Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Good Things Happen to Good People

I love that I have a reason to blog with such a headline.

Now let me explain:

In June of 2003, I attended an uber-geek event called the "U2 Fan Celebration" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. I had recently joined a local U2 group through the website, and made friends here in Seattle who shared my love of the band—they were also willing to travel to Ohio for worship.

I'd already seen the U2 exhibit in February when it opened, but was determined to return in June, not just for the special events surrounding the celebration, but because I was an avid reader of a fan site called @U2, where I was addicted to a humor column by a guy named Answer Guy. This site was co-hosting the event, and its owner and several staffers were going to be there. I was a fan of these fans, and couldn't wait to meet them.

The first night I got lucky enough to sit with a few of them at the dinner table. Present were @U2 founder Matt McGee, @U2 cartoonist Kelly Eddington, and Aaron Sams, who runs a site called U2 Wanderer. I remember immediately bonding with Kelly over the fact we were both wearing Sally Hansen silver nail polish, and enjoying the lighthearted energy of the collective group. Everyone was so naturally kind and welcoming.

Here's a photo of Kelly and Matt at the Hard Rock Café that night:

Celebrating U2 at the Hard Rock Café

That weekend at the museum was nothing short of amazing. Aside from enjoying all the U2 content that was surrounding us, I came away feeling like part of the @U2 family.

When I returned to Seattle, I was flattered to learn that Kelly had featured me in one of her cartoons (that's me on the right on page 2). Though non-U2 friends made fun of me for appearing as a "fanatic," on a fan site, I couldn't have been more honored to have this artist reproduce me in such a way.

I stayed in close touch with my new friends, and in 2004, Matt gave me the opportunity to write as a contributor for the site. In 2005, just in time for U2's Vertigo tour, I was promoted to news writer, which changed my life.

@U2 threw an amazing party in my hometown of Portland, Ore. that year, in honor of the site's 10th birthday. And though I was already on staff, I still felt like a fan of all of these geniuses that had come before me. Many of them I met for the first time that weekend; others I spent time catching up with as if I were at a family reunion. Fans of the site were sweet to all of us, but the clear stars of the party were Answer Guy and Kelly the cartoonist, and it was easy to see why. Answer Guy was a naturally funny, sharp writer with a gift for sarcasm, and Kelly was a talented artist with a sense of humor that only enhanced her already-great writing.

Here's a photo of Kelly and me that night (she was making me a bracelet out of Christmas tinsel), taken by our mutual friend Michelle:


I was finally part of the crowd that I so longed to be associated with, and I considered my role on @U2 as a great privilege (5 years later, I still do). But as with all organizations and workplaces, people get married, switch their focus and move on. That's what happened with our brilliant Kelly, who was always putting out consistently wonderful, time-consuming cartoons. I was devastated when she announced her departure (as were thousands of fans who looked forward to her work each month), but as a friend I was glad that she'd found a more satisfying happiness in married life.

Since then, I've followed her blog, Alizarine, religiously, often making many of her delicious recipes and envying her idyllic home surrounded by the occasional woodchuck and deer. I was especially happy to see that she decided to follow her dreams and take a year off to paint. If only more of us were that courageous.

I've also branched out myself, focusing on my first love of film—co-creating the movie review podcast Cinebanter, which just turned four yesterday. My partner? A guy called Michael, who used to go by the name "Answer Guy."

Of course, all self-respecting film critics owe Roger Ebert for setting the bar so high and I am no exception. I immediately joined "The Ebert Club" when memberships were sold earlier this year, and consider him one of the best Tweeters on all of you can only imagine my delight today when I noticed that Roger was Tweeting about a certain watercolor artist, and that artist was Kelly!

You can read the full exchange on Kelly's blog, but basically Roger responded to her response to his earlier Tweet about film criticism books never getting their due in the background of films. She had done a painting recently that included one of his books on her shelf, and he not only wrote back in our club's blog, he Tweeted the sweetest endorsement for her art to his 180,000+ followers. As a result, Kelly's website has been getting countless hits, and I know of at least one painting that has already sold.

Congratulations Kelly, and thank you Roger, for recognizing the talent of my gifted friend.

It's so wonderful when good things happen to good people.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

I am so touched and flattered by this, Tassoula. THANK YOU! My years at @U2 helped me through what was otherwise a pretty rough time in my life. Having the support and friendship of so many fun, talented people all over the world--who encouraged my wacky obsessions, no less--meant so much to me.

As much as I loved putting my cartoons together, I knew they were strangling my let's-call-it-real art. During my time at @U2 I produced only four large-scale paintings of my own, and sadly I had to draw the line after painting the same four men countless times over seven years. I wish I had a clone, or I could paint simultaneously with my left and right hands, or days lasted 48 hours, but [sigh].

Anyway, I've always been so fond of you, Tassoula, and the heart and tenacity you display in everything you do, U2 and otherwise. You're a great writer and a great person. You deserve nothing but the best in your life. Thank you so much for this, and thank you for buying my painting tonight!