I’m envious of all my friends who are in Malibu, California, this week for the Pepperdine Lectures. Okay, so I’m downright jealous.
Eating at Duke’s. Gawking at the Pacific Ocean. Scarfing down too many pieces of pie.
Being inspired, restored, refreshed.
Telling endless tales of their supposed celebrity encounters.
Well, my encounter was good enough to last me eight years.
In 2004 – my last time to attend the Pepperdine Lectures – I had gone with the Zoe Group to get coffee one morning at this little out of the way place out in the middle of a strip center near campus. But it’s Los Angeles, so you never know who you’re going to see.
The rest of the group sat outside, but my friend, Brandon, and I – being the only children that we are – decided to stay inside. We found a high table for two right next to the window where we could see the others, then got our coffee and sat down.
Our first alert came through a text message from one of the group, insisting that Nicolas Cage had just been spotted getting out of a black Mercedes coupe in the parking lot.
We immediately looked out the window to an otherwise reserved group of women – and men – going absolutely bananas. Short of jumping out of their seats to chase the man inside, whooping and hollering, all of their eyes were as big as saucers and they kept pointing to the door and mouthing to us – “it’s Nicolas Cage!!”
At least they didn’t scream his name.
Brandon and I remained calm as we watched this guy dressed in black, from head to toe, walk through the door.
Even through a black sock cap and huge black sunglasses, there was no denying it was him.
My heart started racing as I realized that the line passed right by our table and it was only a matter of time before the star of some of my favorite movies – classics like Raising Arizona, National Treasure, The Family Man, Matchstick Men – the guy who got his start in Fast Times at Ridgemont High– would be standing inches away from me.
I had to put my coffee down. No, just keep drinking, play it cool.
And whatever you do, don’t stare.
Poor guy can’t even go get a cup of coffee without being mauled.
Brandon and I tried to continue our conversation while we anxiously awaited “the passing.”
Meanwhile our friends on the other side of the window were a cross between caged spider monkeys at the zoo and first graders with ADHD at recess.
Before we knew it he was standing right beside our table. I could hear his black leather jacket crinkle when he moved his arms. I could smell his aftershave on top of a scruffy beard.
Not that I was staring. Teachers have great peripheral vision, you know.
Finally it happened and I think we made eye contact. It was hard to tell behind those dark sunglasses. But I smiled nonchalantly at him and said “hey.”
It was the kind of “hey” that says, I know who you are but I’m not going to act like those girls they always show in old clips of Elvis and Beatles concerts.
He said, “hey,” back and the smile was unmistakable.
And the voice. Oh my word.
I think he grinned mostly out of gratitude that we weren’t snapping pictures right and left, screaming in his ear, pawing his jacket, and saying stupid things in our finest Texas accents, like
“Hey. You’re that fellow from Raising Arizona, aren’t ya? I seen that. That was a good ‘un.”
He got his coffee and sauntered back out to the parking lot, got in his little two-seater Mercedes and drove away.
The spider monkeys regained their composure and sang beautifully that day.
They always do.