People keep telling me I should blog about this story. Although I do write this blog and am on all social media, I am very private. I know! This started really as a way to keep people connected when I was really sick and it was too hard for me to talk on the phone and I was even too tired to text so many people.
Most people know I don’t play the lung card, ever. I actually never even tell people I’ve had two transplants or have cystic fibrosis. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, but I hate being the center of attention! It’s my biggest fear! Oh yes, wait I am working on a memoir. Well, everyone contradicts themselves sometimes! The only time I ever played the lung card is when I met Michael Jackson through Make A Wish. And that took me years! I tried every other way possible (for 8 years) to meet the most famous person on the planet. And I, nor anyone that had any degree of separation from Michael Jackson could make it happen. Everyone tried. Michael was my bright light when I couldn’t breathe. I can’t explain it to someone that has not been through it, but sometimes family and friends who love you more than life cannot lift your sprits as much as someone you don’t even know. Michael helped keep me alive. Finally as my last resort when I was 18 I reached out to Make A Wish and asked to spend the day with Michael at his Neverland Ranch. They even pushed me to pick something else but I did not give up. I don’t share that experience a lot, but everyone that knows me knows how special and life saving it was for me. Once in a while just the presence of someone can help heal your insides. I needed that day. I needed his brightness. And I am so lucky to have experienced him.
I don’t seek out to meet famous people. Michael was special. Michael is special. It’s true I have an unexplainable thing for Martha Stewart – not the prim and proper, but the funny unexpected Martha. I also have a really easily explainable thing for Mario Batali and his food. I spend a lot of time in Manhattan – this is where I’ve had both of my lung transplants and my team is there, so I’ve eaten at all of his restaurants. All of you know how much I love food and how happy it makes me. All of you know I was raised by a restaurateur who passed away 7 years ago. And food is one of those things that didn’t die with her. I eat the best food I can in order to still have food experiences that transcend losing her. I can go on and on about Mario’s pasta, I can tell you any dish I’ve ever had at any of his restaurants. I liked him before he was The Chew famous. I knew who he was way back in the day from being raised in food culture.
Mario is big on twitter. And back when my lungs were turning two, I wanted to do something really special to celebrate. Since my second transplant I’ve done as much as I can to experience everything I can. Life is infinitesimal. I’m generally not afraid to ask for anything. The worst anyone can ever tell you is no, or ignore you, that is worse actually. So I set out on what I called the Mario Mission to meet him at one of his restaurants to celebrate my lungs turning two. Someone asked me how I was going to celebrate and I replied: Mario Batali is going to cook for me. And they laughed. Oh, those small dreamers! I reached out on twitter because that is his big platform and I told myself I would tweet him (also known as annoy him) for 30 days before I would give it a rest. Well, on the 4th or 5th day he tweeted me back and told me to come on in! He would meet me! I have a pretty relaxed personality, very rarely do I get worked up either way, but the excitement in my house that day was high! We arranged a day and which restaurant I would come to and what time and he “would be there!”
My drive to Manhattan was anxiety ridden to say the least. My friend, Aly, who as you guys following on a regular basis know, lives in Manhattan. She met me at my hotel and we had a pre drink – you know nothing eases your nerves like a mini bar vodka. And maybe we had a few more pre drinks at a bar near Babbo.
I didn’t really know if he would show up. Not because I think he doesn’t follow through, but because I am familiar with how busy he MUST be. He must have a hundred things to do in any given day and I am just some person he doesn’t know that wants to celebrate my life by eating at Babbo and maybe having a face-to-face conversation. Wanting to meet Mario is not about aspiring to be Mario, wanting to cook, open a restaurant, or any of the reasons many might want to meet him. I wanted to meet Mario because Mario knows food. Mario, from what I can see observing on the outside, experiences life to the max and appreciates food to the max. I was taught something similar from my mom, who lived life to the fullest (cliché sorry) even with a sick child like me. We always loved life even when it was not easy. My mom allowed me to experience so many amazing things: many that included the greatest food and wine. I think Mario lives along the same vein. I think that is pretty cool. And I wanted to meet someone who shares the same life philosophy and also happens to be a rockstar in the kitchen.
When we walked in and I said my name to the hostess I knew immediately the staff knew who I was and that Mario was coming. I could feel it in the way they talked to me. They sat us at a special table in the back, where other people might not notice Mario or bother him. They were extra attentive. Now I was nervous! So we did what anyone would do and ordered a bottle of wine ASAP. The staff was so nice to us. We ordered our food and special goodies started coming out. I think at this point I was likely sweating from anxiety. Aly can talk to a wall, but I had this sneaking suspicion when he came to our table Aly was going to be silent for the first time ever. And yes this did happen!
I am going to make a long story short and say after our appetizers arrived Mario came over to our table and introduced himself. He chatted momentarily with us before leaving to let us eat our food and then seemed to get pulled away to one of the many other things he had to do that night. I can’t tell you the power of someone saying they are going to show up and then they do. There are a lot of people in real life that don’t do that. And here a very famous busy guy, that didn’t know me and said he would stop by to say hello via twitter did. Saying you are going to do something and doing it is very powerful. People can say what they want about Mario Batali but he did a very upstanding thing for me that puts and keeps him in a special category of ultra cool people.
In the end, sometimes a little outside inspiration can be life changing. Sadly it’s not always the biggest people in your life that can push you forward during a bad time or a hard day. But it is so important to find what that is for you (even those without a crazy disease) and to ask for help however you can. Most of the time people are willing to be helpful and even make your dreams come true! You would be surprised!
And thanks again Mario!
And thanks again Mario!