The way Cherie was vigorously shaking the chrome cocktail container mixing potent icy cosmopolitans you might have thought she made her living as a cabana server instead of a news anchor on local TV.
But that was the drink de jour. And me being the only ‘real’ (as in print) journalist at a party of retired and present local TV ‘teleprompter readers’ I decided to do what real journalists who traipsed about the country and globe do… drink heavily.
After all, that is why my cousin, Mike, who spent 43 years on local TV bringing car accidents and burning fires into our living rooms, had invited me. To be the counterbalance. To add a little raw meat to this vegan roughage of ‘pretty’ people who get paid a lot of money to broadcast stories that I’ve always felt were little more than chewing gum for the eyes – even the breathless stories they ‘purloined’ from newspaper reports… even mine.
I mean, I may be a tad hard on these ‘talking heads’. But my erstwhile hometown newspaper, which no longer exists (the hometown nor the newspaper), once, a couple of decades back, ran a nearly blank front page except for a single narrow column of print down the middle. And the paper stated that if you only watched TV news everyday this is all news you got.
Indeed Journalism as theater is what local TV news seems to be. And you’d have to confess, as I do more than a tad wryly, that I wouldn’t know how I am supposed to feel about many stories if not for the fact that the TV news personalities make sad faces for sad stories and happy faces for happy stories.
Okay, so I’ve got a superiority complex… And admittedly with a great face for radio, I once did a two-year stint on evening drive-time talk radio. But of course I went back to writing. And the real world of assiduously getting my hands dirty with more than just newsprint.
Anyway, in her tight black jeans and matching blouse Cherie kept shaking and pouring cosmopolitans into my bulbous goblet. The drink consists of 3 parts vodka, 2 parts cranberry juice and one part of the liqueur Cointreau. And I kept on gulping. Trying to restrain most of my regular acerbic barbs from escaping thru the ramparts of my gritty teeth.
Also, in the back of my sagging mind, I was recalling that the last time I had consumed a hefty amount of this very persuasive elixir some years back I did something stupid… again.
I can’t quite recall the details. But it had something to do with me and a gaggle of females at a ‘designer purse’ party. And having no bloody idea how to get my very drunken self home, I just ended up sharing a bed… with someone’s wife.
Booze and broads… the inglorious details of an overspent, bacchanalian life. Do I hear the sound of another condom breaking?
Meanwhile, back at last Saturday’s party the 12 to 15 of us were all sitting in an oval in chairs and sofas about the living room of a home in one of the tidy suburbs just across the Philadelphia city line. And during our rather desultory but pleasant conversation my cousin, Mike, happened to mention to someone or another that though I was his Jewish cousin I regularly attended a mostly black Baptist Church.
I do not know what prompted the subject. But Kathie, a fluffy, garrulous middle-aged woman who used to produce some of Cherie’s TV shows, wondered ‘why?’ It was asked less with curiosity but more in an intrusive, judgmental tone.
I simply exposited that I found the church at a low point in my life. That the 4000 congregants seemed rather ingenuous. And I enjoyed the services. It made me feel mighty… Simple as that.
But for some reason Kathie decided out loud and with some speculative detail that I went because it made me feel ‘superior.’At this time I didn’t know that her rather slim and thin husband beside her was a psychologist. This no doubt provided her with a vicarious degree in fuzzy navels.
All I could wonder at this point was why do I waste my backhand on tennis.
Actually I don’t.
Yet there I was trying to be good, entertaining and definitely restraining. I had promised Mike I wouldn’t break any walls… or hang the dog.
Then Kathie again speculated in a voila! manner that I went because it no doubt made me feel ‘superior.’
At this point Mike could have pointed out that I don’t need no help to feel superior. Hell, I can be superior anywhere. In the corner bar. Or on TV’s Jeopardy. Even right here and now. In a roomful of TV ‘journalists’ who alarmingly espouse the news as if they are describing an accident to an actual eye witness.
I don’t need to be going to Christian Stronghold Church most every Sunday for the last eight years to simply feel superior.
At such an awkward point in an unsolicited conversation I usually offer some non sequitur to make people smile… or to simply twist their mental genitals. With combative women I often invoke: ‘I can’t hear you. But if you take your clothes off I listen better.’
