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meeting ira glass

[I wish I knew the origin of this image]

I once met Ira Glass. I know, how could I have met my hero and not even blog about it? Well, here’s how: I got back to Athens that Sunday and the boy I was seeing at the time very politely bought me coffee and soundly broke up with me in the most romantic spot on campus.  And apparently I had caught a stomach bug over the weekend, because I spent the next 20 hours throwing up absolutely everything inside of me.

This happened back in October. Understandably I just couldn’t get to this story intantly, but gosh, couldn’t I have squeezed some time in to talk about it before? Like over Christmas break? The answer is yes. I definitely could have found the time to write about how amazing it was to meet my idol. I could have found the time to write about how it felt to shake his hand and speak to him — how it felt to know that words from my brain were reaching his brain and he was responding to them! I think these are things only a true fangirl could imagine.

But this blog should be the place where I tell the truth, or at least most of it. And the real truth is that I didn’t want to write a long post on how it felt to meet Ira Glass. Truthfully, it was amazing. I consider it one of the best three nights of my life. But if I had blogged about how he looked older in person than I imagined, I believed I would have just become one of the crowd of 150 or so in the auditorium that night.

Of course there were other people there. And how could I have been his only huge fan? He is a celebrity, an innovator, a big name in journalism — especially for those who are trying to breathe life into their dying, adjective-less newspaper stories that no one wants to read. He is the guy who made things interesting.

[Ira on left, age 20]

There was a journalism class from Augusta State University in the audience that night. He came out after his presentation to answer questions specifically for that class. I hung around the back, pretending to be in the class, too. They were quick to pick his brains on the journalism industry purely because of his position as an established name in the field. I watched as hands went up and students asked again and again for advice on how to be professional journalists. They were all so self-serving. After he gave his email address to one person with an interesting story idea, everyone swarmed, trying to get his email for themselves. Eventually, he told them to just pitch stories to the TAL website.

“Why do you need my email?” he asked.

Well. No one could say. None of us had good story ideas. Not even the guy running for mayor in Macon. He was just trying to get free publicity by an adorable radio softie who could not care less about small-town Georgia politics. Unless the story said something greater about the human condition.

The thing is, everyone in that little crowd was trying so hard to one-up the person before them. They each wanted to be remembered for being the funny one, the clever one, and or the promising one. Because Ira is just the guy who could appreciate a diamond in the rough, like so many of these people felt they were.

Yeah, me too.

When it was finally my turn to meet him and to talk to him, all  I could say was, “I’m Alex. I go to UGA. I want to be you when I grow up.”

He smiled, and he said, “You mean you want to do something like this?”

I looked at the stage behind him where they were cleaning up back, pulling the curtain away and revealing wires and other mechanical-looking things that made the show as magical as it was.

“No,” I told him. “I want to be you. I have that mug, that TAL mug, with you and with the robot host on it. I want to be the robot.”

(Here’s the mug, in case you were wondering.)

He seemed flattered. Or tickled at least that I’d say a silly thing like that. He shook my hand, saying, “Well it’s great to meet you.”

We took a picture together. And then I walked out, my hands shaking.

I’ll admit I was slightly bothered by the girl who held a worn copy of his Radio: An Illustrated Guide. She said she had produced some audio projects on her own through Transom. She hung behind everyone, clearly trying to save herself for his last impression.

Well I can’t go through life worrying about the girl who might be more prepared than I am to meet Ira Glass — the girl who thought to bring her copy of his book so he knew she had been reading it. My only comfort can come from knowing how I felt when he spoke to us about storytelling.

As I sat in the dark auditorium listening to his voice from a few feet away, I knew we were made of the same stuff.

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