We're All Damaged

Friday, July 24, 2009

I See Famous People, Part 2

Someone asked me once what my blog, The Norman Nation, is about. I get nervous when I don’t know the answer to questions, and so I said that my blog is about how awesome I am, and then I ran away crying. In truth though, if The Norman Nation is about anything, it’s about the exact opposite of that.

If you’ve read all 52 of the blogs on this blog -- and, let’s face it, what else do you have to do with yourself? -- then you know that The Norman Nation is, at its core, one giant testament to my startling lack of social skills.

In my entry I See Famous People, I told you about my uncanny ability to spot celebrities and then, in turn, to make an ass of myself in front of those celebrities. Some people are good at math. Others can operate on a toddler’s brain. I, however, am skilled at the art of seeing Ben Affleck on a crowded New York City street and yelling, “That’s Ben Affleck!”

About a month ago, my wife and I were in a rural section of Turkey. This, obviously, was her doing. I didn’t even realize that Turkey really existed. I thought maybe it was an imaginary place, like Narnia or Cleveland. But there we were, in Turkey, being escorted into a restaurant. When we sat down, I immediately realized that the actress Frances McDormand and her husband Joel Coen (of the famous Coen Brothers) were at the table next to us.

Because I am the way that I am, I took a deep breath and prepared to scream "Fargo is the greatest movie ever!" But my wife stopped me. “Matt,” she stage whispered. “Seriously, don’t embarrass me.” Amazingly, I didn’t. Instead, I sat pretending to eat dinner and listened to every word they said until they were gone.

This would have been a crowning achievement in adult behavior if it weren’t for the events of the next afternoon. My wife and I were on a hike, trudging through some ruins, when, low and behold, we saw Frances McDormand again! She was touring with an unfamous woman; her husband wasn’t there. “Hello,” she said, smiling. But then her expression changed. “Hey, you two were at the restaurant last night. You’re Americans, too.”

I’m not sure how dramatically my facial expression changed, but internally I was dealing with the overwhelming thrill of being recognized by an Oscar-winning actress. The following is an unedited account of the conversation that followed.

Matt Norman the Idiot: “Yep, that was us. My wife and I are really big fans.”

Frances McDormand: “Oh, thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.”

Matt Norman the Idiot: “Wasn’t that restaurant wonderful? We really liked it.”

Frances McDormand: “Yes. Did you try the liver? It was amazing.”

Matt Norman the Idiot: “No, I didn’t. I’ve always been a little scared of liver.”

Frances McDormand: “Well, if you’re going to try liver, you might as well do it in Turkey.”

Matt Norman the Idiot: “Yeah. When in Turkey, right?”

I have no idea what compelled me to claim to be frightened of liver. And, further, I don’t know what “When in Turkey” means. Perhaps I was trying to make a pun on the phrase “When in Rome,” or, more likely, anxiety and stupidity simply collided in my over-excited brain and those senseless words were the result. Either way, Frances, unimpressed with my childlike attempt at small talk, fake-laughed politely and walked away, leaving me standing beneath the Narnia sun, burning with shame.


  1. awwww, celebs are people too. Remember that.

    Maybe she wasn't embarassed but instead wasn't sure how to respond to your amazing, witty reply. She's a celeb so she has to be the best and you outshined her I am sure... I would have been interested to know what it was she intended to discuss with you about the restaurant and being American before the incident tho. Oh well...

    Take care and chin up, Matt. One day you will be a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and someone else's poor husband will be feeling red faced for making a dorky retort to your conversation while feeling simultaneously eclipsed by your brilliance. I am sure of it!!


  2. Think about it this way: she started with the stupid comment "You're Americans, too." (Remember "I See Famous People, Pt 1?")

    Most likely, she realized how idiotic it was to talk about Turkey liver (that is, liver eaten while in Turkey) in the middle of an historic experience. Like you, when she realized how stupid it was, she ducked and ran.

    I'd think of this as a little personal victory. There's at least one person in the world more awkward than you, right?

  3. Wow, I can't believe you actually met Frances McMillen.

  4. I thought the Norman Nation was the one place that Cleveland would not get made fun of. Looks like I was wrong.

    Dan O.

  5. Oh, stop. You're always charming (says smeltzer).

  6. The heart of rock n roll is in Cleavland