Monday, March 1, 2010

Hugging Schneider

My friend Chris got us tickets to see Rob Schneider at the Tempe Improv. Chris is on a meteoric rise to fame and glory in Hollywood and he’s working with Rob Schneider, the comic movie star. He’s no small stir. The guy’s been in our living room a hundred times.

Malcom and I drove to Tempe. I get nervous as a passenger so girded myself with a Xanax while I applied my makeup before leaving. I’d bought a new top for the occasion, it sparkled. So together with the blouse and the pharmaceuticals I was ready for the night ahead. By the time we arrived the lights inside were already low and the crowd had beat us there. We were seated up front, very VIP, right next to the stage. I looked up the nose of the emcee when he took the mic, a funny looking guy, skinny with wild hair, heavy black frame glasses and an Adam’s apple I’ll not soon forget. After him followed another funny man. Sitting that close almost made us family. I could smell his cologne and see the small tear in his jean’s front pocket and I wondered what kind of wages he made and if he had anyone in his life who might suggest a new pair of pants. When he was finished with us, the emcee bounced back up on stage and with wide arm gestures and a throaty howl, he introduced RoooOOob Schneiiiiiiiiider.

After a loud surge from the audience, he came up on stage: nice blue jacket and pants, prayer beads around his neck and sleepy blue eyes. He found his way to center stage and for an instant looked us over once and we did the same with him. “I know,” he lowers the mic stand, “you thought I’d be taller.”

There I sat in my chair, close enough to shine the guy’s shoes and I thought: you better wait one god damn second. I always say that when I greet my many fans. What the hell?

My seat sat lower than the stage itself, which was almost table height, so I’d been placed at a visual disadvantage for sizing him up any sooner, but once he got talking and the room settled down I heard my wee beacon go off. It signals when my people are near.

Right now in my life I live with all tall people. Even my kids are a foot taller than me, so hugs are done on tippy toes, with my cheek pressed tight against their chest. I’ve been hugging or kissing a tall man for almost 35 years, and for the most part it’s been Malcom. When I don’t stand on a chair to kiss him, I’m bent backward like a gymnast, like a comma, like a drunken close-parenthesis.

Rob Schneider went on and made me laugh, which added points so I forgave him for stealing my opening line. He was far more centered than I’d have thought. I didn’t note the frenetic energy expected. He was steady, smart, funny and even said the C word and totally got away with it. Everybody loved him.

Once the show finished Chris collected us along with a small huddle of people to spirit away and meet Rob. We climbed dark stairs with worn caution tape on the treads and made our way down a dark hall and wound up in a room high up, overlooking the seats and the stage. The room was black. Lights were recessed and dimmed, the dark carpet needed vacuuming. We huddled around, awkward. Had I taken three more Xanax I’d have been right at home.

Malcom sought the periphery and stood tall against the back wall, lighting it somehow, his quiet smile on low beams. We shook hands with Chris’s other friends and small talk had ensued when Rob joined our circle. He smiled humbly and greeted us in quiet tones. He shook the men’s hands and they nodded big, tight smiles. He leaned in to embrace Mrs. Valentino, Chris’s friend. She’s white haired and her form is nicely quilted. She stood about 5 foot 1 and knew this hugging business well, I could tell. They totally hugged it up. Now I’m thinking, isn’t this the coolest thing, a famous movie person risking croup and disease just to be nice. He’d finished his rounds when he leaned in toward me.

To ease things, I reached for the guy’s shoulders and tipped to the left so he’d know which way to bend. Seemed the least I could do. Then Rob Schneider hugged me too. We were a perfect fit. I mean it. The whole thing was great, I can’t lie. Nor can I remember hugging a grown man who fit me so well. I’m still stunned.

The hug lasted maybe three or four seconds and I found myself looking this guy right straight in the eye. My mind changed gears, my world context changed.

Everyone chatted about what I can’t say, most of us secretly awestruck and wondering why. In ten minutes the meet and greet wound down then came the big good bye, with still another show to go, and people shuffled about as Rob repeated the hand shakes and gave Mrs. Valentino one more good squeeze and a smooch on the cheek before he squared up for me.

I say wait, and step out of my shoes and drop three full inches. Barefoot, I’m now far shorter than our movie star and I hope it makes him happy. Short guys have it tough. So I go in for the hug, step right up and put my feet next to his, flat on the floor. This was a straight up ventral-ventral exchange. Our sternums searched for each other. My chin on his shoulder, I’m neither comma now nor inebriated parenthetical. He’s mine, nose to toes. I give him a bitty smack on the cheek and know I want to stay right there, but back away. A tiny snap I feel inside. A bookmark.

I wish we'd danced real slow.

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