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"You're a great artist because you're generous and willing to be vulnerable when you perform," I remember telling him about his performance of "The History of Rap" with Jimmy Fallon. To which he said he really appreciated my feedback and would love to talk more about art over coffee sometime.
"I'm not into you or anything, but I'd be interested in hearing more of what you had to say," he told me.
I woke up deeply flattered that Justin Timberlake wanted to sit down down and discuss self expression with me. And then I laughed at the fact that even in my wildest dreams, Justin Timberlake really wasn't that into me (was he in that movie? Or, does it just seem like he should've been in it?). This was OK with me though, I reasoned. What with the fact that I'm happily married* with two kids and Justin Timberlake was also married (hopefully happily) to a woman who, I assume, does not dress in an endless combinations of old T-shirts and unintentionally holy kneed jeans (someone around here has to cart the girls around the house as Minimus the flying horse).
Anyway, the whole concept of sitting down for coffee with Justin Timberlake amused me at length. Enough so that I thought it'd be entertaining (at least for me) to write about how that scene would play out in my home.
So, with apologies to Justin Timberlake …
"Coffee with Justin Timberlake"
(It's around noon. Justin Timberlake, flanked by two cameramen -- Reggie and Jim -- stands on the front porch or a small, brick rancher in a slightly obscure town in south-central Pennsylvania. He rings the doorbell. The curtains in front of the large, bay window flutter and a dog's head pokes through barking wildly -- his paws clicking at the glass. The dog disappears and there's the muffled sound of a woman yelling. The door opens revealing a shortish woman wearing fur-covered blue fleece pajama pants in a stylish star print paired with a blue, bleach-stained hoodie in a different shade of blue. Her hair looks as if it's been styled with a vacuum cleaner and her eyes hold a desperation reserved for a bunny being pursued by a jackal. She has a toddler on one hip and edges out of the storm door halfway, attempting to block the frantic hound from tackling the visitors.)
Susan: Hi there (Looks back at dog) Snacks! Get down! Stop barking!!!
(The dog continues to leap and bark at increasing volumes behind her)
Justin Timberlake: (With a big, warm smile) Hi! Are you Susan?
Susan: Yes … what can I do for you?
JT: (Looking a little confused, but still congenial) Hi! I'm .. uh … I'm Justin Timberlake … I saw the Tweet you posted the other day about having coffee with me … (he trails off watching as she continues to struggle with the dog and doesn't seem to be paying full attention)
Susan: (She has hold of the dog's collar with her free hand, the toddler is being jostled as the dog continues rearing. Her face transitions from confusion to shock as she frantically flips through her memory. After the realization hits she's still speechless for a tick) OH. Hi Justin Timberlake. Do you want to come in? He's harmless really, he just can't handle visitors.
JT: (Taking a tentative step to hold the storm door) Are you sure? Have I caught you at a bad time?
Susan: No! No! Come on in. I promise he'll come down. I'm sorry. He's just a complete spazz whenever anybody comes to the door.
JT: (Walks into the house with Jim and Reggie following behind. He bends down to pet the dog who alternates between licking him in the mouth and jabbing his nose in his crotch) It's OK, don't worry about it. I like dogs.
(The dog jumps at Reggie who is less than pleased and Jim who squats down to cuddle him. After they greet the dog they start filming)
Jim: What's his name?
Susan: Snacks. He's really obnoxious … but he'll calm down.
Jim: Great name. What is he? A Beagle?
Susan: Yeah. Half beagle. The other half is Satan's spawn. God. I'm so sorry for the mess. This is really embarrassing.
(The three men laugh a little and survey the living room they're standing in. The white-turned-gray carpet is covered in a who's who of stains, puzzle pieces, the stuffing of a recently disemboweled dog toy, plastic Disney princesses and children's shoes. The curtains is dotted with paw prints, the end table is covered in dried bits of Play-Doh and breakfast cereal.)
JT: Don't worry about it. I'm so sorry to drop in unannounced like this … one of my assistants saw your Tweet yesterday about that dream you had about having coffee with me … and we thought it'd be fun to come up and surprise a fan.
Susan: Well… I don't even know what to say. This is really unexpected. I'm definitely surprised! Justin Timberlake is standing in my crap-covered house … if I had known I would've worn my good pajamas!
JT: You can call me Justin. And who's this? (He waves at the toddler, who quickly buries her head in Susan's shoulder before peeking one eye back out.)
Susan: This is Jovie. She's going through a little bit of a shy phase. Jovie, can you say hi to Mr. Justin?
Jovie: No. I not. (She plants her face back into Susan's shoulder and kicks her leg)
Susan: She just needs a minute to warm up. So… do you want to … sit down? I'm not really sure what you wanted to do …
JT: I'd love to! This is Jim and Reggie … they came along to, you know, capture the moment. If you don't mind.
Susan: The moment? Oh … like … this is a thing you do? That's right! You've done this before. On that commercial for … what was it? Google?
