It’s 3:44 am and I cannot sleep.
After two hours of trying to drift off and being barely able to lie still enough to avoid keeping my husband awake along with me (truly unfair, as he works tomorrow morning and I don’t have to be functional until my sweet son comes home from Grammy’s at 9). I could theoretically get up to five hours of sleep if my brain would turn off for even a moment, but it won’t. It’s replaying my night, reveling in the best moments. My heart feels so full it aches right now, in a way that I can’t quite put words to. I feel inspired and humbled, ecstatic and embarrassed, proud and shy.
Tonight, I met my heroes.
I knew months ago that Penn & Teller would be doing a show at Spirit Mountain Casino. It was such a given that I’d go that it didn’t occur to me that I might not get a ticket – that the show would sell out weeks before we could afford even the cheapest tickets. But sell out they did (no surprise, really) and my husband and Diamond both just shrugged and moved on. I, being the one who tends to be a bit larger than life, would have been devastated under most circumstances. Somehow, though, I wasn’t.
Nope, I just decided after barely a moment’s deflation that to hell with that, I was going to go to that casino and just wait until the show let out. I’m a fan; I know these guys hang out in the lobby until the last fan waiting has met them and been selfied or autographed or whatever. I wanted to see the show, but what I really wanted was to meet them and say Thank You. Thank them and tell them a little about how much of a difference Bullshit! made in my life, for ill and later for good.
It was a magical night, full of a luck that I don’t usually encounter for an event I’ve built up this much in my mind. I left at five, fingers crossed that my husband’s suggestion of asking about no-shows at the box office would work. I made good time, chugging along I-5 and listening to Stephen King,’s It, too excited to stop for more than a cup of coffee. I got there and went to the box office and was given one of three remaining seats. Good seat too, on the floor, 15 rows back, not too far from center. I could see and hear and was so hopped up on anticipation that I couldn’t even read the program I’d bought.
The show was great – I can’t do it justice with words. Much of it was quieter and more intimate than I would have expected. Seeing them making the audience complicit on tv doesn’t capture the true magic of it in person. They did one of my favorite bits – the one where they symbolically burn the flag. It was nearly identical to the ones I’ve seen, both on Bullshit! and on youtube (I watch it every year on July 4th). It was like watching a dance – one that made me laugh and tear up at once. And the last gag was nothing big or explosive – just the two of them, Penn talking quietly, mostly lit by a candle, and ultimately eating fire. It reminded me less of a grand finale than of sitting by a fire at the end of a night, listening to one last story before bed.
Out in the lobby, it was madness. I waited patiently – more still and silent than anyone who knows me would ever believe. I mostly just stood and watched; tried not to stare like a creeper. Eventually the lobby emptied to just a handful of fans, those few of us with stars in our eyes, exchanging looks that were a mixture of camaraderie and wariness. We all knew why we were there – we wanted to go last and get to have a conversation, not just a souvenir.
I don’t talk about it publicly, but I’ve met a whole lot of celebrities since Project Elanor. I’ve got a bit of pride about the fact that I have kept my wits and been able to… well, to be my usual “public” self – confident, gregarious, casual. But not this time. This time I had to force myself talk. I stammered; I had trouble getting the words out; I blushed furiously and hung back.
I felt humbled to be in the presence of these men that I respect on such a deep level – as a comedian, a writer, a performer, a skeptic… I am not joking when I say they’re heroes to me. But they were both so kind – and so different than I expected. Penn called everybody “Boss” and was soft-spoken and listened intently to what people had to say – when they got his attention, which was prone to wander. He also looked exhausted enough that I felt mildly guilty to be one of the last hangers-on. (ETA: I think he’s sick – he skipped Sunday school)
But I pushed through enough to stammer out a very truncated version of my story. I told Penn that I’d been in a small cult. He immediately said, “I’m so sorry!” I smiled and said that I’m all better now, and then told him that the leader had us watch Bullshit! and explain away what Penn was saying. He nodded and then doubled back. “You mean, like, trying to debunk us?” he said. “No, I mean he was explaining to us why what he was doing wasn’t what you were debunking,” I managed to say. Penn laughed. “I wanted to understand!” he said and patted my arm, and then was on to the next adoring fan.
Teller, on the other hand, was bright and eager, friendly and welcoming in a way that was almost totally unexpected. It’s hard to describe Teller in person – so different from Teller on television. His near-silent performance has so much nuance that the camera doesn’t do justice, and his interactions in the lobby had a very different feel. I was unprepared for the full attention he gave me – and every fan – and wasn’t able to do more than stammer my gratitude for the show – all the shows over the years – and take a picture, and then sheepishly ask for his autograph. “I usually don’t, but Penn kind of signed it before I even asked,” I said, feeling stupid. But Teller is a class act and signed it, indicated that symmetry is important, and just seemed to try to make me (and everyone else) feel at ease and as comfortable as he clearly was.
At the end of the night, I left with a ticket stub, an autographed program, the photos I’ve posted here, and a heart over-brimming with joy and gratitude. It’s an hour since I started this post (and, admittedly, three shots of vodka) and I’m no closer to sleep than I was when I began. All I can think of is what I wish I’d said, what I want to say next time, and what an amazing dream come true it was to meet them both. I came away feeling inspired and ready to work all the harder on my writing, performing and comedy. Instead of the horror I felt in the wake of Project Elanor and Tentmoot. It was a revelation – this is what it is supposed to be like to meet a hero. Not shame; joy. Not horror; honor. Not ignominy; inspiration.