On a hot summer afternoon, the most glamorous birth father in America sits in a diner booth and tries to make sense of the world.
A thunderous revving noise ruptures the quiet of the Spitfire Grill on a lazy afternoon in Santa Monica, California, accompanied by a series of subsonic reverberations that tinkle the ice cubes of my overfull water glass, breaking the surface tension, sending droplets down the side.
Abruptly, all is still. The waitress resumes filling the saltshakers. Steely Dan harmonizes on the sound system overhead.
The door opens, and he walks in–his helmet beneath his arm–like Achilles entering his tent. He pauses a moment, looks around. The joint is empty. He seems relieved. He is wearing jeans; a BMW messenger bag is slung across his chest. Reaching the booth, he pulls off his gloves, one finger at a time, and stuffs them into the open cavity of his full-face motorcycle helmet. He offers a hand, an easy smile. He shoves everything into a corner of the booth and slides in.
He comes here a lot, he says, to this unintentionally chic little dive decorated with airplane posters and schematics and other flying mementos just across the street from the runway at the municipal airport, which borders on South Bundy Drive. Since hooking up with Angie–whose eyes, by the way, are also blue, though perhaps a deeper and more mysterious shade, his being more earnest, a lazulite or sky blue–he has taken up flying. He has recently completed his first series of solos. He says he loves the aloneness of flight. And also the sense that your life is completely in your own hands. “Everything can go wrong very fast, so it’s humbling.” Unlike his partner, who earned both her British and American certifications simultaneously–the British is said to be more rigorous–he has earned only his American license. “She gives me total sh* for that,” he says, shaking his head. Clearly, he is a man who would follow a woman to the ends of the earth and back.
He orders a Coke and a basket of fries. He is friendly, normal seeming for someone who lives such a rarefied life. He talks about Maddox’s recent T-ball game, about maybe moving to Washington, D. C., because the atmosphere around Hollywood is no place to raise kids. He makes a joke about being sleep deprived and another about how his vocabulary has been reduced lately to fawning monosyllables. William Bradley Pitt from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Suddenly he is a father to three.
Sitting there in the booth, he has the sun behind his head. It kind of hurts my eyes to look at him. So many movie stars are really quite odd in appearance. Something about their oddness translates well to the screen. Like Adrien Brody’s honker or Reese Witherspoon’s doorknob of a jaw. In person, Rob Lowe has this skinny little shrunken head. The fifteen pounds the camera adds? That’s his career. But Brad Pitt is as beautiful in person as he is onscreen, perhaps even more so. The lines of his face are angular but not severe; he has a two-day-old scrub of beard. His dirty-blond hair is short. I think I detect a few grays.
Brad extricates from his messenger bag an oversize hardback sketchbook, the kind with a black matte cover favored by poets, college students, and world travelers, the last of which he plays in his new movie, Babel, a harrowing drama directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
He opens the book to reveal his not-inconsiderable effort: lines of neat printing in an architect’s block capitals, several pages of computer printouts, and a ten-by-three-inch piece of white cardboard stationery with the letters CAA embossed in red at the top, on which he has written the list we asked him to prepare for this issue. “I stayed up late last night doing this,” he says, “which turned out to be good, since we had this little diarrhea bout that we had to deal with today.”
I thank him for undertaking Esquire’s little assignment.
He waves me off with a french fry, pops it into his mouth. “Are you kidding?” he asks, taking a pull of Coke from the straw. “It’s like, enough about me already, you know? Let’s talk about something important.”
My List – Fifteen things I think everyone should know.
BY BRAD PITT
THE DRUG WAR
I’ll agree that drugs are harmful, but we spend $40 billion a year on the drug war and $8 billion a year incarcerating people, 25 percent of whom are in there for drugs. If someone wants to do drugs, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else in a violent manner, as long as he or she isn’t corrupting minors or driving under the influence or endangering others, shouldn’t a person have that right? I know the drug war is a can’t-miss political issue that no one wants to touch. It’s the big pink elephant no one wants to talk about. Think of all the other things we could do with the money.
For an interesting perspective on the whole issue, I recommend the book Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do, by Peter McWilliams.
There are ten million children who have lost their parents to AIDS. That number’s going to double by 2010. Now that I have two adopted kids, I cannot imagine life without them. They’re as much of my blood as any natural born, and I’m theirs. That’s all I can say about it. I can’t live without them. So: Anyone considering, that’s my vote.
