on meeting Patti Smith, ever so briefly, at Bryn Mawr College

Friday, February 8, 2013

Last evening, at Bryn Mawr College, the multi-media legend Patti Smith was given the 2013 Katharine Hepburn Medal at an absolutely beautifully orchestrated event.

And oh, did she make us cry. From her heart, without prepared words, she spoke directly to us from the stage above about Little Women, Jo March, and a certain season when Patti was twenty-two years old and Katharine Hepburn herself came shopping at Scribner's, where Patti was working. Ms. Hepburn had tied an overlarge man's hat to her head with a green ribbon. She asked for help in locating books. While Patti escorted her down the aisles, Ms. Hepburn would note that Spencer (Tracy) would have loved this book or that, giving Patti (she said, so eloquently, so flawlessly) permission years later to shop for her own husband, even after he had passed on.

Sometimes people really are who they are on the page, and I have never doubted that Patti Smith is the Patti Smith of Just Kids, a book I loved so much (for its integrity, its soulfulness, its ungreen love, its sentences) that I forfeited meetings with writers at a certain Orlando, FL, event so that I could stay in my hotel room and read it. Woolgathering, too, reveals the Patti Smith we met last night.

Patti Smith has, she herself has said, always sought to lessen the distance between herself and her audience. She does. She did. Taking on the obvious questions from passersby during the cocktail and dessert hours, allowing us to exclaim over her, noticing us.

"I like your dress," she said, as I stood near, photographing my friend, Elizabeth Mosier, second photo down, above.

I very rarely like my own clothes. I will always love this dress.

Oh, and in case you are wondering? That bit of graffiti up there does in fact belong to me. I try to stay in the background, whenever I can. But sometimes you just have to tell someone how much you love them.

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