The limits of awkward conversation (or: Bono, Obama, and me).

At some point in the past decade, I realized that, contrary to what I think is expected of the average American, I’m not actually all that interested in meeting people I admire from a distance.

What would I say to Rachel Maddow, or Carl Kasell, or Eric Clapton? I’m fairly certain I would do nothing but giggle if I ever met Jake Gyllenhaal, and Jon Stewart? Well, I might have to run and hide.

I did meet B. B. King once, when I worked for an Israeli record company, and he was so gracious that it was really a very lovely hour in my life. And I suppose that every Israeli musician and actor I ever interviewed for the Jerusalem Post was famous in that wee little pond, and I kind of loved talking with them about what they did.

But that was all in the context of work. All parties were obligated to be in the same room, and we actually had something to talk about. Similarly, when one happens, through life’s twists and turns, to get to know someone famous — that’s organic and, very quickly, becomes two people who happen to know each other.

But meet someone just to meet them? Whatever for? I’ve already established that not coming off as stupid ranks pretty high on my list of priorities, and if I were to be taken backstage at MSNBC or Comedy Central to shake hands with my media crushes, I’m pretty certain I would come off as a chatty imbecile.

No, strike that. I would actually be a chatty imbecile.

And honestly, who wants Rachel Maddow or Jon Stewart to think they’re a chatty imbecile? Not I.

All of this, sad to say, by way of introduction to the fact there are two exceptions to my “no thanks, I’d rather not” rule, and they are:

  1. Barack Obama
  2. Bono

Not Michelle Obama (who I also admire) and not The Edge, Adam, or Larry (ditto) — just Barack and Bono. I flatter myself that what charm I have would survive the first few minutes of painful awkwardness, and I am moderately confident that I would, in fact, find something to talk about with both men. Or, at least, I’d be willing to take the risk.

So when I saw the picture below, I felt the oddest kind of jealousy: “Look! POTUS is hanging with Bono – again! Not fair! And look! Bono is hanging with POTUS – again! Dude!” As if the fact that I want to know these men means that I actually do know them, and have a claim on their time and who they spend it with.

Isn’t this the way a stalker’s mind works?

Paul David "Bono" Hewson, lead singer of U2 and anti-poverty activist, animatedly tells a story to President Barack Obama during a meeting on development policy in the Oval Office, April 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Honestly, my first thought when I saw this picture was: “Wow. And I’ll never get to meet either of them.”)

Well, in the meantime, since the day that Bono (I’m sorry: Paul David “Bono” Hewson) and the President of the United States of America had a party and didn’t invite me — Bono has done something awful to his back, which led to emergency surgery, which has subsequently led to the cancellation of the North American leg of U2’s upcoming tour (to which I of course have tickets. My personal austerity program was never meant to cut into essentials).

I’ve written here and elsewhere about my genuine concerns for the safety of President Obama, and while I do think that I occasionally go just slightly off the deep-end on that front, it actually makes a kind of sense for an American to be worried that someone may someday try to kill this country’s first African-American President. This is not just because I imagine us as pals — this is because he’s the motherfucking President, and dude, people are nuts.

But the truth is, I’m also genuinely concerned for Bono’s well-being. I genuinely wish that I could be there to – what? I don’t know. How does one help a fabulously wealthy and well-loved rock star recover from (no doubt excruciating) injury? Tell jokes?

So. All of this to say:

Dear Bono,

I hope you feel better soon. You and your little four-piece mean more to me than I can fully understand, and in the course of loving your music, I have come to love you (and The Edge, and Adam, and Larry) a little bit, too. Thank you for all that you’ve given me and so many other people, through your music and your advocacy, over the years, and please heal well.

If you need me, I have a few jokes up my sleeve.

Love (and not at all in a stalker-ish way),


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  1. Lovely piece — is this what they mean by working Pro Bono…?

  2. Lise

     /  May 25, 2010

    While you amuse Bono in a way that doesn’t make him laugh too hard (back surgery and all), can I go with The Edge to the hospital cafeteria and a chat? Cuz, ya know, he’ll need a break.

    Seriously though, scary news about Bono. Waiting to hear more about this sudden onset disease that caused partial paralysis. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. dmf

     /  May 26, 2010

    as one of the folks who gave you grief about asking too much of the prez i’m eating crow these days after hearing about his and his wallstreet insider crew’s plans to gut the coming bills on econ-reform in favor of the bigger-than-ever banks, but with the recent shooting of cops here in the metro memphis area, a haunted place if here ever is one, by so called “sovereign” whackos my fears about obama’s safety are on the rise:

  4. I would, but only because I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t come off like an imbecile. I can do small talk, no matter how much I loathe it, and I learned early on that the trick is to ask questions of the other person. Therefore, I would love to meet the Obamas, the Bidens, Rachel, Jon Stewart, Helen Mirren, and even the dishy Johnny Depp. The only person I would be somewhat wary of meeting is Alan Rickman because I think he would reduce me to either giggling uncontrollably or blabbing a mile a minute. Ironically, he is, of course, the one entertainer I would most like to meet.

  5. Henry Rollins came to Kent State when I was in school there and walked past me and I was so shy I didn’t say anything to him because I thought I’d sound lame (and he’s not the most social guy either).

    However, he is someone in theory that I would love to have a cup of strong coffee with and hear what’s going on in his head.

    I saw U2 the last time they came through and was hoping for an Ohio date but not so lucky this time around. I hope he gets better too.

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