I have a problem. As a kid I watched far too much television, and it gave me a skewed perspective on things. Like how fat guys with blue-collar jobs all get to have crazy hot wives. Or how if you get on an elevator with a pregnant woman the elevator will get stuck and you will have to deliver her baby. And how women won’t feel like you love them unless you give elaborate, over-the-top gifts for any and all occasions she might be celebrating.
This television addiction is why I believed I had a shot with the cutest girl in elementary school. It’s why I slam the ‘door close’ button anytime I hear a woman say ‘Hold the elevator!’ And it’s why I spent most of last December trying to get an autographed picture of Josh Holloway for my wife.
There are two things you need to know before I go any further:
1.) My wife, Katy, loves Josh Holloway. Or, more specifically, she loves the character he played on Lost, James ‘Sawyer’ Ford. This guy:
If you don’t know what Lost is, it’s basically a way to waste 100 hours of your life eagerly anticipating a mind-blowing revelation only to have your hopes crushed by a dozen people hugging in a church. (No, I'm still not over it.) Sawyer is the bad boy of the show. And my wife is a sucker for bad boys. That’s why she married me; the pudgy writer who thinks Pitch Perfect was one of the best films he saw all year.
2.) I tend to overdo it when it comes to presents. I’m wary of claiming this, since it’s a bit like saying, “Man, it is SUCH a burden being this good at saxophone.” But it’s true. I create scavenger hunts, I write rhyming clues, I over-spend, all of it. And each year I feel the pressure of topping the year before. It’s getting so that I’m going to have to either get Katy Han Solo’s blaster or figure out a way to bring back Firefly on a freelance writer’s salary.
This past Christmas was no exception. I wanted to top last year’s gifts and Katy wasn’t being much help. Katy is in her 30s now. Which means it’s getting harder to wow her with spectacular presents because she’s asking for boring adult things like a new showerhead or a tube of 12 billion dollar mascara because it doesn’t upset her allergies. There’s not a lot of room for dramatic gift giving. Which is why I hit on the autographed picture idea.
Katy had planted the idea without even realizing it. She was directing a show that holiday season, and one weekend, while we were working on the set, she came up to me and said, “Did you know Zach knows Josh Holloway?”
I did not know this. But I can’t say it surprised me. Our friend Zach was the kind of guy who could get in a taxi and become best friends for life with the driver before the meter had begun to run. True, Zach didn’t have a lot of Hollywood connections I was aware of. Not like Katy’s brother, Matt, who had attended film school at USC. Not like Matt’s roommates who grew up in and around the industry and took Matt along for spring breaks at Mexico estates with private beach access. But still, if anyone in northern Minnesota would know Josh Holloway, it would be our friend Zach.
Later that night, while Katy was
getting ready for bed, I typed out a quick text to Zach.
Then, radio silence. For the next five minutes. Had I crossed the friendship line? Zach and I were friends, but maybe not at the level where you can ask someone to humiliate themselves for a celebrity headshot. I was about to type out an apology when my phone lit up.
“I’ll do my best,” was all the text said.
And really, it was all it needed to say. The nervous feeling that had been blossoming in my gut vanished. Suddenly, I felt like I could do anything. Like this Christmas might just be un-toppable. And while that would prove problematic next year, in that moment my life felt like that scene where fat Jon Favreau starts chanting “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” If I could pull this off, my wife would swoon for me all over again. And even after nearly 10 years of marriage, that was still all I ever really wanted for Christmas.
A week went by with no news. So I checked in.
“Any luck on the Josh Holloway picture?” I texted to Zach.
“Not yet. But I’m working on it,” he replied.
But then another week went by. I had officially finished digesting Thanksgiving dinner. Black Friday had come and gone. Home Alone had been on ABC Family 14 times already. Christmas was approaching fast. I checked in again and got the same response.
The next thing I knew, it was Christmas, and there was no autographed photo under the tree. I bought her a new dining room table instead. And while it’s a really nice table, it can’t call her ‘freckles’ or eat a fish biscuit. So, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. But I didn’t blame Zach. He had tried really hard. I knew that. And it had been a big favor to ask. Probably too big. Especially considering what I found out later.
* * *
The following March, Katy and I were driving home from Minneapolis. She was talking to her brother Matt on the phone as I drove, and before long, the conversation turned to pop culture. And to Lost. And to Josh Holloway. And even though I could only hear her side of the conversation, I was able to piece things together in my head.
See, Matt’s roommate in L.A. is named Zak. And Matt’s roommate is the Zak Katy was talking about back in December. Zak – not Zach – was the one who knew Josh Holloway.
I had a few questions at this point:
1.) Why did Katy assume I would know she meant Zak, Matt’s roommate I had met a half-dozen times, and not Zach, the star of the play she was directing who was building a flat in the other room when Katy gave me the information that would launch me on my fool’s errand?
2.) Why the hell did Zach agree to this? He must’ve thought I was bat-shit insane. It was the equivalent of me calling him up and saying, “Hey, Katy really wants the 4th season of Castle for Christmas. Can you pick that up for me?” I was outsourcing my wife’s Christmas list and Zach had happily agreed to be my India.
3.) Was Zach the nicest person on the planet? Or was he concerned I was some sort of serial killer with a short fuse and if he declined this request I’d snap and attack?
I needed answers, so I called Zach.
“Hey,” I said, “So it turns out you’re NOT the Zach who knows Josh Holloway.”
There was a brief pause.
“What?” he answered.
“Katy told me that ‘Zach knows Josh Holloway.’ But she didn’t mean you Zach, she meant her brother’s roommate Zak.”
He laughed then. A lot.
And then he blew my mind.
“That makes sense now,” he said. “Because I didn’t think I had ever mentioned to anyone how I know Josh Holloway.
See, it turns out the Zack knows Josh Holloway, too. Or at least, he knows someone who knows the people who used to live next to Josh Holloway. His connection to the sexy bad boy Sawyer was a lot more nebulous than Zak’s connection, but he had accepted the challenge happily and had spent the month of December tracking down his friend and making her tromp over to Sawyer’s neighbor’s house and ask them for help in this elaborate telephone game of a favor. Sure, it hadn’t worked, but it had taught me a very important lesson. And the lesson is this: