Local news is a strange business. It seems to run on a manic blend of frivolous nonsense and abject terror, undercut by periodic blasts of actual information. Yesterday, I was the nonsense.
Here’s a man who dances badly for a living. Let’s make him dance in front of a picture of Stonehenge. Isn’t he silly? Also, a blind woman was raped in an alley and an infant was eaten by the neighbor’s dog. Could your refrigerator be killing you? But first, here’s Tracy with the traffic update.
I have to imagine prolonged exposure to this must lead to total emotional paralysis.
Landed in Chicago around 9pm after hours in a holding pattern and an unscheduled landing in Rockford, Illinois to refuel. Spent all night staring at the ceiling. I was wired for some reason.
Wake-up call at 4:30am to go do the local news thing. Done by 9am. Back to the room. Passed out within minutes.
Up at 4pm, phone interview with the Chicago Tribune, sushi dinner, asleep again by 9pm.
Up at midnight. Boston and D.C. invites need to go out. Asleep again at 4:30am.
Up at 9:30am. Time for the Chicago dance.
The park put a cap of 70 people on our activites. We signed up 70 well before the cut-off time, so we quietly just kept on going.
We had folks from Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota…the guy in the sunglasses drove 8 hours from Kansas City, Missouri.
The woman in the last photo asked me, "Are you the star?"
"Uh. I suppose. Sort of."
"No, I mean are you from Dancing with the Stars? I came here to see Dancing with the Stars."
"Oh. No. I’m just some guy. And I’m terrible…Would you dance with me anyway?"
"…well, okay. I’m here."
Back to the hotel, off to the airport, flight to Toronto.
Had drinks downtown with some folks who want to do a TV show. More on that some other time.
Got some relatively normal sleep, then off to the Toronto dance.
Lots of parents with children.
In Vancouver there was none of that — all college age and up. Go figure.
Dinner with the TV show people. Went off with the editor to go see Shoot ‘Em Up. Has a better cast ever made a crappier movie?
The Toronto Film Festival is on right now. Loads of stuff premiering that I want to see. Mr. Clooney is here. The Jolie-Pitt meta-organism. Cate Blanchett. Sean Penn. All the usual washed-up has-beens.
I just saw Jessica Alba across the street from my Travelodge. She was on a red carpet with the dreamboat trio of Aaron Echhart, Timothy Olyphant, and of course, Fisher Stevens.
I had a camera phone handy, but these people do not need more photographs taken of them.
You know how in the Fantastic Four, the tragic hero of the group is always The Thing? All the other three can turn their powers off whenever they feel like it and appear to be non-super, but The Thing is big and orange and rocky all the time and he can never turn it off.
I’m watching this red carpet stuff and I realize; Jessica Alba isn’t the Invisible Woman, she’s The Thing. She can’t turn it off.
I’m about to equate myself with Jessica Alba, so please know that I’m cringing right along with you…
I go to these dancing events, and for the hour or two that they last, I’m known by everyone around me. It’s rewarding, it’s gratifying, but it’s not at all in my nature and the whole thing leaves me kind of rattled.
Today, one woman asked me why I don’t stay on peoples’ couches in each city. I’d be welcomed by many, went her logic, so why don’t I save money and enjoy some local hospitality?
My mind swirled with an elaborate answer. I wanted to give her some sense of the need for boundaries, the strain of being perceived as someone nobler than you really are, and the sense of expectation and obligation that can make you want to crawl out of your skin and go hide under a rock. Not to mention the fact that I can well and truly afford a hotel room, and much prefer the sanctity of a key card door lock.
"Maybe next time," someone offered — a concise deflection.
"Yeah," I said. "Maybe next time."
There’s a sense that being…known…by a lot of people is a step on the way to happiness. It can be a real goose sometimes, like the other day in Vancouver with the guy in the white suit and mask. And in Israel when Melissa and I were rushed through security and escorted onto the plane. That stuff is fun, absolutely. But at best, it’s kind of a novelty. And the damage it can do far outweighs the benefits.
Holding these events and meeting all the people is fantastic. But it takes a very centered person to handle it properly. I have to wrestle with myself to keep perspective.
Alls I’m saying is I have a very nice superpower, but I’m glad it’s off most of the time.
I have a tendency to come across in these rants as more tortured than I really am. My keyboard is not tear-stained. I’m just thinking out loud. And I’m thinking too much.