Where Art Thou, Meryl Streep?

Have you ever had a dream to do something that keeps waking you up at night?

My name is Tom Herstad. I am an Author from Toronto Canada. My first book is called Love, Care and Share and is about how our mother led her life.

The book was written after Mom’s passing in 2011 and published in 2016.

A movie contract was inked with Paul Saltzman, movie director and owner of Sunrise films, in 2017.

This past fall I was at a book signing on the island of Manitoulin in Northern Ontario, Canada. I traveled the six hours north from my Toronto home to support Bonnie Kogos. Bonnie is someone I have had the privilege to know since I attended a New York City 2016 publicity summit to promote my book. This lady, who I now call Auntie Bonnie, had just finished publishing her book “The Boat That Brings You Home”. The book is about her travels while living in the Caribbean on a boat for seven years. During her address to the crowd in this community hall she acknowledged me as also an author and suggested the audience approach me to get a copy of my book if interested in a book that is becoming a movie.

At the end of her speech a lady approached me. She first asked if it was OK for her to give me a message. I said “yes” and then she asked if she could hold my book between her hands. I said “sure” as I handed her the book.

She held the book between her hands in a prayer pose, closed her eyes, and said two things to me. “Meryl Streep will receive this book and everything changes for your movie for the better”. She paused and then said, “Who is the skater in the book?” I was astonished, as she did not open the book; I am the skater in the book as there are several stories about my hockey career.

This lady then expressed, “I have to leave now as there is too much energy in here for me”.

With that she was gone.

When I got back home from this trip I started thinking about how can I get this book in the hands of Meryl Streep? I remembered when I started writing Love, Care and Share; Recalling the night I wrote on my Mom’s Facebook page at 1:30am that I will write a book about her life that will be a movie one day; Big dream coming from someone who has never written a book before.

The actress I envisioned to play my mother was always Meryl Streep. This was represented on my “book to movie” vision board with her picture.

Now, I am an open thinker and someone who enjoys dreaming out loud, so it was not a strain for me to consider how do I try to get this book to her. I researched on the internet and found out that Meryl was coming to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to accept an award two weeks later.

The morning of the TIFF dinner gala I was on the phone with my sister, Julianne. She and I had started the research for the book together shortly after Mom’s passing. Julianne was in the throws of creating a promotional video to help us find movie production budget financing. As the screen play has been completed with Tom Schlesinger (Yes, same screen play writer who participated in the writing of an academy award winning film, “Nowhere in Africa”) I was on speaker phone and expressed that I was considering going to the TIFF event and see if I could get close enough to Meryl to offer her the gift of my book.

To my surprise the man with my sister, assisting her with the video shooting, is someone who has done much live production work in and around Toronto. He said that he knew the hotel it was being held at like the back of his hand and is knowledgeable about these types of events.

He said “if you are serious about getting into that room hang up and I will call you back to leave you a message”.

I hung up.

Shawn called me back and left me this message: “When you get to the front of the building look for York street which on the left border of the hotel. Go up this street to the back of the hotel, this is Piper street. Turn right and walk half way behind the hotel and you will see a single man door with a single handle on it beside two closed garage doors. Go in that door and down two flights of stairs. When you come out of this staircase make an immediate right and follow the hall way to a bank of eight elevators. Take the right side bank and go to the third floor. As you come off the elevator make a left turn that takes you into the kitchen. Make an early right turn once in the kitchen, this is an open half wall into kitchen on the left and a full wall on your right. Follow this corridor all the way to the end and make a left at the end. You are now in The Canada Room. One last thing, be on your cell phone all the way in and make no eye contact.”

I called Shawn back after hearing the message and asked him one question, “If I was to go, what would I be wearing?”.

Shawn said, “Your best white dress shirt buttoned to the top, black jacket, black dress pants and comfortable shoes.” Then he said, “They will think you are a waiter, security guy or a guest”.

I got off the phone with him and sat contemplating. I asked myself, “Do I feel right about this?”

