You see Broadway veteran and Damages series regular Philip Bosco on the street. You approach timidly, respectfully, and say, “Mr. Bosco, I have long admired your work, particularly your contributions to the Shavian canon: Man and Superman, Saint Joan, Major Barbara, Heartbreak House. Your Tony for Lend Me a Tenor was a sweet spot in an already illustrious career. You brought much-needed bluster and veracity to the films Children of a Lesser God and The Savages. Millionaire industrialist Oren Trask in Mike Nichols’s Working Girl: yes. Thank you. Thank you for your contribution.”
Your interlocutor gives you a long and puzzled look of incomprehension. When he finally speaks, it is to say, “But I am the liberator and first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.”
The actress Emma Stone (The Help, Easy A) invites you to her house for dinner. But when you arrive, you learn that the other two guests are actresses Michelle Monaghan and Jessica Chastain. After a few drinks, finding it difficult to keep the womens’ identities separate from one another, you start referring to all three as “dear”, or, more jocularly, “girl.”
An hour later, five more women, all of whom also vaguely resemble Stone, but at a slightly later point in her life, arrive: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isla Fisher, Ellen Pompeo, Sherie Rene Scott, Jayma Mays.
An hour later: Penelope Ann Miller, Samantha Mathis, Debra Messing, Milla Jovovich, Franka Potente, Cynthia Nixon, Julianne Moore, Melissa Gilbert, Molly Ringwald.
An hour later: Anita Gillette, Anne Margret, Swoozie Kurtz, Anne Meara.
At midnight Lucille Ball bursts out of a large eggshell located somewhere in the master bedroom.
You see the 19th century novelist and memoirist George Sand, whose dour visage is well known to you from your large collection of Penguin paperbacks, and whose celebrity was further stoked in your mind by repeated references to her in A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession and in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, such that you once had a little joke about how you were—like every other writer in the world, apparently—“possessed” by George Sand.
You walk up perilously close to Sand, anxious not to let this possession thing make a fool of you. To your surprise, Sand nervously catches your eye and starts trying to figure out the source of your acquaintanceship.
“Defense?,” Sand asks, to which you confusedly shake your head.
Sand asks, “CIA? Clinton White House?”
You stare uncomprehendingly.
“Public Policy department at Santa Clara?”
You apologize and skitter away, suddenly realizing that you have injected unnecessary distraction into Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s day.
You and a friend are walking down the street when, much to your surprise, you behold the father of our country. Because he is wearing a hoodie, the father of our country appears to have no hair, or to have pulled his signature downy frizz back into the garment in seeming homage to shower caps worldwide. You gasped upon seeing him—a nervous tic often co-incident with sightings of the illustrious. And now, as he approaches and passes by you, you decide to say nothing, opting instead to steeple your fingers and bow your head slightly in a hush of Asian reverence.
The friend you are walking with exclaims, “Dude! That is exactly the kind of respect that Albert Brooks deserves!”
You hear the wonderfully gargly rumblings of the brilliant singer-songwriter Tom Waits emanating from a barroom window. Desperate to make a good impression, you quickly Google him so that you can compliment his most recent album by name. The title, Bad As Me, prominent in your thoughts, you burst into the bar to pledge your troth, only to find in Waits’s stead a pair of engorged eyeballs and a hillock of blue fur. Damn you, Cookie Monster.
Henry Alford’s new book about manners, Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?, is available at your local booksellers.