Yesterday, J. and I went down to the Stone brewery, home of Arrogant Bastard Ale, where we planned to drink a lot of great beer, and listen to Wil Wheaton read from his new book, The Happiest Days of our Lives. (You can read Wil's version of the day here.)
Wil's blogging and writing about his creative struggles had really hit home with me. His pals, the Voice of Self-Doubt and Prove to Everyone could be cousins to my own creative demons, Still Not Good Enough and Who Do You Think You're Kidding. It's been incredibly encouraging to see him find his own voice and niche as a creative person, so I'd been looking forward to getting out and supporting him at a reading for ages, and that this particular reading involved beer was an extra bonus.
I wished I'd thought to bring my Canon, but all I had on me was my phone and sketchbook. Damn.
Wil read "blue light special," one of my favorite pieces of his. That story takes me back to my own trips to K-mart, in the Star Wars aisle with my little sister, trying to find a cool action figure. I sketched while he read. For the last couple of days, I'd been trying to think of what cool thing I could bring Wil, and thought about maybe doing a painting of him and his wife -- but the only photo on his site of the two of them was in Halloween kit, as zombies -- that might not go over so hot. So I had it in my head that I'd do sketches during the reading, then give them to Wil if they turned out well. (They didn't actually turn out well [god, he's animated when he reads! Awesome for watching, not so awesome for quick sketching], and only two were salvageable in the end.
After he read, Wil took questions; my favorite answer was his story of how he and his wife met. I realized as he was telling it, that the woman sitting right in front of me who I'd been sketching, was his wife. I hurriedly added some more details, trying to flesh the sketch out. )
After the questions, we queued up to make a small line to get our books signed. The women around me started talking about how they'd had massive teenage crushes on Wil, and asked me if I also once had one.
'Er, sorry, no,' I said. I hadn't been a big Trek fan as a kid, and am not an especially huge one now -- but when surrounded by Trekkies wasn't the time or place to admit it. Instead, I just said, 'I actually really like Wil's writing.' I was surprised when the woman ahead of me in line told Wil that he formed the template for every man she'd ever loved. Dude. His response: a deadpan, 'I'm sorry.'
Now, I've met a lot of writers, and the ones who are big enough to be celebrities have all been… well, I'll be politic and say, 'disappointing.' So I was feeling a bit of trepidation. Just because someone has a cool writing persona doesn't mean that they're someone I'd want to spend time with, I've learned. But when my turn came, and I introduced myself to Wil, I discovered that he is just as cool as his writing: genuine, funny, and warm. He surprised me by recognizing me and thanking me; we chatted a bit about writing and art. I told him about having wanted to bring him a cool painting of him and Anne, but they both totally jumped on the zombie portrait idea. Okay then! Zombies it is.
J. had returned with beer, so we milled about aimlessly while I drank, chatted to Anne, chatted to some other extremely nice people who came with Wil whose names were obliterated by beer, and took photos of the second woman who'd been madly in love with Wil as a teenager. Then we decided to sober up and have some food, so we walked up to the patio and ordered food, and watched the crowd from the reading trickle out. And took photos of ourselves:
As J and I were waiting for the check so we could go to the Stone store and get ourselves some growlers, I felt a couple of light taps on my shoulder, and looked up. It was Wil, who'd come by to tell me how much he looked forward to seeing what I did with the zombie painting. That was so unexpectedly cool of him to come by and chat some more, when he didn't have to; he could've easily walked right past us and left.
Then everyone converged on the Stone store, got growlers, and headed home, after an awesome day.
Further proving how cool he is -- Wil totally threw the goat in our photo: