David Bowie said, "Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame / That burns your change to keep you insane." I don't know what that means at all, but I do know that fame is something I'm not sure I want.
Fame comes in many forms. There's well-deserved fame that comes with, say, saving people from a burning building or inventing the Internet. There's the entertainment celebrity, famous for acting, singing or both, or who is so attractive no one notices they can't sing or act. There's the 15-minute variety, fodder for Jay Leno - your Buttafuocos, your Joe the Plumbers. New to the fold is the Internet celebrity, those who achieve Double-Rainbow-guy-level fame and make it onto "Tosh.0." And then there's reality show fame. Oh, Snooki.
I'm famous, I guess. It depends on what level of fame we're talking about. If you mean local journalist fame, I rank about a Jennifer Love Hewitt. My face is in the paper, but when people see me, they're all like, "So, what were you in again?" If you mean local scene fame, I'm about a B-lister, in that I'm everywhere, everyone knows me, and there's a million stories about me. Not in a Lindsay Lohan way. If you mean outside of a 20-mile radius of my desk, then I am just a regular person. Irregular, even.
Being well-known can be nice. Everybody knows your name. Every place is Cheers. You always have a friend. People vouch for you, help you out, have your back. If it takes years and years of going out, seeing, being seen, making contacts and connections, introducing myself and inserting myself into local history to be able to get into places without paying a cover, then my work here is done. Though being known has its drawbacks, I don't think I'll wander into Lohan territory any time soon.
My point of reference has changed over the years. For a long time, I was "that girl from Hot Topic." I was mall-famous! Every mallrat from Sears to JCPenney knew me. It's hard to outgrow your humble mall roots, especially when your hair is an easily identifiable shade. Then I was "Lee's girlfriend," which comes with the territory when you date someone with several Cecil B. DeMille-crowd-scenes-worth of friends. For a spell, I was "so-and-so's friend," and "that loud girl." Hey, at least they're talking about ya, right?
I eventually attained fame (or infamy) in my own right. Some of that comes from having an alliterative, easy-to-remember name. It also comes from being generally very bright and / or strange-looking most of the time. Some of it comes from being privy or witness to local history. Most if it, though, is just because I never shut up or go away.
I have a couple claims to fame. I was thanked in a CD by a major-label band. I was in a magazine after being photographed in the crowd at a Nine Inch Nails concert. I was on CNN for about a week after sitting smack-dab behind Barack Obama when he was campaigning at Youngstown State University (and I was chewing gum, no less). I was on the radio the other day, after being discussed at length by the DJs and alerted by text, as opposed to my ears burning. I called in; witty banter ensued. Speaking of radio, the time I was on YSU's Rookery Radio was the show's highest-rated episode to date. I'm sure they topped that by now, perhaps by having Pete the Penguin come on and chirp into the microphone. I have a YouTube credit - when you search "Cleveland" and "Patton Oswalt," you find me getting my you-know-what handed to me by the clever comic. I was even in a movie that will be released after the director completes roughly 10,000 hours of green-screen rendering in his living room. Look for my name in lights.
None of this makes me even remotely famous. Some of it is pretty lame. But I'm happy to have made a minute imprint on the face of the world, to have left some sort of small pop-culture impact on the course of human events. It's not exactly Snooki, but it's a start.