My best celebrity sighting occurred on Aug. 26, 2002. It was a Monday afternon, and Jill was usually off on Mondays back then, so we treated the day as a family day. But she was working, so I took Skyler, not then 2, to her favorite spot in the workd -- the playground at Rockefeller Park in Lower Manhattan.
It was about 95 degrees, and the city was almost deserted. Very few people were at the playground, but one man stood out -- James Gandolfini, who was there with his young son.
I live in Manhattan. I am cool about these things. So, after coming to grips with the fact an Emmy-winning actor from one of my all-time favorite shows was, basically, doing the same thing I was, I immediately began engaging in the activities that every parent of a toddler performs at a playground -- namely, making sure my child got through the experience alive, or at least with minimal injury.
At one point, as often occurs with toddlers, things got disgusting. Skyler had two enormous boogers on her face, one protruding from each nostril, and I decided to get them off. My daughter was running around, screaming "BLEEAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" and charging blissfully through the water fountains that were blasting away. (Did I mention that it was 95 degrees?) But I was determined, so I chased her, even though Daddy hates getting wet. Finally, after many minutes of fruitless pursuit, I grabbed hold of the arm of my wet toddler, who was wriggling like an eel, and prepared to administer the big wipe.
Just at the point, from two feet behind me, I heard Tony Soprano say, "C'm'ere, you."
I almost keeled over from fright. And Skyler did, in fact, wriggle away.
I saw Gandolfini at the playground a few other times (Michael Imperioli, too -- the place was very safe). And now I'm thinking of his kids, and the loss they suffered, and the fact that the world is diminished just a bit more because a terrific talent has left us.