CAROL’S DAUGHTER HAIR PRODUCTS
For white people who might be having a little trouble with black-person hair, Carol’s Daughter is a fantastic hair product. We got it for Z. Now her hair has this beautiful luster. And it smells nice, too.
A NEW PARADIGM
Nature consumes and then reuses; there is a cycle to things. But humans just consume. It’s obviously time for a new paradigm. And the question is, Do we adopt it now, or do we wait until we’re really in trouble? We’re going to have to make the tough choices. Some people are going to have to lose money, but new people will begin making money. Industry and environment don’t have to be at odds with each other; they can work harmoniously.
I recommend Addicted to Oil, Thomas Friedman’s Discovery Channel program; Cradle to Cradle, a book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart; and Design Like You Give a Damn, a book by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr.
THE PERFECT MATTRESS
Don’t spend a lot of money on a big, giant mattress with double padding on both sides and all that. Just go out and buy a normal firm mattress. Then go buy the three-inch Tempur-Pedic pad, the memory foam, and put it on top. I’m telling you, take my tip. It’s the perfect pressure. I take full credit for the discovery. You will sleep in bliss forevermore . . . unless you’ve got a six-week-old.
THE ULTIMATE DIAPER-RASH CREAM
Shiloh is six weeks old now. She’s got horrible diaper rash, poor thing. Same with Zahara when we picked her up in Ethiopia. She had such a bad rash, it looked almost disfiguring. We’ve tried everything–every cream, every salve, every natural product. We haven’t found the magic ointment. Yet.
BURPING YOUR BABY
Getting a burp out of your little thing when she needs it is probably the greatest satisfaction I’ve come across at this point in my life. It is truly one of life’s most satisfying moments.
VALENTINO ROSSI, EUROPEAN MOTO GP CHAMPION
He’s the fastest man on a thousand cc’s. This guy is a magician. He’s mesmerizing. He probably weighs a buck fifty, and he’s the fastest man on two wheels. It’s speed, but it’s also balance: These are the guys who are laying the bikes on their sides and not going over. These are the guys who are riding on their knees and elbows. It’s pure ballet, on the most powerful motorcycles in the world. Rossi has won the title for the last four years. He doesn’t get rattled. He has a sort of innate sense of balance that’s beyond mortal man. He’s like Lance Armstrong on a motorcycle. Just poetry to watch.
Yes, I have choppers. One is really low. There’s a big tire in front of you, and you just feel like you’re Slim Pickens on the rocket in Dr. Strangelove or something. And I have sport bikes. And I have dirt bikes. I’ve got a few builders who are artists in their own right. Their machines are art, like sculpture. I don’t want to talk about it; I’ll just say that I have a problem.
JACK WHITE AND THE RACONTEURS
Jack White is something special.
THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN BERLIN, BY DANIEL LIBESKIND
This is one of the greatest buildings of all time, the best example I know of the way surroundings can have such a profound effect on the individual. I hardly have adequate words to describe it. There are just so many feelings that you succumb to when you’re walking through this building. First, everything’s on a slant, so you’re slightly off-kilter. There’s this one room, forty feet tall, shaped like a trapezoid. It’s an all-concrete room, and it’s totally dark except for this one sliver of light that comes in. You suddenly get this oppressive feeling, this haunting–I’m lacking words. And then there’s this beautiful garden that throws off your perspective and makes you feel like you’re tipping over. I’ve been there three or four times now, and I’m just humbled every time. It rocks you in just that way that art can.
America uses 25 percent of the world’s oil; we produce 3 percent. Everybody knows that. What people don’t know about is how inefficient our buildings are. Our buildings–our homes, offices, stores, businesses–use up 40 percent of all our energy. And they are responsible for 45 percent of the pollution in the air–meaning how we make the materials for buildings, how we produce our buildings, and then how our buildings operate. In a year, the average home is responsible for as much pollution as any car.
THREE THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PARENTING
I try not to stifle them in any way. If it’s not hurting anyone, I want them to be able to explore. Sometimes that means they’re quite rambunctious. At night, before they go to bed, I feel it’s really important to have that time to sit and talk to them. I really like that last minute before they fade off. And always give them a heads-up before you jerk them out of something. You need to tell them, like, “You have three more minutes.” Someone told me that one. It’s essential.