netninny has reminded me that I never reported back (not on my own LJ, anyway) about last week's lunch with the boy. Mea culpa.
So here's the scoop:
On Friday morning I picked up my co-winner Deb (an attractive, professional-looking woman in her forties, very pleasant) from her house in a neighbouring town, and we drove to the radio station to pick up the VIP pass. At the station they gave me the promised CD -- but as I'd feared, it was a copy of the Pernicious Idol Single, rather than Kalan's new album as I'd hoped. I believe I may have brandished it and yelled "CRAP!!!" as I was coming back to the van where Deb was waiting. Disappointment can be ugly sometimes.
After getting lost in the parking lot of the restaurant and coming through the wrong door, we ended up in the area they'd set aside for lunch with Kalan. As soon as Deb and I looked around the room, we feared we might be in trouble. It was packed with teenies and even a few pre-teenies plus a few longsuffering parents. I braced myself for lots of screaming and possibly a few embarrassing scenes.
There were also little bunches of helium balloons set up around the room -- pink, blue, yellow. It was cute and all, but didn't exactly scream "Take me seriously".
Noon rolled around and Kalan was still busy doing an interview back at the radio station, so we went ahead and ordered our meals. I was nearly finished eating when a couple of whoops and some excitable giggling to my left told me that Kalan had been spotted. Sure enough, there he was in all his plaid-shirted, sheepdog-haired, fearfully skinny glory.
I am not kidding about the skinny thing. I was worried about the boy before: now I am seriously anxious. If that kid loses any more weight, he won't have to worry about being seen in public because all he has to do is turn sideways to be invisible. He's already about the width of a playing card, and how his jeans (which were black, baggy, and very low-riding) stay up I cannot imagine, unless that studded belt is equipped with some mighty powerful magnets, or possibly held on with carpet tape. He was wearing the requisite couple of t-shirt layers under the plaid shirt, but you could still see the bones of his shoulders sticking out.
He immediately started going around the tables (felicitously beginning with ours), and talking to people, signing autographs, posing for pictures. And the whole time I was there, we ate, the DJ ate, the security staff ate, and Kalan's handler ate, but not a morsel of food passed that boy's lips. I felt sorry for him, although I've since been credibly informed that he actually eats a good deal and the skinniness is all about the metabolism, so maybe I shouldn't have.
As I said before, we happened to have chosen the very table that Kalan decided to start with, so after he'd finished chatting to, signing several items for, and posing with an adorable little fifth-grader and her mother (a woman who had appeared bored and disinterested in the whole thing at first, but perked right up and positively glowed after Kalan talked to her), he moved on to me.
"Hi," I said. "I'm Rebecca, we met at Sherway -- you signed the back of my t-shirt, the one with you in the cowboy hat that said 'Fear My Manly Hat'--"
"Oh, yeah!" he said, his face brightening with something that might have been recognition -- or just good diplomacy. "Yeah, that was cool!"
I threw caution to the wind, and pulled out the new t-shirt, holding it up for him to see. "Would you mind signing the back of this one for me?" I asked.
He spent a moment gazing at the picture and reading the text, then broke into a laugh. "Yeah," he said. "That's funny -- I like that!" And he signed it.
While he was signing the shirt plus a picture he'd brought with him (the "headache" pose in my icon), I went on to tell him how much I loved, loved, LOVED what I'd heard of "After All" and was really impressed with the song, even more so now that I'd heard he had a lot of input into it. He seemed genuinely pleased to hear me say so, and thanked me. Then I told him how I appreciated the way he'd sung "I Can Only Imagine" in competition, and he smiled and thanked me for that too.
Deb then took a picture of Kalan and I together, and he began signing a CD insert and photograph for her as well. As he was signing, I remembered a couple of other things I'd meant to ask him, and we chatted about those a bit. I also gave him a copy of Christianity: Opium or Truth? by David Gooding and John Lennox, since he appears to be interested in apologetics and I thought it might appeal to him. He seemed genuinely pleased.
"So," I said as he was about to move on, "are you waiting until you get back to Medicine Hat to get your hair cut, or what?"
He laughed. "I'm getting it cut on Saturday," he said.
"Good," I told him, and he smiled and went back to signing. Over the next 45 minutes or so, he worked his way around the whole room, spending time with each of the fans who were there, and displaying quite a surprising amount of patience for a jet-lagged, media-hounded nineteen-year-old who would probably have liked nothing better than to go back home to Medicine Hat, eat half a buffalo, and sleep for about a month.
During all this, I should mention, they were playing 219 Days in the background. On finally hearing the whole thing, I couldn't really find a tune on the whole album that I hated, except for AIAD, which, as I said to Deb later, is a tragic case of one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-othe
After that, Kalan started interacting with the line of fans who'd shown up outside the party area hoping to meet him, so Deb and I decided we might as well wander off. We got into our van and drove back home, a bit disappointed that we hadn't got an early copy of the album, but otherwise feeling that it had been a good time. The teenyboppers had actually behaved themselves very nicely (probably because their parents were there) and besides getting to chat with Kalan we'd been able to enjoy a nice free meal at the radio station's expense, so -- what's not to like?
And that, my friends, is the story.