JT: Mastercard. Yeah. It's a thing I've been doing, trying to meet fans face to face. Let them know how much I appreciate their support. Usually we go through this whole process of finding fans to surprise … but I saw your Tweet about that dream you had and I thought it'd be fun to wing it for once. Just show up and really surprise someone. I had a show in Washington last night and am headed to New York … so this was on the way…
Susan: Wow. You know. You don't really think that the things you post on the internet ever, you know, connect to reality. Especially, when you post something about a celebrity. And now they're just hanging out in your crust-covered living room while your dog attempts to castrate them with his nose.
(3-year-old Lily waddles into the living room and sticks her head between Susan's legs.)
Hey honey, this is Mr. Justin. He's a singer. Can you say hi?
(Lily shakes her head no, wraps her arms around Susan's legs which sending her off balance. She repeats this over and over). Can you tell Mr. Justin your name?
JT: (crouching down) Hi there, I'm Justin. Who are you?
(Lily growls at Justin and continues to hide behind her mom.)
Susan: She's a bit antisocial. So … can I get you something to drink? I just made coffee. It's Folgers. Nothing but the best … or … you know … the most affordable.
JT: Coffee would be great! Just like you dreamed, right?
Susan: (Laughing uncomfortably) Ah yes. When I envisioned coffee with a world-renowned pop star/actor it was in my living room wearing my fourth-best pajamas as my dog licks his privates and my kids pretend as if they've never had any social contact with other human beings. This is the dream!
JT: I'm sorry again about the timing. We have to squeeze these things in … I'm on tour right now and that really makes the schedule tight.
Susan: No worries. I'll just get the coffee. Do you take anything in it? Jim, Reggie?
JT: Black's fine.
Jim: No thanks
Reggie: I'm good
(Susan leaves and comes back with two cups of coffee, balanced precariously as she's still holding Jovie. Lily has been trailing her the whole time.)
JT: Oh, I'm sorry. I should've helped. let me get that.
(He grabs one of the cups. Coffee sloshes out onto his pants).
Susan: Crap. Let me get a towel for you.
(She plops her cup on the table, splashing more coffee)
JT: It's OK. No big deal. It was my fault.
(Susan comes back and hands him a towel to clean himself up. He dabs his pants. He sits down on the couch. Shifting uncomfortably and pulling out a small car and a My Little Pony from under his butt. Susan sets Jovie down on the loveseat and sits down next to her)
Susan: I'm so sorry for the mess. I would say it's not usually like this, but that would be a complete lie. Do you have kids?
JT: No. No kids. My wife and I want them though.
Susan: Well, get ready for disaster. Here ... (she hands him a plate with a crumbling mass of something brown and unidentifiable) I made some banana bread over the weekend. It always falls apart out of the oven. I can't figure out what the problem is.
JT: (Attempting to pick up a bite of the bread, he eats a few crumbs as the rest of the piece dissolves in his fingers) No! It's fine. It's tasty.
(While he's talking the dog grabs the rest of the bread and licks up the crumbs off the plate, which is balanced on JT's lap.)
Oh no! He's fast.
Susan: (Grabs the dog by the collar and yanks him away) SNACKS!! That was bad. I'm so sorry. Can I get you another piece?
JT: Don't worry about it.
(Lily crawls into the living room and tugs at Susan's pants)
Lily: Mom. MOM! I'm hungry.
Susan: Lil, I'm talking to Mr. Justin right now. Can you give me a minute?
Lily: No! I'm just really, really huuuungry.
Susan: Lily, I'll get you something after I'm done talking to Mr. Justin.
Jovie: I hungry, too Mama!
Lily: I'm HUNGRY! I just want a snack!
Susan: (Sighing) OK. I'll get you a snack. I'm so sorry Justin.
JT: It's OK
(Susan leaves again. From the living room you hear the sounds of her negotiating with the girls about what the Snack is. Susan returns after another minute)
Susan: OK. That should keep them occupied for the next 30 seconds. So where were we?
JT: You said in your dream that you were going to talk about art with me?
Susan: Yeah. It was really random. I think it was because I'd just seen you do that performance on Jimmy Fallon. The rapping thing? I think in the dream I was critiquing that. Which, now that I'm saying that out loud sounds really silly. Especially because, no offense, you're not someone I'd count as someone, I'm super into. But dreams are weird like that. Such a random cast of characters. Last night had this dream about composting. This guy was telling me about how amazing composting was and I woke up thinking about what a beautiful process it was -- turning garbage into this super-rich soil that you can use to grow new things. It made me really think I should do more composting…
JT: OK. Compost. So… umm… would you say you're fan then?
Susan: I think you're great! I mean, I wouldn't say I'm like a Google-commercial worthy super fan or anything. I saw that movie you were in with Natalie Portman … what was it? "No Strings Attached"? and you were amazing at the VMAs.
JT: OH yeah. Umm was it "Friends with Benefits" with Mila Kunis?
