Well, my fellow Politicos, if you are any sort of follower of my blog, in either of its incantations, you’ll know that I’ve always been a huge supporter of the lovely and brilliant Rachel Maddow. Wickedly smart, Our Gal Rachel brings into our home every evening the stories that I follow here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. While TRMS isn’t the only place I get my news, it is usually the place I start, and the excellent Maddow Blog is a great place to check at lunch to check out the latest developments. She’s smart, funny, gets the big picture and covers the news that matters in a smart and understandable way. She never dumbs down the stories of the day; Rachel and her team expect that we’ll keep up and “get it.” And we do.
But never did I imagine, living in my little burg here in Southern Cal, that I’d get the opportunity to ever meet Rachel in person, let alone twice, or get the chance to tell her about my show. I’ve always said she’d be my top “get,” and on Tuesday and Wednesday, I got the chance to speak with her briefly. You know how genuine, how humble and how generous of spirit she seems with her guests on TRMS? Well, she’s exactly the same way, toward everyone, when you meet her.
So, my story. That’s why you’re here, right? Okay. About two months ago, I got wind of the fact that Rachel would be doing a stop on her book tour at Barnes & Noble at The Grove, an L.A. mall not horribly far from my town. Immediately, I checked the calendar, and, miracle of miracles, it was during Spring Break. (Ah, the perks of a career in education!) So I was thrilled – I could go and get a copy of Rachel’s new book, Drift, and maybe get an autograph and a handshake. Awesome.
Then I came across a Writer’s Bloc event scheduled for the next day at the Saban Theatre in L.A., billed as “A Conversation with Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow.” Y’know, I’ve been to the filming of Real Time with Bill Maher a couple of times, which is always a blast. But the last time The Hubby and I went with friends, when Rachel was on the show, I came out saying, “Damn, I could listen to the two of them talk for another two hours!” Needless to say, I snapped up a pair of tickets online, marked the date in my iPhone, and told The Hubby we had a date. Yes, those were my entirely nerdy/geeky/wonky plans for Spring Break, and I couldn’t have been happier.
The date of the show came, and my folks good-heartedly took the kids for the evening, and we headed out. The carpool lanes got us there in great time, and before I knew it, we were in the first fifty or so people in line. This was going to be great. The Hubby and I talked about maybe slipping her one of my business cards for the blog/show if we saw any of her staff at the show, and asking them to ask her to give it a look-see. In the back of my mind, I’d thought that maybe at the book signing, I’d ask her to come on the show…but it was all very abstract at the time. After all, me and my little blog are such small potatoes to someone this famous. But, hey, as y’all know, I am the eternal optimist, so I’d brought along an @AWOPRadio shirt to pass along, just in case…as Lizz Winsted advised us when she was on the show, “Ask your top “gets” to come on, ask your bucket list. You’d be surprised how many people will say, ‘yes.’”
As they let us into the theatre, I realized I’d been there before, and that it was a small, intimate venue. We received a copy of the book, and I was told Rachel would be signing them after the show! Wow! Who knew??? We moved into the house, and the majority of the seats near the orchestra were reserved for Writer’s Bloc patrons. But, on stage right, on the aisle were a row of seats just eight rows back. We grabbed the first two, and realized what a coup it was-a completely unobstructed view of the stage:
Okay, it just doesn’t get much better than this! I was thrilled. As it was a good hour and a half before the show, people were mingling, talking, drinks in hand. There was a real party atmosphere, a great vibe among this full house of liberal-leaning folks. The woman next to us left her things on the seats, asked us to watch them, and wandered off for a bit. As she walked away, I overheard her telling her friend, “Don’t be silly! No one’s going to steal anything – we’re all liberals!” And glancing around the room, you saw people introducing themselves to each other, talking about the evening, about politics, about all the sorts of things my friends and I discuss for fun: I found myself wondering to The Hubby if the same open, friendly, “we’re all in this together” vibe would be present had it been an evening of conservatives on the bill. We agreed it was probably unlikely.
In glancing around the room, I noticed Rachel’s parents and her partner, Susan, directly across from us, talking to what appeared to be more of Rachel’s family and friends. The lovely little ladies to our left and in front of us were very excited when I pointed them out, and we got to talking about Kitchen Table Politics, the blog and the podcast, and had a grand old time. They asked for my card and promised to check it all out when they got home. A good time was had by all.
