Saturday, November 17, 2012

AKA... That Time I Met Noel Gallagher

AKA That Time I Met Noel Gallagher

Yes, I met Noel Gallagher. It was surprisingly easy, not entirely premeditated, and out of all the questions I have ever wanted to ask him, what happened? I asked a silly one that's been stuck in my brain since 2007.

After locating my friend's house where I was staying and going to lunch with said friend, I made my way back into downtown Portland and found the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Three buses sat parked on the street around back, and I thought, Hmm. Interesting. I looked at my phone -- 2 hours or so to kill. Either I'm just ahead of the sound check, or it's just started, I bet. I stood there near one of the venue's back doors for a minute and realized I could hear "Talk Tonight" being played. A few minutes passed. Two local security guards who were watching the buses noticed me.

The woman asked, "Are you waiting for a ride?"

Let's see, what is the level of pathetic-ness to which I am willing to admit? Let's go with... "No, well... I'm waiting for a friend who was supposed to meet me."

"Oh. I was just going to say, you probably don't want to stand under that overhang."

I looked up at the metal grate-style balcony above me. "Oh, does it drip?" It had been raining off and on all day.

"Yeah, and the pigeons seem to aim for people."

"Ah! Okay! Thank you!" I moved closer to the steps where the guards stood, pretended to be interested in my phone, and had to get my umbrella back out again. Yes, I needed to find something to do, but not too far away because I'd been walking all day, and despite this luck of having seen the buses, the man was already inside. Him wandering outside for a smoke break was not guaranteed. No point in standing around, being that person, when there were perfectly good happy hours going on nearby.

I ended up at a place across the street from what appeared to be the security entrance to the venue. There was a catering truck and an equipment truck parked and blocking most of the view, so I was not really paying attention to it. Instead, I called my husband, chatted with the waitress, and drank $3 gin and tonics near the back, by the bar.

(Before anyone accuses me of being a bit too thematic with my drink choice, I did originally ask for gin and ginger ale, but the place brews their own ginger beer instead, and it's not part of the happy hour specials. And "Supersonic" references notwithstanding, gin is my favorite liquor.)

I had finished about half of my second G&T when... well, the best way I can describe what happened is Spidey-Sense. Suddenly, I had this automatic instinct to look out the window and across the street, and I saw a flash of familiar brown-grey hair walk outside. Within seconds, I had sucked down the rest of that (delicious) drink, paid my tab to my understanding and speedy waitress (I tipped well), and I was out the door.

No Noel to be seen. Two girls stood nearby, one of whom wore a Snow Patrol hoodie. "You just missed Noel Gallagher," she said.

"Did I?"

"Yeah, we said hello to him," the other said.

"I love how he talks," the first one said.

"Motherfucker," I muttered.

"He just went around to his bus, I think, but I bet if you stood by the corner there and waited, you'd catch him."

Bless these Snow Patrol fans.

"Thank you," I said. "That is exactly what I'll do."

"He's wearing a black leather jacket," one of them called out as I walked away. I thanked them again, but thought, Ladies, please. I know his jacket. It replaced the one that was lost/stolen in his luggage during the Dig Out Your Soul tour.

(Related note: Over-studied him, who me?)

And so I waited. In the rain, under my shitty black umbrella. I started doing stage manager math: Okay, if they let people in around 7:30, then he will want to be inside around 7:00 so that he's not cutting through the crowd going in the door. It was around 6:40. I waited. I looked at the people approaching, leaned against the building, and re-noticed my poor far-distance vision. The rain stopped again. That person's too tall. That person doesn't have the right walk. Did he walk back in another door?

Waited. Watched the clock. At about five minutes to 7pm, I spotted him. Yes, he wore that known jacket and approached from the farthest away bus with his bodyguard . When he fell into earshot, I said, "Hello, Noel."

All cool and collected, like. As though I wasn't thinking, Jesus, I can't believe it was this easy.

A sly grin crept across his face. "Well, hello there, smiling lady."

!!!!!!!

"Will you sign my CD?" I said, for I arrived prepared, no matter how (un)likely this moment might've been.

"Sure."

I handed him my deluxe edition Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and started to dig around my bag. "Let me get my Sharpie. I'm all prepared." I laughed at myself, and then I couldn't find the damn thing right away, couldn't remember in which small pocket in my bag I'd left it. So I say under my breath, "Oh, for Christ's sake..." and he laughs a little, not unkindly, and then, finally, I locate it and hand it to him. "Purple. All fancy, like," I said.

Because apparently my reaction to meeting one of my favorite people ever is to make my usual stupid jokes. That is how I roll.

He looked exactly like I thought he would. Same height, just a little bit taller than I am. Same lines by his eyes. All of it. Maybe the gin assisted me, but my nervousness evaporated from the moment he returned my greeting. I'd heard he had a talent for that, putting others at ease. How interesting to experience it firsthand.

"What's your name?" he said.

"Oh!" Because it had not even occurred to me that he might ask. "It's Sara. With no H."

"Oh, like my missus."

YES.

"Yes," I said, much more reasonably and not in all caps. Here came the question. "Does she get annoyed when people try to stick an H on her name?"

"Like you wouldn't believe. Especially when I do it!" He laughed again.

"It is the question all Saras ask of each other when we meet."

He handed me back the CD and Sharpie. "There you go."

Before he could walk away, I asked, "Can I shake your hand?"

"Sure."

We shook. His hand was dry and warm, and because of the cold, mine was thankfully not sweating. "Well, I'm sure I'll enjoy the show," I said. He nodded and carried on walking. When I looked down at my CD, my heart rate began to tick back upwards. ALL CAPS texts were sent. Twitter informed. Somewhere in 1996, 13-year-old me exploded.

Meeting him was both surreal and exactly as I might have imagined. I'd managed to not be an idiot, he remained very polite and not at all impatient. It might sound silly, but after spending sixteen years listening to the music, reading and listening to the interviews, reading interviews with people who have met/worked with him, etc. etc.... Well, I know Noel Gallagher as a Public Figure pretty well. Because of that, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that it went as well as it did. I knew better than to ask for a photo because he doesn't really enjoy taking them. An autograph and a handshake were perfectly reasonable requests. I knew my audience, and he knew his.

It wasn't an interview, but man, it'll certainly do. There's time yet for more, one day.

I'll leave it at that for now, but stay tuned for my thoughts on the gig itself.

What a life, indeed.

Noel Gallagher - Portland, Oregon

(This post now also appears on Persephone Magazine.)

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