I was standing in the beer aisle, leisurely perusing the selection in the fridge case, as I am wont to do, when I felt someone hovering behind me. I turned, noticed a familiar face and then returned my full attention to the beer. Upon turning around a second time, however, I realized that the reason that I had recognized the person standing behind me was because it was Johnny fucking Marr.
As I stood dumbfounded in front of the cooler, Johnny Marr walked off and began filling up a cardboard container with pre-prepared foods. As I watched him, I thought to myself about how unlikely it was that of all the places Johnny Marr might be at this moment, he was here, shopping at a Whole Foods in Washington D.C. Despite this fact, I didn’t doubt for a second that it was actually Johnny Marr, even though it wasn’t until later that I remembered that the Cribs (of which he is a member) were playing at the 9:30 Club that night. If you ever happen to see Johnny Marr in an unexpected place, you’ll know that it’s him because he looks exactly like Johnny Marr.
I started writing an email to my brother in my head about seeing Johnny Marr at the supermarket. It occurred to me that the email would probably seem pretty anticlimactic or at the very least, would be pretty short, since I had little more to say aside from, “I saw Johnny Marr at the supermarket”. It also occurred to me that when I retold the story of seeing Johnny Marr at the supermarket, it would appear that I didn’t have any proof that it was really him. I decided that even though I don’t normally do this sort of thing, I needed to introduce myself to Johnny Marr, if only to have a good story to tell.
After it looked like he had finished filling up his container, I walked up to Johnny Marr and asked if his name was Johnny. He was shorter than I had imagined, had a great haircut and looked a little surprised but replied that yes, his name was in fact Johnny. I apologized for bothering him in the supermarket and told him that I’m a great fan of his work, etc. He was very nice about it and set down his container on the edge of the buffet in order to shake my hand. I can’t imagine that Morrissey would have been nearly as gracious, were he approached by a complete stranger while shopping for dinner.
Johnny Marr then asked me if I would be coming to the Cribs show later on that night. I lied and said that I would try to make it, though in all honesty, I haven’t really followed his career post-Electronic and have never even heard the Cribs before (though I had briefly considered going to see them when I saw the show in the listings, if only to see Johnny Marr on stage playing a guitar). He remarked that they would be going on at 10 and I asked, “You guys are at the 9:30, right?” referring to the 9:30 Club. “No, I’m pretty sure we go on at 10 but I’d have to check,” he replied.
Then, out of the blue, he asked me, “Do you play?” I lied (again) and said that I did not but that I was a writer and that I wrote about music quite often. “Ohhhhhhhh,” he replied, rolling his eyes with the sort of half-mocking wit that only an Englishman could muster. In hindsight, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have said that, considering the adversarial relationship that most British musicians seem to have with the press.
I wished him luck with the show and he remarked that it “should be good fun” before walking off, which struck me as a very non-cynical thing to say, considering that he has been playing music professionally for longer than I’ve been alive. Feeling a sense of accomplishment for having been able to carry out a conversation with Johnny Marr somewhat coherently and without making a complete idiot of myself, I walked over to the produce department and leaned against a wooden display filled with vine-ripened, organic tomatoes. As I tapped out a text message to my brother (“I JUST MET JOHNNY MARR AT WHOLE FOODS NO SERIOUSLY”), I noticed that my knees were shaking. It can be kind of awkward to type in all caps on an iPhone, since you have to hold down the “shift” key, which makes it difficult to hit the “A,” “S” and “Z” keys, but this seemed like a situation where the extra effort was warranted.
Also, I was so starstruck that I forgot to buy a loaf of bread, which was the whole reason I had gone in to Whole Foods in the first place, and had to go through the checkout line a second time. It was worth the minor inconvenience.