I hate exercise; it’s boring. But, you gotta! To motivate myself, I plug in my earphones and walk while listening to podcasts streamed from NPR’s “Fresh Air”. It is my pathway to sheer brilliance. The subjects are incredibly diverse, and Terry Gross is an extremely well informed, in-depth, and sensitive interviewer. So, as if by magic, I end up learning about stuff that I did not even know or care about to begin with. Suddenly, I do know, and then I do care.
On a particular night in June 2012 while listening to the podcast, I fell in love. Terry was not even doing the show. It was Dave Davies, one of Terry Gross’ colleagues, who was talking with the actor Alec Baldwin. My overall impression was that I liked Alec Baldwin. He amused me, and I admired the diversity of roles he has mastered over the years.
The interview explored facets of his character that I was not otherwise privy to. “30 Rock” was coming to an end, and Alec was reflecting upon his years of acting on a TV series in contrast to his years of making films, and his life in New York in contrast to his Hollywood years. He seemed able to look at himself dispassionately, and there was a glimpse of a maturing sense of self. In other words, he was like me. We had so much in common!
For example, we both loved the same people- Woody Allen and my fellow Canadian Lorne Michaels. Alec admittedly knew them a little better than I did (which is not at all). Alec and I both loved classical music. He admittedly knew more than I, and hosted the New York Philharmonic show on WQXR, the classical music station in New York. Alec interviewed many musicians, exploring not just the history of their performances but asking them to reflect on what music meant to them. My parallel experience did not involve classical music; I interviewed retirees about the meaning they found in their communities and hobbies.
Both Alec and I can laugh at ourselves, although admittedly he has more to laugh at. I have never punched any paparazzi who tried to take a picture of me; I would just be flattered. His remarks about kissing Russell Brand in the movie “Rock of Ages” were both hilarious and revealing. He spoke of loving Russell Brand because he was so funny and intelligent. Of course, Russell is a guy and Dave Davies asked Alec what it felt like to kiss him. Alec responded by admitting he enjoyed kissing Russell much more than most of the actresses he had to kiss in the movies. I have reached a point in my life that a peck on the cheek from a dear friend is far preferable to one of the passionate ‘tongue down your gullet’ kinds that I used to crave. So, all in all my interpretation was that Alec understood that looks and sexuality are not everything. As someone once said, looks fade, but funny is forever. Alec was developing perspective, aware that he was aging, but he saw it as an evolving process.
Therefore, it was a perfect match. Even our names had a certain ring; they seemed to go together: Alec and Alexis.
I imagined running into him on the streets of New York. I would be wearing my Dominican University baseball cap, casual clothes and walking shoes. I don’t know what he’s wearing, since I would be way too shy to look him in the eye and therefore can only see his shoes. But, I would summon up my courage, march up to him and say:
“I cannot look you in the eye and I do not intend to be intrusive, but I am a fan of yours. Actually, not just a fan. I am dangerously in love with you. Your voice, your sense of humor, and your often-pudgy frame. I have to say that I am also quite wild about your shoes, which are the only things within my gaze.”
Alec: “Well, thank you. And, what is that logo on your hat? Did you go to that Dominican University?” Me: “Well, yeah! Why would I be wearing it otherwise? If I didn’t go there I would wear a hat that said Stanford or Harvard, wouldn’t I?”
Alec: “So, where is this Dominican University? ” Alexis: “In San Rafael, California, just north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge.” Alec: “Did you graduate?” Alexis: “Of course! This hat and my diploma is all I have to show for my thirty thou!”
Alec cups his hand under my chin, looks me in the eyes (my only remaining good part, other than my legs) and follows me forever.
The ringing of my cell phone, which is also my iPad and the deliverer of my podcasts, disturbs my fantasies. Me: “Hello?” Friend Judy: “What are you doing?”
Me: “I am on a walk with my podcasts. I have been listening to Alec Baldwin. I am in love!” Judy: “I hate to break this to you, but he just got married! And, to somebody way younger than he is.”
Me: “How could he? We had so much going for us!”
I returned home and opened the Sunday New York Times. Judy was right; Alec did get married. To a 28-year-old yoga instructor. 28? Yoga instructor? Not even his yoga instructor. He saw her at a restaurant, said something like, “I should know you,” and gave her his card. After an appropriate passage of time and after thoroughly confronting the age discrepancy, she called him. What was he thinking? Where was this the mature, in-depth guy that I had been listening to? Didn’t he remember that looks fade, but funny is forever?
