He’s got that raspy casino cough that is almost impossible to avoid if you’re unaccustomed to arid smoke filled Vegas. So he doesn’t sound exactly like Hurley. He looks like Jorge Garcia, but not exactly like the guy you see on TV. I don’t know whether that has to do with the makeup and lighting of TV, or if it has to do with the fact that I’m an idiot and can’t tell the difference between two entirely different people. When I first saw this gentleman walking around the poker room of the Bellagio I thought, wow he’s a dead ringer for Hurly, a character from TV favorite of mine, Lost. I imagine he must get that a lot.
I love Lost. It’s one of those great ensemble pieces where the entire cast is made up of fascinating people. It would be unpleasant to try and single out only one favorite character (that is if you pulled Ben, the empirically best character in the show, out of the equation). Still, if you had to pick the one character that you would feel most comfortable hanging out with, hands down it would be the burly and beloved everyman of the cast, Hurley, as created by the actor Jorge Garcia. So when this person who could be Jorge Garcia joins the table I am at, I can’t help but think it would be kind of neat to play poker with him.
However, since it is New Year’s Eve, I figure that he is not Jorge Garcia but rather someone who simply looks like Jorge Garcia. My logic comes from holding celebrities to a higher standard than I hold myself. While I might have nothing better to do than hang out and play cards on New Year’s Eve, a celebrity of Mr. Garcia’s stature would not enjoy anything so normal.
This makes perfect sense right up to the point that they fill the other two empty seats at my table. Three to my right is Lukas Haas, and directly beside me is a kid with scruffy stubble, a baseball cap, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth that I eventually recognize as Leonardo DiCaprio. I decide to reevaluate this New Year’s Eve logic.
I go to Matt the young floor person for the game I’m in and I ask him what initials the Jorge-Garciaesque player clocked into the game with. Matt says “JB,” which is not the “JG” of Jorge Garcia. Still, in a noisy casino, unless you see it written down, “JB” and “JG” are for all intents and purposes, the same things. Since this doesn’t help, I flat out ask Matt whether JB is Hurley.
Matt thinks this is funny because he wondered the same thing, but he thought it might be obnoxious to ask. In the end though he said it isn’t Jorge Garcia. He doesn’t explain how he came to that conclusion but he seems comfortable with it.
I go back to my table but I’m still up in the air. The simple, sane-person solution is to say “So, umm, are you Hurley?” But unfortunately that isn’t an option.
The day before, I was playing with someone that I remember from Vegas in July, a Ken or Kent someone or another. He was an ex-sports figure, basketball I believe, though with my vacuum of knowledge on all things sport I still have no idea who he is. Nonetheless, he was great fun to have at the table and we got along, so he remembered me when I saw him this time. As we were talking at the table, one of the players next to us jumped in with “You know, I’d really hate to be that guy, I mean I’m not really that guy, I don’t want to bother you, I’d hate to make you think I was that guy … but do you play basketball?”
I wouldn’t say this upset Kent, but he definitely wasn’t going to let this guy get off thinking he was not the type of guy who interrupts famous people to make sure they’re famous.
“Do I look like I play basketball? Look at me, I’m 44 years old! How many 44 year olds you know who can run a court an hour straight? And what are you trying to say anyway. You saying I’m not big enough to be a football player, is that it?! I’m going to tell you something about those football players, they ain’t so big in real, if you catch my drift.”
The “I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-That-Guy” guy meekly accepted this and didn’t pursue the issue.
This is the exchange that comes to my mind when I am sitting with JB. Now obviously, like you, I’m not “That Guy”. I’m way too cool let myself do anything that might make me look like “That Guy” (even though I know with every cell of my body that I’m so totally “That Guy”). So I decide to not actually ask JB who he is. I figure I am way smart enough to slap a read on him. I’ll just play junior detective and figure it out for myself.
Eventually DiCaprio and Haas take off to bang supermodels 4 deep or run covert Afghan missions or whatever the hell I imagine you do to ring in the New Year if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio. At this point someone asks JB if he knows DiCaprio. Now, if the guy asking the question also thinks JB is a TV star then this is a logical enough question to ask. Since I went to the University of Michigan (go blue), it is natural for people to assume that I should know every other person who has ever gone to U of M, ever, at any point in the history of the school. In the same way, every person who lives in Famous Land should know every other person who lives there.
