the stage with Geoff Boucher and together had a brilliant conversation about writing inspirations, how to enjoy success, and the difference between writing with a cat in the room vs. writing with a dog. You can watch the whole amazing thing here. Go on, I’ll wait right here while you do that.
I found the entire thing just as inspiring and invigorating as the first time I read my first of his books “Neverwhere” and as insightful and beautiful as when I first read the introductions of “Smoke and Mirrors” (read more about that here). It’s a frightening thing, to meet and listen to one of your heroes. You risk them falling off the altar you build for them. I try to always remember that the people I am inspired by are just that, people, but there is always a risk. I’m happy to write that Neil Gaiman remains very high in my regards. Someday I still hope to manage to have a cup of tea with him, a proper British one. I’ll learn how to make it, if that’s what it takes.
It came time for the signing, and the boys and I got to show off how prepared we were by already having post-its in our books with our names properly spelled written on them. We got in line, Gibby first, then The Wolf, then I. Gibby actually jumped the line a little bit, and The Wolf chastised him accordingly.
Gibby had gotten Amanda Palmer to sign his ukulele when we met her in March and Neil singed on the side of the ukulele, just below Amanda’s signature.
Then The Wolf had his favorite volume of “Sandman” (“A Doll’s House”) singed and was excited when Neil skipped over the customary signature page in favor of making a small doodle over Dave McKean’s artwork.
And then it was my turn.
When we were in line, the assistants had us stack our books on top of each other, so that Neil could sign the book, push it forward gently, and then sign the book beneath it. This is a great way to keep a line of people moving, however my book’s binding had given up the ghost ages ago. This lead to my book being signed, and given the gentle push where it promptly split into two large chunks. At first this went unnoticed, and Neil began to sign the second half of my book. His assistants stopped him, and I began to gather the fragments of the book, explaining that I had read it to death. This was his reaction:
He stopped everything and said “That’s AWESOME!” and as I finished tying my book back together “Oh, those are my favorite to sign.”
I cannot tell you how happy this made me. I can only describe how I skipped down the steps of the stage, up the aisle of seats and out the door of the theater. In two small separate moments, I had been given the opportunity to show someone I admired how much his work had meant to me. I don’t know if he’ll remember me. I don’t know if he’ll connect that the girl who gave him the fish was the same girl whose book fell apart from love, but I hope so.
We left the theater, got to pick up a cd of “Evelyn Evelyn” a gift from Amanda Palmer herself and stopped to take some pictures in front of the theater.
And in case you needed further proof that Gibby’s hair matched his bow tie perfectly…
We then headed home, listening to “Evelyn Evelyn” and all having separate “Did that really happen?” moments. It’s for that reason that I love having this blog. Yes, it happened and if I’m very very lucky, it will happen again.