The Sign of Liotta • 12 November 2007

A star is like an omen. Like an albino cow trundling through the herd, it marks a moment. Gives you an excuse to stop and say: what does it mean?

Usually, nothing. Sissy Spacek in Axe, Sally Field in the lobby of a Beverly Hills oral surgeon, Adrien Grenier driving west on Santa Monica Boulevard in a Prius. You’re tasteful about it, let them be as much at home in this town as you, let it lend an extra touch of the surreal to your life here.

Sometimes I’ll make something of it, though. Like when Yancy and I passed James Brown standing outside the Petit Four on Sunset. I’d just visited the grad department it UCLA to check things out, even though I’d sworn I’d never live here. James Brown was wearing an iridescent green suit so intense that Yancy picked him out a block away. Green means yes.

What does it mean when you brush past Ray Liotta as you secret your first salmon steak in five years away from the meat counter at the Westwood Whole Foods? I instantly had images of mobsters and ruthless slaughter. Of reducing your friends to ground chuck on account of a foul mood.

And of meat hooks, yes. We had a meat hook for some reason suspended above the factory floor at the Bristol Bay fishhouse where I drove forklift and tweaked the roe from piles of dead salmon throughout the summer of 1997. The only two times I ate salmon that summer, and maybe the first times ever, were when the cocky Japanese owner brought a prize king steak over for the factory foreman. Who I was seeing. Each time, he took me up to the office with a batch of fresh wasabi and we ate the king raw. The second time he said, “I’d like to hang you up by that meat hook out on the floor and skin you.”

What? I have fallen for a horrible psycho killer?

But I guess that is something Ray Liotta – Mister “It would be nice to do a movie where I didn't have to choke the girl to get her”—would say too.

Me and my salmon exited stage right, me wondering if this meant I was about to get a big testosterone infusion or turn into a mobster or start seeing people as sides of beef.

As it turned out, none of the above. Dinner was quiet, simple, and nice. It tasted good and I experienced no cognitive dissonance at all. The next morning, the strangely intense dairy cravings that had been with me for a week were gone. In their place was a rock in my gut.

My body just did not know what to do with it. Saturday was heavy and fatigued, and if you must know I finally went and rested (what one does in the rest room) around three. Sort of. Practice on Sunday was heavy. I weaseled through a bad nakrasana (always the bellweather) when nobody was looking. Oh well. Salmon experiment inconclusive.

Then just now I googled Ray Liotta to check on his size, which the other night I noticed was hilariously small (not that being small is funny or anything). Either he’s bribed the IMDB or he really is six foot and has a shorter, fake Ray—the one I saw at the meat counter—impersonating him out and about in Los Angeles. (The guy at the checkout saw him too: it’s not just that I was protein-deprived.)

Was it a faux celebrity sighting?

Well, what does that mean?