So I was at an NPR recording studio yesterday for an interview, which sounds more important than it is, since the interview was about my work with people (and things) that are greater than me (which is still an incredible honor in and of itself, don't get me wrong). But I was clearly the context and not the subject.
What's it like working with Chip Kidd?
What was it like working with such priceless comics from the past?
What's it like handling such rare toys?
How appropriate then, that I found myself in the presence of other greatness, in the NPR lobby.
There I was, waiting for the sound engineer to bring me into our recording studio, when a tall elderly black man walks out of it with a small entourage. One of the NPR kids says, "Roy, you wanna sign our guest book? That way we have bragging rights."
So now I know he's famous. Question is, why?
My curiosity majorly piqued, I stare at him with my vacant half-opened eyes, and my mouth is ajar. You know...the whole nine yards (which I'm going to pretend just happens to be the length of a short bus).
He felt my eyes on him, and after we said "hi" to each other, I waltzed over to the "guest book" to uh... sign my own self in. I see an autograph:
You guys are the best!!
Later after I'd already once forgotten then remembered that this took place, I asked a jazz musician friend about "an old black musician named Richie Haynes? Ronny Haynes? Something like that? Ring any bells?"
Friend drops what he is doing and looks me in my (still vacant) eyes:
You mean Roy Haynes?
me (chewing on an orange slice): I dunno. Yeah?
And his jaw fell to the floor. He proceeded to tell me all about Mr. Haynes, from memory. Googled up some videos of him on the spot and asked a bunch of questions.
What was he like? Did he look old? What did you say to him, exactly?
Apparently, I may not have known who he was on sight, but I actually DID know him by sound. In fact, if you listen to any jazz, you're sure to have heard him too. Roy Haynes played drums with all the greats, not the least of whom are Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The guy is 83 and looks like he's 50. It's amazing to see such a human if for no other reason than that he's so healthy and radically good at what he does even at this age. I am frankly embarrassed that I didn't know who he was to begin with.
So now I have effectively blown my friend's mind.
Then, several minutes later...
Wait. YOU WERE ON NPR?!
What was it like being at NPR?!
Always, in the presence of greatness.