He has heard of a sandwich. An excellent sandwich. "I've been looking," he says, "for a good sandwich in Los Angeles."

It is a Monday in September, precisely noon. The morning fog is burning off. The sky over Hollywood is turning cornflower blue. Keanu—really, for a guy who's been a star for two decades now, the Reeves just feels like a vestigial tail—appears on the sidewalk along Sunset Boulevard, in front of Book Soup and a block away from the Viper Room. He's wearing jeans, a black blazer, a plain gray T-shirt, desert boots, and a black motorcycle helmet. His face is scruffy. He's 44. He removes the helmet and grins. The grin is crooked and contagious. Our plan is to go shopping for books. But he is wondering whether at some point we should drive to Santa Monica, because a friend of his has passed along word of a sub, a magnificent sub, that is made at a place called Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. "I was told that it's got the shredded lettuce," he rhapsodizes. "It's like, you know, a good sandwich."

Everything is conveyed in the unmistakable hollowed-out-trunk-of-a-redwood timbre of his voice. The voice speaks of so much more than leafy greens. The voice says: We will be co-conspirators in a quest for pleasure. It says: Provided, my friend, that you don't turn out to be a dick, you are welcome to accompany me in an adventure. "We can do," he says—and there's the crooked grin again—"a feast of the senses."

First, though, a banquet for the brain. Keanu lopes through the front door at Book Soup—he's been coming here for about 20 years, often late at night—and gallantly kisses the cheek of the pretty blonde at the cash register. "Hello, Fawn!" he proclaims.

"How are you?" Fawn says. "I saw your mom the other day."

"You did?" he asks, and then, after he and Fawn have traded a few pleasantries, he sends up a quick signal flare: "This is a journalist."

"I'll keep all your secrets," she tells him. "Don't worry."

"Everyone says that," he says.

Today is an all-about-the-journey-not-the-destination kind of day. The point is to hang out in the vicinity of stuff that Keanu likes, and Keanu likes books. This might come as a surprise to those who still cling to the impression—one fostered by his past residency in the stoner/slacker/surfer precinct exemplified by films like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, River's Edge, and Point Break—that Keanu is, you know . . . kind of dumb. "He is the opposite of dumb," says Scott Derrickson, who directed him in December's The Day the Earth Stood Still. "That is a word that has no application to him. This is not just a director trying to defend his actor and say, 'No, really, he's not dumb.' He's fiercely intelligent."