I was walking across the campus this morning and someone called out to me: “Hey it’s Ace Backwords. I love your work.” I turned around. This guy was sitting on the steps alongside this woman. I gave them a big friendly wave and said: “Cool. Thank you very much.” And kept walking.
That sort of thing happens to me about once every six months. And it’s always an odd experience. In spite of myself, if only for a split second, I can’t help feeling like a celebrity (“Hey! I’ve been RECOGNIZED!!”). Even as, in my case, it’s a very, very, very, very, very minor celebrity. But then, following the ego-kick, I invariably get this sense of embarrassment. Like they’re playing a practical joke on me or something. And they’re going to say next: “HAW!! Just kidding!! You FOOL!! Hey can I have your autograph?? HAW HAW!!”
Then I’ll think about how weird it must be to really be famous. To have a face people recognize everywhere you go. “Look!! It’s HIM!!” Total strangers everywhere who KNOW you. While you don’t know THEM. This guy who was friends with Bob Dylan said, “He can’t do any of the normal things we take for granted. He can’t go down to the local corner store without 20 strangers pointing their cell phones at his face and trying to get selfies with him.”
When I was a young man and trying to make some kind of career for myself as an artist, people would often give me this advice: “You gotta keep pushing your name out there.” Which sort of made sense. It just seemed like it was part of the deal if you wanted to have any success as an artist or writer. But there was always something weird about the whole thing, too.
Now that I’m an old man, it seems even more absurd. Entire civilizations from the ancient past are entirely forgotten. One day the sun will burn out, the Earth will fizzle into nothing, and everything will be forgotten. No one will even remember the Earth let alone any of the people.