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SCI: Exhibit A - Week 6 - Can't Get There From Here

As a child, I was very shy. Even leaving the classroom between classes was a feat for me. (The majority of those are held in the same room by the same teacher in our primary schools.) Talking to strangers was even more of a problem. "Mum, tell me exactly what I have to say to the cashier if you want me to buy this," was my constant demand.

The change started with Harry Potter, or rather the lull between the publishing of the fourth and the fifth books of the series, for the want to speak on a favourite subject was stronger in me than the wariness of the new means of communication that was the Internet. This happened during my fourth year at college.

The summer before, I was asked to tutor a school girl in her English assignment while we both stayed at mutual friends' country house over the holidays. Funnily enough, this same girl was responsible for my growing attachment to the wizarding world, for she talked me into trying the first book, nearly forcing me into it kicking and screaming, a couple of years previous.

The girl suffered from deficit of attention, and regularly drew her relatives up the wall when they had to help her with her homework. I am not a very patient person, yet for some reason, we clicked as teacher and student. Her bored mini tantrums and lack of attention did not bother me, and we calmly soldiered on after these interruptions.

After that summer, as if a switch was thrown or she grew up, the girl's homework problems became much less pronounced, so a year later her mother brought me a thank-you gift from her trip abroad, a subtitled version of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice on two video tapes. The first time I watched the film solely through the obligation of at least trying to enjoy the gift. I was stubbornly certain I would not like a movie based on an "boring old classic book" which I had no intention to read, nor any other Austen novel.

Little did I know.

I was enthralled before the first episode ended, watched all five of them in one breath, and started over, slowly. This was the first movie I worked on with subtitles, rewinding and listening to every little scene until I understood (or imagined I did) every word in the subtitles and some more, for no subtitles I have ever encountered are 100% correct. This boosted both my English and my nascent interest in the actor playing the main character who motivated me enough to make the feat possible, Colin Firth.

Having quickly exhausted the meager stash of tapes with him in the possession of the local video rental service, I just as quickly bought out most of the not-so-many of his movies in video shops, and in the process joined a fan site where besides the usual factual and emotional discussions, we exchanged rarer movies under the counter. Meeting internet people for that was already not a problem.

It was during this period that I had to deal with the only feelings I had that I am still ashamed of in all my fandoms even ten years since they are no more. But a little background first.

In my family and many others in this country, theatre, cinema and artists were considered of another world that did not quite intersect with ours. The only thing that was done was gifting someone flowers during the final bows, and that already was a step out of the ordinary for you needed to know when the artist was playing, purchase flowers and get a place in the auditorium that offered a relatively unencumbered route to the stage after the play.

Going to the stage door already belonged to the alternate reality inhabited by the artists and fan boys and girls, and going there, over the top for an ordinary person. I do not know whether there is such a thing as semi-organized stage door appearances here, unlike what I later witnessed on Broadway, and our theatres are mostly repertoir ones, where a play is on two to four times a month, sometimes for years, instead of every night for a much shorter run with all the same cast. There are often two, three, and more actors who can take up the major roles, and it is quite hard to learn who plays what when beforehand.

So there I was wanting to say "thank you" to someone so much it hurt, with no viable possibility to do so, him being twice from another world, that of foreign artists inhabiting the Neverland thereabouts of Hollywood. What's a girl to do in such a situation but wish for the impossible Apparating1 to wherever that someone is, saying her line and walking off, consequences be damned?

Not pretty, but that head of mine is good for more than flying through the clouds. The cold-shower imagery of a reverse situation, that of a stranger gate-crashing my personal space with a similar line popped there very soon after the birth of the fantasy killing it in the bud.

Little did I know.

One more year passed and I found myself fan of the French "crooner" Joe Dassin, right on the metaphorical eve of a gathering of his fans, the first in the twenty five years after his passing away. Entranced by the beauty of the songs, I started to learn French, a language I was interested in since primary school but never actively so, thinking to at least be able to understand the lyrics, and meeting Russian fans along the way much the same way and for similar reasons that I was meeting Colin Firth's.

When the news of the gathering reached me, something strange happened. I wanted to come, and the horrors of trusting an foreigner with my accommodation (imagine an internet acquaintance offering you their couch for a night or two a month after meeting them), going abroad for the first time ever (oh, god. I think I speak some English, what if it turns out nobody can understand me?) and meeting a horde of strangers to speak with them in a tongue I barely started learning (less than a year in, are you crazy?) did not matter. I found a hotel room for the night after, a tour that left me free but for the day of the meeting, and a tutor in French. I went, and I had a good time. So good, it is still a Patronus memory2 for me after eight years and the usual ups and downs have passed with this group, to bring another Harry Potter reference into this tale.

