Entering Bud’s for lunch under a bright mid-day sun, my eyes adjusted themselves to the darkish interior as I was escorted to my booth. As I walked down the aisle, I almost stopped in my tracks as I passed by a group consisting of Jennifer Aniston, her boyfriend, newly single Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow. They were having quite a merry time, looking radiant and quite fashionably dressed. I knew it would be inappropriate to stop and stare, so I merely recorded their faces in my mind’s RAM, and continued on.
As if that wasn’t enough, on the other side of the aisle I spotted another group, whose eminence really threw me for a loop. Here, in Bud’s in Dixon, were George Clooney, Jake Gyllenhaal, Matthew McConaughey, and Matt Damon. But wait, I spied Tom Hanks returning from the rest room to join them.
I was beginning to think I was a bit out of my element, dressed only in shorts and T-shirt, and so I settled down into my booth all by my lonesome. Again, rather than staring, I made a big effort to concentrate on the menu.
Even the waitresses seemed Hollywood-caliber on this day.
However, my solo occupation of the booth was not to last. Asking if they could share it with me because all the others were taken was an attractive couple wearing sunglasses. I invited them in. As they removed their shades, I found myself sitting across from filmland’s power couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I had so loved them in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and managed to tell them so, declaring “There are very few movies I’ve seen twice and this is one of them.”
I tried not to fixate on Jolie’s shimmering, glossy lips and Brad’s mischievous eyes. “Are your children with you?” I asked, trying to sound knowledgeable (I do read a few pages of my wife’s People magazine from time to time). “They’re staying in Sacramento with their nannies while we’re out here for a few days,” replied Brad.
As we ordered, they asked me politely what I do here in Dixon. “Oh, I garden and write blogs and take pictures,” I replied, feeling I must be a bore.
But Angelina jumped right on the gardening thing, saying how she insists that Brad and the children eat fresh veggies. “We should come over and see your garden,” she said.
“Really?” Imagine my wife coming home from work and seeing Angelina and Brad in our back yard.
But finally my curiosity got the best of me. “This is such a small town for you to be visiting, and as a matter of fact, for all the stars here,” I said.
“Well … ,” said Brad and Angelina simultaneously, with Brad continuing, “I don’t know about the others, but I’m here because I’m thinking of directing a film which will be shot out at Morning View studios and in the countryside. Don’t tell anyone, but the working title is Tomatoes From Heaven. It’s about farmworkers who take it upon themselves to secretly breed a new variety of tomato that wins all the taste tests. And then big agribusiness tries to steal their seeds.”
“I’d like to grow that variety in my garden.”
“You know, the film may need a few extras who look like authentic local gardeners, so why don’t I take your name and phone down and give it to the casting person,” said Brad.
As I was giving him this information, I was so nervous that for the life of me I couldn’t remember my own phone number. “Let’s see, 707, 678, ah … 4 … ah … ” I was ah-tterly embarrassed.
And something stirred inside me just then, and I realized that I wasn’t in Bud’s at all, but … under the covers in my bedroom with the sunrise just beginning to peek between the blinds. Brad and Angelina had seemed so absolutely real.
After that dream, I knew I could never walk into Bud’s and see the place in the same light again.
I began to plan my day. It would be busy. First, I had to report to my job in Morning View LLC’s set construction department, where we were in the midst of creating spacecraft interiors for a sci-fi movie called Mars 2045. After that, I would report to my computer animation class elsewhere in the complex, so that eventually I could graduate to a higher-paying job. Finally, there would be the midnight screening of a nearly completed feature film to test audience reactions.
Yes, Dixon had come all the way from being a train stop with a couple stores and homes, to a quiet bedroom community, to a major film- and video-producing metropolis that outshone Davis and Vacaville. Kind of like tomatoes falling from heaven.