It was seventy degrees just the other day, forty, maybe twenty degrees -if you remove the deceptive spaces between the clouds and raindrops and nice men holding doors open - today. I was in my non-running car for nearly an hour in the super fat super freezing southstyle rain trying out JG's jimmyjam ignitiontrick (a combo of pat your head/rub your stomach and simultaneous counter clockwise molestation of key hole) on my locked steering column for a good 55 minutes. The tips of my fingers turned white and lost all feeling. JG's JJIT is focused mostly on a special wrist technique so I didn't need the front phalanges after all and eventually got my car started but I'm glad to have that as a fallback reason in case it's been too long to answer the question, Can I still throw a few words together? No? Well don't blame me, it's a physical thing: bum frostbite fingers, formed in Memphis.
The only place to start in with a story when you haven't told one in a while is to start with something uncomfortable, something that reminds you of something else, something that is gone and rested in the past, something original, mind-blowingly brilliant, sexy, fresh, hilarious, referential, post-modern, formalist, deconstructed, and leaves your regular brunch date out of it all.
That brings me to a late dinner after the last day of the 2007 Diabetic Foot Conference at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa. These late dinners are the last obligatory step in the twelve hour day of a corporate sales professional (when working a conference that is, my usual working day was exactly 1.5 hours and that includes a two hour three-martini lunch, you figure it out). Usually you grab a doctor (aka: Key Decision Maker) and his huss (aka: Highlights) and round up the two highest ranking people from your company like say a VP (Aka: Successory) or a Marketing Exec (Aka: The Creative Aka: Can Hold Liquor) or Corp Contract Nerd (Aka: Just Read Who Moved My Cheese or SPIN Selling) and then throw in one tolerable coworker (Aka: I Know What You Put On Your Expense Report Last Month) then one that you can't stand (Aka: Will Talk Business at Dinner) that just happened to overhear your dinner plans. So my set up on this particular night was the Vice Pres of Marketing and Sales, um we will call him Ted and we will know him as a six-foot prematurely balding prematurely graying prematurely maturing forty three year old annoyingly enthusiastic company man with a German like fondness for talk proximity that borders on frotting. I figure him and the lame coworker who we will call um, Mindy, can sit together and talk about business in the way only people who truly fear losing their job (in a way that I can only compare with what it must feel like to be responsible to keep a person with a head injury awake, of course the kind of head injury where they will die if they fall asleep. YOU MUST KEEP TALKING about anything or they will die. Or you both will cease to exist... that's the vibe I get anyway). And then we have a slickster Corporate Contract exec who was ushered in to the position by his BFF, the CEO. Top bald and front fat, this guy has been gaming for so long it's not such a shock to his set-up as it is with our VP. He wears it all like, "you heard me, I'm the fat bald bad ass, your Company's Dennis Franz, now how about that Italian Butter..." I figure if I sit him, from now on known as Dennis, next to the doctor's Huss we could have a nice shake-up after the second round of cocktails.
And cocktails, as you may guess are an essential part of all of this. They start on the way to the table and while looking over the menu and ordering and waiting for the food. If, like in this instance, there is a physician with a genuine cultured background (as opposed to the cultural contributions of the business and communication degrees and poorly connected corporate middlemen seated around me) things usually switch to wine with dinner.
By the time the wine came the Foot Doctor's Highlighted Huss had brought the already sinking conversation around to "Dancing With the Stars". And that's when my usually tolerable coworker reveals that she watches the show religiously and Mindy, the wretch with the wrenchy voice, tries to work the conversation back into a sales opportunity, "...and that's why Company X's products actually HELP people.. learn to dance..." Ted throws in some numbers and ranking stats (along with a spit shower to the unfortunate two sitting next to him) to support Mindy's pitch or the celebrity judges decision from the last DWTS episode. I wouldn't know, I'm whiskey. The Foot Doctor (Aka: Podiatrist), a proud Baylor graduate doesn't have a thing to say about it but mentions that the wine is not nearly as good as something else he has had before. He's been to brazil many times also, it's winter there when it's summer here.
"Anyone watch Deadwood?" I ask.
"Do they use our products?" Mindy says, drinking her wine with a straw. Ted beams with pride, some sale or another is getting closed tonight and the Footman grabs Highlight's thigh under the table and I see Dennis Franz looking on and then up.
He hits Ted in the chest. "You know what I watch?"
And Ted. Ted nearly takes off his jacket and shirt at the mere mention of this show. Huss and Mindy perk in their seats.
"Yeah. GOD! You know. I watch that show. GOD. My wife hates that show." Ted's wife is unnaturally good looking. I can imagine her hating the show because people bathe less than every six hours.
"I know, I have to watch it in my game room." I can see Dennis, his bald spot lit from a neon beer sign above his plaid game room couch.
Ted hits Dennis on the arm. Foot Doctor checks the wine label for the tenth time using both hands, freeing Huss. I can see them together for another hour.
"I just watch it and it makes me feel like GOD. Like rargh! Like... ahhhh. Rargh... like..."
"Like FUCKING something."
"Yeah, it's really something else."
Heads nod in agreement across four sixths of the table and the entree comes and then the bill but not after a bit more whiskey. I wish I hadn't heard any of this. But it is on my expense report.