So let's recap the last week and a half.
Which is really the part I don't understand. What 18-wheelers go around town just carrying a big load of hydrochloric acid? Who needs that much hydrochloric acid? Is there a mad scientist local union I don't know about? Is McDonald's introducing a new Beef McAcid? Is acid to the face the penalty in a pass/fail situation at the modeling school?
For whatever reason, there's hydrochloric acid overturned on the road and all the streets near my house are backed up with traffic. For now, I can't go anywhere. Police are directing cars. Going to get some half and half for my morning coffee from the convenience store took half an hour.
Hydrochloric acid: Our acidic, traffic-stopping friend.
One quick thing: I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd be doing a notify list giveaway soon. Well, it's happening now. By next Friday, I'm going to pick two people on the notify list (random selection, although you're all free to try to bribe me in the meantime) who will get a Terribly Happy Care Package from the Moichandise store.
I'll ask the winners to send me their mail address and send it to them directly.
It's not too late to hop on the notify list if you want to be part of that drawing. I'll draw two names midnight, central time, next Thursday.
There was a bright spot this week.
I got to thinking about it so much, that I had one of my patented Mischief Moments.
My Mischief Moments are times when I get this little kernal of an idea for some bit of something, and before any of my friends know it, it's mushroomed into a full-blown obsessive holy mission.
This site was created during a Mischief Moment.
My MM this week was, "Hey, what if we ran that essay in the paper somewhere?"
The second bit of luck that coincided with the MM was that I was assigned to edit our "Insight" Op/Ed section for the second time in a row. "Insight" is a collection of letters to the editor, notable quotes (I managed to get a quote from Sars' harrowing New York piece in the paper last time) and news analysis.
I toyed with the idea of getting permission to reprint the essay in our paper.
Tuesday, as a total lark, I looked up Harlan Ellison's agent on the official Ellison Web site. I called the agent's office. A woman gave me a fax number and told me to write to them and let them know what I wanted.
I did it that afternoon.
The next day, while I was getting ready for work, I checked my work voice mail to see if there were any emergencies that needed tending.
"This is Harlan Ellison in Los Angeles calling Omar... (mispronunciation of my last name)."
I let out a huge yelp in the parking lot of Dr. Wong's esteemed eye clinic where I was getting a three-month check-up. Harlan fucking Ellison! Calling me! Boy Writer!
After all the hyperventilating and peeing of trousers and clattering of teeth and pimpling of arm geese and pumping of heart valves and popping of eyeballs and standing of neck hairs and tingling of spines and throbbing of ears from sudden drop in cranium cabin pressure... after all that... Well, I was fucking thrilled.
My hero. My idol. The guy whose writing has informed and influenced me since I was 13 years old. The man who made be believe in the power of words, that they can anger, persuade, influence.
The man whose strung together words made me hunger to form my own. Whose "Jeffty is Five" makes me cry every time I read it. Whose "The Deathbird" makes me cower and whimper. Whose " 'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Tick-Tock Man," makes me giggle with delight.
He wanted to talk to me.
I called him back at work, taking deep breaths first.
I talked to him. He was nice. He said we could use his piece. I haggled with him, even. He told me how much he gets paid when a story appears in Playboy or when he writes something for Hollywood.
"Well, I'm neither Hugh Hefner nor Francis Ford Coppola," I told him, trying to talk down his price a bit to a figure our paper could actually afford.
Later on, I made him laugh. I told him I'd been reading his stuff since I was a teen and that he's a big reason I do what I do. "Oh, so you're gonna blame me now for your ruinous path?" he asked.
I shot back that he's responsible for a gap in Texas journalism.
He actually chortled at that, something small, but singularly important for me.
Today, I talked to him again about edits to his piece and he called me "kiddo."
Somebody pinch me already.
It's not often you get to meet your idols. The real ones. The ones who helped lay the footstones on the path you choose to wander through in life.
It's not often you get to tell them that they influenced you and to thank them. To work with them in any capacity.
I'd given up the idea; thought that with his heart problems and his age, it was only a matter of time before I'd read a news story somewhere that would break my heart, that would tell me the opportunity to meet the weaver of dreams I'd admired for most of my life was gone, the chance to express my gratitude having slipped away forever.
Thank you, Harlan. You made my week. And more importantly, you made my career.
"Dammit, the pizza guy forgot to give us parmesan packets! And he's already headed back to Earth!"