Susan: Yes! I'm sorry. Yes. That was cute. I feel like I've seen something else you were in …I can't remember
JT: "Runner Runner"? "Trouble with the Curve"? "The Social Network"?
Susan: Yes! It was the Facebook movie. I forgot you were in that.
JT: Yeah. I played Sean Parker … the guy who founded Napster.
Susan: Right! Now I remember. I went to high school with that guy!
JT: Who? Sean Parker?
Susan: Yeah. I didn't know him or anything. But he's in one of my yearbooks
JT: Yeah… that's cool.
(A scream comes from the kitchen followed by crying.)
Susan: Excuse me.
(She leaves. From the living room you hear her discipling Lily for poking Jovie in the eye. Then you hear her offering to turn on cartoons. She comes back.)
I'm sorry. They don't like each other very much right now. I bribed them with "Sofia the First." Where were we?
JT: You were talking about high school ...
Susan: Oh yeah. You know, my best friend was obsessed with this guy who lip synched do an *NSYNC song at this talent show. She dragged me along to watch this dude and his asshole jock friends do "Bye Bye Bye." So, I guess I've been following your career for years.
JT: (Laughs and shakes his head). Did they wear color coordinated outfits?
Susan: Of course. One of them might have even bleached his hair for the occasion!
JT: Ah that hair. I'll never live it down. It sounds like you know more about my career than you originally let on.
Susan: It was bad hair. If I'm going to offer you any artistic advice, it would be to stay away from the blonde jerry curls.
(Jovie wanders into the living room. Her face and hands are covered in yogurt. She reaches for Susan).
Susan: Oh, you're a mess. OK. Let's get you cleaned up. So sorry Justin.
JT: Don't even worry about it.
(Susan leaves with Jovie. Returns with the baby a minute later)
JT: So, are you an artist? Or do you play anything?
Susan: What? An artist? No. I mean I fingerprint periodically (she motions to the mantle covered with kid's paintings) but I'm not an artist. I played piano when I was a kid. I played guitar for a while … but never got good or anything.
JT: (looks disappointed) Oh. It's just in your dream you mentioned talking about art?
Susan: Well. You know. It was a dream. I think I dream about talking about art with someone who enjoys art. But in reality, I spend most of my time talking about Ariel or Elsa from "Frozen" … Lily's obsessed with princesses right now.
(Lily wanders in from the kitchen)
Lily: Mom. What are you talking about?
JT: We were talking about princesses! So you like Elsa? (He starts singing the chorus "Let it Go" from "Frozen". Reggie zeroes in on Justin as he sings, Jim focuses on the girls)
Lily: (Screams in anger) NO!!! NO SINGING!! YOU CAN'T SING!!
Jovie: (Joining in and pointing at Justin) No singing!!
Susan: (horrified) Lily and Jovie! What's the rule in our house? Everyone can sing. Justin I'm so sorry, they hate it when I sing, so we've been trying to work on being open to more self-expression.
JT: It's OK. I don't have to sing. I should probably rest my voice anyway.
Susan: I'm so so sorry. (She leans down and starts sniffing Jovie's bottom). Jovie, did you poop?
Jovie: No. I no poop.
Susan: I think you did. We need to change you. I'm sorry, nobody should have to smell this. I need to change her. I'll be right back.
(Susan leaves again. Justin stands up and conferences with Reggie and Jim. They decide to go. Susan returns)
I'm back. So sorry.
JT: It's OK. Listen, we apologize. We feel like we caught you at a bad time. We need to be up in New York for a soundcheck soon, so I think we're going to head out.
(Reggie walks over to Susan and hands her a piece of paper)
Reggie: This is just release form that gives us permission to use whatever we filmed here today … I'm guessing we won't be using much so this will be really more of a formality.
Susan: (Frowning) Oh. OK. I understand. Sure I can sign that. I'm sorry to waste your time.
JT: Oh! No. No. We dropped in on you unannounced. It's totally fine. I'm glad we had a chance to talk about … composting. Would you like me to sign anything for you?
Susan: Oh. Sure. My friend burned a copy of your "SexyBack" CD. I'll go grab that!
(A pair of screams come from the back of the house. Lily races in the room crying and bleeding from her head)
Lily: MAMAMAMAMA!! Jovie pushed me!!!
Susan: OH goodness! What happened?! come here, let me look at you.
(Susan tends to Lily, hugging her and examining her head. She takes Lily to the kitchen)
JT: It's OK. We can just see ourselves out.
Susan: (shouting from the kitchen) I'm sorry! It was nice meeting you. Just make sure you don't let the dog out!
(The three let themselves out.)
* I think Brad now believes that I have a big crush on Justin Timberlake and that I'm just shamelessly pandering for attention. But he should already know my list of celebrity crushes (hellooooo they'll be guests on my celebrity cruise!) and JT, while awesome in many ways, isn't on the shortlist! Anyway, this whole exercise was to try out writing a scene for a play or a movie cuz I've not done that before. Dude. That was hard.