It started out as one of those days where I was the bug, not the windshield: a lot happening, most of it at fever pitch, and me, feeling like a pinball under a thin sheet of glass, ping-ponging fearlessly at high speeds between noisy, unflinching bumpers.
Of course, the above generally describes most of my days. But that’s hardly relevant.
In addition to the mental stress of an office deadline on the 24th, I had phone calls to place, a conference call to set up, a client in Tokyo awaiting word – along with a small committee of spectators on the related e-mail recipient list – of how we (rather, I) were next going to proceed in resolving a $3 million exemption deal; on top of that, I had to go downtown for an impromptu, emergency meeting with an inspector, his boss and a set of blueprints.
And it was raining, dammit.
So I left my office with paperwork for my meeting as well as some stuff for other Applications I planned on clocking in once I landed downtown. Since I was down to three dollars, I stopped quickly at the bank en route to Columbus Circle, which is the station from which I typically head down. I grabbed some money and hit the street towards the Time Warner Center. As I’m walking near the structure – referring to it as huge is an equal understatement to saying Paris Hilton isn’t very smart – I get a phone call from a client asking if I’ve heard one way or the other about the Fedex in connection with the aforementioned exemption deal. We talk for about thirty seconds before I advise him I’ll call him when I have info and make my way to the train and thereafter we exchange quick pleasantries and hang up. I pocket my phone and look up and the next thing I see is Anthony Bourdain strolling sorta-kinda toward/past me.
Without going into too much detail, those of you who have been here awhile know I have immense regard for Mr. Bourdain’s writing. His job title, of course, is Executive Chef at Les Halles in NYC, and he is for sure one of my favorite chefs, "celebrity" chef or otherwise. However, a burger’s a burger and a steak’s a steak. I’m far more impressed with what he’s written than his cooking, and his cooking is – admittedly – amazing. However, with respect to his writing, it’s something about his style – a combination of irreverence, self-confidence, self-effacing honesty and genuine respect for his peers and his profession (both, actually) – not to mention his ability to transform “food” into cuisine and a meal into an experience – that leads me to respect the guy.
Don’t get me wrong; if I spied Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton strolling by on some random afternoon, I’d nearly piss myself just for the opportunity to stammer their praises before they walked past me thinking I was mentally ill. I’ve had the chance to hang out with several of my “idols” – Robert Plant and Billy Joel, specifically – and while I was a bit star-struck in the presence of the former (backstage at the Meadowlands Arena after a concert on the "Manic Nirvana" tour), I wound up jamming with the latter and gave him shit (though not too-too much) when he picked up my Strat without permission.
Back to the present. So there I am – in the cool, misty late-morning outside the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle – when Tony, aka Mr. Bourdain, walks by. I say “Excuse me” in his general direction, not wanting him to think I’ve got a 9mm and a grudge. He turns and looks in my direction and I quickly force out “Mr. Bourdain?” Much to my surprise, he actually stops walking rather than simply waving and keeping on schedule. He might not have needed to be anywhere at that particular minute, but odds are good he might have had a meeting, an appointment or simply something more interesting to do than speak to some dude on the street. In either case, he stopped, I asked him a couple brief questions, let him know how much I respected and admired his work, and then quickly mentioned Les Halles. A friend of mine, Dave, and I were talking about meeting at Les Halles downtown (there’s two, one of which is on Park Avenue South in the 20’s, the other of which – the downtown version – is on John Street off Broadway), and I advised Tony I thought Les Halles on Park Avenue South was great and asked him if the John Street version was as good. I won’t reveal his answer but it was truthful, honest and he smiled at me as he said it. I thanked him and told him it was good to meet him; he thanked me, waved and went on about his journey.
As I went on about my day, I considered the number of “famous people” who I one day would really like to meet – not merely for a “wow, I saw Gallagher buying a hot dog on the street!” moment – to actually express how much I respect him or her and how he or she has been a major and/or positive influence on me. I’ve never really constructed that list, but I do know that if/when I did/do, Tony Bourdain would be on it, so I happily can check that off on my life’s Ultimate To-Do List. If I get the opportunity to meet him again, of course, I won’t complain; but I am glad I managed to let him know I’m a big fan of his, and more importantly, I can happily report that he seemed as down to earth, mellow and cool as he does in front of the camera, albeit a bit more reserved and somewhat more guarded.
It’s ironic, of course, that once he’d headed down the street (and I had sent Kaia a txt message advising her "I just met Tony Bourdain!!!"), the next song, once I fired up my iPod's random playlist, was “Limelight” by Rush.
It was a good day.