I decided to go.

Boarding the GoTrain I made my way down into the heart of the city. Arriving at Union Station at 4pm I continued walking. Once at the hotel I decided to make my way following Shawn’s directions. I realized that if I was going to make it into that room I could not be a surprise at gala time. I decided to get into that room a couple times before the dinner. Allowing people in these areas get familiar with me.

As I made my way I continued checking in with myself to understand if I was comfortable enough to continue going. I walked with authority, planted my cell phone on my right ear, made no eye contact and made it up to that third floor, into that kitchen and then into the Canada room. There were many waiters and waitresses getting tables ready. There were many people positioning decorations and there were security guards huddled in two different corners of this room.

I walked the perimeter of this room with my leather folder with my book signed to Meryl in it.

I became familiar with the room layout. I then left and retraced my steps back outside and around to the hotel lobby. I sat people-watching, just lingering.

Two hours later I made another journey following those same directions back into the Canada room. This time was extremely interesting as I got nods of recognition from a couple people in the kitchen as I made my way through that area and then a couple of the security guards also acknowledged me with a nod.

I walked the perimeter again and also made my way over to the reception area, where the attendees would sign in for their tables. I then made my way back again to the main lobby and waited.

It was now 8pm and it was ‘game on’. I made my way back up the service elevator, through the kitchen and into the gala room to take a position against the left side wall. I then made my way through the crowd of waiters, waitresses and guests to the reception area again. It was comical as I was now being offered wine and hors d’oeuvres by the waiters and waitresses, as they thought I was a participant. I declined.

I then found the transition area from the reception room to the main gala room and knew this was the where everyone had to pass in order to get into the Canada room. I positioned myself against the left wall in a waiters alcove.

Here I did my best to stay out of the way.

When Meryl came in she passed right in front of me. She was with a party of three or four. I watched her walk from my right to my left for about twenty feet, she passed eight feet in front of me. She walked with such strength, confidence as well as such grace. It was as if I was watching a river flow and her entrance changed the room without any of her effort.

I can honestly say I was awestruck.

She made her way to a front table. This was discouraging for me as I knew that there was a slim to none chance to approach her there having to pass many tables on route. I remained in my position and watched several awards being handed out and then witnessed her acceptance speech.

I was waiting for a looser crowd to get my ‘shot’ as the night would mature with friendship and spirits. But after her award she walked directly back to her table, all stood up and then they were escorted out a door at the opposite side of the room from me. 

I realized I had to get over to that door as quickly as possible without drawing attention. As I got to the door I leaned in and addressed the security guard standing at that door, “Does this corridor take me to street level?”

He said “yes” and stepped back for me to pass. I got into that staircase and made my way down to the next floor and witnessed the service elevator door close with them all on it heading down.

Meryl was gone!

Boarding the GoTrain home I sat discouraged, frustrated and disappointed.

Did I miss my big chance? Was this my only moment to make this happen? Will I regret not getting to Meryl for the rest of my life? For half the way home on my one hour train ride I beat myself up.

Then it dawned on me. If I did not decide to follow my dream to write a book about my mother I would have never got to have a night like this. I thought about how many wonderful things that have transpired for me to get here; Sitting beside the same lady on two separate flights, one week apart, who helped me publish this book; have an artist ask me to paint my book cover; sign a movie deal after a movie director’s wife read the book.

I realized that when you dream it has to be the journey you sign up for and not the destination. The destination will take care of it self. I felt fortunate to have experienced this exciting, event-filled night.

I relaxed into gratitude. Gratitude.

I will continue to embrace this journey’s experiences as I am committed to pursuing this dream. My dream has to do with not just sharing my mother’s message but also the possible affect it will have on others who become aware of Margie’s message.

I will keep my mind open, an open heart and keep forging ahead. Keep an eye out for a movie called “2nd Line West” coming to theatres.

Peace and gratitude,
Tom Herstad, Autor
Love, Care and Share

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