“Never meet your heroes, you’re bound to be disappointed.”

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?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to “Never meet your heroes, you’re bound to be disappointed.”

  1. I don’t know about ‘hero’, but I did meet one of the ‘big names’ in survivalist fiction and discovered he was nothing like what I expected. I’d had a preconceived notion that was based on what I’d read in his books and his blog… turned out that IRL he was a very generous, thoughtful, considerate, and easy-to-get-along-with fella whom it was genuinely enjoyable to be around. We differed on a couple of beliefs and ideas, but they never came up or detracted from our time together. It was quite surprising for me, and reminded me that I need to be a tad less judgemental before I have some empiric evidence.

    I’d met Claire very briefly about twenty years ago during a Free State event. I hadn’t enough interaction to draw any conclusion OTHER than that she was a True Believer. I’ve has some interactions through email with her since then and she seems very nice and pretty WYSIWYG.

    I’d like to meet Ian sometime, perhaps when he comes out this way to visit Hayes Otoupalik, and I suspect that Ian is exactly like he seems in his videos. There aren’t many internet personalities I want to meet, but he’s definitely at the top of the list.

  2. Joel says:

    Ian is exactly the way he seems in his videos, which is one of many reasons I like him. I have the privilege of having known him since long before he was cool – it’s funny, I didn’t even think of mentioning him in the post because he’s never been a “hero,” just a friend – and I can tell you that in addition to being a total geek on the subject of antique battle rifles he is a very genuine, laid-back, extremely fine fellow – and when he’s in practice he can run a more modern rifle like a ninja.

  3. charboord says:

    Aw heck, I want to meet Joel!

  4. Claire says:

    ” But I (and I think she) was disappointed to learn that in person we didn’t really like each other very much. ”

    Our first meetings were definitely awkward. I didn’t dislike you, Joel; I just found you to be a cipher (’cause as your devoted readers know, you’re not Mr. Social). I thought you disliked me because you scarcely spoke to me for days. But I trust we sorted that out eventually.

    Joel, you walk the walk as much as anybody I know. If my cynical old self still had heroes, you’d be near the top of the list.

    And Commander Zero, thanks for the kind words. I dread meeting people who already have some big preconceived image of me because who the heck can live up to that? Not to mention all the everyday things like personality conflicts and different tastes that can get in the way. But even when I’m a disappointment, I’m glad to be a genuine one. 😉

    I’ve met a few of my heroes and for the most part they’ve been good people. Even the ones who weren’t were more flawed than phony and I learned from being around them.

  5. Claire says:

    BTW, I first met Ian when he was in college. He was and no doubt still is the ultimate Mr. Cool.

  6. The problem with good questions is that I get carried away when I answer them.

    This one took me a while.

    Executive summary: I’ve met both of the most important ones, and consider myself lucky to say that I think I’m batting a thousand. Also, add me to the list of looking at Joel as a personal hero, because if nothing else, the way he leads with all his faults, how’s he ever gonna let you down? 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why did Claire leave the gulch

  8. Heathen says:

    “..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 …”

    Might it have been “UP !”?

    I was around some of that in the early 70’s when I was 17-20, albeit south of Ann Arbor. (Yeah, I was a “dumb kid” also.)

    WPP had a “commune” near North Baltimore, Ohio that had concerts every weekend during the summer,political indoctrination & rock & roll. The “freaks” out numbered the townsfolk every weekend. Think it only lasted 3 years at the most.

  9. Nonoyo Bizness says:

    Kevin Smith… Indie film icon… gen x idol… omega level douche!

To the stake with the heretic!