17 May 2014

Present Perfect

I met my mother for the first time when she turned 60. 

Granted, I’d known her my whole life.  It was just that by the time I was 30 or so I mistakenly thought I had her figured out. 

I grew up knowing my mom as the provider of such things as advice, a listening ear, “emergency” nursing care, food, assurance—all those things that mothers seem to be natural at offering.  When I was a teenager, we connected over our favorite soap opera, which she faithfully taped and shared with her daughters after school.  In college, I would find myself dialing home for that famous medical advice, or with my recipe questions, or just to talk about whatever mundane thing had happened that week; she listened to it all.

As I became more “self actualized,” shall we say, I began to see my mother in a different light: as one who had never fully discovered her “niche” in life: not landing solidly in one career, having aspirations but not completely following through.  I longed to see her blossom into whatever was waiting to emerge.  I frequently wondered who Mom would’ve been if she hadn’t been, well…Mom.

As her 60th birthday approached, I wanted to acknowledge my mother’s life in some way.  Knowing how she loves reminiscing, my sister and I solicited memories and pictures from her friends and family, to comprise a birthday book honoring the six decades of our mom’s life. 

Soon the replies came, but they were not at all what I had hoped for.   Where were the side-splitting funny stories?  The gut-wrenching griefs?  Where was the high drama of 60 years, of a life which had known major surgery at 15, romance in college, marriage and motherhood as a young woman, and the frequent relocation and obligations associated with being a pastor’s wife?

What we actually got were recollections of the most ordinary things imaginable: shower gifts, birthday cards, and tea breaks.  Jars left in a basement after moving.  Peas rolling down the side of her face while she was immobilized in her body cast.  Daily stuff.  Stuff like I always talked about with Mom—things that mattered only to me—and she would not only listen, but somehow she would actually seem interested.

As we compiled the stories and pictures, some patterns began to emerge.  Two different relatives expressed their gratitude at how my mom always remembered their children’s birthdays, especially when their own mothers had prematurely died. An uncle remembered Mom’s refusal to let a smoker enter our house, cancer stick alit.  Many others remembered the special tea she always made.  People knew my mother as babysitter, as conversationalist, as gracious host and companion—all the things she was—and still is.  I looked at the pictures of Mom holding her babies, her relative’s babies---anyone’s babies—and saw the genuine delight on her face. 

After awhile I began to realize the lesson for me in all of this: my mother wasn’t waiting to “find herself.”  She was living who she already is: a caregiver, a defender, a listener.  She was and is exactly who she has chosen to be.

Mom was delighted with her gift and continues to cherish it.  What I received from a simple three-ringed binder with plastic covered pages was the unexpected gift of seeing the woman I thought I already knew in a whole new light: as one who raised me, by example, to be exactly who I have chosen to be.

this apple, falling
and rolling over oceans
still knows its own tree

26 November 2012

Eyes Off the Prize

"And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came..."

I grew up believing that this parable was a warning to be prepared in life. Reading it again today, I no longer agree with that interpretation.  Granted, the young women who are called “wise” did bring more lamp oil than those called “foolish.” But this alone is not what makes them wise. And the so-called foolish girls are not essentially unprepared.

What they have done is brought enough oil to last until the bridegroom is expected to make his appearance.  But—and here’s the catch—he is late. They must wait for his arrival, and because he is so delayed, everyone falls asleep—including those who have brought the extra oil. But still, it is not the oil running out that is the main issue. What happens next is crucial.

All the maids are told to arise and meet the bridegroom—they have waited all night, and he is now here. The moment has arrived. And what do half of these young women do when they learn that the time is now? They make the astonishing choice to run out and buy more oil.

One could argue that the more fortunate ones are cruel not to share what they have. But that is not the point. The bridegroom is here, now, and half of them go away, so they miss the very thing for which they have waited so long.

