I ran into Paul Krugman on the street yesterday afternoon. I asked him if he was going to the TIME 100 dinner that night (he’s on the list). He sort of sighed and said yeah—adding that he’d agreed to speak for two minutes and was having trouble coming up with something “uplifting” to say. I chortled and said we hadn’t put him on the program to be uplifting.
Then Krugman got up to make his “toast” at the dinner. Other people had devoted their toasts to mentors, pioneers and others who had inspired them. Krugman launched into a very sweet paean to his wife (and textbook co-author) Robin Wells that had people tearing up over the place. People including me. I felt genuinely uplifted. And I thought, maybe the guy really is superhuman.
During dinner (warning, lots of medium-to-low-grade namedropping to come), I sat up in what Keith Kelly referred to in the New York Post as “the bleachers,” one table over from Lou Reed. To my right was Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard, to my left was Karen Nocera, whose husband Daniel splits water into hydrogen for a living. Subway hero Wesley Autry was at the table too. He seemed very nice, but was too far away to converse with.
As I was walking to dinner with TIME’s Karen Tumulty, I watched her type out a Tweet about meeting the Twitter guys. I finally signed up for Twitter a couple of weeks ago, so I felt obliged to write this lame response:
watching @ktumulty tweet about meeting the twitter guys at TIME 100 dinner. i am in the presence of greatness!
After that I didn’t Tweet again. Tumulty and TIME’s Jim Poniewozik, meanwhile, provided running Twitter commentary on the evening’s big moments, such as Paul Krugman making people cry, Jimmy Fallon making people laugh (really, he did), John Legend making people dance and Michelle Obama making people talk about her shoulders. Clearly, I am not up to the responsibility of having a Twitter account. Although because Karen outed me to her Twitter followers last night, I now actually have enough people following me that I probably should start feeding the Twitter beast on a regular basis. Because that’s what a modern media semi-personality with a book to promote is supposed to do, right? But seriously, what should I feed it?
Anyway, back to the actual party: I somehow avoided meeting any actual celebrities (you know, like movie stars and such), instead hanging out with what could best be described as nerd celebrities: before dinner it was my old friend Jack Bogle, my not-so-old-friends Van Jones and Shai Agassi, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally, whom I had never met before but was very charming and funny and otherwise non-auto-company-CEOish. After dinner it was more of the same: I met Dambisa Moyo, who is highly entertaining, and she introduced me to Niall Ferguson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I of course started had to start babbling in Dutch to Hirsi Ali, who once she heard my story (I learned the language as an exchange student in the Netherlands 26 years ago) started gushing about how proud she was of me. (“Ik ben trots op je!”)
Not long after that I headed down to the Columbus Circle subway station to catch a train home. And as I looked down at the tracks before the train got there I thought of Wesley Autry.