What JB says is something like, oh those guys are way bigger than me. And I figured that settles it. This was the type of question that would be asked of a celebrity, and that was the type of answer a modest TV actor might give. So Matt the floor man was wrong. This is Jorge Garcia. I would feel perfectly comfortable with trying to get Christi to think I was cool for hanging with Hurly.
So there I am hanging with Jorge Garcia playing poker until the wee hours of the morning. And obviously I have a million Lost questions I would love to grill him with: how hot and/or bugshit crazy is Michele Rodriguez in real life, why didn’t Adebisi wear his little hat when he was on the Island, etc, etc. But I don’t want to bother him.
This is possibly strange since bothering people with excessive questions is not something I’m normally averse to. The only sport I ever really liked watching as a child was the gloriously surreal shuffle board on ice sport of Curling. Playing at the Mirage once, many years ago, I ran into the only professional curler I have ever met. I had no qualms whatsoever about grilling him ceaselessly on the minutia of his life as a curler, team rivalries, the groupies and whatnot. I would imagine being at the center of a major worldwide pop culture phenomenon, as Jorge is, would be as interesting to hear about as being a curler.
Still, for whatever reason, I think it would be unseemly to acknowledge Jorge’s fame and pester him with my questions on celebrity and acting. In the end I imagine he probably just wants to be one of the guys hanging out and playing poker. So I don’t bother him and we just play cards.
The next afternoon, after a couple hours of sleep, I’m back at the Bellagio. I see JB, and in the course of exchanging small talk he says something about Vegas not being like Florida or New York. It occurs to me he must actually have been listening to me the night before when I was talking about living in NY and Florida. And that’s when something weird and possibly annoying happens. I feel really flattered. For some reason I’m actually impressed that someone remembers me after sitting with me for hours and hours.
The obvious problem is that if JB was not a celebrity, I can’t say that I would be “flattered” to be remembered. And I have to imagine this makes me superficial. Even if I’m the only one to find out, I’ve just been outed as “That Guy.” And this is all really embarrassing.
In my defense I did enjoy having JB at the table. He was pleasant and well humored. He took his bad beats gracefully and while he’s obviously a competent player not giving anything up, he isn’t one of those guys that is going to jam a screwdriver into your neck every time you turn your head. So that’s good.
I’m comfortable in my belief that I would find him genuinely likable independent of any possible celebrity or lack thereof. So this allows me to feel a tiny bit less superficial.
And then, we get to talking a little more. It comes up that he was actually a prop player (a house player at a poker club) all through law school, which I find really interesting. He acknowledges that propping was pretty tough work, but of course that’s all behind him now that he’s “living the Dream” as he describes it.
Since I don’t know anything about his life outside of his acting I find it fascinating that he was both a prop player and went to law school. So, the next morning I get up and do a little Google-stalking to read more about it. I look at his Wikipedia entry but for some reason it doesn’t say anything about going to law school or ever playing as a prop. Could there really be that large a hole in his online biography. Is this not an age of zero privacy for celebrities.
Wikipedia does talk of Jorge Garcia playing poker on a celebrity show, so he does play poker, but there isn’t anything about law school. I check a couple other sites and read about Jorge Garcia once working in a book store, and how it was a small part in Curb Your Enthusiasm that got him an audition for Lost, and how he had to miss his sister’s wedding due to filming, but nothing about law school.
This freaks me out more than a little bit. I really start to second guess myself. It was a natural assumption to think that when he mentioned that he was “living the Dream” he was describing what it’s like for an actor to land a show like Lost. However, I would imagine that after playing 4-8 limit as a San Diego prop, a lot of people might consider it “living the Dream” to be playing $10-20 No Limit at the Bellagio with Leonardo DiCaprio (and obviously Mike May). It occurs to me that maybe JB isn’t Jorge Garcia after all. Maybe I’ve just been enjoying time with some regular old normal person. For some reason I feel a slightly cheated.
So now I’m really confused and have to reanalyze everything I remember him saying. I remember him saying something about how humid Florida was before I said anything about my living there. If it is Jorge then why would he use Florida as an example of stifling humidity instead of Hawaii where he lives and works? I mean I assume it has to be humid in the rain forests that they film in. Maybe it’s not humid in Hawaii after all. What the hell do I know about Hawaii?
I check out Jorge’s blog and find a picture that he posted a week or two ago. It looks like JB, but he’s got sideburns in the picture that he doesn’t have at the Bellagio. Did he just clean himself up a little bit knowing that he would be in a swanky casino? I have no idea.
