I happened upon that bit of folk wisdom this morning during the first cup, and it sent my memory stumbling through some dark, cluttered rooms. Actually, sometimes it’s beneficial to meet your heroes. It can save you pain. But bring a stout stick.
I hung briefly with some Ann Arbor socialists in the very early seventies – and I do mean briefly. This was a year before I lost my leg, and I was just a feral kid: I often hitchhiked there to be near the cool guys, placard things and smoke weed on sidewalks in quicky “Free Sinclair” demonstrations – and to bum weed. I can’t recall the name of the band that replaced the MC5 after that band actually had a hit and suddenly discovered that socialism is bad when you’ve got a little money in your pocket (“Sellouts!”), but they were the house band of the White Panther Party (which was just in the process of changing its name to Rainbow People’s Party because they got tired of explaining over and over that they were really radical anti-racists, and anyway the Black Panthers objected and they had guns and liked to use them.) So, yeah. They were campus pinkos, and I was a dumb kid.
Ignorant, though. Not stupid. It cured me of a lot of naive assumptions and false information, turning my head around so fast my neck ached for a year. I was a joiner back then – I’d devote myself heart and soul to pretty much anybody who’d let me hang out and make me feel like I was a part of something; pretty much anything. But once I got close enough, well, I was just barely smart enough to know shitheels when I saw them.
I’ve never been around any truly famous people. Oh, I had heroes. Sure. But I never met them. The only two semi-famous people I ever met were Kye Michaelson, of whom you’ve only heard if you were ever into high-power rockets and I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a personal hero, and Claire Wolfe who definitely was. By the time I met Michaelson I was pushing 50 and old enough not to expect a superhero. I wasn’t prepared for a flat-out phony, though. That’s a long story.
Claire was a different matter. By the time we actually met we had corresponded enough that I knew she was the real deal and not just somebody pushing books. But I (and I think she) was disappointed to learn that in person we didn’t really like each other very much. At one point we were very close physical neighbors for about a year and a half and gradually got friendlier, but it was due to the fact that we were both older people with experience in making allowances. Nothing bad, just completely different sorts of people – even though our core beliefs could hardly have been more similar. And of course we’re both pretty extreme introverts, which probably didn’t help. Far from a phony, though. She walks the talk.
Anybody else ever have the good or bad fortune to meet a personal hero?