serendipitous reflections

Friday, October 26, 2012

Meeting Neil Gaiman, and the Unchained Tour

OK, this post is long overdue, but back on September 14 I attended the first event of Unchained Tour at the Columbia Museum of Art. The Unchained Tour is a traveling group of storytellers. Among the group this year was Neil Gaiman. I've been a big big fan for quite some time, so when I learned he was coming to Columbia, I was giddy, to say the least. Jeni got me tickets as part of my birthday present, but she couldn't go because of opening night of Legally Blonde at Workshop Theatre. We also agreed to host two of the participants that night. (It's how they keep the costs down, we had the room, and were happy to help out.)

The show was pretty amazing. I took our friend George with me, and got us there early, expecting a crowd. As it turns out, we were among the first few in, and got amazing front-and-center seats. Neil Gaiman was the final storyteller, and he relayed the story of meeting his wife Amanda Palmer, and getting his dog Cabal. I milled around afterward because I knew I needed to take my two people home with me, but the group wanted to decompress after their opening performance and their stressful day (which included a blown tire halfway to Columbia). We ended up at The Whig, which is a dive underneath Main Street in downtown Columbia. I went early to get a spot. It was crowded when I first got there, but a booth thankfully opened up and I was able to snag it. A little while later the speakers started to trickle in. And then, Neil Gaiman showed up too. I really didn't expect him to come, and really didn't expect to see him in this dank bar. I asked him for a picture while he was alone, and he was very kind to oblige. I had a quick "big big fan" conversation with him, but didn't want to impose and left him in peace.

Unchained after at the Whig me and Neil
Here's the picture with me and Neil. I got to meet my idol, it went well, and I was happy. There's always the concern of meeting an idol and ruining your image, but he was just how I'd expected.

The group started to trickle out, and I followed to gather my two people. It was interesting, because no one actually noticed Neil Gaiman in the bar until he started to leave and was working his way through the crowd. Before, he was sitting off to the side with his back to everyone. He stopped for pictures and hand shakes and polite thank yous. I offered him a ride to his hotel but being just a few blocks away he decided to walk. Two guys even came out of the bar ("We finally got the camera on our phone to work!") and he came back to get a picture with them.

Well, the next morning, I needed to drop off the two people staying with me. We grabbed some breakfast at the Original Pancake House (I had to give them a taste of Columbia), and then got to the bus for the drop off time. One of the storytellers had a work emergency, and I offered to drive him to Charlotte so he could fly back to New York. It was unfortunate that he only got one night on the tour, but it's better than none. It worked out for us, though, because we ended up being early (well, most everyone else was late). But Neil Gaiman was on time. That meant that Jeni and I and the two who were with us got to hang out with Neil Gaiman for a good 10 minutes before the others arrived.

Unchained bus and Neil Gaiman
Here's a great shot Jeni took of Neil standing by the Unchained Tour bus. It is covered with excerpts from stories from the storytellers. I got to talk to Neil some more, and relayed the story of getting the email with the download code for Amanda Palmer's "Theatre is Evil" album while sitting backstage at Workshop Theatre. He said, "Amanda would really enjoy that," which made me happy. It was pretty cool because Neil made a post to his journal while we were waiting for the others to arrive, and when I checked later it just felt very surreal to know I was standing right there.

Unchained bus
Here's another shot of the bus. It has no air conditioning, and has a no-technology rule in the spirit of storytelling.

Unchained collage
And here's a collage Jeni made and put on Instagram.

This was a great way to kick off my birthday week (my birthday was September 21). I didn't bring anything to get signed. I knew there wasn't a signing at the event, because Neil wanted this to be an Unchained event, and not a Neil Gaiman event, and I wanted to respect that. Plus, I got a picture and got to meet the man, and that's better than an autograph any day.

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