From Small Talk to Deep Stuff
[Early June, 2010.] I’m sitting in the departure lounge at Melbourne Airport, waiting for my grilled cheese, ham and tomato sandwich to arrive. The girl sitting across from me at the table is dressed all in black with a quirky sort of style and a funky hat… she has this presence. She looks so much more together than me, I think, suddenly self conscious of the puffy red ski socks sticking out of my grey running shoes, lopsided glasses and hair swept up in a can’t-be-bothered-at-9a.m.-with-a-full-day-of-travel-ahead bun…
The girl is eating the same sandwich I’ve just ordered…
“It’s surprisingly good, like something your Mum would make,” she says.
She’s heading back to NY, moved there two months ago. I tell her I’m from there.
“But you don’t have an accent!”
I ask what she’s doing there, how she managed to get a visa…
It was easy, she tells me.
Yeah. She’s a musician. The lead singer of a band that has been pretty successful. She got a 3-year visa. She’s signed with Sony. Just breaking out solo—and so far it’s going well. That’s why she’s here, in fact. She is on her first solo tour. Last night she played in Melbourne to a sell-out crowd! She’s equal parts exhausted and elated, and understandably chuffed.
There’s no pretense, but she’s not ashamed of her success either… She doesn’t seem bothered to have to explain who she is. Katy Steele. From Little Birdy.
Oh yeah I’ve heard of you!
She asks me the usual airport questions too.
I tell her I've just resigned from my bread-and-butter part-time job and hatched a grand plan to freelance about development issues…from Mongolia…
Mongolia? She repeats.
Yeah... I was bored, I needed a change, I wanted to write in a new way, challenge myself. It’s remote enough that not many journalists go there, but still safe…
I don’t have to keep explaining. She gets it. She’s neither incredulous nor impressed.
We're both in the midst of our own individual creative transitions, brimming with excitement and doubt and possibility.
“It’ll work,” she affirms. “You’ll make it work.”
We part ways...
Three years later:
I can't say Mongolia worked or did not work, only that that single trip on its own did not propel me in the direction I expected. I wrote some stories, I left earlier than I planned, moved back to the States, reacquired that accent as if it had never gone...Three years later I’ve started this blog.
I’m reflecting on the highs and lows and all the random people I’ve met so very briefly over the years. Some homeless, some on the brink of fame like Katy, others past their fame…some just ordinary people that I’ve shared some common experience with…
I wonder what that Little Birdy chick is up to.
Here is the Facebook status update that greets my search.
“My mother always says ‘If I haven't heard from you in a while, it usually means you're going good..’
Damn straight. My music is going down yet another path, with me at the driver’s seat honking the horn so loud that you can hear the vibration. I cannot tell you how many ups and downs I have gone through to get [to] this place right now. But wow, I am a different human being. A real woman. A proud mature woman with galloping dreams. Dream big! X”
I know exactly what she means...
Here’s an interview recorded earlier this year when Katy was briefly back in Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/thedoctor/blog/s3729197.htm. She’s gone independent, writing and producing her own work, new album out. Hearing her muse about the creative process and the long pause between albums, that chance encounter seems even more uncanny to me.