I think about London buses when I read this. Those little electronic arrival boards inside the bus stop, telling you when the next one will arrive. Or where such boards are lacking, one may send a text to the number on the sign and get an instant message with the same information. I used to take this as gospel word, trusting that if it said the #25 was coming in 8 minutes, then it would surely be here in 8 minutes. After awhile, I discovered how unreliable this can actually be. Sometimes, I would walk away from the stop, either to keep warm somewhere nearby or transact some quick business, believing I had plenty of time, only to watch an unexpected bus shoot past me, much to my dismay. I tested it by waiting for a bus that wasn’t supposed to arrive for about 15 or 20 minutes, only to discover that one would often come, unannounced, in around 5 minutes or less. It wasn’t foolproof, but in many cases it seemed the key was simply to stay at the stop, because the wait might not actually be as long as expected.

The reason I’m going into this detailed discussion of buses is that I think it reflects the central message of our parable tonight—that is, to watch and keep alert, for the very thing we seek may soon be before our eyes.

The foolish move was not running out of oil, but rather running away at the very moment when they had everything to gain by staying.  By fixating on that which was not essential, they missed the whole show.  Watch and be mindful, for you could very well end up missing your life in the process.

And don’t we see this all the time? How easy it is to miss what is right in front of us because we are focused on the peripheral, the nonessential—the distractions of life. And meanwhile flowers are opening, children are smiling, new friends are waiting to be met, opportunities are literally falling at our feet while we’re looking the other way. Or even walking or running the other way.

These virgins were foolish because they came to see the bridegroom and then refused to meet him. They missed the point. We risk doing the same when we ignore what God is handing to us on a platter. When we turn away from the presence of the one who is—and has always been in our midst, a breath and a prayer away. We risk sleepwalking through our whole lives, when all he wants for us is to have life abundant.

With one foot in the old church year and the other stepping into the new, we have yet another opportunity to stop, wake up, and notice who is here before our eyes. And who is here is the very one who promises that indeed, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

22 November 2012


I am grateful for so much in my life.  Warm cats.  Sunshine in London.  My weekly radio show.  A computer in a newsroom somewhere in Harrow, which enables me to blog during the Great Internet Drought of November.  And the food and fellowship I am about to enjoy. 

A year ago, I couldn't see my way to a UK Visa--I knew I would find a way, but I couldn't see how at the time.  I was worried about paying rent.  Affording cat food (and people food, while we're at it).  I walked whenever I could to save a bus fare.  I accepted the kindness of strangers and friends.  In many ways, I've never felt so alone--and so loved.

My circumstances may have altered a bit since then, but the gratitude remains.  I'm relieved to have worries that look more like, why can't I find the wireless converter that I need?  Or, I can't believe I overcooked the pumpkin seeds.  They seem absolutely ludicrous compared to last year's troubles.

But one thing I've learned is that the perception of trouble--or gratitude--is all up to me.  I may have seen hardship, but in the midst of it there was always some great joy.  And there is always some annoyance amidst satisfaction as well.  We be people--that is how we roll.  :)

This Thanksgiving I am in love with my life, and can see a future unfolding before me that promises everything I've always wanted for myself.  I am missing my family's holiday celebration in Iowa City again, and cousins' children are growing older by the hour without my witnessing it.  Conversations are ensuing which will never be recreated and food and drink abound.  But I will peek into the festivities via the wonders of a little Skype window and taste that lovely gathering, even as I'm recovering from a feast celebrated with my new international grad school friends.  One opportunity lost; another arising.

As wind whips around outside on a particularly blustery day, I think of those who will occupy doorways and underpasses tonight.  I think of stray kitties not as fortunate as mine.  And people who truly feel they don't have a friend in the world.  I have never been that unlucky.  I have received much and have a lot to share.  I have seen so much of the world by age 41, it's ridiculous.  And I am almost never bored.

