…he smiled to himself, adjusted his laptop screen downward hiding his work, turned his chair in my direction and told me…
MG – I find it curious how often I am asked that question..uhm…uh..
Me – Michael…(beat) don’t worry man I am sure you forget quite a few names
MG – (cutting me off) No I don’t. I forget very few names and even fewer faces
Me – Would you say you had spent 10,000 hours getting to that level of mastery with names? (smiling to myself as I knew I had him on that one)
MG – Yes, for sure. Imagine that I have been writing for the New Yorker since 1996 and imagine the number of interviews I have conducted; with and without the assistance of recording equipment
Me – What are you drinking?
MG – Excuse me?
Me – What kind of coffee drink are you drinking?
MG – Oh, this is a cappuccino with a little less textured milk, so really it is more like a latte’ without so much milk…
Me – Or a cappuccino without schiuma
MG -What was that?
Me – Schiuma, the Italian name for the foam. Italians don’t go down the path of naming things cutely just to make a menu sound better. I mean, an Italian will use many words to describe something, but taking license with the structure of the language seems pretty Anglo
MG – Why do you speak Italian, or do you actually speak it?
Me – I speak it, it is not always correct, but I like to speak
MG – Obviously
Me – Touche’…so look man, I know you’re busy and I apologize for..(girl walks over to the table)
Girl – Are you Malcolm Gladwell?
MG – Yes I am
Girl – I knew it. Today is my celebrity day. I met the mayor this morning at Randalls and now you. It must be some kind of something in the air
MG – (silent)
Me – (more silent)
Girl – (looking over shoulder at friends in line) I knew it was him, I mean no one has that hair
MG – (silent)
Me – (seething to myself – do not fuck this up for me you fucking sow. I knew some someone like you would come in here and bust my balls)
MG – (politely) well nice to meet you (he looks back at his computer)
Me – so why Houston?
MG – another question I am asked with some frequency. I get the feeling there is some derision among the locals and from my research..
Me – so you are doing research! when is next?
MG – maybe two years (his eyes light up) but I have started (as he begins to get up)
Me – OK, can I throw you a curve ball?
MG – besides asking me if I considered my own book a legitimate piece of writing?
Me – hey, I was really just looking for an ice breaker as I know you are likely exhausted by generally obsequious behavior and, I wanted to welcome you to Texas
MG – I am actually here quite often
Me – perfect, as I know you likely have an enormous following here and at least a reasonable social network I would imagine you get a little tired of the giving of yourself to everyone else’s cause
MG – are you suggesting that “celebrity” (he actually made finger quotes..oooh) gets tiring (really quirky laugh and head shake)
Me – I am saying you likely spend way more time with obligations than having fun. I have no idea whether you like food or wine, but my wife and I do a fair amount of cooking and we spend much of our time in Europe so dinner is a sacred space for relaxing, chatting, and especially unwinding…
MG – That is really kind of you, but I am only here through Thursday and I do have obligations
Me – But what if you didn’t?
MG – (sigh)
Me – I know you are looking for an out right now (laughing at my own brazen assessments of him) but I assure you we are fun. We just got back from Vietnam and we are all about some cool wrap and roll stuff with killer herbs
MG – Vietnam is fascinating in that people are so fascinated with Vietnam. I have been told I should see Vietnam if I would like to discuss the opening of the SE Asia corridor to commerce and how the Roman alphabet may have diminished the work ethic of the rice farmer in Vietnam
Me – Man those people have it all. Along the Mekong there is fruit in every yard. The old people build tombs on the farms so the kids can’t sell the property
MG – That would give a whole new meaning to buying the farm ahhahahah (really snarky nasally laugh, but he was starting to enjoy what I was saying at least)
Me – seriously, the place is amazing and we brought back the most amazing coffee from there. Why don’t you come for dinner I can show you some seriously cool photos
MG – You would think that I get offers to do dinners, etc. a great deal of the time, but actually I think most people assume that I have an obligation or that I would never consider such an offer, when in reality I have a profound enjoyment of dining in smaller settings and especially for food that is homemade.
Me – I would guess on the road you don’t get much of that, Just like winemakers and wine reps when they come to town are usually taken to the cuisine of their origin which probably blows compared to what they eat at home or they are carted off to steak which people equate with Texas even though the stuff comes from the Midwest.