More time passed, and another actor appeared whom I found interesting, through both Harry Potter and Colin Firth: Alan Rickman, whom I noticed first as Severus Snape, Harry's Potions teacher, and second and final time, as the "dirty" Harry from Love Actually where they starred both.

This time, going abroad was no longer a roadblock, yet going to countries where both the actors were most likely to appear on stage was. Both Great Britain and the United States are notoriously difficult for an unmarried woman of no property or particularly gainful employment to be granted a visa to. Besides, both actors had not then appeared on stage for years.

In 2010, the same group of Joe Dassin's fans whom I first got acquainted with five years previous decided to pay him respect where his is laid to rest in Los Angeles, him being born in America, and on a road trip across some of the Western states.

Since my best childhood friend also now resided in the country and kept inviting me for a visit, I said, why the hell not? Applying for the visa with her invitation and a solid, if complicated vacation plan was worth giving at least one try. So I did, and went on the trip after getting the one-year multi-entry visa.

And then it happened again. Not two months after my return a fellow Alan Rickman fan casually mentioned getting tickets for a play with him, John Gabriel Borkman, that was to be transferred to an off-Broadway theatre in New York from Dublin the following January. After my month-long trip I had no money and a sizeable debt, but I had to come.

I had to come to see with my own eyes a person who, unbeknownst to him, had become to me a security blanket. "It is good to know there is a good man out there in the world, somewhere." Seeing the play, giving flowers and saying a loaded "thank you" was all I wanted.

Do you know how it feels to be in the first row of orchestra for the first time in your life, a first row that happens to be on the stage for that play, when your favourite actor appears there, whom you'd thought you would never see perform live in front of you? The feeling is incomparable. The conscious mind leaves on vacation and returns the following day if then, leaving you in an entranced daze.

Only, they do not let you bring flowers during the bows on Broadway, nor do they in West End theatres. Seeing nobody doing this, I asked my neighbours during the interval of the last-but-one show I was about to see if it was done, and all of them loudly wondered why it never occurred to them to do so. Nonplussed, I approached the ushers after the show, and after gushing over the idea as well, they decided to call a manager on the walkie-talkie, "just in case". Way to go, girl, causing such a stir with an innocent question you would have never asked back home. The manager liked the idea as well, yet said she was going to check with the big boss, "just in case" again, and call me back. I knew then already what it likely meant and was not mistaken. "We are sorry, the company does not allow flowers, but thank you for not just walking down the isle with them."

I did not go to the stage door that time. The idea was still too weird, and also I could not find where the damn place was after walking around the theatre in my spare time trying too look inconspicuous. I did when I went to see Alan Rickman's next and last for now, play Seminar, on Broadway proper in November 2011. I'd told my fellow fans I was in two minds about the stage door, and they all said to come by all means, and that they'd shove me to the front line if needs be. It was not. I came by myself, said one of the special lilting stage door prolonged thank yous and got an autograph.

Doing so was the opposite of easy, or rather, wrapping my mind around it was. I'd spent hours working through the obvious taboo of approaching a stranger with nonsense.

Do you know, if a thousand fan girls approached their idol for "only two minutes" each, it would eat 30 hours of that person's time, non-stop without eating, drinking, or sleeping? And if there are more fanatics than that? So, no, not I, not outside organized appearances, those where it is also not obvious the person is on their last feet. Not even for one minute.

That was what I decided then, if not in such an organized manner, this is how I feel now. But seeing someone who means something to me for real from ten feet away even without approaching them, only to feel their presence? Yes please, I will be there.

1Apparating is teleporting, disappearing from some place and instantly re-appearing somewhere else many miles away, even though Moscow to England is too far even in that world.
2A Patronus is a difficult emotion-based charm to ward off dangerous creatures. It needs a very positive and strong memory to be cast.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome. (Besides this being a monster that rightly should not be written for a contest. Only I needed to say all of this.)

First, if you have read through, THANK YOU!

And if (I know, I know, but I love these person and what they made me experience very much) you want to read more and just a long about these plays I have seen, here:

John Gabriel Borkman I | II | III

Seminar first impressions | Seminar stage door | Seminar description

Edited at 2013-03-07 07:03 pm (UTC)
Mar. 7th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading about your progress over the years from shy girl to mature, multilingual, international traveller. :-) Internet fandoms have been invaluable motivation for me too, as you know!
Mar. 7th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you :).

And it is really amazing how internet helps with such things, if you do not forget about caution, of course.
Mar. 8th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
I liked reading about your journey from shy young girl to being brave enough to get an autograph from one of the people you admire.

Mar. 10th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you :). I am glad I managed to take my readers on that journey with me.
Mar. 8th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
Just one thing I found here "girl struggles with deficit of attention" should just be "ADHD", it's become so commonplace, that everyone knows what it is without even having to explain it. You could also say "attention deficit" but that's... unusual.