I could go on.  But I've a dinner to get to.  And so do you.

gratitude abounds
as my life keeps serving up
a feast for the soul

21 November 2012

Surf's Down

I remember life before the internet. 

I remember it more clearly now because I've been "unplugged" at home for the last week, due to an unfortunate series of events around the departure of my flatmate.  His absence is welcome.  My internet's, not so much.

Aside from the obvious inconvenience of having to seek out libraries and campus computers just to conduct email business, or actually (God forbid!) open a cookbook to find a recipe, I suppose the biggest impact of an internet-free household is the shifting of my daily habits.  ITunes on shuffle instead of BBC radio streams in the morning.  Pre-recorded television episodes instead of web surfing in the evening.  The other night I actually opened a book to entertain myself.  Wonders never cease.

But there are annoyances like having to use paper maps and guidebooks to plan journeys, and then having no idea about weekend tube closures because I can't read my TFL update.  Or not being able to call a friend because the number only exists somewhere in the recesses of a message inbox.  Or missing out on posts about class assignments.  This is not amusing.

I'm reminded of my first call in rural Ohio, when the advent of internet access became my lifeline to the outside world.  ICQ chats kept me connected to my sister, X-files message boards made me some new friends, and an extended Enneagram surfing frenzy mystified my mind for about a week.  Without those connections and distractions, I may very well have gone crazy.  The girl who defiantly proclaimed she would never get an email account was now officially hooked. 

It makes me marvel at how I survived two years in Asia as a 22-year-old away from everything familiar, with no Skype calls or Facebook updates or photo sharing.  My only connection with the U.S. was premium rate phone calls and...wait for it...letter writing.

I don't have any desire to return to those pre-wired days.  No sentimental attachment to volumes of outdated printed encyclopedias or rushing home to check the tape on the answer machine. When I go home tonight with a new splitter cable and router box, I'll reconnect myself and never look back. 

But somewhere deep down inside lurks a girl who managed to live the first 29 years of her life unplugged.  She somehow kept informed, mobile, entertained, and connected, with no internet assistance whatsoever.  And I'm fortunate that in weeks like this one, that girl is creative enough to amuse herself, and still resourceful enough to read a street map.

cyber girl, unplugged
between her Mac and cookbook:
equal affection

14 November 2012

32 Flavors

The Wheelie Bin Killer has been jailed for life.

I first heard this bizarre story on a Media Law class trip to the Old Bailey (London's central criminal court).  A 42-year-old woman is motivate by anger, jealousy, or some undetermined cause to drug and suffocate her lover, stashing his body in a wheelie bin (US translation: garbage can), which she then proceeds to store in her bedroom for 11 days until she is discovered by police.  The convicted murderer was quoted as saying that she'd measured her freezer but found it too small.  She will be serving a minimum of 17 years on a life sentence.

Aside from the macabre details of this case, hearing about it and others like it prompts me to ask the question, "What in God's name is wrong with people??"  What could possibly inspire someone to act in such a way?  And it goes well beyond the extreme example of murder.

Every day I see firsthand or hear about things that make me shudder.  The language we use with one another.  The way we treat those we claim to love.  The things we expect as entitlements while being unwilling to sacrifice ourselves.  The garbage blowing around the streets and the floors of buses and trains.  Random job terminations and the crazy difficulty of securing another position.  Seemingly sound relationships coming to a sudden end.  I could go on.

But if I did, I might go crazy.  Not crazy enough to suffocate someone and stuff them in a wheelie bin, perhaps, but so fixated on negativity that I miss everything going on around me that sings a different tune.

Like the young man who quickly grabbed my arm to prevent my falling down the steps at Aldgate tube station.  Or the former neighbor who kindly retrieves the stray mail I receive at my former address.  Or the hospital patient last night who told me I had a face that "no man could resist." :)

And here as well, I could go on.  It all serves to illustrate that we humans do not come in just one variety.  Within ourselves, even, we are a full spectrum of possibility, inspired action, and mischief.  Ani DiFranco summarizes "I am 32 flavors and then some."  At least 32.

