There is almost nothing better than first meeting someone. It is a moment of unabashed hope, of the kind of clarity you find rarely in life, particularly as you age or grow and things become more complicated. The clarity comes in a simple realization, so simple it’s almost comforting: Damn, she’s interesting. She’s smart. She’s good looking. I think I’d like to keep talking.
And it’s almost Perfect, in the capitol P sense of the word. What happens from there is usually leads to a diminished interest. It’s just the percentages. You’re going to be disinterested far more often than you’re compelled to follow through; your flaws come out, their personal blackheads develop into giant, white, puss filled pimples, but there is almost nothing better than the first time you meet someone who sparks your interest. It’s like lightening spreading through your body, from ground to groin to brain. It’s better than the first time you experimented with drugs, better than getting your drivers license, but not better than the first time you had sex with someone you love. That, unlike many things in life, gets better and more fulfilling with each passing act. You learn the geography of their skin, map out their pleasure points, and curl your toes as they figure out your physical weaknesses.
Monday night I attended a fake event, one of thousand, they generally blend into each other. They are put together by publicists for their clients, an opportunity for writers and reporters to mingle in a hip environment, surrounded by great music and beautiful men and women, with faces just recognizable. Wasn’t that person in a TV show? What is that actor’s name? And it’s supposed to be like a tonic, a proximity buzz. You’re supposed to go home the next day and report to your boss. “I was at an event last night. Remember that guy from Scrubs, the one who was in Clueless, he was there. And I really think we should do a huge profile on the star they held the party for. He seems important. There were so many famous and cool people there. Perhaps we should consider a cover.”
In this case I was at a new underground bar on 8th Avenue, just off 28th Street. The place had yet to have its “official” opening, which probably served the idea better in the end. It was in honor of a musician I interviewed over a year ago, I had already written a piece on him, and he’d since gone on, in the time between then and now, to a good deal of success. You can hear his songs now on a few television shows. He had a few videos out. He did well for himself. This party was more to celebrate the past year, and I was invited more as a thank you, I think, than in any attempt to lay the ground work for his next album, to keep him in the minds of taste makers (a title or distinction I loath above all others), the ones who had passed on pieces, for the next go around. After this he would head to a secluded cabin somewhere and start writing the tracks for his sophomore follow up.
I’m not much of a mingler. I love bouncing around from conversation to conversation, I love interacting and drinking and when I can build up momentum with this I can end up pretty much anywhere by the end of the night, but my little chats rarely have much of a purpose but to entertain me. I don’t remember the names of the people I speak with, which makes me horrible at networking, so I just sort of float. There’s a lot of discomfort at these events, you can see it on the faces of those who scan the crowd, almost panicked until they find a familiar friend or peer. I don’t panic. I find an area and lounge for a bit, because I figured something out a few years ago at these events. None of us know each other. It’s like if you were to plan a party and decided to invite one friend from every area of your life: one from elementary school, one from grammar, and then high school and college and each successive job. Odds are you’d be the only person who knew anyone, which is the situation the publicist is generally in, but everyone else is a stranger to each other. So why be bothered.
I made my way outside, where they’d converted the parking lot into a large lounge and bar space, with speakers so the set the DJ was spinning inside could make it’s way to the open air, bounce off the walls, and probably straight into the living rooms of the people in the apartment looking over our little gathering. There was a pool table set up, and couches, and I had a beer in my hand, and ended up with a group of 3 women, one of whom I knew. One of the girls was wearing a red V-neck T-shirt and coat, jeans and shoes. She looked cool, kind of aloof, not really bothered, and as the conversation of the girl on my right and the one on my left became increasingly geared towards each other, I made my way across the divide and perched myself up on the pool table. She took a couple of steps towards me.
And I smiled, a smile which, oddly, she returned easily. It usually takes a bit longer for someone to be open to any advance at these things. Moves seem so self-conscious at hipster gatherings, almost like surgery, every move has a reason, a distinct purpose. But she just smiled.
“What are you doing here?”
“You know, I don’t really know. I guess I was invited. You?”
“I think I was invited, too. But what’s the purpose of your presence?”
“Decorative. No, I work at MTV. I interviewed the guy inside, so I guess they invited me because of that. What’s your purpose.”
“You took my answer. But I interviewed him as well.”