Finally, the show began – Rachel and Bill came out, and talked about Drift, 2012 politics, and exhibited that great foil that they are for each other: Rachel, who’s so courteous and tactful, deliberate in her wording, and Bill, who will say anything. It was insightful, hilarious and seemed to be over before it began. Then the host of the evening said, “Rachel will take a few questions.” I sprinted in two big steps the eight rows to the front, third in line at the microphone, with no idea what to ask my hero, but, by God, I was going to ask something and I hoped it’d be good. They altrnated back and forth, and as I stood at the microphone, the host said, “We don’t have time for too many more questions – these will be the last two. As I realized that I was the last one to ask, I did a quick fist-pump and tried to slow down my breathing and formulate a question, so as not to be remebered as “that idiot at the microphone who had nothing to say…”
My turn, and as Rachel turned toward me, I began:
Rachel: (smiling) “Hi!’
Heidi: “Hi Rachel! Hey, listen, first I want to thank you – I’m an elementary school principal, and-”
Rachel: “No, thank you! What you do is such important work, really, thank you.” (Audience begins to applaud. Okay, now I am trying not to blush after being recognized and thanked in front of the entire theatre by my hero…not an easy task!)
Heidi: “Thanks so much – that’s so kind of you. Anyhow, I just wanted to take a second to thank you for your coverage of the GOP attacks on public education, the Republican attacks on teachers’ unions and the way you defended teachers and the professionals they truly are.” (More applause.)
Rachel: “Oh, thank you. That’s very kind. Thank you for that.”
Heidi: “Now, I know you are burning the candle at both ends, with the show, and the book tour-”
Rachel: “Oh, yeah,” (pulls down glasses and points to circles under her eyes)
Heidi: “I have the same ones (pointing to dark circles) – occupational hazard. So, what I have to ask is, what are you reading?”
Rachel: (throwing hands in the air) “Oh! I’m so glad you asked that! Thank you! What a great question! Let’s see…
! Let’s see…Susan? Where’s Susan?” (I point to where’s she sitting) “What’s the book sitting on the..”
Susan: “How Wars End.”
Rachel: “Yeah, How Wars End. It’s kind of a textbooky thing, but there have been a bunch of books, everyone talks about how wars start…(she tells more about the book, but I can only remember the gist of it, not word for word…) And what else? Oh, I’m reading a great comic, called, Green…” (thinking)
Rachel: “Yes,Greendale, by Neil Young. It’s kinda crazy, but good. It’s about these women who have these superpowers, and they kin dof make them crazy, and they disappear…anyway, it’s really great.”
Heidi: “Rachel, again, thank you so much.”
Rachel: “Thank you, for the great question. You do important work. Thank you.”
I was, needless to say, thrilled. Couldn’t have asked for more. So, we get in line to get our books signed, and we’re in group A, the first group. Very quickly, we get up to Rachel. She looks up and we say,”Hi!” and she says, “Thank you for what you said. That was so eloquently stated, that was beautiful. Thank you.” Meanwhile, I’m thanking her back, and thanking her for covering what matters. I hand her a small container of hand sanitizer that clips to a backpack or belt loop, and say, “You’ll need this. I shake 750 little hands every day, and when you’re worn down, it’s easy to get sick.” “Oh, hey, thanks – that’s so thoughtful.” As I turn to leave (they shuttle you through pretty quickly), almost as an afterthought, I slide her my card across the table, saying, “If you get a chance to look at that, I’d really appreciate it.” She nods several times, looks up and says yes, she will. I shake hands with Bill Wolff, her producer, he hands me a bookmark, and I thank him for his hard work and for covering the stories that matter.
I walk across the lobby, and in my star-struck daze, nearly walk smack into a couple. I look up, and there’s Mr. and Mrs. Maddow, Rachel’s folks. We have a short conversation in which I tell them what a great job they did raising such a terrific young woman, and that I hope I do as well by my daughter as they have. And then I realize exactly where Rachel gets her sense of humor, and mannerisms, as Mr. Maddow gives “this one” (pointing at his wife) “all the credit,” gesticulating in what I realize pretty quickly is true Maddow form.
Eventually, The Hubby and I meet up again, having been separated in the crowd. He assures me that I should ask her to be on the show at the book signing tomorrow. He bets she’ll say yes. (And yes, I have the world’s most supportive and wonderful hubby. I am so lucky!) We happily head out, as my head is spinning from the fact that I was able to speak to Rachel, twice, getting a yes, she’ll look at the blog, and even have a near-collision with her folks. Punditry-heaven.
