So on Saturday I went to Amanda Palmer’s book signing at Exclusive Books in the Mall of Rosebank. (It has been beautifully revamped and is now an absolute delight of a shop). It was amazing despite the fact that I had one of the worst panic attacks that I have had in ages when I was trying to buy her book. (Long story short I had left my wallet in the car, had less time than I thought and I thought that I had lost my wallet and driven to Rosebank without a license. Incidentally FNB wins over Standard Bank for allowing you to get money from an ATM without a card, and using Standard Bank’s website on a mobile phone is close to impossible…the Standard Bank has still not downloaded on my phone since I tried installing it before 12 o clock yesterday. But I digress.)
So after I finally managed to get money out of an ATM through Riaan’s help, I rushed back to Exclusive Books. The queue for the signing was insanely long. And the reading had already started. I bought my copy of the Art of Asking and reclaimed my platters of mini-milk tarts. I initially stood in the queue for the signing while Amanda was reading but then decided to rather go and sit on the carpet up close. It was amazingly reminiscent of childhood storytime. It was intimate and amazing to find out that I was not alone in my admiration and connection towards this woman. I am an insatiable crowd watcher and so I sneaked glances around me, and perhaps my favourite person to be sneaking peaks at was one of the kitchen staff who was shyly leaning out of the kitchen and listening to snippets of stories.
After finishing reading, Amanda got up onto the counter at the coffee shop and played ukulele for the first time in the mall (fittingly and by request she played ukulele anthem). On Facebook the other day Amanda had mentioned her new love affair with rusks and had invited people to bring rusks along to the signing and the gig the night before. I had responded that I would bring milk tart (when another fan had said we should turn it into a South African tea party). I walked up towards where Amanda was and one of the event co-ordinators asked if the milk tarts were for Amanda and I said yes and for her fans. The co-ordinator had said to just put them down next to Amanda but kindly Amanda said that by the time people get to the front of the line they are pretty focused and so Amanda grabbed a milk tart and said into the mic that milk tart was coming down the line and so I got to connect with a whole collection of Amanda’s fans. It was interesting and intimate, and I did not feel rejected when anyone said no thank you. I got to share lots of little collections of South African happiness with my compatriots. And my milk tart has now been endorsed by a rock star 🙂
I then joined the queue and spent about 2 hours with my new friends, sharing stories and book recommendations. Finally we reached the front of the queue and then…
I managed to stammer out a Thank you to Amanda, but I did not manage to say all the words that I wanted to. I did not manage to tell her the stories that I would have liked to. In a way she is really intimidating…not in a bad way. But in a way where in that moment she is giving you all of her attention and it is intense. It is not bad attention, it is far from it, it is just really intense Jedi like focus, that in that moment where she is holding you in her gaze there is no doubt that she is truly seeing you, and when you have made it a practice to be introverted and blend in, and the art of avoiding being seen, it is disconcerting to be looked at so intensely.
I did manage to stammer out about how when I am having a crisis of confidence I channel my inner version of rock star Amanda Palmer and that helps. She reminded me that it was bullshit and just as insecure as the rest of us. (I don’t think I managed to explain how that is why it helps, by seeing her be brave I am able to be brave too). I did not manage to tell her how by living and loving so openly she has given me the courage to be vulnerable and to become gentler with both myself and those around me. I did not manage to tell her that by living openly she gave me the courage to come out about my mental illness, about living with depression, and so have people share there times of darkness with me and know that they are not alone. I did not tell her about the fact that ukulele anthem and a bootlegged version of her Cat Steven’s cover of if you want to sing out, sing out were on my birth playlist (which I never used during Lucas’s birth, but that I have played countless times since) or that it was once part of my morning ritual to put on that same youtube video while we were living Costa Rica while waiting for the kettle to boil on the stage. (Incidentally she has a photo of that gig as the parting shot in her book). I did not manage to tell her about how by her living openly and making mistakes she has given me the courage to make my own. But you know what, the encounter was intense and amazing and in some ways, I think she saw at least some of the words that I did not manage to say.
Love and melk tert,