I’m exaggerating the conversation, mainly to make myself look smarter and more charming, which is my right. I do it in my own memories, so why not take advantage of the space provided here and just make my skewed memories fact. This is how it happened. Exactly how it happened. It is in print. You cannot argue with that.
And the conversation just had a flow, an ebb, like the beer I was drinking. We ranged over a number of topics, sliding easily and seamlessly from one to the next. She is running the New York marathon this year, was listening to this set of bands, made her way to MTV from another place, attended college up in Canada, where her step-mother was from. There were no cracks, there was no pause, no search for the next right thing to say, the next question that might draw 5 more minutes of words from her mouth like water from a well. It was just conversation.
We went on like that for perhaps an hour.
When the publicist interrupted us, I was almost grateful. Always, always, always end these things on a high. Never let yourself get into the turgid stream of bullshit back and forth. Go out with more to say, because then there just might be more to say.
She took us up to the VIP area, where the musician resided, and he actually remembered me. “I just wanted to thank you for the piece you wrote,” he said. “Of all the profiles, you got it right, and I appreciated that. You wrote about what I was trying to do, not what my audience was or which niche you thought I fit into. It was the best interview I did. I really appreciate it.” And I really appreciated it. You rarely get thanked for the things you do, not directly. The few times it happens justifies every other heartache and frustration I have with this pseudo celebrity world. And for the briefest of moments it was the three of us standing there; young, beautiful and talented. Like the parties you see on television, on The O.C. or 90210, that seem too put together to resemble anything you know in the real world, these “fake” events rarely meld into anything tangible. But right then it did, for 5 minutes at least.
She and I spoke for 10 minutes more. She had given me her e-mail address earlier on. The joys of dating, or even trying to date, in the ’04.
I made it home by 3AM, after a 20 minute walk to the subway and a 45 minute sit on the platform. My head was ringing this morning when my alarm went off, and I was just so slow pulling myself together.
When I finally exhumed my body from my bed, when I had cleaned up and made my way to work, I pulled together her e-mail from the information she had given me. I never wrote it down. While that would have been the smarter thing to do, it also would have been the desperate thing. I’m just not a desperate man.
I kept my message simple.
“So I enjoyed meeting you. I enjoyed talking to you. Hopefully we can pick up our conversation sometime soon.”
And for the next few hours I checked and rechecked my e-mail, hoping there might be something back from here. It came around 3:20.
“I, too, enjoyed meeting you, and talking to you. We can definitely pick up where we left off…”
Oh but what I do love about first meeting someone.
So we’re going to go out again on Thursday, to another event, but this one featuring a couple of bands that are making a lot of noise of late, and who happen to all have the same publicist. So they’ve organized a special event in which each act will play for ½ hour, stretching from 8:30 to 11:30. It should be good.
And here’s the thing. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have no expectations whatsoever. Things can go terribly wrong at the blink of a hat. (That was intentional; I just love the sound of "blink of a hat.") Maybe that was just the best versions of ourselves, maybe we’re really just not that cool. Maybe we don’t get along. Maybe we’ll just make good friends, or she’ll be a great voice in an industry where I find very few people like me. Aside from a guy I work with, there are very few people who approach this gig the same way I do. So maybe she’ll be a voice that echoes my own, someone I can talk to and bounce ideas off.
And even if it comes to nothing, which is just as equal an option as anything else is from here, it doesn’t matter. Because we had a good talk, we were interesting people, and I followed up. Things have my blessing to go wrong if they must, because it’s been a long time since I followed an instinct. And they can go wrong if they must, because I’ll be okay with that too. No one said you need these things, no one said you were owed anything. The ones they come along come along when they do. But they all start somewhere, at some point, don’t they? And they certainly don’t start if you don’t, at the very least, respond to that little voice in the back of your head. “Hey,” it says, “I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea to find out how to get in touch with her.”
I’m standing here at a single point. And the different roads and paths scatter out infinitely before me, ricocheting off each other like billiard balls scattered off the felt walls of possibility. And that’s what I love about meeting someone. Anything can happen. Anything. It’s all open roads and no obligations, no one has to be anywhere. There’s a full tank of gas, bagels and coffee on the seat, a full pack of cigarettes, and an iPod of brilliant tunes. Now all you have to do is find out what direction to head off in and just press on the gas.
Because anything can happen. And I love the idea of that.