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Of Recent Note

People I Wish I Knew

We asked: “Who are your would-be acquaintances, your potential best friends, your maybe-someday muses?” With hopeful associates living and dead, renown and unknown, the TMN readers and writers respond.

Getting to know one another is tricky. There are a number of hurdles, various stages of awkwardness, and a bunch of baggage brought to the community table. Even friendships can be difficult, but if you’re lucky, you make it through to the other side and soon you’re splitting popcorn. Here, we discuss the people we’d like to know better—those folks, famous or infamous, who are not in our lives, but should be. Tina Fey, are you listening?

 

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I wish I knew Peter Gabriel. As a teenager, So was a turning point in my personal journey through music. It influenced my tastes for years to come. Later, I admired the way he turned his lakeside recording studio into a global music business, one that was independent and had some integrity. More recently still, I’ve been much taken by his idea of the Elders, a group of important old folk whose opinions and experience we should value. It’s always struck me that, if I happened to find success as an international rock star, I’d like to make the most of it the way Peter Gabriel has. His house is actually not far away from mine. It’s just 15 minutes in a car from here to there. —Giles Turnbull

 

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My mother, Boston, 1972: It was rumored that she could rock a tube top when they were new and a miniskirt when they were considered sincere. She rode in a Rolls with local jocks, and sported a Bunny costume at the Playboy Club (a gig she abhorred) along with straight platinum blond locks and Marlboro Reds. Sounds like total trash, but it was the ‘70s and everything green was gold. Mom was in with the World Series Sox, and she dropped out of art school. It boggles me to think that in my salad days I was never as cool as she was, or as connected with the city I called home for 10 years—never making so much as a dent.—TMN Reader Justin Stone




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My fascination with the past has been with me since birth. I listened to the Beatles more than Raffi, I watched Singin’ in the Rain a bazillion times before I even knew what MTV was, my first love was Dennis Day and I was crushed when my father told me that he died before I was born (plus, that he was married). You would think that as I grow older my concept of reality would have sharpened; but I fully plan on marrying either Beethoven or Abraham Lincoln—or both. Therefore, I wish I knew a person with a time machine. And who doesn’t mind being used for said time machine. I’ll even pay him/her $10. We’d have a platonic relationship inevitably ending in me vanishing through the fourth dimension, waving sadly at my once-friend as I disappear with his/her time machine to pursue my two true loves. Please apply within. —TMN Reader Marieke Jackson

 

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Celebrities, even small-time newscasters and folksingers, can be a disappointment to meet in person. Anybody with some amount of popular renown will most likely be highly self-involved, insecure, and impatient around people of lesser renown. You can ask them about their work, what it was like to work with Lenny Kravitz on this last album, and not much else. It’s part and parcel of being a celebrity to have to isolate yourself from the world this way, unless of course you are famous for being mentally unstable. There are only a few people that are able to be successful while retaining some sense of schizophrenic paranoia about the outside world, out loud. Take for instance Antonin Artaud. If I wrote to him for guidance about being a poet, I wouldn’t get the meandering, navel-gazing of a Ranier Maria Rilke. I’d instead get a threatening call to arms against the mass hysteria of the Initiates who are trying to put down the rebellion of the Bohemians, possibly through the use of thought crimes. Hyper-literate lusty madness about who-knows-what. It may not be particularly useful in my attempts at becoming a poet, but I’d rather have rambling, inspirational cacophony than an instructional pamphlet for inspiration any day. —Llewellyn Hinkes

 

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For the past two decades I’ve been having imaginary conversations with David Bowie—or rather, real conversations with an imaginary David Bowie. It’s always during a solitary moment: I could be showering or driving or cleaning the house. I remember when it started: I was mowing the lawn, listening to “Ziggy Stardust” on my Walkman, and I asked imaginary Bowie—who was sitting, smoking on a patio chaise—what he thought of Bauhaus covering the song. I don’t remember what I made him say. —Andrew Womack

 

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“I want to be their best friend,” is a common utterance of mine regarding a variety of folks—examples include Sloane Crosley, Miranda July, Mindy Kaling, John Hodgman, and Simon Rich. I’m obviously drawn to people with the gift of comedy. On a subconscious level, I probably feel that being friends with funny people would somehow rub off on me, and I’d become clever in that subdued, high-minded, New Yorker kind of way. My favorite? Ana Marie Cox. As an early fan of Wonkette, I’ve always wished I could be as insanely hilarious on such short order. She LOLtweets from the White House (“ZOMG I’M IN THE WH ZOMG PUPPIES”), talks about how often she doesn’t wear pants (“Occurs to me that actually going to the WH will require giving up bloody marys and PUTTING ON PANTS”), and crushes on little-known-outside-the-beltway folks like Peter Orszag (“Orszag does not disappoint: ‘This is a package that is responsive to this massive gap.’ ALSO he rocks a button down collar. SWOON”). She is modest (on receiving entrance to a briefing: “Pretty certain someone in WH press office just has a wicked sense of humor”) and a real person with real insecurities and money issues just like everyone else (she actually auctioned off services in the form of personal emails and the like in order to cover what it cost her to finish covering the presidential campaign when Radar folded unexpectedly). Basically, she’s someone I relate to but also someone I wish I could be a little more like. —TMN Reader Jasmine Moy