The simultaneous podcast, reverie, and jolt of reality become enmeshed and consequential to my life. I have thought about it constantly. Perhaps, the juxtaposition of Judy’s call in the midst of my reverie made my daydream become a pivotal moment. Rationally I, of course, realize that Alec’s marriage to an attractive 28-year-old non-intellectual is not a betrayal of me. If anything, it is a betrayal of himself, or at least of the Alec Baldwin I had created in my mind.
I Googled Alec the other day. He and the 28-year-old were walking down the streets of New York (perhaps the street where we “met”) and multiple photographs recorded a possible heated discussion (on his part anyway). They are walking yappy little dogs. Alec is dressed in jeans, a tee shirt and comfortable shoes. She, obviously pregnant, is wearing a dress and a sweater and, I swear, five-inch stiletto heels.
I know why he looks upset; it is bloody obvious. She is six months pregnant, walking the dogs in stiletto pumps. Isn’t she a yoga instructor? Doesn’t she know about balance and harmony? He is saying to her exactly what I would be saying to her: “Why in hell are you wearing those stupid shoes? You can’t keep up with me and you can’t even keep up with the dogs! You are just teetering along. What were you thinking?”
Alec, I hasten to remind you that when we “met,” I was wearing sensible shoes, just like you.
This is a true story. At least, it is true that I walk, that I listen to podcasts, that I fell in love with Alec Baldwin, and that I got a call from my friend Judy, who told me of Alec’s marriage to a 28-year-old. The weirder part of the story is that my imaginary conversation is, well, imaginary.
LONDON, DECEMBER 28, 2016
I grew up, he didn’t. I am at the newsagents in Dolphin Square and I see Hello, a British magazine that resembles a glossy superficial magazine in the United States called People (I think). What drew me to this magazine is its cover (I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but what about a magazine?) Specifically, there is what promises to be an Exclusive Interview and photos of Alec and three kids, and the 28 year old who is now 32, I guess. So, Alec is announcing that they are “creating our own Christmas traditions.” Oh, how the mighty have fallen! I, of course, remember the story that I have written. So, I spring for the two pounds and take it home to read. It is very difficult not to throw up. It is so pathetic. I have made massive changes in my life. I’ve risked everything, lost and gained, learned a great deal, and have a certificate from one of the leading creative writing universities in the United Kingdom. What has this man done? Impregnated a woman three times, and the kids are not actually that attractive. He now stays home with them and gets no sleep. Oh, brother. Also, creating a tradition? Two of the kids are way too young to remember anything. Does he know nothing of child development?
I have been aware of his presence in the world, as I occasionally download his podcast. Here’s The Thing. I do admit that I am not that impressed with it. It is more gossipy than intellectual; the folks he interviews are neither thinkers nor philosophers and mostly babble on about their performances and other celebrities. I can see why now. He actually has not matured but rather he has regressed. The thirty-two year old has written a book on yoga- he says he wants her to be a success. What makes her an authority? How does she know how to write? How can you write when you are pumping out kids and having no sleep?
And him? Now he wants to stay home and read books. Well, honey with me you could have, but with this brood you got to be out there working. It is apparently the wife Hiliaria’s message that you have to be open to change, but how has he changed? The interview is all about their insular little family and what does she know? She owns and operates yoga studios. Before yoga, she tap-danced. Oh that’s helpful!
I am going to end this story with a new imaginary conversation with the man.
Me: What happened to you? I do not even like your haircut. Why are you trying to look so young, when you are not?
Alec: Hiliaria wants me to wear my hair this way.
Me: Don’t you have a vote? And you are actually looking fat. Sorry for the insult, but this is not good. Is it because you are getting no sleep, because of the kids?
Alec: I guess that’s what it is, because I don’t.
Me: Do you eat out or in?
Alec: In, because of the kids, but we do take-out a lot.
Me: Pizza or what?
Alec: A great deal of pizza.
Me: And what about the radio program and symphony, and what has happened to your show, the Here’s The Thing? The programming is not that good.
Alec: Hiliaria likes it.
Me: But what does she know?
That is the end of the imaginary conversation because quite frankly he bores me to death.