Here is what happened:
I entered this contest that Jason Mraz was sponsoring and I ended up being 1 of 25 grand prize winners! Grand prize=a 20x20 CanvasPop canvas, a gallery event at the AFA Gallery in NYC, and meeting Jason. Now, all of that sounded pretty good to begin with to me, but it far exceeded my dreams and expectations. As an artist, you really are just lucky to have any exposure (no pun intended, I swear) at all, but this is HUGE. The gallery was beautiful, there were tons of nice and interesting people there, and boy oh boy, did I feel exposed. Might have had a small attack of nerves before we went in.
Elise and I took the train from New Haven to the city and got in around 4pm. We headed straight to the MoMA to see our dear friend Claire (through whom I live vicariously) because she works there and left us some tickets at the info desk. We went immediately to the 3rd floor to see all the photos, then to see all my other friends like Picasso and Van Gogh and Monet and Rousseau, and then swung by to see Diego, and then scooted out the door with Claire and we all got on the subway to have a quick drink before the event.
We are walking, there are tons of humans out because it's 65 degrees in March in NYC and it could not have been a better day. We all decide that we just love each other too much and don't want to have to part ways. I was told I could only bring one friend, and I have more than one friend, so I say that they will not be able to refuse all 3 of us at the door (they didn't). We are approaching the gallery, and we see alllll these people in a line outside of a building and then realize that they are waiting to get into the gallery. There are way more people there than I had expected in my head and I don't think I really want to go in there. Elise tells me to pull my shit together and I sort of do, and she has already told Patrick at the front door that we are here and may we please get in. Then we go in and there is my photo hanging right next to all this work by Dr. Seuss, which was really fun and cool. We mingle, Elise and Claire snack on the delicious food:
I cannot eat because I'm REAL nervous and then I start chatting with this lovely girl, when a cameraman appears behind her and she whips out a microphone that says NY1 on it and they ask if they can interview me. I go over and stand next to my photograph and I even have to spell my last name for posterity and everything and she interviews me. I hope I sounded smart, because after I'm done with that, Claire tells me that NY1 is like the Action News 5 of NYC. Awesome. We're mingling, I finally get brave enough to bring out Fitty, and am taking some pictures, when ALL OF A SUDDEN Jason is here and everyone is smiling.
We all kindof squish to the front and he is standing so close to me that I do that thing to him where I pretend to squeeze someone's bottom (friends, you know what I mean). It's funny because everyone but him can see me do it, but I'd really just like to squeeze for real. I didn't, don't worry. So this one guy says thanks for coming and yada yada yada and then Jason says a few words of thanks and stuff and then tells everyone he's going to talk to all the winners and then he's just standing there awkwardly by himself while everyone is just looking at him. So I say loud and proud, "I'LLGOFIRST. I mean, no one else is going..." and I hand Fitty off to Elise and elbow my way through to Jason, this lovely man who I've been waiting to meet for 11 years.
After the Best Hug Ever, he asks my name, and I tell him and then introduces himself as Jason to which I reply, "Really?" and we laugh like we've been friends forever. I think he is glad to have someone to talk to, and he wants to know about my photo, so I tell him about Shelby and Brian and how special they are and this wonderful interfaith marriage that they're having. He thinks all of that is neat. He wants to know what I do and where I'm from and stuff like that. He has turned his back on the crowd, so I do too, and we talk quietly together (he's one of those people that is a close talker AND a low talker, but also helps other people do that, too. Not such a bad thing for me to talk quietly every now and then, I suppose). When I am talking, he is looking at me and nowhere else, and he has this really great calming energy about him that I've really only ever experienced with priests and other pastoral characters.
I thank him for helping me not to feel nervous, and he smiles and inclines his head towards me (I really wanted to fold my hands together and say "Mariska Hargitay"). He also has been lugging around this weird bottle of purple juice and I ask him, "hey, so whatcha got there, big guy?" and he does the hottie half-smile at me and takes a BIG swig and says, "pool water", and I say, "Right. Is it so delicious?" and he says, "You bet." But not in a Tool Academy sort of way. He says things in a playful and silly way, like we already have a joke. I feel like he does these things with everyone, which is why he plays so well with others. I tell him, "don't worry, I'm not going to ask for any. I wouldn't want you to worry about germs...."??? Who am I?
Anyway, it feels normal enough for me to ask him to sign Katherine's birthday card, so he opens it before reading it, and I take it out of his hands and say, "WAIT. You have to read it first, silly. It's HILARIOUS." He says whoops and reads the card, and agrees it is hilarious and then writes Katherine a sweet little note. Then it seems the time has come for him to sign my photo, so we survey the situation together. We wonder if we should take it off the wall, and then he pulls out like 7 paint pens and sharpies out of his pocket and holds them out and says, "the people gave these to me, but I don't think any of them work." They don't. We figure out a solution to the problem and find a sharpie that kindof works, and he take my canvas down and looks at it a little closer and tells me how much he likes this one. I am stressed out that he will want to sign on the front, and so I voice my concern, and he looks at me and says, "Don't worry, I don't want to sign the front of this. It's your work, not mine." And so I say thanks and he turns it over and I ask him to write a note to Shelby and Brian because it seems only natural since the photo is of them.
While he's writing, he says, "Oh shiiiiitttt. Sorry my handwriting looks like a 1st grader's." I tell him not to worry and that I think he has lovely penmanship and he laughs at me again because I'm totally lying. He is done and puts my canvas back on the wall (Matthew noted from my pictures that he hung it back up crooked). At some point he touched me on the arm and kind of nudged me with his elbow, but I'm not really sure why or when because I was only thinking about the fact that he is the cutest and nicest boy who has ever touched my arm and was not listening to his words. While we were saying our "nice to meet yous" and stuff, I thanked him profusely for this and that I was overwhelmed with gratitude. He smiled again like we knew each other and thanked me for my work and we had a lingering handshake and then I took off.
Oh, I can't forget to mention that all the while, Elise is somehow EVERYWHERE being the paparazzi. I use it as plural because she might as well have had 800 arms and eyeballs. She's the best.
Also, I told him my name once and he continued to address me by it for the entirety of our conversation. There are people I see everyday who don't even know my last name. I like this about him so much because I'm a name rememberer, too.
Then I was done and ate tiny hamburgers, made friends, one of which came up to me and said, "You're the girl from Tennessee who writes about God!" I was SHOCKED and thrilled, but mostly taken aback. My new friend Carrie is 9 months preggo with a sweet baby girl. She was also a winner, with a photo she took of her really small boy and really tall husband at the beach. It's lovely. She let me rub her belly, her husband told us she was on Martha Stewart's Apprentice, and we just all had a great time chatting. Reallllyyyy neat human who lives just around the corner from Jason Mraz in San Diego, but flew all the way to NYC to meet him.
I got interviewed by a few more people, took my photo down, and got to meet up with my longtime SMS pal Lucy! It was very fun, and we got back on the train and spent the rest of the time playing with Loonie and Elise and taking walks and eating delicious food. It was the greatest 4 days ever, and that's mainly because of the humans involved. Thank you, my dear friends, for helping make all my dreams come true. The grace is so abundant that I'm overwhelmed with being thankful.
Loonie wanted to eat those swans.