Starstruck at Safeway

December 22, 2008

I wrote recently about the fertile ground my neighborhood Safeway provides for observing people and things I’d otherwise never see. Passing through its doors makes me suddenly alive to the world.

That’s not what I was thinking this afternoon as I trudged through ice-encrusted snow to the grocery. Soon after entering, I saw a tall young man who looked familiar. Is that an actor from the HBO series Six Feet Under? The guy who played the the whacked-out character Billy?

Can’t be, I thought, as I watched him and two companions head for the deli counter. I moved closer. He spoke to one of two companions. The voice was unmistakable.

I’m not enamored with actors, but I always liked this character, especially his unpredictability and fits of rage. Unable to sleep a few nights ago, I turned on the TV and saw Jeremy Sisto in the film Broken with Heather Graham. Sisto’s character entices hers to join his world of heroin highs and lows.

I should have been content with merely spotting Sisto in an unexpected place and observed him from afar. I’ll blame it on the Safeway vibe that I ended up playing the starstruck fool.

“Hello, are you the actor from Six Feet Under who played Billy?”

Sisto smiled and confirmed my suspicion. I introduced myself, shook his hand, and expressed my appreciation for the long-running series.

“Your voice was a dead giveaway,” I said.

“Happens all the time,” he said, seemingly not put off by the interruption.

You don’t live in Portland, do you?”

“No, just visiting my sister.”

I can’t remember what I said next as I moved away and left him alone. Of course I thought of what I should have asked: why are you drawn to dark-side roles? Am I to assume that’s your nature? Then again, I’m no entertainment reporter.

It must be strange to be recognizable and prone to ambushes by strangers, I thought. (Not that anyone else seemed to recognize him.) But coming to Safeway is asking for it in my book. Like stepping into the glare of Klieg lights.

I feel a Hollywood cliche coming on: maybe we’re all actors on a big stage.