I still don't know what snaps inside a person and makes them carry through on something like murder.  I have theories about nurture, communication, and responsibility, but none of them add up to one human being taking the life of another.  On the other hand, I have no scientific explanation for the impulse to save another from falling, or being hit by a moving vehicle, or from circling the drain amidst their own despair and self-criticism.  This, too, is what being human looks like.

In the end, the gossip in which I indulge, the tiny daggers I fire, or the sum total of every little thing I've helped myself to that wasn't really mine to take may add up to something no more virtuous than the deadly impulse of an evening, resulting in a life sentence.  Fortunately for me (and for you, I assume), we at least have a renewable daily chance to show a different color, and work out our penance on the free side of a barred metal door.

people are people
the good, bizarre and ugly
which flavor today?

13 November 2012

Oh, Danny Boy...

Before November 2nd, my dream was to work for BBC London.

This station has been my audio companion for over two years, schooling me about my future home before I moved here, initiating me into the lingo and ethos of the United Kingdom, and most importantly, introducing me to my first friends who presented shows that really engaged listeners and gave a human voice to the city which I was soon to call my own.  They kept me company during Will and Kate's wedding, made me cry with their shock and sadness at the sudden death of overnight presenter Big George, and even read out a couple of my emails live on air--a transcontinental thrill for an aspiring broadcaster, to be sure.

When I finally made the big move, my familiar on-air friends were welcome company through many challenging days.  I enjoyed Robert Elms' audio explorations of London, Jo Good's hilariously frank late night conversations, and most of all, Danny Baker's show from 3-5pm every weekday.

This was the epitome of live radio broadcast, as far as I was concerned.  The Treehouse, as it was sometimes called, was often the highlight of my day, and I frequently found myself scheduling around it.  There was something addictive about Danny's mixture of humor, sound effects, interaction with fellow presenters, and welcoming the audience to join in the craziness.  If ever I find that "perfect" broadcasting job, I told myself, it will be something like this.  Something that doesn't feel anything like work.

My love affair with BBC London took a big hit this month, though, when I learned that Danny's show had been cancelled.  A day late, I listened in disbelief to the replay of that Thursday show when my favorite presenter came into work with the announcement that he was giving his last broadcast.  It was an odd mixture of the show's signature humor, a bitterness about the turn of events, and an impromptu swan song that no one was prepared for.

I cried.  Not just for the death of the show, but for the end of a dream.  As far as I could see, I didn't want to work for a station managed by folks who would pull a show with such heart, charm, obvious entertainment value and audience support.  More than that, here is a man who has dedicated years of his life to the station, (having recently returned after successfully beating cancer) and won numerous awards, about to be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame--being summarily dismissed in the most odd and impersonal way.  It didn't seem to bode well for the future of BBC London--let alone radio itself.  I felt a growing despair.

As Danny himself has asserted, he will survive and thrive elsewhere, despite the demise of the show, because that is who he is.  Indeed.  But concerning my ardent affection for the station which until now has been so faithful--for the moment, anyway, I think we should see other people...

ax lies at the root
as treehouse dwellers scatter
love and laughter lost

06 November 2012

Remember, remember...

I feel a little like an idiot as I write this confession.  It took me two celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night to really get what the celebration was about.

My historically minded father will likely blush as he reads my decidedly "un-historical" take on the whole holiday...  I think it has to do with the fact that while my dad hears a story once and can instantly recreate it, I hear an account of something and instantly glaze over, nodding in "agreement" but not necessarily understanding.  Wars, kings, empires, political movements--yikes.  I think I just have a mind block against it.  Whereas my father majored in history, and put me to shame by repeating explanations of famous Hong Kong landmarks which he had just learned, which was all news to me--and I was actually living there at the time.