I’m becoming honestly concerned about whom it is that I actually like, JB or Jorge Garcia? I thought Jorge’s blog was fun and attributed it to JB. But if JB is not Jorge, isn’t that kind of a bonejob for Jorge? Grand theft literary respect?
And the more I obsess about it the more I keep coming back to a different Jorge: Jorge Luis Borges or more specifically his classic micro story of identity, Borges and I. It’s a little autobiographical one pager about being Borges, an actual guy who likes hourglasses and maps and the taste of coffee, but also having this other Borges who likes the same things but is not him. The other Borges is the one who everyone knows from Borges’ works. I, Mike May, can never know the first Borges. He died in the 80’s. However, I can find out anything I could possibly want about the second Borges, the one that is filtered through his writings and the interactions he’s left upon the world, the one whose stories I have read.
In a loosely similar way, there’s JB and then there’s Jorge Garcia. JB is an actual guy I met playing poker on New Year’s Eve, while Jorge Garcia is the actor who plays a beloved character on TV and who occasionally writes a blog and who, as I learned on his Wikipedia page, used to do stand up. Even if JB actually is Jorge Garcia, they are not the same person.
And the fact that JB could be some random John Bowden, an entirely third person, illustrates this idea as well as anything from my Intro to Philosophical Literature class. With no disrespect meant to him, I actually wouldn’t be flattered that John Bowden remembered me from the day before. I’m not in any way saying I didn’t have fun and enjoy hanging out with him at the table, because I did. I’m just saying that the irrational superficial part, where I was honestly flattered that an actor whose work I have enjoyed so much actually knew that I existed, that part came from the nebulous, public Jorge Garcia that I had draped over JB like a cape, whether it was justified or not.
Eventually this all leads to a fairly annoying realization. It occurs to me that I have to avoid JB if I go back to the Bellagio. I really don’t want to find out whether he is Jorge Garcia or not. To think I sat at the same table with someone as distinctive as Jorge Garcia for two days and still wasn’t 100% sure that it was him would make me feel amazingly stupid. And to find out that I had spent two days with John Bowden and actually thought he was Jorge Garcia is going to make me feel even stupider. It’s Kobayashi Maru. The only chance I have to win this is to never find out who he is, to let him always stay as he is now, existing simultaneously as both a particle and a wave.
Needing to bounce all this off someone who can give me a little outside perspective, I give Christi a ring. I ask her if she thinks this whole obsession makes me “That Guy” and whether this would be an interesting post even if JB turned out not to be Jorge Garcia. Her response is wonderfully Christi, in that it is concise and puts it all perfectly into context. After I explain everything and ask what she thinks, she pauses for a second and then simply says “Uhmm… you’re really creeping me out.”
So I originally posted this story on Saturday, January 5th, 2008. On Monday, January 7th, 2 days later, I see my first reply in the comments section:
“Yup. You're right it wasn't me. However I did spend the New Year playing cards. It was in Kauai with my uncle and cousins.” Signed Jorge Garcia and coming from the account of Jorges’ blog.
O.K., in relation to this new information I would just like to make 3 comments.
1) I fully understand that celebrities are much more powerful and well informed than regular people, but still… On a good day, it would take my own father maybe a month or two to find out that I have a new post up. And even if someone held a gun to my head, I don’t know that my mother would be able to Google her way to this blog. So the fact that Mr. Garcia found this post in less than 3 days impressed me more than a little.
While this is not necessarily scary, it is illuminating. So much for being able to slander a celebrity in the privacy of my own blog without them finding out. I assume that I can still write nasty text messages about celebrities (granted they aren’t scientologists), but who knows.
Shortly after receiving Mr. Garcia’s comment, I went to his blog and apologized profusely for my daftness in misrecognizing him. I’m assuming that there shouldn’t be any lawsuits pending.
2) Naturally I would love if people thought that I was not actually stupid, and that instead I simply realized that misrecognizing this poor slob would give me the chance to cram money, celebrity, and existential philosophy into what should have been a boring holiday post, but unfortunately that isn’t actually the case. I actually am just dumb.
and 3) Regardless of who JB actually is, I would like to point out that Borges still comes out of all this as relevant as ever. So, for all of the quantitative types out there who like to keep count of such things, the current score is Borges: 1, Mike May: 0