I try to give my body a break and not drink or smoke too many cigars on the day the good Lord wants us to be genuflecting. But last Sunday Ed came along.
And Ed is one of those big ol’ boys who still has an envious pony tail at 50. He’s also one of those gregarious garrulous fellows who is still trying to run out of whisky and time on the same day… laughing all the while like this may be the day.
And next thing I knew one cigar led to too many dirty martini’s down at the posh Del Frisco’s, the former major Philadelphia bank building turned into an opulent bar and steakhouse – vault and all. It’s also a key spot where women adorn themselves up to meet ‘an officer and a gentleman’ – hopefully with wallets much bigger than their erectile dysfunctions.
And by the second over-sized and over-priced gin juice Ed got into trying to out-story me.
That’s impossible. After all, some of my tales are actually true.
But Ed, a former jock who left all his 80-yard runs back on the dusty high school gridirons, seems, like many folks, never to have reaped what Aristotle preached: That stories should possess beginnings, middles and a satisfactory purpose.
But of course!
Because Ed’s yarns left me wanting to drink – heavily. Even though it was a Sunday. So I humored him, while eyeing an older couple down at the far end of the bar.
She was still blonde and attractive while he looked like one of those successful businessmen whose over indulgent lunches had shaped him into a beach-ball. But they seemed to be sharing so much pleasant conversation with one another.
So I interrupted Ed to ask: ‘Do you think that older couple over there is having an affair?’
Like me, Ed hates to be interrupted even when no one is paying attention. But he gazed over his martini down the long polished bar at the couple.
“Are you wondering if they’re having sex because you aren’t?”
“Well… yeah,” I bleated. “But I mean I’ve been watching them for a bit and they seem to be chattering away. Pleasantly. He’s even smiling and laughing. Like he’s wisely appreciating what she has to say. I haven’t seen many old married couples do that. I bet they’re having an affair?”
Ed was amused. A smile parted his big Irish face. He pulled at his pony tail and then simply said: “Why don’t you go over and ask them?”
Naturally he thought I wouldn’t. But this is how journalists and writers find their broken noses.
So I did.
“This ought to be good,” laughed Ed.
I weaved my way among the other patrons and ambled up to the couple. You never know what kind of reaction you’re about to receive. You could end up with a free cosmetic surgery, making it even more difficult for my 95-year-old delusional mother to recognize me. But over the years I’ve also learned it’s how you pose the question.
You know: Don’t be my usual wise-ass self.
I placed my hands on each one of their back shoulders. Smiled. And got to the importuning.
“My friend and I over there,” I began, nodding my way to a distant Ed, “have a bet. We’ve been observing you two in conversation for nearly an hour. And I think that I’m rarely wrong about people. I say you guys must be having an affair. Because you’ve been engaging so well. And he says I’m just jealous because I’ve got a trail of exes.”
He smiled knowingly. And she offered some mirth of amusement.
“We are having an affair,” the woman offered. “We’ve been married for 38 years. And dated for 2 years before that.” He smiled amiably and shrugged. “That’s the story.”
His name, as I learned upon introductions, is Steve. Hers is Carol. “So you’re going to have to tell your friend the truth. And pay up.” she said.
“That’s impossible,” I joked back at them. “You mean my ex-wives were right: That I was wrong.”
“We’ve always talked like this,” chirped Carol. “I’m not saying we haven’t been through some tough times.”
Then the beer taps started overflowing with TMI. She told me that Steve had run a successful business that ran into difficult times. They had lost their money. But then one of their sons bought the business. And now Steve works at the business for the son.
Steve was cavalier about it. “At least I don’t have the aggravations anymore.”
And then Carol went on about this. And that. We found ourselves talking like old friends happy to be catching up.
Sooo… trying to wrap it up, after 20 minutes, I said: “Soooo everything’s on the upside. Even your sex life?”
“It’s still there,” said Carol.
Hmm… Now why couldn’t more people be as contented and charming as these two. It would have undoubtedly saved me a few teeth.
And when I returned to Ed’s side of the bar he just couldn’t get over it. “No wonder you’ve got so many stories,” he gushed. “I can’t f-king believe it. You are f-king unbelievable.”
And just as I was about to heartily agree with him a chiseled middle aged fellow four barstools away, who obviously liked taking offense at most everything, leaned in front of his girlfriend/wife and pointed a finger in our direction. The wife held a discomfited expression, as if she was accustomed to telling her gardener he hadn’t manicured her suburban yard adequately.
At that this fellow snorted and demanded of me to tell my friend to “quit dropping his f-bombs.”
I barely heard him. But I figured what-duh-hell-what-duh-heck. I only heard Ed say it those two times. Nonetheless I chucked Ed on the arm and said, half teasingly: “Hey, cut the F-word. This is a high class joint. Look what you’re paying for my drinks.”
Ed, apparently comprehended. And I thought that was that.
Yet just as we went to laughing about my escapade, this chiseled chap in a sport coat and open collar learned in front of his girl/wife again and decided to keep this now non-issue alive. He snorted to me: “I don’t want to hear him drop another F-bomb!”
At that I sobered up.
“Hey buddy,” I said rather evenly. “Don’t push it. Let it go. It’s over.”
But apparently not. Suddenly he popped off his bar stool and got a little taller. So I got off my stool. Unfortunately I didn’t get any taller. Then Ed bounced off his stool and got much taller. And bigger.
Then I simply stated the obvious.
“You see how this stuff escalates when you don’t drink enough,” I said. The guy looked a tad confused. Like he was struggling to remember that semester of boxing he took way back in prep school. “You want to start this war? Or do you want to get back to drinking heavily? Because you’re about to enter the fart zone.”
Obviously I had no idea what I was saying. But his human growth hormones seemed to be kicking in.
Then I turned back to Ed who was percolating with anger. I couldn’t tell how deeply he was steeped into inebriation. After all, he’s Irish. G-d invented alcohol to keep them from ruling the world.
“This could be fun,” he said, with a stupid grin I’ve seen before.
“Nah,” I smiled. “What I had with that older couple was fun. This is just a guy who’s got his mother’s cock. He doesn’t understand: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
And then I suggested he get back to that story he was telling me.
“What story?” Ed wondered.
Doesn’t matter,” I laughed. “I wasn’t listening anyway.”
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…