Re-washing the pots from the dinner party the night before, the same pots I’d cleaned at 1 am, only to discover what a lousy job I’d done when I woke up today and found little flecks of parsley and garlic still glued to them.
Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww, describes it best.
My son Smartacus was noting the other day how fascinating it must be to be me, to rarely learn from past mistakes, to spin out on a daily basis – as if from another planet — looking for my car keys, my wallet, my pants. And to stuff extra stuff into the fridge as if packing for Europe, to not – seemingly — make much progress at all in life.
“You obviously have the wrong person,” I told him.
“No, Dad. That’s you.”
The unexamined life is not worth re-living, so I thought about his comments for a few seconds before dismissing them as completely bonkers.
All right: True, the fridge stuffing—it’s like a suitcase you sit on to close it. My dating life too, such that it is. Basically, I go out with anyone who shows any flicker of interest whatsoever. If this keeps up, I’ll be known as the town tramp, though it may already be too late.
“Every town needs a tramp,” I say by rationalization. Which sure isn’t helping my rep much either.
To be fair, I also wallow in self-denial when challenges arise. Like with my bum knee, which is pejorative, obviously, but my knee is not some unfortunate lost soul. It’s truly a bum knee. As in, “Throw the ball, you bum!”
“Bum” was the term of endearment my dad gave to anyone who failed to live up to his sky-high Irish hopes: mayors, quarterbacks, other drivers, Mom.
Was thinking of my folks the other night as I threw a small patio party, something they used to do very well.
“Please come through the garage so our wolf doesn’t eat you,” said my invite.
That established the sense of anticipation I was after. Then I turned my attention to the menu.
Maybe it doesn’t show up in photos, but I’m half Chinese – at least internally – so I went with an old family recipe: Trader Joe’s shrimp fried rice, which might actually be Thai…who knows? It’s got some kick, for sure.
Anyway, what I do with the Trader Joe’s shrimp fried rice – and this is probably the most important tip I’ll ever give you — is to dump it into a wok and add a few extra shrimp, maybe a pound, big suckers, the kind you notice in a bowl of shrimp fried rice. Takes about 30 seconds, the whole process.
Then I serve it up with a crusty French bread and maybe a kale slaw. Plus, lots and lots of wine, to mask my personal shortcoming, my lack of conversational skills and my epic social anxiety.
Boom! There you have a nice dinner party. Almost comes in a kit.
First thing that went wrong was that I ran out of wine. At 9 pm.
Party tip: Never run out of wine at an LA dinner party. People start to throw plates and glasses, and they’ll occasionally just shoot you on the spot, after a farce of a trial.
“You what?” the prosecutor asked.
“I ran out of the red,” I mumbled.
“I ran out of white,” I said.
The jury gasped. Right then I knew I was cooked.
Party tip II: Post COVID, one bottle per guest is no longer a sufficient yardstick, at least not with these guests. Six bottles seems to be a better guide.
Still, guests lingered till 1 in the morning, including two of the loveliest and loudest moms in town (funny how those two traits often mangle together).
Funny, also, how I’ve developed this reputation as the town tramp, and how the pretty moms still decide to stick around.
By the way, the stuff these Chardonnay Moms talk about. Whew, my tender ears.
I’d drunked most of the wine by then, and I was deep into the homemade cookies someone brought – the kind that taste like scones; I had a hundred at least, which gave me the sugar boost I needed to lead this party to the finish line.
“Stevie Nicks went to Arcadia High,” I blurted out.
“Really?” the guests said.
That’s another thing I try to do as a party host, sprinkle little bits of important info into the conversation, so that guests learn without realizing they are learning. Sartre did much the same thing at his patio parties. Aristotle too.
“Free Britney!!!” I shouted at one point, because I don’t want to seem old and contrary and out of touch with America.
At the end of the night, when they go away – if they go away – my guests always leave with the sense that: “Hey, that was a really deep and thoughtful dinner party … I learned so much.”
“And that fried rice…can I get the recipe?” they ask as they wander down the driveway.
“It was my Chinese grandma’s,” I explain. “Sorry. Can’t share it.”
Yeah, my grandma Trader Joe.
By the way, I’m trying to keep these missives shorter now, since my buddy Jeff confessed that he looks at these posts some days, scrolls down and down some more, and wonders to himself: “Jeeesh, how long will this sucker go on?”
As a writer, you never want to generate that feeling, which is why I don’t write best-selling novels. Or, really, anything of much substance.
But I have, lately, been typing the paint right off my computer keys. I finished a screenplay, and then I wrote a fan letter to Smartacus, then a poem for the new grandbaby, which I called “Catty Cakes: A Poem for a Perfect Person.”
I’ve just been writing and writing, when really I think my true gift to the world might be throwing dinner parties, though they seem to go on too long too (nice use of the double-too, right?).
I’m still re-washing stuff. And there is still an empty bourbon bottle on the living room table from when we moved inside, and with the lights too bright, chatted about our kids till well past midnight.
I served bourbon as a nightcap, after wine. Nobody cared.
Point is: You can have fun in the suburbs, but it isn’t necessarily going to find you. You have to send out emails and texts…you have to promise them incredible feasts.
But I completely recommend it. Because fun is fun, as the saying goes.
Hey Smartacus, seen my keys?
Meet me at Avignone’s in Montrose Wednesday night at 5:30 pm. Info here. No agenda, there’s just this great little bar I want to show you. I’ll sit in a corner booth, like a bookie and take any bets you want to place. I might also buy you a drink, but no promises. The trust fund is finally running dry, and I had to set a chunk aside for Smartacus’ continuing education up in Oregon. And I just spent about 20 bucks on cigars. Man, it goes so fast, doesn’t it? Not life. Money. Goes so fast, even though I fly coach every time and try to buy beef only when it’s on sale (10 patties for 10 bucks at Ralph’s). Have a great weekend. See you Wednesday.