i took a picture of this rainbow with my iphone. here it is.
one. celebrities are like volkswagens.
this celebrity-as-voltswagen started with tone loc. hogan, our violinist, came running up as we stood waiting for bags in the LAX american airlines baggage terminal and said, “hey, that’s tone loc over there.” and it was. we know this because when he said hello it came out as, “was’up,” in that exact low, gravel-filled tone [ha] as, “hasta la vista baby,” and this encounter made us collectively less weary. in fact, our bags had arrived and it hadn’t even occurred to us that we were waiting on them, because, you know, we were hanging with tone loc, and then, after he was gone, we were busy trying to quote as many lines as we could remember from wild thing and funky cold medina or name any other songs he had recorded. (turns out we couldn’t, remember the names of any other songs, although his debut album,loc-ed after dark, was chock-full of gems like, cheeba cheeba and loc’in on the shaw, and i would not be able to recall them now, had hogan never spotted, mystically, mr. loc.) and so it began, this game of celebrity spotting. although we were pretty sure it wouldn’t ever get better than tone loc. in our game, it seems, random-famous is way better than uber-famous, as in, tone loc beats brangelina. this may be because brangelina would never fly commercial and is/are therefore not even in the running, but we like to think it’s because part of the value of the game is the inherent non-sense of celebrity and the insanely good feelings you get when you see someone who was very visible and public at one point, or who might have provided you meaningful entertainment with little, to no, serious, ongoing public recognition, and so, richard simons trumps tom hanks. and it turns out we’re pretty good at this game. granted, we (the band) travel in a large pack, as in, nine of us, and ninety percent of our time is spent in public spaces of transportation, as in, airport terminals, and the odds are very great that some random-famous person is there, waiting to be spotted, and with nine on the hunt, they tend to turn up.
i realize how this sounds. “hunt,” is too strong a word. and so, i feel i should qualify and assure you that this is not a stalker-like obsession or paparazzi-like pursuit; i mean, we’re quite busy: hauling luggage and all manner of gear and equipment, checking in at the ticket counter, attempting to secure exit rows or bulkhead or finagle upgrades, searching for temporarily misplaced passports or tickets or mobile phones, or a taco bell, or a starbucks (actually, you don’t have to search for these, they’re just there); basically, we’re in an ever present state of performing demonstrably important and necessary tasks, so this “hunt’ is more just a tickle in the back of the mind, a finely tuned sense that is always at the ready for the observation and assimilation of common data other people overlook, like todd bridges standing in line in front of you at the admirals club, or the voice of gillian michaels asking about a hoodie at the other register while you are purchasing mentos, or larry miller eating handfuls of mcdonald’s fries directly across from you as you’re reaching for salt and a straw. these moments are golden and respected and the collective weariness is dissipated by the retelling of them. it is the exact euphoria of spotting a white vw beetle on a twelve hour road trip with your family and punching your younger brother hard in the arm.
which brings me to: two. celebrities are like santa claus.
and this is part of it, the game: it is interesting to approach famous people and see how they treat you – to see if you get santa claus or the part time employee. i mean, it is absolutely reasonable to get a brusque, curt response; if you were to approach a non-famous person in the airport and abruptly introduce yourself, say, like when they were eating handfuls of fries, and then asked them if your friend could take a photo of the two of you, the odds are great you’d get denied and possibly reported to the nearest authorities. and yet, despite the reasonableness of dismissal as a response, we have never been denied a photo from a celebrity we have approached. in fact, for the most part, the people we have encountered and imposed upon have been generous and kind. and i think this is wonderful.
but the reason this is interesting, this approaching famous people partially to observe response, is because, for the most part, i don’t care. at least that’s what i conclude. if i cared deeply whether the person treated me kindly or not, i would be much more hesitant to approach them. and the reason, i think, i might not care is because, really, how much has willis (todd bridges) helped me navigate life of late? maybe this is why random-celebrity beats uber-celebrity, there’s no real investment. there’s no real consequence. it is a completely selfish act on our part. i know it is selfish because i can ask, “what can it hurt,” and the answer to that question is, “not me.” but what if the person is someone who has created something that has moved you in a significant, formative way? what if the person is someone who has created things that have helped you navigate the landscape of yourself? what if they have written and sung songs that have been attached to some of the most important moments of your life? what if these songs sometimes helped you know what it was exactly that you were feeling in these particularly important moments? what if these creations animated the things that were in your chest and made them more experience-able, more real, more concrete and significant, as if you and these moments actually existed, that you and them were undeniable facts, validated by the sound and melody? what if these songs were inseparable from the moments, so much a part of them that they are dependent upon each other, that to think about the song is to think about the moment and the inverse? well, then, if this is the case, i believe it would matter a great deal which santa claus showed up.
and there i was, sitting on a surf board in the pacific ocean, the end of a rainbow on one side, oahu’s diamond head on the other, the early morning air cool and already full of sunshine, and eddie vedder is sitting on his board next to me. we’ve been here for about an hour and a half, him pushing me into waves, him telling me to spread my stance, to keep the nose up, not that up, yelling and clapping and throwing me a shaka sign when things go well, floating, watching for the right color in the undulating water, talking about songwriting, evel knievel, guitars, the ocean, near death experiences, gene simons, the moore theater, long haired john, ace frehley’s guitar solos, rocking in the free world, latest reads, solo tours, chuck klosterman, paddle boards, adrenaline, the choice of the present tense, happiness, church music. there are exactly seven people i’ve dreamed of meeting, to the point of fantasizing, imagining what we’d talk about, planning the annoying questions, because these individuals have had such an effect on how i create and what i want to accomplish through what i create. four are musicians. three are writers. one is dead. and i was in the pacific ocean with a rainbow and a surf board and one of them. i believe in santa claus.