So it's no wonder I didn't fully grasp this whole bonfire night thing and what it represents the first time around.  I vaguely recall a story about an assassination attempt on the king, which involved this Fawkes guy  :P  (get it?  Fawkes Guy),  but that the plot had failed, and for some reason every 5th of November was now celebrated, in part, by burning an effigy of Fawkes in a bonfire.  I didn't get it.  Why would you celebrate someone by burning them in effigy?  And why do we celebrate a would be assassin?  Did they really not like that king terribly much?  But it apparently didn't trouble me enough to really dig deeper and get clear on the whole thing.  That didn't happen until this year.

I am now entering my second annual cycle of London life, and starting to have some "flashbacks" to events from last year as things begin to repeat themselves.  I knew that bonfire night was approaching again, but this year, for some reason, I felt the need to trouble myself and get an explanation for my nagging unease at this holiday.  So I went where every inquiring mind goes for definitive answers: Wikipedia.

Lo and behold, when I read the description this time, it suddenly made sense.  Guy Fawkes was among the plotters to kill the king, he was discovered and captured, and died a gruesome death.  But the holiday is a celebration of the failure of the plot, and Fawkes becomes some kind of antihero whose death is a welcome final punctuation to a story which could have ended tragically for the king.  The so called "Gunpowder Plot" which didn't succeed is now commemorated through the explosion of fireworks, much like any country would celebrate their independence day.  Duh.

Guess I can sleep easier now.  That is, if people would just stop exploding things.


Failed action hero
But great excuse for fireworks--
The Guy of the hour

For All the Saints

I rarely publish the text of my sermons, as I was taught that a "sermon" is actually the live delivery in real time of the Word, regardless of what may be written on the page.  But this All Saints Sunday I was moved by the privilege of preaching and presiding at St. Anne's Lutheran Church.  Below is my manuscript.


Earlier this year I heard that my friend Les in Detroit was dying.  This was someone who had played a key role in empowering me to accomplish my great transatlantic move to England.  We had weekly phone calls to set goals and report progress, and keep alive the promise of possibility that had inspired me to choose this massive life shift in the first place.  Les was confronting, often annoying on these calls.  Many times, I didn’t feel like talking to him.  But always, at the end of it, I was grateful that someone with no personal stake in it at all was willing to push me to do what it took to realize my dream.  Hearing that this friend of mine was on the verge of succumbing to cancer felt unreal.  I wished that I could have been there at the memorial, to bear witness to this extraordinary life and grieve with my friends who had gathered.

