I had lunch with journalist and author Christopher Hitchens in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, this week and interviewed him over glasses of Johnny Walker Black Label downtown.
The man should need no introduction, but I'll give him one anyway. He's the author or editor of more than twenty books, a journalist, a literary critic, a world traveler, a teacher, and a polemicist who migrated rightward from the radical left and no longer fits in anyone's convenient box. Last year Forbes magazine cited him as one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media, but at the same time he's a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford. In 2005, Foreign Policy magazine cited him as one of the 100 most influential intellectuals in the world.
He's a regular contributor to Vanity Fair, Slate, and the Atlantic, and his most recent book, God Is Not Great, made him more famous (or, if you prefer, infamous) than ever. His best book, or perhaps I should say my favorite, is Love, Poverty, and War, a rich collection of travel pieces and essays on those three most important of topics.
Hitchens is certainly famous, and is recognized on the street a lot more often than I am. A tall and slightly disheveled man in his fifties rudely interrupted our conversation outside the bar at one point and said "I can't remember your name, but I recognize you from YouTube."
"You should read more," Hitchens said. He didn't remind the man of his name.
Not two minutes later, an attractive young woman walked up to him, squeezed his arm gently, and said "I love you."
"How often does this happen?" I said.
"This," he said and smiled at the pretty young woman, "doesn't happen nearly enough. But that," he said and gestured to the man who recognized him from YouTube and would not go away, "happens too often."