Natalie Portman

I’ve lived in NYC for 12 years, and when I’m out of town people always ask me, “Do you ever see celebrities?”

And I tell them, “Yes, I see them all the time. I saw Lou Reed, rest in peace. I’ve seen Evander Holyfield with bodyguards. I walked by John Goodman, who is very tall in real life; that red-headed woman from Saving Grace; Janeane Garofalo — I saw her leave her unfinished cup of iced coffee on the steps of a brownstone—I thought she was better than that; and Bill Hader, who even looks funny in person. To Jesse Eisenberg: sorry I distracted you by taking your photo but your production was right in the doorway of my apartment, I needed to get home, and who wouldn’t take that shot?; Jason Sudeikis was either hitting on my fiancée or it was the other way around? I once stood next to Fred Armisen at a party, who I knew at the time could do so much better than Abby Elliott. I saw Natalie Portman in Central Park, those big glasses didn’t fool me. Bono, I thought you’d be taller. I saw Jake Gyllenhaal disguised in a beard, glasses and hat down the street from Tina Fey, who was buying sidewalk fruit on the Upper West Side.

Most people are totally impressed when they realize the reason I had started poking them whilst eyebrow-dancing to get them to look over was the presence of a real live, honest-to-god celebrity. The secret is knowing what to look for! Here are 11 ways to make sure you never miss a celebrity sighting.

1. Pick up and move to New York or Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter which one! Most celebrities are bicoastal and they have homes in both places.

2. Train your eyes ahead of you. If you want to spot a celeb, you have to look straight ahead into the eyeline of the people around you. It’s not creepy if you do it to everyone!

3. Be on the look out for clusters of photographers. If you see the paparazzi, there’s a good chance they did the dirty work and spotted the famous person for you. Just don’t be a tourist and wait around for hours for them to exit a restaurant. You’re better than that.

4. The stars dress differently. Like a glitch in the matrix—or a European— you’ll notice their leather jacket sports not one but two zippers, their sweatshirts are lined with fur, their logo-less sneakers are threaded with funky colored laces. Something is off about the way they dress because the stars pay stylists to pick out the most ridiculous outfits for them to set themselves apart when they try to fit in.

5. Celebrities are sun-kissed when everyone else is pale, or blindingly white when everyone else is tan. When you are sweating, they are cool. When you are frozen, they are on the beach.

6. If you walk by a pair of big sunglasses, a particularly bushy beard, or a worn-in baseball cap, go ahead and double-check if you just spotted a celebrity.

7. Ditch your day job. While you’re working your weekday nine-to-five, celebs are out grabbing soy lattes in SoHo, coming home from the gym in Santa Monica, or biking down the West Side Highway.

8. Celebrities walk slower than regular New Yorkers. They have nowhere to be, so why rush? They like to move in slow motion as the rest of the world rushes by. I bet you have angrily stormed past Matthew McConaughey countless times and not even known it. Good for you!

9. The stars are never in town during major holidays. You don’t earn millions of dollars to throw yourself a staycation, so don’t expect to see anyone remotely famous in LA or NYC when the rest of the country’s traveling. Holiday weekends are loaded with tourists, the number one deterrent for celebs.

10. Always take the side streets. Celebrities are people too, and they don’t want to be bothered every few steps with requests for selfies and autographs. They know better than the stroll the busiest parts of Broadway in Manhattan or the walk of fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

11. The stars like to stick together and buy expensive condos and apartments in the same building, and you can bet they never ever use the main entrances that tourists are constantly walking past. There is always a side entrance on a much less crowded street to allow celebrities to pretend they are just regular people going to work, and not going to host their daily talk show. (Yes, I saw you, Star Jones, walking out of Time Warner Center on your way to host an episode of The View, and yes, you looked fabulous in those yoga pants.)

Have you ever spotted a celebrity in real life? If so, share your tricks in the comments below.