I was in Seattle this weekend. Sunny Seattle. There wasn’t one speck of snow on the ground. Flowers were blooming. It was blissful.
Only I wasn’t really in Seattle. I was in a suburb of Seattle. Once you get past Olympia, it is all Microsoft sprawl anyhow. My brother and his generous-hearted wife hosted me for three days while I attended an event at the Washington State Fairgrounds, where I was allegedly autographing books. Mostly I was people-watching as they walked past me, wondering if I was anybody famous. Somebody they should know.
Every now and again they’d stop to pick up a book and ask me about what I write. That’s how the gal with the Lily Tomlin smile and pixie haircut came to confess to me that she had once had a hot romance with a man from Tennessee.
“Bobby Parton,” she said.
“As in Dolly Parton?” I asked.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Her brother.”
Keep in mind I never asked her any personal questions beyond that one. I never asked her anything at all beyond that. But there she was standing before me, and the story rushed out of her like water from a new garden hose.
They were young. They were married. To other people. He was a mess. She was a wild thang. It was hot. Hot enough that her face still flushed all those decades later, recalling it. She had to fan herself a time or two, Steel Magnolias like, just from the memory of it all.
“I wish I had been wilder when I was young,” her friend said wistfully.
The good Christian gal sitting next to me confessed she had been plenty wild when she was younger. She said it in a way that let us all know that she didn’t regret it. A person could tell she was grateful for the memories of her youth.
Despite the memories the cover of my Appalachian books evoked in Bobby’s ex-lover, she didn’t buy any of my books. I wasn’t enough of a celebrity for her to fork over any money. It’s a dilemma every non-celebrity author encounters. People nowadays want to buy books from celebrities. Maybe it’s always been like that. Maybe we’ve always been a Kardashian Kulture, eager to be in the presence of someone we regard as somebody very important.
“Are you famous?” is a question I’m often asked. “Should I know you?”
Would you need to ask that if I were?
Once in Atlanta, a pretty famous lady introduced herself to me, saying she thought I was Renee Zellweger. I’m not sure if she would have introduced herself had she known I was not a celebrity. In fact, I have always thought being the sibling of someone famous would be better that being famous. You could enjoy all the indulgences without ever disappointing your adoring, but fickle fans.
The Uber gal who drove me home from the airport had no idea who I was or what I do or where I had been. She told me she quit drinking 10 years ago. She hauls drunks around in her vehicle now and sings drunk songs with them sometimes. She said that one inebriated fellow tipped her $85 for a $30 ride. “It’s been so long since I drank I forgot how much fun drunk people can be,” she said. Nobody tips unknown writers or sings drunk songs with us. Most of my memories of people drinking involve vomit. As in me cleaning it up. I arrived home wondering if drinking might make me a more sought after author or if maybe I should just quit writing and become an Uber driver. But then I remembered the podcast about the Uber driver who killed six people, and decided that for now maybe I’ll just stick to writing about killing people.
I heard a woman interviewed on NPR say that her father, a historian, taught his students to play the handshake game to see how close they could get to somebody famous. The way it goes is like the more people you shake hands with the more likely it is that you will shake hands with somebody who shook hands with somebody who shook hands with the Queen of England. So that makes you almost famous.
Or, in my case, really famous. After all I’ve shaken hands with Barack Obama. Twice. Once before he was president and once in his last term. (Thank the Good Lord that I didn’t shake hands with him after he welcomed President Asshat into office).
In other words, I shook hands with Obama before he met the Queen of England and after he met her. So in essence, I am only two handshakes away from having shaken hands with the Queen herself. And Lord God knows there isn’t a single person of import in the past half-century that the Queen herself hasn’t shaken hands with, including the Beatles. So I’m only like three handshakes away from being BFFs with Paul McCartney.
I don’t know how this handshake fame thing works when you’ve done more than just shake hands with someone famous, but you’ve had an illicit affair with their sibling as well. I’ll leave that up to Bobby Parton’s alleged ex-lover to figure out. But I did shake her hand, which means I was this close to the Queen of Appalachia herself.
I suppose I should have a t-shirt made up proclaiming my right to fame, heh?
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press).