At this point, people start knocking on the door. Napolitano's not about to be distracted from the digital show-and-tell. She yells, "Come in, thank you!" and continues telling me the stories behind the photos: This is a painting she purchased, this is the hotel in Nashville, this is her dog. When people start shuffling in with equipment and I look up, Napolitano grabs my arm. "Look, look!" She exclaims excitedly. "This chick is the daughter of Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas."
After a few minutes, we're surrounded by people, all engaged in various conversations about everything from the Navajo language (which Napolitano loves) to her next gig, which is in Santa Fe the following night. Before I leave, Napolitano and I agree to meet up again in the spring, when she plans to do an exhibit of her artwork at Victoria Boyce Gallery in Scottsdale.
I never told Napolitano about our disappointing encounter years ago, because it doesn't really matter now. I can now say something more to her than "Oh, my God, you're so great, I love your music so much, you're awesome." Now I can talk to her about stuff like the tone of her guitar, publishing rights, collaborations, and, of course, the weather. I've learned that it's easier to meet someone on common ground when you don't have them on a pedestal, and that people are people — even rock stars. On my drive home, I remember something Napolitano said after the beer-opening trick, when I commented that one of the great things about life is you're always learning new tricks.
"You can always learn new tricks," she said. "When you stop learning, you're dead. You can't put out anything good without taking something in. There's so much more to life than rock 'n' roll."