I’m sure we could all tell stories of people whose paths have crossed ours, who have made a similar impression upon us.  People whose very lives seemed to be a testimony to the Spirit’s power.  People who have touched us with their presence, and left us changed.  When we hear that such a person has died, our first reaction is, “It can’t be.  He was always so full of life.  Or she showed what it meant to truly live.”  It is such people who make us want to believe that there is a life beyond our own, a real communion of saints.
What a gift God has given us, in placing us on this earth alongside others who remind us just how full of grace and love our creator really is.  In order to be a saint, the only requirement is that one be holy.  And to be holy simply means that you’ve been touched by God.  I challenge you to find one person in this room that hasn’t been touched by God.  One person who wouldn’t qualify for sainthood.
The first way God touched us was by creating us in the first place.  The singer of Psalm 139 says to God, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  What a gentle, intimate way to begin our journey of sainthood.  God’s hands made us exactly who we needed to be, with every variation and nuance of our being--even those things which we consider less than perfect.  Still, not enough to disqualify us as saints--that is, those who have been touched by God.
God touches us again in our baptism, through the water and the Holy Spirit--and makes us saints with a name all our own--called the Children of God.
As we travel the road of sainthood, we are touched many times along the way.  At sometimes we can feel it more than at others--like when we are struggling or in pain, and receive an indescribable sense of peace, as though we are truly feeling the hand of God.  Maybe it was during an illness, or some other crisis.  For saints are never promised easy lives.  We are only assured that we will never be alone in our suffering.
Other times, it might be people through whom we feel the touch of God.  Fellow saints who seem to radiate the Spirit in an unusually bright way--people like my friend Les, who faced many hardships in his life, but rose to accomplish amazing things nevertheless, and inspired others to do the same.  Think about those in your life who have this pull of the Spirit.  Remember what it felt like to be around someone who seemed to mediate the very presence of God.  It is not that they are somehow, by themselves, “great people,” but they are able, by God’s grace, to reflect the divine--to somehow mirror back to us the way our creator must see us.  To touch us with the hand of God.
God touches us again in a way that is perhaps the most unforgettable of all: when Jesus  comes to live among us--truly human and tangible, reaching out in words and deeds, and simply being present, as God among people.  When his dear friend Lazarus died, and Jesus saw how grieved his family was at the loss of their brother, Jesus too felt the pain of losing one so dear.  After crying tears of his own, he reaches out and pulls his friend back from beyond death, even, just to show how powerful is God’s love, and how just being touched by it can release us from the grip of death, and bring us into something new, recreating us in the process.
That something new is what we talk about today, when we anticipate how our God plans to bring us all back together at the end of time.  The images of the great feast, of eternal fellowship and the end of suffering and grief fill our readings this morning, reminding us of just what it means to be saints--in the company of other saints, and in the presence of a God whose touch has reached beyond every earthly and supernatural boundary we can imagine.  This is the God who gathers, who celebrates with creation, and who makes all things new.
When we think of loved ones who have gone before us in death, we often find ourselves visiting their graves, stopping to remember who they were and what they meant to us.  We leave flowers in their honor; we may even find that we can talk to them there--that they are somehow close.  Maybe we think about that final feast, where we’ll all be reunited, where we won’t have to wait to be with our fellow saints, in the presence of God who loves us.
I invite you to be so impatient for that day, that you refuse to wait any longer. This day, and every day we share the Lord’s Supper, is not only a preview of that ultimate reunion, but a present time, real celebration with ALL the saints, living, dead, and yet unborn.  It is another way that our Lord touches us--offering us the real food of his body and blood, and his hand upon our heads in blessing.  It’s dinnertime for the saints, where we gather around the table, are fed, strengthened and sent out again…
Whether we  choose it or not, we are saints, by the very fact that our lives have the handprints of God all over them.  What God has touched, cannot help but be transformed, made holy.  John W. Crawford’s poem says it well:

Once it was that only
green hawthorne or arbor vitae grew nearby
shading good souls gone to their reward.

Sometimes, especially in July heat,
sharp pink and red Zinnia heads
rose over those same souls lined with quiet satin,
with strong voices floating in the wind,
laughing loud at such dead things beneath.

Now, in human jest, hard stems rise by hard stones
announcing with guarded hope some new birth of life,
some Lazarus scene bursting forth
breaking the hard red soil apart.

27 October 2012

Ode to a 15 Bus

Oh, bus #15, how I love thee...

It starts at Regents Street, just where I need it when finishing up an evening of knitting with friends.  When I board, it's mostly empty, so I can get a lovely front row upper deck seat, in preparation for the "poor man's tour" of London landmarks...

And we're off!  Through the flashing maze of Picadilly Circus, whipping around the corner to Haymarket...down around the bend and it's Trafalgar Square!  Look quickly--if you turn your head to the right, you get a lightning fast glimpse of the Mall, then Parliament, then it's back again to Trafalgar Square for a lasting gaze at those lovely blue fountain lights casting a glow upon the National Gallery...

Now past Charing Cross, now the Savoy, and through the theatre district...Bush House, the Royal Courts of Justice, and all those funny streets named after old time sellers of shoes, leather, and other handcrafted things...

Nearing the Old Bailey, and in the distance looms St. Paul's Cathedral like an old grandfather.  Pass the cathedral and you can shoot a look across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate.

