There was that time in high school when, on the way home from a speech meet half way across the state, the forensics bus pulled in to a diner in Belgrade, Montana, and we orators and extemporaneous speakers suddenly found ourselves gasping with awe at the sight–in real, live Aqua Netted flesh–of the members of rock powerhouse Night Ranger settling in to vinyl booths and weighing the merits of a Meat-Lovers Scramble versus the Country Fried Steak (side of hashbrowns). Working up courage that my gauchos and I didn’t know we had, I worked my way past the plastic menus, past the stuffed bears holding hearts next to the cash register, past the gumball machine featuring a sticker for “Jerry’s Kids.”
My progress across the linoleum tracked by all 12 eyes of the Lincoln-Douglas debaters, I landed at the Ranger table and presented, with trembling hands, a bare placemat to lead singer Jack Blades. For his autographical consideration. Tossing back his luxurious tresses, tugging the spandex (and a ballpoint pen) out of his crotch, he obliged.
As I watched each Ranger apply his own personal flourish to the water-ringed placemat, I was overtaken by a feeling that this moment–this crazy convergence of Jocelyn and Famous People–meant something. Through the act of walking up to Their Rangersty and standing for a brief moment in their orbit, it was like I’d actually been at their concert in Bozeman earlier that night; like I’d actually forced my way to the front row and pressed up against the protective line of bouncers; like I’d actually gasped for breath while waving my hands in the air and mouthing every. last. word. of “Sister Christian”; like, at the very moment that I shouted out “What’s your price for flight,” the drummer caught my eye and gave me a wink.
It was like, to put a finer point on it, I was famous.
A similar thing happened a few years ago, as my family and I sat in the Minneapolis airport at our gate, waiting to board a flight to Guatemala. Savoring my last mocha for a few weeks, I bent my neck backwards and attempted to suck the residual chocolate drippings from my cup–simultaneously spotting, out of the corner of my eye, romantic comedy actress Andie MacDowell sitting a few seats away, all curly hair and Southern accent on a cell phone. In the time it took her to say the words “I’ll bring a bottle of red wine, and we’ll just have a relaxing evening” to the person on the other end of the line, I transported myself, mentally, to her home in Asheville, North Carolina, and a night of stir fry, wine, and naughty stories of weddings, funerals, and mug shots shared around an oak table with her and former co-stars Hugh Grant and Gerard Depardieu. Thanks to her proximity in an airport waiting lounge, Andie MacDowell rubbed her fame on me. It smelled faintly of rosewater and croissants.
Isn’t this what people do? At least people who get their heads turned by celebrity, gossip magazines, and the taut pores of The Well Off? You know, shallow people with a hint of The Crazies? Like, hypothetically, me? We get a weird rush in those moments of chance encounter with Fame–we decide our lives have a whiff of importance because we once saw Heidi Klum place a box of Cap’n Crunch into her shopping cart (Mind you, I never did, but wouldn’t that be so awesome? I would totally take a break from reading Tolstoy long enough to gape at a super model touching food because, by extension, a Heidi spotting would also imply that Seal could one day write me a song and sing it at the Grammy Awards, an event that would merit Valentino designing me a custom gown, and I think we can all agree that there’s nothing more attractive than an unknown vaguely-heftyish middle-aged woman stuffed into a sweetheart neckline and a clinging bodice, teetering around the red carpet in a pair of Louboutins that serve to highlight the leg veins that are developing varicosely).
I’ll admit that my brand of Crazy might be more extreme than most–I not only considered myself lit by fame when Al Franken, on a fundraising tour of the state, walked past me in the Holiday Inn parking garage and said, “Hi,” but my life took on Magical Shimmer by Association because my husband once shared an elevator with Tour de France winner Greg LeMond (picture me in the yellow jersey as I lead the peloton up the Alps!), and I briefly believed that I was legend of jazz when my girlfriend Colleen ran into Cab Calloway in a Wisconsin airport. Colleen also had a chance run-in with children’s television star Mr. Greenjeans, which felt, from my viewpoint, like I’d just stuck my tongue down Captain Kangaroo’s throat.
So, yes, I’m a celebrity nutjob of the first order, but even those who are more grounded in–how you say it?–reality buy in to a certain amount of “If I visit Princess Diana’s memorial, then it means she was more special to me than she was to all those sods who have never made the pilgrimage. In my small way, I own a piece of her. Plus, I follow Stephen Colbert on Twitter; we share something intimate.”
As Galileo knew early on, it’s human nature to stare at the stars.
All of this is preamble to the fact that I’m about to be even more famous than the time my mom took me to see Richard Nixon step out of the plane on the tarmac at the Billings, Montana, airport, and he waved to the crowd for a minute, an act that, several years later, made me feel complicit in the Watergate tapes.
The way I’m about to be famouser is this: our neighbor in Ortahisar asked for some help with potting a bunch of annuals; Laura does this every year, but filling her home with beautiful color is particularly important this year, as a reporter from the New York Times is coming any day now to interview Laura about her amazing home, a compound that she and her Turkish partner have conjured out of ruins and over the course of years.
I was sick when the potting days happened (having been relegated to a rather different form of “potting”), but Groom and the kids headed over and played in the dirt. Once the work was done, I hobbled over to admire their efforts and to take a few photos of the place.
Thus, not only am I pretty much a photographer for the New York Times, this whole business of “I was at a place that’s being featured in a world-famous newspaper, and my husband planted those petunias” has me convinced I may also have been part of the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Of course, beneath all my nonsense is a grain of sanity. After getting the “cook’s tour” of the compound from Laura, after enjoying tea and conversation with her, after having had the best meals of our year at her home, after watching movies on her massive television screen, after being the beneficiary of her selfless graciousness on repeat occasions, I realize my quest to “know people of importance” is satisfied every day, all the time, by people like Laura.
She completely outranks Jack Blades in my pantheon, which is why I’m teetering down the hill right now on my Louboutins, heading to Laura’s spread,
a paper placemat in hand.
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