MG – The steak served in restaurants here comes from the Midwest?
Me – Not all of it, but a ton of it. Come on are you being facetious?
MG – (wry smile) not entirely
Me – This is why you are here isn’t is? Why Texas Myths have powered Monsanto?
MG – So, how long have you been cooking and why do you know where winemakers are taken to dinner?
Me – (recognizing he was being evasive yet again) Since I was 11. I was in the kitchens with my grandmothers and watching them can jam, preserves, and pear honey. I helped make pickles, cook okra, and the world-famous hamburger steak; which I promise I won’t cook if you come. Seriously, I was inspired by my friend Helga to upgrade my cuisine many years ago and then while living in Rome I cooked with my buddy’s brother in Milan who taught me risotto. As for wine, I worked in that biz for 14+ years and did many nights out with tired, sad, winemakers who were sick of steak.
MG – Risotto is one of my favorite foods
Me – No way (getting way too excited) I have likely cooked 400 risotti in my time and it is my signature dish. Once again, you show up here on the day I tell the world I am going to write and now YOU tell ME that you love risotto and it is what I do best. Come on, I have put like 10,000 hours into risotto
MG – (Actually enjoying the reference) (big sigh)
Me – You want to come
MG – Would there be other guests?
Me – Do you want other guests?
MG – No, and in fact you would have to keep it under your hat that I was there
Me – You mean I couldn’t post all over FB that Malcolm was “outlying” low at my crib?
MG – uhhhh..
Me – Seriously, my wife is a nurse and has to see people like Barbara Bush naked all the time so I assure you discretion is paramount at our place.
MG – Well, if Barbara trusts you guys…(really nerdy laughing and so much so that I kind of wanted to move)
Me – so, you are in? How about tomorrow at 8?
MG – Oh, I thought you meant tonight
Me – It can be tonight..sure..tonight is perfect (Juliet I know will be working late and completely exhausted)
MG – Now I am inconveniencing you and that is not at all why I have accepted your offer.
Me – Look, this will be fun and I have a risotto in mind I actually already have the ingredients to make. Any allergies?
MG – Food?
Me – You’re allergic to food?
MG – funny…yeah..I don’t really eat much meat, but I since I am in Texas…(laughing again)
Me – OK, so I am making what I have. I have a new wine from Piedmont I just picked up at the Houston Wine Merchant, which is a great shop.
MG – I know that place
Me – Do you know Marcy?
MG – I am not sure
Me – You must not, because if you did, you would know. Do you have a car, do you need a ride? What part of town are you?
MG - I am actually staying with someone in Bellaire, and yes I have a car. This is Texas.
Me – Does 8 work for you
MG – Yes it does, do you mind if I bring a guest? I was supposed to have dinner with this person and it was my choice, so now that I have chosen you I do not want to exclude her if possible. Forgive me if that was an ungracious request.
Me – Are you kidding me? Cooking for 4 is no different than 3 and we have plenty of wine.
MG – She does not drink
Me – She can’t come…just kidding
MG – OK, it was very nice to meet you Michael. I must be on my way.
Me – Here is my address and phone number if you need anything at all or if anything changes. Please park near the building office and give me a buzz when you arrive and I will let you in.
MG – Is it not possible for me to get in without calling you? (seeming disturbed)
Me – It is, but you would have to wait at the gate till someone pulls in and then follow them, park in a visitor section and then follow them up the elevator because you cannot get in anywhere without a key fob
MG – Wow, I thought I was the one who needed privacy and discretion. It sounds like you live in a fortress
Me – This is Houston, we all think we need security and in reality, have little.
MG – Do you know the origin of the word Fob as in key fob?
Me- No, but I bet you do (laughing to myself)
MG – I don’t but the word seems strange.
Me – Today seems strange sir.
MG – Ahhh..well, I must be on my way and thank you. Thanks also for keeping this conversation and our meeting discreet
Me – The pleasure has been all mine and tonight will be fun for you, and I know the risotto will be worth it even if my wife and I bore you to death.
MG – (courtesy smile) Goodbye
Me – Ciao!
….to be continued