Here comes the Monument, and we're now approaching my favorite part of the journey...wait for it...the Tower of London and Tower Bridge both together, like some big finale in a fireworks show!  They appear so suddenly and so close, it takes my breath away every time, even though I know what's coming.  The lights on the fortress walls and across the bridge glow in majestic reminder that I actually live in this amazing place.

A quick pass through Aldgate and we're nearly home.  Once I alight at New Road, I really have no idea where the 15 goes from there.  Blackwall, says the front board.  But by then I've seen everything I wanted to see of famous London sights, and feel quite satisfied as my tour comes to an end.

The #15 is a route that still features the vintage Routemaster buses to delight visitors.  They are historic and novel, allowing you to hop on and off the back of the open carriage.  But I still prefer the standard bus, as I sit atop the upper deck, pretending to contain my excitement as I see London again, for the first time, still a tourist at heart.

pleasure trip on wheels,
making every old view new
thy name is 15

20 October 2012

Access Granted

So I spent the afternoon with Hugh Grant.  And about fifty other people, but hey, Hugh and I shared the same room for three and a half hours.

Not surprisingly, the event was a two part panel discussion about the Leveson Inquiry, at which he'd made a very public testimony regarding the hacking of his own phone, so it wasn't all that unusual to see him in attendance.  More notable was the fact that after living 13 1/2 months in this city, this is the first celebrity I've come across during that entire time.  Unless you include seeing the very top of the Queen's Jubilee Barge as it made its way downriver for the anniversary parade, but I don't think that counts, as I only really saw Her Majesty on the large screen alongside the Thames.

I didn't even recognize him at first.  He sauntered in late, just as half a dozen others had, so I didn't pay any notice until the moderator made some comment about the "moderately famous" person who had just entered.  My friend whispered to me, "Hugh Grant."  But I didn't believe it.  Until I put on my glasses and confirmed her assertion.  Oops.  Guess my distance vision isn't exactly what it used to be.  Hugh Grant indeed.

It's funny to observe the effect a celebrity will have on a crowd.  This group was small to begin with, and presumably quite serious about regulation of the journalism industry, enough to be spending several hours of their Saturday in a small lecture hall in Bloomsbury.  But enter Hollywood superstar, and you'd think we were all teenagers again.

In addition to the Channel 4 news camera which was covering the event, and seemed to also be documenting Grant's attendance, I saw more than a few camera phones trained in his direction during the presentation.  At the halfway break a couple spectators requested photos with him.  My own lame attempts to document the moment were characteristically blurry and of the poorest possible photographic quality, given my cheap phone.  I did manage to capture an audio clip at the end of the sessions when Hugh finally graced us with a soundbyte quote regarding the issue at hand.

But I've always had mixed feelings about approaching celebrities, not in regards to their personal privacy, but about my own sense of dignity.  It's always been a fantasy of mine to casually encounter a random star, let's say Johnny Depp, at a merchant counter or a gallery somewhere, and make some fantastically witty off the cuff comment to start up a conversation.  By the end of it, the so-called star would be left thinking, "Who was that girl?  I simply must see her again!"  But by then I'd have disappeared back into the crowd, leaving said celebrity intrigued and wanting more.

I know that if Hugh hadn't been engaged by others in most of his free moments, he would've made his way across the room to the woman in the pink jacket with that certain something about her--not sure exactly what it was--but he wouldn't have been sorry.  :)

After a while, I became accustomed to the fact that an A-list actor was sitting just yards away from me, and I'd look over thinking, "Yeah, there he is."  Looking quite ordinary, really, with his somewhat geeky horn rimmed glasses and understated pullover sweater.

My friend sitting next to me scratched a note on her paper--"We just got to spend two hours with Hugh Grant!"  To which I responded, "He's lucky to have gotten so much time with us."

And so he was.

hey, celebrity
if you're good I may grace you
with a word or two