So the next morning, I head out at 6:30 a.m., and head to Barnes & Noble at The Grove. Traffic is atrocious, as I am flying solo, and the carpool lanes are a no-go. The store opens at 9, and the object of the game is to get there and buy the book and get your wristbands before they run out. (Yep, this girl does her research, folks.) But between the rain and the traffic at a dead-stop, I was not hopeful of getting there anywhere near 9 a.m. But I persevered, and began thinking about how to remind her we’d met the night before, what I could say when I gave her the T-shirt and how to ask her to be on Kitchen Table Politics. Aaaannnddd, nothin’. I got nothin’. How do you ask all that in 30 seconds? I had no idea.
Finally, at 8:30, the heavens literally open and the sun shines through, and the traffic parts like Moses himself laid his staff on the 101 freeway. I zip down Vine, hitBeverly Blvd., and before I know it, there’s CBS Studios and Fairfax, my last turn. I even get prime parking. I hustle and walk in the doors of Barnes and Noble at 9:03, get in line, and by 9:15, I am the holder of two copies of Drift and two wristbands for the signing tonight at 7:30 p.m. Whew! Just another ordinary miracle.
I do an exploratory mission once around the place, buy a cuppa joe, and crash out in a big, comfy chair at Barnes & Noble, Drift in hand. Now, all I have to do is wait for my good friend and strategist, Kathy Mac, to join me around two. She’s one of the funniest people I know and a great writer with a mind for human behavior. And since I have no idea how to persuade Rachel in thirty seconds, she’s my right-hand man. I pull out a mechanical pencil and dive into Drift, notating as I go. (Sorry, it’s one of the nerdy things I do…) Ahhh…several uninterrupted hours and a new, political read. Heaven!
Kathy and I meet up, and grab a bite and I explain my 30 second dilemma. She is incredibly confident. “Oh, she’ll remember you. Of course she will. You can give her the t-shirt, and invite her on the show. And she’ll do it!” Wishing I had the same confidence, we go find our spot in line.
Again, in the line-up, there’s a celebratory atmosphere, even at the end of the line which extends all the way out to the surface streets. We’re right behind the folks with B & N memberships, and everyone knows everyone, and are offering to take pics of the person ahead of them as she signs their book. Rachel, Susan and Bill W. arrive a little past 7:30 p.m. Within fifteen minutes, we approach the table, and I’m in front of Rachel. She looks up and a flash of recognition crosses her face. She smiles and says, “You gave me your card last night, right?” I’m so surprised that I forget my shpiel, and we just chat. I give her the t-shirt I brought, and she says, “What’s this?” I explain that she inspired me to join a friend on twitter to do a weekly radio show online, and Rachel responds, “Cool!”
I figure it’s now or never, and as she looks up, I say, “Listen, I know everything’s crazy with the book tour and all right now, but after that, when things have calmed down, if you could give me five minutes on the show, I’d be eternally grateful.” Rachel immediately says, “Sure, yes! Yes, OK, yes! I have your card.” As I thank her, and she thanks me back, I get shuffled past Bill Wolff, thanking him again, and in an absolute fog of disbelief, Kathy and I stumble off. She shows me the great pics she snapped while Rachel and I were talking, all the while telling me she knew Rachel would remember me. I tell her I can’t believe Rachel said yes. “I knew she would,” Kathy replies, “and she’ll call. She’s that kind of person. I can tell. You’re not asking for the world, only for five minutes. And she appreciated that.” Damn, she’s been right all along. I think I’ll trust that she will be this time, too. And you know what? I trust Our Gal Rachel, too.
Genuine, kind, wicked smart and generous of heart. It’s not often that you can walk away from your hero and be even more impressed than before. Life is good, and the promise of my “get” of a lifetime is ahead. I hope her people really do talk to my people. Uh-oh, I guess I’d better get some people…
Many, many thanks to the wonderful Ms. Maddow. It was an honor and a pleasure meeting you, Rachel, all three times. You’re truly a national treasure. Thank you for your inspiration, your kindness and generosity, and for fighting the good fight, covering what matters, every day. I hope we get to talk again soon.
Oh, and here’s a little glimpse of the famous kicks for all my twitter pals, ’cause I know how you are…
Here for you, Kids.