Skylar finished his first year of residency so as a reward they offered him 12 seconds off before he begins the next year. We decided to use those 12 seconds to take a quick trip to Santa Barbara where I could spend a couple days asking him such questions as "what's your last name" and "have you ever been to prison." You know. Basic getting to know you stuff.
Santa Barbara is a go to vacation spot for us because it's a very short flight from Salt Lake City and because Skylar worked in that town for over a year while we dated long distance and I would go out and visit him and never understand for a second to this day what his job was. So, nostalgia and stuff.
Yesterday morning we had a flight at negative eleventy o'clock and I swear on an army of Teletubbies I was so groggy that I legit don't remember packing my bag, getting to the airport, or a single second of the flight. Incidentally, when I arrived in Santa Barbara and opened my bag I found that I had packed twenty pairs of underwear and one pair of pants. It appears the exceptionally fatigued version of myself anticipates chronic incontinence and military grade panties.
Sorry for saying panties.
The point is, by the time we boarded our rental car at the Burbank airport and set off northward, I was a shell of a hot yawning man, and my dragon slayer to the side of me was no better off. I can tell when Skylar is sleep deprived because he only speaks in half sentences.
"Did you ever find out if . . . Oh wow I just realized if you don't . . . I think I read earlier that it's dangerous to . . ."
These used to alarm me. "It's dangerous to what? What's it dangerous to do? Sky?"
He would just look at me like I had hallucinated. "Huh? I didn't say anything."
Now I just let him mumble these phrases undisturbed, like a malfunctioning Teddy Ruxpin. I've gotten very good at tuning him out.
One of our favorite things to do when we visit Santa Barbara is to pretend we live there and are friends with Oprah. Or really any celebrity we think might be in the area. And that's why what happened yesterday morning, not thirty minutes after our plane landed, still feels a little like I imagined it.
We were in the car making our usual Santa Barbara fantasy small talk. "Did we make lunch plans with Megan and Prince Harry?" "Ellen texted. I think she knows we're in town. We can't blow her off again." "Did you say Whoopi was planning to go wine tasting with us Saturday?"
Then we spotted a plant store that looked cute and exceedingly out of our price range so we pulled over. Sky wanted to walk through to get some ideas even though he has already brought so many plants into our home that our house is technically now a rain forest.
We walked in and immediately—and I swear on an even more sacred army of Teletubbies what I'm about to tell you is the God-honest truth—Ellen DeGeneres was walking at us at high speed gabbing with a store employee about lawn chairs.
Now, this is one of those instances where I realize Skylar and I are very different people.
We legit nearly physically ran into Ellen. She acknowledged this and said a quick hello and Skylar basically speed walked to the far corner of the store to get as far away as possible. I stayed in the area because hot damn, I wanted to know what kind of lawn chairs are good enough for Ellen DeGeneres.
Skylar is afraid of celebrities because he is convinced he can't be normal in front of them. I've tried to explain to him that he's not "normal" in front of anyone and that's part of his charm, but so far I've been unable to persuade him. And note: we have met a few celebrities before and he has been perfectly delightful in those interactions, so I don't know where this is coming from.
Now, I had no intention of actually having a conversation with Ellen. Truly. My plan involved only inconspicuous rude gawking so I could make a note about what kind of lawn chairs I'm supposed to buy if I ever become a lesbian billionaire with a canceled talk show.
But lo and behold, two minutes later Ellen stepped over to me while I was pretending to admire the ugliest succulent I've ever seen and said "don't you just love these? They say you're supposed to cut off the flowers once they get this big but I just can't get myself to do it."
Now, I want to note that if you scroll up, you can find multiple paragraphs about how fatigued I was and how hallucination may have even been a part of my morning. That's all true. I was aware of that in this moment. And there were at least a few seconds where my brain thought: Eli. Let's do a sanity check. We haven't slept in a year. Do we really think we are having a conversation with Ellen DeGeneres about succulents at a plant store next to the highway forty minutes south of Santa Barbara on a Thursday morning at 9:15?
I decided this was, in fact, reality. So I engaged for a couple of minutes. We talked about plants? I told her about my lilac bushes and how I hate pruning them? She agreed? Then a baby showed up and she started oogling the baby? I think she bought four of the law chairs? All I know for sure is she seemed kind of tall.
I went and found Skylar after this and told him what had happened.
Now, look. I think I might be the easiest person in the world to win over. You could smile at me one time and I'd give you a kidney for it. I don't care what you're reputation is, if you listen to me talk about pruning my lilacs, which is easily the least interesting conversation topic in my expansive repertoire, you have earned yourself eternal loyalty.
"Ellen is a wonderful person," I explained to Skylar.
He didn't argue but he did point out I probably couldn't make that unequivocal and emphatic assessment just because she had an opinion in front of me about succulents. Then he suggested the possibility that she might be on a rehabilitation tour. I argued that if that's so, she is going about it in the least efficient possible way because it would take centuries to win over the public one milquetoast vegetation-themed conversation at a time.
Eventually we dropped the subject and ventured on to our little airbnb in the old part of town.
Later that afternoon Skylar sighed.
"What?" I asked him.
"I just realized," he said, shaking his head. "Ellen is going to tell George Lucas she saw us in town."
"Oh, shit," I told him.
"Ok. I'll shoot him a text and see if he's free for lunch."
~It Just Gets Stranger