Never Be Famous

In all likelihood, I’ll never be famous. Which is probably a great thing for me. It’s not an aspiration of mine. It kind of surprises me that people actually WANT to be famous. Aside from enjoying my anonymity, there are certain things I couldn’t do anymore. Such as…

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The cockatiels are more famous than I am.

Boxing people in on the interstate. This is a really bad habit of mine, but it’s a lot of fun. When I see someone driving way too fast and weaving in and out of traffic, if I get the chance, I’ll do whatever I can to box that driver in and slow them down. It’s fun to irritate them even further, make them angry so they can’t get around, and just slow them down. I’m not even sure why I like this; I’m not normally a passive-aggressive person. It’s just fun, and if I were famous, I’d imagine that I couldn’t get away with doing this, let alone drive myself places in order to do this. For that, and other reasons, I’d prefer to never be famous.

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It’s the cliched questions – If you could meet one famous person, dead or alive, who would it be? I’ve tried to think about this as to how I was wired when I was younger as to how I’m wired now. I’ve never really thought about meeting famous people. Like anyone, when I was younger, there were certain people I tried to emulate from time to time. I don’t, however, recall ever really wanting to meet someone famous. It’s not that it never interested me – it just never really occurred to me in any serious way that I put much thought into someone famous that I might want to meet.

When I was in high school and college, Linus Pauling was kind of a personal hero for me. He won two Nobel prizes – one for Chemistry, one for peace. That’s a hell of a legacy. He was also a bit of a nut job as I found out. He believed in massive doses of vitamin C as kind of a cure all for everything with very thin evidence. Not the worst legacy, but if you are used to producing bullet proof evidence for chemistry, why go all new-agey on vitamin C?

The more digging you do on some great minds or great people, it gets more complicated (and I realize that I’m not unique in pointing this out).

Mozart – kind of had a butt fetish. “Leck Mich Im Arsch”. You don’t have to do a whole lot of translating on that one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C78HBp-Youk

Albert Einstein – Married his cousin. Had affairs. Great scientific mind – maybe not so great to his family. If he hadn’t revolutionized scientific thought, how much of his life would be a punchline to some not-so-nice jokes? Think about it.

People waxed poetically about David Bowie when he died. They tend to forget that he was probably guilty of statutory rape. Twice. Sure his music was fantastic, but c’mon. How much is forgivable?

Even one of the most quotable runners (Steve Prefontaine) in all probability, died because he was driving under the influence of alcohol. (Do some reading, runner friends, and just admit it). All that talent and promise, lost to a DUI… it’s hard to call it tragic.

This is not famous person bashing. It’s just recognizing complexity – be careful of what you wish for and who you associate with. Narratives are complicated things.

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I put up a picture a few weeks ago to my Facebook account. I like to make fun of foodies, so I bought some Spam, cheap crackers, and Cheez whiz. I made myself a snack, plated it (on paper plates), bought a can of cheap beer, and made a Facebook post. For the record, I actually like Spam (comfort food from my childhood) AND the cheap beer (Stag, fond memories of my grandfather). One person asked me “Why do you do this?” Simple – because it’s fun. Causing a little trouble – every now and then – is fun (emphasis on “little” and “every now and then”). And if I have to stop, then I’m living my life wrong. I’d rather be able to poke the bear a bit. You keep your fame. I’ll keep my Spam, Stag, and a stick to poke the bear.

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I haven’t really even gotten that close to meeting anyone all that famous. Here’s the list.

-Athletics: As a four year old, the St. Louis Blues used to practice at an ice rink close to my parent’s house, and we watched a preseason practice once. (I don’t remember this, I just remember the story I’ve been told). I needed to take leak, so my dad was taking me to the bathroom. Apparently, I walked right into the blocker pad of the goaltender for the Blues as he was coming off the ice (Mike Liut). I was polite, and gave him the four year old kid version of, “excuse me, Mr. Liut!” He thought this was very funny.

I also met Ray King (lefty reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals) when he visited Cardinal Glennon one time (other people got to meet more famous players that day). All I remember is thanking him for visiting the children at the hospital. He smiled and gave me a huge handshake – and considering he was a lefty specialist and we shook right hands (so he was using his “non-dominant” hand) – my hand hurt like hell for the rest of the day. He had a strong grip.

-Politics: I didn’t meet him, but Rev. John Lewis gave the opening convocation for Knox College my senior year (1998). I wish I could remember the content of his speech. I do remember that he the best command of a room I’ve ever been in. His voice was so strong, he didn’t need the microphone. But he was a damn fine public speaker.

-Medicine: Dr. Ben Carson delivered the commencement address for my medical school graduation in 2003. He gave an excellent speech – this was all 13 years prior to him launching his ill-fated 2016 presidential campaign and we found out how much of a political nut job he was. (This also goes to show that some people should stick to their area of expertise – he is a brilliant medical mind and surgeon. His gifts don’t seem to translate to the political realm).

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If I could meet one famous person, dead or alive, who would it be? It could be anyone. I’ll choose option c. No one.

This isn’t some hipster thing where I’m just too cool to meet anyone – Lord knows that’s the furthest thing from the case. Like most things with me, it’s just pragmatic and practical.

  1. What would be accomplished? Seriously. What would we talk about of mutual interest? What problems could be solved? What ideas could be exchanged that would be of any consequence? What would motivate that person to actually listen? And, if you are meeting with someone of high intellectual capacity, what could I possibly offer to assist them?
  2. Do you think famous people, when push comes to shove, actually care about you? Think about it. Some famous people do nice things for individuals and communities. For instance, athletes that participate in the “Make a Wish” foundation do really nice things for children. It’s a welcome respite from otherwise difficult situations. But to think that the majority of them really care or worry any differently about the world around them than other people do is just preposterous.

I’ll contradict myself here, but this scene from “A Bronx Tale” sums it up (start it at 1:08). It is nice, concise statement about how I’ve long felt about meeting anyone famous. I’m a fan of U2 – favorite band for me; I’ve no desire to meet any of the members.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md2vBiNm7W0

  1. I’d rather stand on my own two feet and figure it out on my own. I’d prefer to read or learn about ideas from people that have researched or learned extensively on a topic. Heck, they might even be famous in a limited sense. But at some point, you’re going to have to figure things out for yourself, anyway, and I don’t need some famous talking-head to spout off for me.
  2. If I’m going to meet a famous person, I’d rather the interaction be a) limited and b) odd. Examples – maybe I could try to spend an hour in a sensory deprivation tank with Lewis Black (I don’t think either of us could do it and it would be hilarious). Hiking with Lady Gaga – just exactly how would she show up? What would her hiking boots look like, and would they even be hiking boots? Those sorts of things. Otherwise, I have zero interest in meeting anyone famous.

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Of course, I enjoy music, movies, books, comedians, etc… I’m not railing against modern life. And I’m certainly not railing against anyone that would want to meet anyone famous. To each their own. I’ve just never had the desire to seek fame, nor meet anyone associated with it, nor have the briefest discussion with anyone that has fame. It seems an odd motivation to me. I much prefer to help out where I can, make my impact, keep things under wraps, and box in poorly behaving drivers on southbound I-55 on a Friday night. I’m never giving that up.

Author: Jason Kesselring

I am a 42 year old high school chemistry teacher (and former pediatrician), happily married, and a father of two wonderful children. I'm occasionally active on Twitter; you can find me: @STLLenny and on Facebook (@trialofmilesjk)

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