The mark of a true Washingtonian is the ability to say things like “over by Capital Hill” and “down at the Smithsonian” without gasping at the sheer governmental importance of it all. A Washingtonian would never do what I did, one New Year’s Eve, and walk over to Richard Gephardt at the next table in a restaurant to wish him well in the Presidential campaign. Fat load of good it did him, of course, but a true native or a well-assimilated transplant would be cool in the face of political superstardom.
Every city has these quirks. Bostonians don’t visit the Cheers bar; Londoners find those double-decker busses useful, not charming; and New Yorkers for the most part do not visit the Guggenheim. In Los Angeles, of course, you can tell the natives from the out-of-towners because they are way cool when they run into movie stars.
And so, one day last week, had you been in Long’s Pharmacy, you would have assumed I was quickly assimilating to my new home (unless you, say, read my blog and know better). Because, as I walked in the door, exhausted preschooler and hungry toddler in tow, and looked up at the checkout line by the front door, I did not swoon. I did not fumble for a pen to get an autograph. I merely gave a half-smile and a quarter nod in Henry Winkler’s direction before heading off to look for ice packs for Zachary’s lunch bag.
Winkler, too, would have assumed, had he thought about it at all, that I was being respectful and giving him his space. This would have been a gross miscalculation. The fact is, I was not entirely sure it was Henry Winkler. It’s not like he was wearing a leather jacket and waving out the window of the Cunningham’s garage. And, I am notoriously lousy at recognizing celebrities.
I am the woman who, early in 2000, stood next to Martin Sheen on the curb at National Airport. He looked oddly familiar, and as we drove away, I stared as I tried to place his face. He smiled and waved, so I did too. Then I turned to J. “That guy looks strangely familiar. Is he one of my old professors?”
Whatever my next career move, I am clearly not cut out to lead any of those “spotting the stars” tours.
And so, by virtue of my cultural idiocy, I will blend right in, respecting the rights of the stars to buy their cough syrup in peace. Unless I spot Rachel Griffiths. Girl, if I see you anywhere, you can rest assured I will drool all over you.