11.19.13cube

The 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67, was a World’s Fair held in Montreal, Canada from April 27 to October 29, 1967. It is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century, with 50 million people attending over the summer and 62 nations participating, including the USSR and the USA. It also set the single-day attendance record for a world’s fair with 569,500 visitors on its third day.
I had just turned fourteen and my parents took me for a week’s summer vacation to the Fair. (No, I didn’t actually run away to San Francisco for the Summer of Love. That wouldn’t happen for two decades, and only in my mind, when I wrote and researched Summer of Love, the novel.)
The Fair was absolutely amazing, embodying the ebullience, optimism, prosperity, and embracing of technology of the mid-Sixties (despite the underlying dark realities of sexism, racism, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War).
It was in the early afternoon on Wednesday when my mother and I were looking for the Czechoslovakia Exhibit to see the Glass Show. The Glass Show was staged only twice a day, we’d heard it was wonderful, and wanted to see it.
I’m not sure where my father was—probably resting back at the hotel—my mother was consulting her map of the Fair, and tugging on my elbow to hurry when suddenly I saw a man standing before me, all alone.
He was tall and slim, in his mid-twenties, with a very pale complexion and longish black hair. He was dressed in a charcoal gray suit and—a knee-length purple cape.
He was looking around in wonder at the Fair—we all were. I got the distinct impression he was also looking around in wonder at why everyone was ignoring him.
Because Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had just been released and he was one of the most famous people in the world.
I thought, “OH MY GOD IT’S PAUL MCCARTNEY.”
I was struck dumb. It was as if a mythological god had stepped in my path. I couldn’t even say to my mother, “Oh look, mom, there’s Paul McCartney. He’s all by himself. Let’s go and say hello.”
Anyway, what would I have said to him? I was just snarky enough at just-turned-fourteen to have said, “I loved your music as a child, but I kind of hate Sgt. Pepper.”
It was true. As Walter Jon Williams has pointed out in his excellent blog, the Beatles were constantly evolving creatively. They had evolved way beyond my young teenager’s tastes. I was not alone. The music critic for the Rolling Stone hated the album, too.
My mother tugged some more on my elbow and we made it just in time to the Czech Glass Exhibit. We entered a dark theater with a full-sized movie screen. They played some jazzy classical music and lit up the screen, which consisted of glass cubes that spun around, reflecting myriad colors of light. That description can’t do justice to how dazzling the show was.
At the India Exhibit, my mother bought herself a silk sari in turquoise, scarlet, and gold. At the Canada Exhibit, she bought me a silver charm shaped like a maple leaf to go on my silver charm bracelet.
Three days later, we were back in our family house in a Cleveland suburb. My parents had gone to bed. I stayed up, watching TV, waiting for the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny came up and did his usual introductory routine. He sat down at his desk and said, “Before we go on with the show, we have a special guest.”
Out walked a tall, slim, dark-haired man, wearing the same charcoal gray suit, minus the purple cape. He sat down in the guest chair to thunderous applause, and Johnny said, “Thanks for dropping by, Paul McCartney. What have you been up to?”
Paul said, “I’ve just spent a week at Expo 67, the World’s Fair in Montreal. It was fantastic.”
So there you go. The Universe provided me proof that I hadn’t been hallucinating.
Do I regret that I hadn’t the courage to go up to him and say hello? There are deeds not done and misdeeds that have had far more consequences in my life, but yes of course I regret it. Still, the experience, the moment, confirmed by television (so Sixties) has enriched my life in some small way. And now I can share it with you on the Internet (so 2020).
Happy 78th Birthday, Paul (that was June 18, I believe).
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