I can’t seem to let this one slide. So I’m gonna get it off my chest.
The morning after an exceptional wedding in Brooklyn, Rob had flown early back to Oregon and I packed up the hotel room, fuzzily pounded a mimosa, threw on my backpack, then set out to walk the Brooklyn Bridge by myself for the first time. It was hazy and cool and I was feeling awesome, bouncing along watching all the selfies happening and dodging bikers.
In the above photo, just before that drapery, is the scene of probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life that happened a minute or two after taking this.
Shortly afterward, I would come upon one of my favorite actors of all time, ambling down the path in bright blue kicks, with somewhat of a limp. I was about to lap him, chugging along with my ponytail bouncing, clutching my hat to my chest. I had a few yards to close before we were side by side, with little time to think. But I knew what I wanted to do, and I hastily opened my mouth without even formulating the sentence first.
I just wanted to close the gap.
I wanted to make that rare personal connection founded on chance and common ground—to let this total stranger know how small I thought the world was.
My dad does this, and it’s one of my favorite things. Every waitress, ticket taker, person with a UVA hat on—he manages to find out something about them, or some commonality. It’s like tossing out a line to a perfect stranger who’s bobbing around in the same ocean you are. I don’t know why it feels so good, but it does. We left lunch the other day knowing all about the raucous Saturday boat trip booze cruises of this amazing Boston, Mass-born waitress.
This isn’t always necessary, but when it happens, it makes life better. Little moments become bigger things. Torches.
So this was actually my second time seeing Michael Shannon in person. If you don’t know him, Google him. I saw him once before, in 2005 I think, when I was walking home from the bus stop in Chicago. We both got off at North Ave, and, much like this day in Brooklyn, I found myself walking behind him on the sidewalk, a few yards behind. We parted ways when I went to the grocery store, but I looked for him every day after. Since then, I’ve followed his career. Not super closely, since I’m more a music than movies person, but it was more a benign sense that, if he were on a project’s roster, I could say “This is gonna be good.” He’s totally badass, if you aren’t aware. I don’t watch TV, but I do watch Boardwalk Empire. Because when I saw he was in it, I thought, “This is gonna be good.”
I’ve always sort of felt like “I knew him,” at least, more than just the tenuous “he’s famous so I know him” way, after our one-sided encounter that day. I ever remember what I was wearing. It was spring, and I had on black flats, jeans, and a long trench coat.
He’s a Chi-town native, and I think we lived in the same neighborhood; the Steppenwolf Theater was just down North Ave.
I wanted to make this connection. I’m sure loons approach him every day, but can you imagine getting to be the one person who gets to stand out in this person’s memory? For saying something like:
Hey, I’m sorry to bug you, I just wanted to say—we used to be neighbors in Chicago. Small world. We were on a bus one afternoon, and got off at the same stop. 8 years ago. Random, right? You miss Chicago as much as I do? Anyway, I’m a huge fan. And I dig your band. Enjoy your Sunday, and, who knows, maybe I’ll bump into you in some other city, in another 8 years.
Instead, I interrupted a complete stranger’s pleasant Sunday stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, speaking what can only be called Martian, totally bungling my once chance to throw that line out to sea, and then I ran away.
It went something like this. You ready? To be fair, he was completely kind, obliging and totally charming, all things considered. And so tall.
“Hey! Want to hear something funny?”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I saw you once, a long time ago, in Chicago. I was just walking along, and it was a city. In a city. I was walking, and came up right behind you. And now I’m walking again, in a city. In another big city. And I’m seeing you again! I’m walking behind you again.”
“Oh yeah? Are you eh, just in town visiting, then?”
“Oh, no… no. I’m here for a friend’s wedding. I’m from… I’m actually from Richmond, Va.”
“Yep! Well…. groovy. Bye!”
No mention of what a fan I am. No mention of his music. No small world connection back to Chicago. Complete failure to make my point.
Dear Mr. Shannon,
Sorry about buggering that up, and also sorry about writing a blog post about it now. I’m big on flogging myself, publicly when possible.
Sorry for interrupting your walk, although I’m sure you’re used to it. Oddly, I was trying to make your day better, not my own. That sounds incredibly vain, but I just thought—I don’t know. It’s something I get from my dad.
You’re a fucking amazing actor. And while I’ll probably always get a tiny bit nauseous when I see you onscreen (however mildly comforted by the fact you definitely don’t remember our awkward encounter), I’ll be a fan as long as you keep pulling out the creative genius.
Also, thanks for being so nice. You definitely softened the blow. I sort of maintain a shyness around strangers, and have often missed opportunities to say something to someone because of this. I’ve wanted to thank soldiers in airports for their service, shake a restaurant owner’s hand on the way out and tell them how incredible the meal was… After approaching you that day, which I still can’t even believe I did, I’m now relatively sure I can’t screw something up quite that badly again, so it’s gotten easier. So thanks for that.
And, don’t tell Rob, but that scene with the cash throwing and the “take off your nightgown” line…. Yea. Big fan.