It was a rainy dreary day in February of 2001. I was living on East 55th Street only 6 blocks away from the United Nations. It was just six months post 9-11 and four cops were stationed on every corner along First Avenue. I took Ivan and I headed out for our usual afternoon walk right around noon. We started out east on 55th Street, right down First Avenue and right onto 54th Street. As we tooled along in the pouring rain I noticed a man walking toward us that looked remarkably like Sir Paul McCartney. I knew it couldn’t actually be Paul McCartney, as he was walking by himself – no entourage, no security, no fans – just a man that looked remarkably like Paul McCartney. As he passed me on the sidewalk I got a close look and it was Paul McCartney under that giant umbrella! I had just walked by Paul McCartney! I stopped dead in my tracks. What should I do? I couldn’t just pass on the opportunity to meet Sir Paul. I paused for a second and made a plan. I’ll just turn around and follow him. When he gets to wherever he is going, I will introduce myself to him and we will become friends. He’ll invite me over to meet Heather and she too will become my friend. They will invite me to parties and no doubt that is where I will meet my husband. I turned around and saw that the cops who were stationed on the corner of 54th and First had recognized Paul. They stood there for several minutes chatting while Paul signed autographs for them and Ivan and I stayed back about twenty feet so that we could have his undivided attention when he was done with the policemen. As soon as he continued on his journey down First Avenue, we followed. I felt like a full-fledged stalker. Over the years I’ve lived in New York, I have met over a hundred famous people including Donald Trump, Rudy Guilaini, Bill Clinton, Sharon Stone, Bill Murray, Brooke Sheilds, just to name a few. It’s always exciting and a part of living in New York that I love (these things probably don’t happen very often in Shomberg Illinois and places of that sort), but I’ve never been star struck – until the day I met Paul McCartney.
I sped up dragging Ivan at my side until we had followed him to the corner of 53rd and First where he stopped to wait for the light to change. I noticed passers by looking at him but they were probably thinking the same thing I had at first –It couldn’t be Paul – all alone like that, out in the rain on the corner of 53rd and First. I sided up to Paul on the corner as if I was waiting for the light to change as well. I looked up to my left and blurted out “Hi”.
He looked directly into my eyes and said “Hi”. To break the awkward silence he asked, “Is this your dog?”
“Yes”, I replied. “This is Ivan. Ivan, meet Paul.”
He chuckled, gave Ivan a pet on the head, and said “He’s very cute, I noticed him around the block”.
I stood on that corner soaking wet and mortified. If he noticed Ivan around the block, then he no doubt was aware that I had turned around and followed him to this corner.
“Then you know that I followed you here”, I said.
With another chuckle, he shook his head “yes”.
I had already embarrassed myself beyond repair and figured dinner plans were not happening so I asked him what I really wanted to know – which was where was Paul McCartney walking to, all alone in my neighborhood?
“Where are you going all alone in my neighborhood?” I asked.
“To Dagostinos to do a little shopping,” Paul replied.
“By yourself?” as if he was a two-year-old, I questioned him. “I would have imagined that you would have some sort of an entourage – or a personal shopper, or something,” I stuttered.
“No, a lot of people say that to me – but I’m not going to live that way.” he replied with a beautiful smile just as the light changed. “Have a nice day!” he said to me as he started across the Avenue towards Dagostino’s.
“You too, Paul!” I yelled, as I stood still in awe of what had just happened. I just had a conversation with Paul McCartney and he was as sweet as can be! OK – a mini conversation, but it still qualified. I was completely star struck for the first time that I can remember.
I decided not to follow him into the super market, as I didn’t want him to think I was a complete lunatic. Now that I knew he shopped alone in Dagostino’s there would still be opportunities to run into him again and if he could forget what an idiot I seemed like on the first day we met, dinner with him could still be a future possibility. My heart was actually racing and I immediately called my brothers Michael and Thomas, my parents and everyone else in my cell phone directory. I then went into every shop on First between 54th and 55th Streets to report my Paul sighting. It turned out that Paul was a regular in the neighborhood and all of the shopkeepers had their very own ‘Paul McCartney encounter stories to share. Some of them even went as far as pulling out 8×10 photographs of Paul that he had signed for them. Apparently he kept an apartment in the neighborhood. How could I not have known? All of these years Paul McCartney was walking the very same streets that I was and no one told me.
Several months earlier, Brooke Shields had stopped to pet Ivan on the sidewalk right outside my apartment on 55th Street. She was on the phone when she bent town to pet him on the head. She began telling whoever it was that she was speaking with on the phone how cute Ivan was! She gave him a full minute or so of affection before flashing that gorgeous smile and continuing on her way.
“When you seek it, you cannot find it.”
- zen proverb