I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to this post. I could use the excuse that I've been reproducing and that the past year was just insanely busy, but my life is always insanely busy and that never stops me from saying what I want to say.
So instead, I'll suppose that I wanted to let enough time pass before I even brought up the subject because when it was all happening it seemed to weird and foreign that it embarrassed me to even bring it up.
Now, it just seems like, "Something weird and interesting that happened last year," so here goes.
After a series of events at work last summer, my face ended up plastered on a giant billboard on IH-35 in north Austin. And on a local TV commercial. And in some print ads.
It was an ad campaign our newspaper did to highlight people in the newsroom and, I suppose, ingratiate us to the community a little. I was one of about seven people (some in pairs) who were part of these ads. There was a months-long build-up to it and it all started with me committing to be a part of it in the first place, which itself was a leap of faith.
The idea, I was told, was that we'd be doing slam poetry against a white backdrop. A guy I really don't like at the Austin Chronicle had just written an article mocking our paper for a column that dealt with slam poetry and the last thing I wanted to do to open myself up to ridicule by some bitter, unloved hack at the weekly rag who already has an axe to grind with us.
But partly because I was asked and also because a friend of mine was responsible for writing the content of the ads, I went ahead with it. I had lots of second thoughts. I freaked out a little. When I had to parade a bunch of clothes (not my own) in front of several coworkers and film people like I was shopping with mom for back-to-school clothes I wondered if there was any way I could bail.
I felt goofy at the photo shoot.
I felt 10 times goofier at the video shoot, even though the company that was doing it for us had a very talented director, a really professional crew and even a nice little food spread laid out for an all-day Saturday session.
Then -- as sometimes happens in life and you have to just go with it -- it turned out better than I expected. People seemed to really like the ads. When I'd go to happy hour events, my friend Wesley would introduce me as, "This is Omar. He's on a billboard."
If I were single, that would have been a fantastic way to meet women. I don't know why I never thought to buy myself billboard space in my early 20s.
Seeing the billboard in person, parked by the side of the road, was so trippy I chose to just ignore it and take some photos. I felt incredibly self conscious standing there with a tripod and camera as people drove by, some schmoe taking a picture of giant picture of himself.
The NPR segments I've been doing are a much more high-profile thing, but it's radio. I never seen the listeners. I never know where they are and, although I get lots of feedback, I don't have to see myself over those airwaves or worry about what I look like out there to people who don't know me.
But, at the same time, I find that as I get older the opportunity to take risks and do something out of my comfort zone (that doesn't involve creating children) become fewer and fewer. I'm glad it all happened and that I took a leap of faith, but it made for a strange 2009. At least I've got lots of visuals to remember it.
One of the print ads:
A banner that was near our lunch room (and which scared lots of co-workers and lunch servers):
OK, now I don't want to look at any of this stuff again until at least 2011.