Think of a celebrity you would like to have dinner with. Write a note that just might catch that person’s attention enough for him/her to agree to the dinner.
To Mr. Tom Cruise
I’d like to tell you a story about a starstruck young woman on top of a mountain.
It was mid-September, 2013. You were vacationing with family in the Adirondacks and had taken a ride up to the summit of the mountain to share the spectacular lake views with your daughter. It was early, both in the day and for the leaf-peeping season, so there weren’t many other people around.
It was also my birthday. Well, the weekend of my birthday. My then-boyfriend (who I married several years later) had taken me on an Adirondack adventure for a couple days because I was going to have to work on the day of my birthday. We were both in school in the north country and I had grown up in the Lake George region so it was familiar territory, but a new experience to share together.
Without fail, I catch a nasty fall cold every year when the nights start to get cooler. It just happens to coincide with my birthday. That year was no different. I’d muddled through the week, regularly taking Dayquil or Sudafed to stave off the worst of my symptoms but I was pretty pathetic. I wasn’t going to let it ruin our weekend though.
The morning we were to head back to school, he had one more thing planned. The gondola ride up the mountain. We had no idea until we climbed into the carriage that you were there as well. The attendant gave us a heads up, though to this day I don’t know why or if it altered my initial reaction. My boyfriend and I joked that it was a prank. We had seen someone at the restaurant the previous night who had looked like another celebrity. Clearly it was a doppelgänger.
However, we also spent most of the ride up wondering “what if” and what we would do if we crossed paths. Neither of us is very extraverted and we were both raised to respect people’s privacy. We didn’t want to be “that guy” bothering the celebrity on vacation in the middle of nowhere. Even if that particular middle of nowhere felt like my own backyard.
We exited the gondola and made our way to the platform to admire the view. And to look around as casually as we possibly could to see who else was on the mountain with us. Part of me wants to believe we weren’t obvious about it, but I also know we are terrible at subtlety. Our first glance didn’t yield results so we situated ourselves on the railing and took in the view.
Then I heard your voice. You were pointing out an island in the middle of the lake below to your daughter. I recognized your voice before I even turned and saw you.
A disclaimer. I am far from your number one fan. Admittedly, I’ve probably watched less than half of the films you’ve starred in, and while I have enjoyed every one I have seen, I am strictly a casual fan.
I am, however, a huge fan of The Last Samurai. I’ve watched it dozens of times. It’s one of my all-time favorites. So when you spoke, I knew it was you.
Remember the part where I had a nasty cold and my head was already swimming because of the cold meds? We were in the literal middle of nowhere. What were the odds that of all the people in the world to run into on the top of a mountain in the early fall, we would cross paths with any celebrity, let alone you. It was surreal.
After a while, the kids ran off towards the trail that lead to the monument. It was just us on the platform. We think you knew we were internally freaking out but too shy to say hello. You had a roll of quarters for your daughter to play with the long distance viewfinders. Chuckling, you extended the roll towards us and asked if we wanted to look too.
I had a lazy eye as a kid. It was corrected and my vision is 20/20, but sometimes my right eye has trouble focusing. It’s mostly only when I’m tired, but sometimes looking through certain lenses can trigger it. Those viewfinders are hard for me to look through. My eye struggles to focus and I get a headache.
I said none of this of course. None of it mattered. My brain was reeling from the idea that Tom Cruise was offering me a quarter and I had to think of an excuse fast. It still gets the biggest laughs at family dinners during the holidays, and naturally every birthday since.
“No thanks, I like the view just like this.”
I avoided eye contact as best as I could while making this ridiculous declaration. It wasn’t untrue, I DO love the spectacular views without needing to zoom in on a particular point, but it was still a ridiculous thing to say.
Of course, on our way back down to the base, it occurred to one of us. “I think he was giving us an opening to talk to him.” A missed opportunity to be sure, but an entertaining tale at family gatherings. “Have you heard about the time Sara rejected Tom Cruise’s quarter?”
For years I’ve sworn I would write you and apologize for being so brusque that day. I did, in fact, know who you were. I am a fan, if not a superfan. And I do appreciate the gesture you extended to a cold-addled young woman on top of a mountain on her (almost) 24th birthday.
Notes: Every word of this is true. Now you know my shame. Tom Cruise offered me a quarter and I said “No thanks.” In my defense, my husband didn’t say anything either. We make quite an awkward pair! All this has reminded me I am overdue for a rewatch of The Last Samurai. Maybe when I’m back on hiatus? Ah well. Have a great night everybody!