I have had ADHD all my life and still struggle with it. Maybe my narrative is different from yours in that I've gone from being hyper and crazy to being a lot quieter. ADHD still affects me in a few ways in my life, mostly I just try to deal with it.
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
I have read about it too, and sometimes it is written in full too. Actually, I did it to avoid saying the abbreviation, because I was not sure whether I should have said ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD, where I do not know what H stands for.

Do you have to use medication to deal with it?
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
no I'm strongly against any kind of head drugs unless it's extremely serious. I will probably offend readers with my views on head drugs, but I know too many people on them, and for the most part, I think they shouldn't be on them. Ritalin is prescribed for ADHD and this other medication. A lot of the time, ritalin somehow ends up making the kids act up more.

These days, it's always called ADHD. Earlier it was just called ADD. I guess now they say there are different types of them. Rarely in kids, they don't have the hyperactive part, but they still have the attention deficit.
Mar. 10th, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
I have friends who are bipolar, so I understand about head drugs.

Okay, ADHD it is :).
Mar. 8th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
It's amazing what a good book can do. Even if it's the movie. LOL

Loved this so much
Mar. 10th, 2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
It was a book first for me, though I am "proud" to have caught the end of the Philosopher's Stone, the movie, run in the cinemas :-).

Thank you!
Mar. 9th, 2013 05:50 am (UTC)
It's really awesome getting to meet people that are so out of the realm of ordinary, isn't it? You do a good job for a non-native speaker of explaining your thoughts and feelings about the subject, and I'm glad you've gotten over some of your inherent shyness.

One minor point, you wrote: ...regularly drew her relatives up the wall
The actual phrase is to "drive" someone up the wall, or in this case it would be the past tense of the word: "regularly drove her relatives up the wall."
Mar. 11th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is. Thank you :).

Oh, this is what was so strange with the phrase when I was writing it. Sometimes I kind of know that I am making a mistake, but can not put my finger on it. Thank you again!
Mar. 9th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, man. I wasn't as shy as you but boy, do I remember making my little brother buy things/order things for me. So that way I wouldn't have to talk to the cashier.

I'm glad to hear that you broke out of your shell eventually. :)
Mar. 11th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
It was hellish at first when my mother got fed up and assigned me the job of buying vegetables and fruit at the local stores when I was in 7th or 8th grade. But it was then that I finally started getting over this excessive shyness. Now it it but a funny memory.

Thank you!

Mar. 9th, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading your enthusiasm bubbling over in this entry! I was smiling all the way through it. Loved the Harry Potter references, of course, and I remember how you wrote a couple years ago about coming to NYC and seeing Alan live on stage. And, oh yes! if only we could apparate! What a dream that would be. Almost as good as being able to fly! Great job! :)
Mar. 10th, 2013 05:35 am (UTC)
The Internet has been hugely helpful to me in learning to talk to other people, too. I'm glad you're able to travel and to see the people that you're a fan of. :)
Mar. 10th, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC)
There was so much here that I could relate to: the fan stuff, the shyness, the desire to be in the presence of people I admire. From a concrit perspective, I think some editing to bring those elects more sharply into focus--cutting away the excess to get to the core--would have made this stronger.
Mar. 10th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
This is so lovely and honest. And I like your awareness that being a fan girl with demands is unreasonable even while you look for other ways to express your fandom.

I agree with fourzoas above - there are some places where this gets a little roundabout and hard to follow - maybe choose what the through line of the story is, and focus on telling the parts that most support a single story? You might be able to set up your journey more clearly and tell the different fan meetings as they relate to that journey.

So neat to hear about the difficulties as a shy person, and as someone traveling, and how you overcame them!
Mar. 11th, 2013 01:28 am (UTC)
I enjoyed reading about how fandom brought you out of your shell. It was Harry Potter fandom that did it for me, too--it showed me that I could be a leader, not just someone hiding behind a book.
Mar. 11th, 2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
It also showed me that I could write something that was not just everyday experiences. My first and almost only, but not quite now, fanfics was in that fandom.

I am glad it had a positive effect on you as well.
Mar. 11th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC)
It's wonderful to see the positives that fandom can create.
Mar. 11th, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes.

I like to look at it this way: flaming heart, but cool head and feet firmly on the ground, and then it works wonderfully.

Thank you!
Mar. 11th, 2013 06:16 am (UTC)
It seems that it wasn't just fandom, it was finding other people who shared your common interests, and communicating with them-- so much easier, when it's a known topic of conversation that's interesting to you both. And then those brave steps toward new languages, new places, new introductions... it seems an amazing leap, but you showed us exactly how it was possible. :)
Mar. 11th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was the people who made it easier, but it is still scary to trust someone online, and takes ages to know them. But so worth it in the end!

Thank you!
Mar. 11th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
What a transformation! Way to go! :)
Mar. 11th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, I do not recognize myself sometimes now. Thank you :).
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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