 

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I wish I knew/had known Alfred Hitchcock. He just strikes me as the whole can of beans. —Bridget Fitzgerald

 

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I wish I knew Dennis Kucinich. He is one of those representatives who seems made for public office; he’s tireless in his fights against corruption and for justice; and if anyone in the House is speaking truth to power, it is the onetime boy-mayor of Cleveland. I would like to have dinner with him, Mrs. Elizabeth, and my boyfriend, and we could talk about Very Important National Issues, but it would be not at all self-congratulatory because the Kuciniches are not that sort of people. —Meave Gallagher

 

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Anton Chekhov, if only to join one of his open house parties in the Crimea with aesthetic debates over breakfast, actresses crying in the orchard, an itinerant holy man preaching from the sideboard, Parisian newspapers scattered everywhere, Chekhov at the center of everything, making sure tea and sweets are brought to the peasant child who arrived at the back door to have an injured ankle set in plasters by the famed doctor and writer. Crazy Horse, because even the Sioux thought the guy was out there. Milton Friedman, so I could tell him to shut his trap, that he was just right enough about the details to get the big picture totally wrong. Stalin during the 1920s, so I could sneak up and empty a pistol into the back of his evil greasy head. Mata Hari, because who in their right mind wouldn’t want to hang out backstage with Mata Hari? The “Old Man of the Mountain,” commander of the cult of Assassins, because anyone called the “Old Man of the Mountain” is worth cultivating. —Tobias Seamon




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I know I can’t be the first person who has wanted to know Joan Didion. I tried to introduce myself to her at a reading once, handing her my old hardcover copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem to be signed, explaining how I had discovered her writing at just the right time in my life. She looked up at me, ballpoint pen poised, and said “Name?” Nothing more. And still I hoped she’d ask me to lunch. There must be others who have wanted to be Joan Didion’s confidante, her mentee, to discuss writing with her over mahi mahi in Malibu. How many other women have fingered their way through The White Album, cut their hair into a bob, minimalized their wardrobes, and poured accounts of having migraines or wanting to leave New York into their typewriters? Or is that just wanting to be Joan Didion? —TMN Reader Zan McQuade

 

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About a week after the election, my wife came up with a new life goal for us, somewhere below traveling to Japan but way above a house in Positano: to have dinner with the Obamas. Doesn’t matter if it’s 2010 or 2040, we simply have the aspiration to sit down one day with the President and his wife, open a bottle of wine, and share spaghetti. I’d also like to buy Veronica Geng champagne (unlikely; dead), same with Colette. And Jeremy Brett! If I was in a room with David Suchet, I don’t think I could stand it, but I would absolutely Twitter about it. —Rosecrans Baldwin

 

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My survival strategy for most apocalyptic scenarios involves a nomadic life in Europe’s Arctic tundra—hiding away in a backwoods retreat is just asking for trouble when hungry gangs start marauding further afield. Nonetheless, as an insurance policy, I’d really like to know survival consultant and general end-times go-to-guy James Wesley Rawles. It’d be fun to spend time at Rawles’s retreat in the woods, shoot some guns, learn how to field-dress reindeer, and discuss tactics for every conceivable end-time scenario. His paranoid survivalist attitude would probably come across as little more than cautious, but it’s still a horribly selfish act of pessimism to remove yourself from society and stop doing your bit. My money is on Amazon tribes and Antarctic scientists for long-term survival, but Rawles is the guy I want to be able to call up when nuclear plague zombies start knocking. —Mike Smith

 

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I also want to meet Twisty Faster of I Blame the Patriarchy. She’s basically my hero and I would love to listen to her talk about anything she felt like saying. Considering this is fantasy, it’d be pretty great to happen upon Dick Cheney and be able to give him a big punch right in the face, you know, for the good of the world. Of course, being a person of violent emotions, rather than thoughts or deeds, this’d most likely never happen, even if the opportunity did present itself, but maybe I could kick him really hard in the shins a couple of times. —Meave Gallagher

 

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I know lots of people. Let’s be honest: I’m pretty popular. I have more than 500 Facebook friends, my iPhone has 700 numbers in it, plus I was a high-school cheerleader. Doesn’t that amount to popularity for life? Don’t answer that; the answer is yes. But there is one person I’ve been dying to know for my whole life. But she’s elusive, she changes her mind a lot, and sometimes I wonder if I know her at all. We used to be pretty close, in college, when all we had to worry about were rush-week parties, and other, smaller things, like papers and tests and stuff. But then we graduated and she abandoned all her plans and ideas. She has no roadmap, she has no goal, she just wants to exist for a while. I wish I knew how that fabulous girl turned into a confused post-collegiate chick who would rather wear pajama pants than explore the world. I would ask her, but my therapist says it’s weird to talk to yourself. —TMN Reader Hilary Davis

 

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For all of his movies and especially for Twin Peaks, of course I wish I knew David Lynch. But after reading Catching the Big Fish, I felt like he knew me more—or rather, that he knew the elemental energy that connects you and me and him and everyone else in the world. Though I may not know David Lynch, following him on Twitter makes me feel like I do. —Andrew Womack

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers