Don't I Know You From Somewhere?
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Michelle is smart. Not just book smart but also creative smart and taught herself how to use a wood saw to make her own furniture smart. Also, an ambitious talent, trying to make it as an actress in LA in her twenties which is a constant game of pretending you know whom you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.
One of her many side gigs was at a very LA café on Melrose. It’s one of those places with a large gallery wall stuffed with frame-to-frame art prints meant to make you feel like you missed something in the news/pop culture/art class by not ‘getting it.’ One of the prints is nothing but a blank canvas and two pink paw prints and a little tag under the frame, offering to sell it to you for two thousand dollars. In this pseudo hipster museum with mismatched chairs, wobbly tables, and a dozen or so twenty-somethings in Converse hunched over MacBooks, Michelle can make thirty-seven different kinds of lattes.
The cafe is a funny place, sort of the Time version of a flyover state, as everyone, patrons as well as employees, are simply there until they hit it big. And some of them do. Every once in a while, a regular comes back to the cafe with their new agent or producer or purebred dog to humble-brag to the other patrons that they have finally made it. Michelle keeps tabs on people the best she can while organizing the two hundred ingredients stuffed behind the bar to make the aforementioned thirty-seven lattes. She swears she never forgets a face.
Los Angeles can crush even the brightest optimist’s dreams but can also surprise you when you least expect it. You end up stuck in traffic on the 405 and then find yourself on a date with the guy in the convertible who chatted you up from the lane next to you for 45 minutes. On a random Tuesday, you may end up at an audition and sit next to Steve from the original Beverly Hills, 90210 or maybe you had a meeting downtown and, while waiting for your car from the valet stand, James Woods asks (politely) if he can take your car for a spin around the block. (He brings it back.) That’s the LA where Michelle finds herself out to dinner with a small group of friends and a new friend, who, for the life of her, she cannot place.
Dinner is at a funky new place in Silver Lake with decent food and fantastic people-watching. The foursome sits together in the corner booth and drinks wine out of vintage juice glasses which is, everyone agrees, delightful. Peter, the man across from Megan, is in his mid-forties and smiles easily with a chiseled yet gentle face and a mop of dark hair. They have just been introduced by mutual acquaintances and Michelle is polite, but positive that she already knows Peter. This gnaws at her.
The server takes their appetizer order and Michelle squints at Peter,
“I think I know you from somewhere.”
Peter throws her the easy smile and asks where that may be.
“I swear, we know each other, do you go to the Equinox in West Hollywood?”
Peter shakes his head, the group toasts their cute little juice glasses, and breadsticks are munched. The conversation is very un-LA, no one talks about acting or agents or “concepts,” just enjoyable conversations about life and the world, and, yes, they will have another round. Michelle can’t stop staring. She knows this man. They never dated, he’s not one of her improv class friends, he’s… who is he?
Someone says something funny and Peter lets out a big, genuine laugh, showing all of his very white teeth.
“I just, I swear I know you,” Michelle presses with an earnestness that would put a kindergartner to shame.
"Maybe we’ve crossed paths somewhere?” Peter thanks the server for his salad with unnecessary charisma. Michelle ponders, not letting this one go. She dives into her memory to place his face. She traces back her week.
The Trader Joes on Fairfax? I’m there like every day.”
“Maybe?” Peter fills her water glass. He’s so lovely. The salad plates are retrieved, wine is poured, and the table discusses the newest documentary on Netflix that they all enjoyed. Entrees are placed on the table. Peter is about to take a bite of his fish when Michelle exclaims,
“The cafe! I know, we worked together at the cafe. I’ve probably been there the longest, but I remember working with you!” Michelle is stoked, proud of herself for pulling this sweet man out of her memory. The friend to her right throws her a look.
“What?” Michelle asks, “That was driving me crazy, I knew we knew each other.”
Peter doesn’t argue and the meal ends on a lovely note, most of all for Michelle who finally figured it out. The meal ends and Peter graciously picks up the check which surprised Michelle because that’s a very generous thing to do when you work at a cafe. All four of them hug goodbye and get into their separate Priuses. As soon as Michelle is buckled in with her GPS on, her phone rings. It’s the friend she just left from dinner.
“What?” Michelle squints at the highway sign. She should have worn her glasses. Oops.
“You asked if you worked with him at the cafe?”
“Yeah, didn’t we establish that’s how we knew each other?”
“No, you dingbat. That was Peter Gallagher.”
“Peter Gallagher. Grey’s Anatomy? Grace and Frankie? The O.C? The guy has been in everything and is constantly on Broadway.”
Michelle ponders this new information. Huh. She knows his face because he’s a famous actor, not because he stood next to her in a white apron making thirty-seven different kinds of lattes.
“Wow,” Michelle digests the news, “he was REALLY nice about all that.” The friend agrees,
“He’s like, the nicest guy in Hollywood.”
And Michelle drives off, wondering now if Peter Gallagher will ever come into the cafe.
If you still can’t sleep, check out Peter in Palm Springs, streaming on Hulu. Michelle and I really like it.