A couple days ago, Noah and I pulled into a nearby horse farm where a lovely retiree sells produce from her quaint farm stand. She was making conversation, and noticed by my accent that I’m clearly not Southern. When people ask where I’m from, I unflinchingly say Chicago, then feel weird, like I’m somehow betraying my true roots. But my back-story is complicated. Most people have a carrot or parsnip (I’m from Detroit! I’m from South Bend!). But my roots are less carroty and more grassy. I have lived for extended periods and have strong ties to Northern Ireland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, and now Winston-Salem.
Maybe when new acquaintances extend an olive branch of interest by asking where I’m from, I should put a stop to it right away with a brusque “It’s complicated, can we just move on?” That way, I'll inevitably cut back on dreaded social mingling. Two birds with one stone.
All this is actually to say that because I grew up in L.A., one might expect me to be blasé about celebrities. But I’m not. I still tell the story of the time Jennifer Aniston brushed past me in LAX (she’s much shorter than you’d think, though her bodyguard dwarfed us all). And amazingly it’s gotten worse since moving to Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem is a smallish town, but it’s growing and it has a rich history, a huge arts scene, and a lot of prospects. We’ve hosted the Davis Cup a few times, for instance. And we’ve been a filming location for several good movies, including Junebug and Leatherheads. Great, right? HA. Both of these facts have brought me great personal anguish.
I work in a historic building that is now home to offices and a hotel. During the Davis Cup, Andy Roddick and James Blake stay in. this. hotel. And I haven’t run into them ONCE, although several co-workers have. Every time I ride the elevator — literally, every time — I envision the doors opening, these two amazing and attractive tennis players entering, and by the time the doors open again, we’re best friends. The End.
It also hurts that when I worked as an editor at the newspaper, we received a tip-off from a source in the newsroom saying the entire Spanish Davis Cup team would be across the street at Starbucks any minute. We ran across and scoured the place like idiots, then left disappointed. (Never trust a dodgy columnist.) Later we realized we had failed to recognize the Spain-team coaches standing in line. But who cares about the coaches? GIVE ME NADAL. I’d even settle for Ferrer.
But the really harsh blow — the ultimate kick to the crotch — was when George Clooney was in town with Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski for Leatherheads. I love George Clooney, and Renee Zellweger is great. But John Krasinski will forever remain in my heart as Jim from The Office. He is my TV boyfriend. (To my dismay, Amanda Peet is Noah’s TV girlfriend.) Which means that if John Krasinski ever met me and felt compelled to give me a kiss, Noah couldn’t say boo. This was my chance (although I was pregnant, I still believed it could happen. In fact, my delusions were certainly intensified by pregnancy). And guess what? I didn’t see ANY of them. Which I believe was The LORD's way of preserving my marriage — love triangles involving Jim from The Office only end in a cloud of pepper spray.
Until such time as a celebrity or sports figure comes to town again, I will be practicing acting cool, calm, and collected so I'll be ready. Like this lovely mother of three from Tobaccoville, North Carolina, who was too busy raising her kids to be star-struck by Clooney. I smell an Oscar!