AKA: The Night I Met Neil Gaiman and Didn’t Get My Picture With Edgar Oliver
If you follow my personal blog or Twitter account, already know this: Friday night, The Unchained Tour came to Charleston, South Carolina, one of the final stops on their heart-shaped trip around the southeast.
I was excited for weeks ahead of time.
Because: Neil Gaiman! Live storytelling! A cool literary even in a town in which cool literary events are sometimes lacking!
My husband and I bought tickets the day they went on sale. I talked the event up on Twitter and my personal blog for weeks because I wanted it to be a huge success.
Finally, the big night arrived. Some pals and I met for snacks and drinks at a restaurant next to the venue. The Unchained Tour bus was parked right outside.
Of course I dragged a friend outside to see it. Of course I made her take my picture beside it. Of course I tried to read EVERY QUOTE painted on the bus because HOLY COW NEIL GAIMAN RIDES IT!
Yeah. I’m a total dork.
We headed inside, and I was near-to-bursting with excitement. I was almost afraid, though, that I’d be overwhelmed by their awesomeness….terrified by their amazing writing.
I was…at first…but then…
The stories told by each of the Raconteurs were….accessible. Universal. Beautiful.
Like, a story of not fitting in, of not belonging. Being too something for one group, and not enough of that very same thing for another. I could write that story.
Of getting lost…and then found. And upon being found by the person you missed most, feeling so loved that you could almost explode. I could write that story.
Of the moment when your true love becomes just that…when you go from “just friends” to something so much more. I could write that story.
Of learning the power of the word fuck. I could definitely write that story.
The story-tellers were (in story order above): Dawn Fraser, Edgar Oliver, Peter Aguera and Neil Gaiman. They were all incredible.
Rumors abounded after the show: the “small reception” at our local bookstore would host all the performers. Neil Gaiman would sign books there. We needed to be there.
So we high-tailed it over, as fast as we could.
But…an hour later and no one had showed.
Turns out, a group of the performers remained at the show venue. Neil Gaiman was signing books there! We ran for it.
My husband and I were the last two in line for his signing. He signed The Graveyard Book for our daughter, Zoe. I congratulated him on his recent Hugo award, and he looked genuinely pleased. He shook our hands and chatted as he drew a little doodle on the title page of the book.
My night was almost complete.
But there was just one more thing…
I’d known of Edgar Oliver from the show, Oddities. I’ve seen him on a couple episodes, and thought he was a cool East Village eccentric. I had no idea he was such a great writer, too.
That night, I loved his story, of getting lost and found and loved, the most. I loved hearing him speak. I loved his voice, his demeanor, his tales of a “stash bottle” always filled with red wine (yum!).
I’d already shaken Neil Gaiman’s hand, but I still wanted to get my picture taken with Edgar Oliver. I wanted proof that such an original person existed in my world for one night.
We saw him outside the bus. I got shy, socially awkward. A friend of mine, so much braver than me, knew how much I wanted to talk to him and she paved the way.
“Mr. Oliver,” she said, like it was nothing. “I just wanted to tell you how much I…we…enjoyed your story tonight.” She stepped aside and let me in.
We chatted with him for a moment. I’m sure I said only trite and silly things, but he showed us the stash bottle. I could smell the wine inside.
Like me, he was shy. Awkward. He asked our names and shook our hands and was gracious and friendly…
…but it would have been an invasion of his space to ask for a picture with him. So I didn’t.
Instead I thanked him again, and my husband and I headed home. The night was late and we were tired. Tired, but happy. Still buzzed from a fantastic literary event and the fumes from Edgar Oliver’s stash wine.