But no matter how many cosmopolitans Cherie kept refueling me, I don’t remember actually uttering those words… at least this time. I mean Kathie was seated across the room from me. And if I had uttered something of the sort, then it would seem that everybody would have heard it. Even without a microphone.
Well, wouldn’t they?
I certainly would have enjoyed being my usual obnoxious, less-than-urbane self. But for Mike’s sake I was really trying to be at one with their universe. You know, I even brought a dozen Sicilian cannoli pastries that each cost more than my savored Romeo y Julieta cigars.
And I spend more on cigars than I did on my last alimony.
And to be quite honest, I hate disingenuous good behavior. Good people rarely make history. You don’t have any fun being a good guy. And for girls? Well, as you might know: Good girls go to heaven, but bad ones go everywhere.
Whatever… But the fact is no one acted as if I had said anything smart-ass or even a tad offensive. And the conversation continued. Heck, this Kathie even provided a salutary paean to one of Mike’s past news reports that she thought demonstrated what TV flair is really all about.
Mike feigned as if he knew what duh hell she was talking about. He later admitted he was totally mystified. And, likewise, Mike was equally mystified that her paean didn’t elicit the usual snide retort from me. Such as: ’The only flair he’s got is in his nose.’
But I refrained. Offered a congratulatory pat on his back. And held my empty glass to Cherie.
At this point most folks had ambled into the dining room across the vestibule to overdose on the cannolis as well as the cookies, cheese spread and an assortment of sweetness I was already swallowing drink by drink. But I had remained in my living room seat in convivial conversation with this doctor who certainly didn’t posses anything resembling a TV body.
And we were getting along grandly.
Then all of a sudden there was a clash and a bang and a shriek that could have split the atom. A voice was screeching something about “… take my clothes off!… he told me to take my clothes off!”
At first I didn’t pay much attention. My sluggish reactions were in an oblivious area code. Then again, to me most everything from TV people sounds like a person with his underwear on fire.
Hmm… But it did sort of sound like something I would have said. However, it was just deflating not to be able to remember and appreciate another one of my snarky moments. I would gladly accept the credit because, of course, Mike would make the assumption that I probably had said it, anyway.
That’s the trouble with guys who don’t drink. And now after 50 years, he even quit smoking. Like a lot of TV people enraptured by a life of instant replays, he apparently doesn’t put much credence in actuarial charts.
But of course.
Still, Kathie’s ‘war’ wound and Post Traumatic Stress seemed to have taken a long time percolating. I mean, after the supposed ‘insult’ an hour ago she now suddenly broad-jumped like stormin’-norman into the living room. Looking a tad more fluffed, and clucking like a hen having a bad egg day. Her lanky husband planted himself nearby, but he didn’t seem to be entertaining any thoughts of tackling his spousal running back.
Hmm… I’m sure I could have taken her — if she’d just paused long enough for me to get another drink.
So where was Cherie when I needed her?
Damn, isn’t that just like a woman?
Anyway, Paul, the doctor with whom I was jawing, jumped up and put his ample, non-TV belly in her way. At the same moment he did a pretty good job of blocking her bitch-slaps.
So I figured she was going after him. And not me. It’s always curious to me when somebody goes after the guy who doesn’t look Jewish.
‘Atta-girl’ I said. “Give him some of that good ol’ Obamacare.”
But then Paul turned my way and postulated that he thought she was really trying to get to me?
Me? I wondered. It’s not 2 AM … when anyone remaining at the bar turns beautiful.
But along came Mike and his paramour, Andi. And no wonder Cherie wasn’t handing me a drink. Her hands were full with Kathie. Finally they all got her outside into suburbia where the neighbors pretend tomorrow’s headlines aren’t being traced across their manicured yards.
And I guess at this point Kathie’s psychologist husband figured he could finally chain her in the car trunk, drag her home and have her slurp some psychotropic drugs out of a water bowl.
Then Mike, who is often skittish about offending anybody, got to presuming out loud that I probably did say something, because he knows nothing offends me. But he noted that he had forewarned folks to love me as I am. You know, why should the devil have all the fun.
At that we all agreed that all in all it was a pretty good party that left us with a lot to talk about. And I reminded Mike that you know you had a good time when you wake up the next morning and figure you’d better find your scattered clothes, change your address and apply for unemployment.
Then he asked me if I was all right.
‘Me?… Hells bells, Mike. Nothing happened. Don’t you know nothing happens unless it’s on TV.’
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…