Behold the Power of Wig!


Behold the Power of Sophia!


Behold the Power of Sharon Stone's Wig! (Joe Pesci's character is the murderer in the story to the right)


Me & the Parthenon. You've never been?


Amy, being Amazing in Nepal.


Gilda, making her own luck. Me making my own luck looked pretty much like this. Mr. Blond looked better.


Okay, we didn't have door prizes at this party, but the photo busts me up (Darin & Shane, btw).


This is the image on the plaque I "won."

The Social Event of Spring

Because she is amazing, Amy has an impressive circle of friends. Impressive both in number and in range of status—from the beautiful people of North Scottsdale to, well, me. But she’s kind enough to invite me to parties she’s been invited to, which gets me out of my apartment (where I tend to cocoon) and into something like a John Updike novel.

Hair Piece
For these events I find it’s helpful to look as little like my usual self as possible, a task helped immeasurably by my little (but growing!) collection of wigs. Blond Sharon seems to be a bit more sophisticated than the standard model, for instance, black-with-the-red highlights a bit smarter, and the little gold and red one requires me to wear a girdle to get the correct overall profile so it’s a mixed bag. For this evening, not having the bread for a new wig and not of the opinion that any of my old ones suited the blouse I was planning to wear, I straightened my curly mop. The good news is the hank of hair I whacked away a couple of weeks ago as a partially successful mostly regrettable remedy to a bangs situation is hardly missed. The bad news is the gray becomes extra prominent, and what was intended to be sort of Angie Dickenson in Police Woman but brown actually came out rather sad and dull and baked looking. Still! It was different so mission accomplished.

The party wasn’t my only destination for the night. There’s an artist in my neighborhood who is talented enough that I covet his work and nice enough that I wouldn’t feel too whorish (only in the loosest use of the word, Kathleen) sucking up to him in an effort to get a substantial discount on it. So about halfway through the straightening of the hair, I trotted over to his girlfriend’s (you guessed it—her name is Kathleen she’s swell) home to check on the time for his show opening at a local wine salon. She wasn’t there. “Must be helping with the show!” I thought. I returned home, hopped in the shower for a quick wash and learned that steam recurls my hair on contact.

A Spring Shower
And why was I so late in showering? Well, in fairness it was a second shower and my hair had been washed. But I had gone to my niece Sophia’s third degree black belt graduation and watching her jump around and hit other children and break boards for three hours really took it out of me. Then there was the interminable speech about Vision given by the head of the Black Belt Academy. You have to have Vision to accomplish what you want in life! That’s what we’re teaching here, Vision! If kids don’t have Vision, they will grow up to be…well, not exactly losers like all of you, but not all they can be! Vision, Vision, Vision!

You’d think that if his Vision were so red hot he’d have noticed about a hundred spectators wilting with boredom that even overpowered resentment. We were there! We were supportive! For a really long time! Give us a freakin’ break! Or something like that, though most seemed too beaten down for exclamation points. Anyway, congratulations, Soph.

And off to Big Lots! for a curling iron. Did you know that some curling irons are made of ceramic to more evenly distribute heat and prevent the hair from burning? Neither did I until I was on my way home with one that was merely flocked and Amy called to bring me up to date on hair technology and to set a time to meet for the party. Right after the opening.

The Opening
Except there wasn’t an opening, at least not that night. It had been postponed for three weeks, but I was welcome to stay for a glass of wine and a look around. I had known the place as a bakery I hated for personal reasons, but which had the best biscotti I’ve ever eaten. Why must life be so hard? As a wine salon the place is lovely. The furniture is elegant but comfortable, the music low and tasteful. There are lots of little conversation nooks, and the art will be much better once Stephan gets his stuff in there. I asked the owner Jock (really) what the place had been in the past. Before it was the bakery, it was a Mafia controlled restaurant, and before that the offices for AJ Bailess. Back up—Mafia? Were there any murders? Why yes! Ever seen the movie Casino? Of course. Well, remember how the character played by Joe Pesci committed the unauthorized murder of another gang member which lead to his own execution later on? Well, that murder victim was the maitre de at the restaurant. He was killed in the cooler back there, and his body was thrown into the canal.

“Wow! Any ghosts?”
“No. Well, Philip says there are but nobody believes him.”

Philip, the cute front office manager, scoffed. So apparently the ghosts are laying low for the time being, but if I learn more I’ll pass it on in the next Cobra’s Ghost.

The Main Event
And onto Amy’s party. Or rather, the party for Amy’s swank friends the Gillespies. It was held in North Scottsdale near the Arizona-Utah border. Most of the homes in the area are under construction, and all are of a vaguely European urban design, by which I mean big, upright homes packed close together. The host home was on a corner, and so enormous I took it for the neighborhood clubhouse. From the outside, we could hear live music, and see guests gazing down on the back patio from a balcony and stream of well-dressed guests streaming in through the front.

“Did I mention that this party has a Vegas theme?” said Amy.
“Yay! I’ll get to use my Casino anecdote!”

That thought lasted until I saw the buffet and realized my supper of Oreos was a bit insufficient. Hm…this is what? Just serve yourself? I smiled at the server, then got a drink and circulated a bit. Nobody else was eating a meal, and there didn’t seem to be a good place to sit with a meal that required knife and fork. Was the buffet just a lure to entrap gauche guests? I took another sip and realized I didn’t really know anybody there besides Amy, who has seen me demolish a slice of beef and our relationship survived. So I filled a plate, chose a strategic place on a couch near a photo of the Acropolis (“you’ve never been?”), and dug in.

What the…

HEY! What happened to the text I put in here? I blame Microsoft. Or better yet, the Illuminati. Yeah, I said it, you Illuminati bastards! Come and get me if you dare!

Okay, where were we? I’m sitting on the couch with my meal when a guy I’d met upstairs sits next to me and we speak. He’s nice looking, successful, well traveled and spoken—so not my type. I can’t think of a single interesting thing to discuss with him, so he leaves and Amy comes over looking a little antsy to tell you the truth. Actually, she looks fabulous in a silk jacket she bought which was Asian designed and Asian made. That means it fits her slender waist but has to be opened up at top to accommodate her bosom (which is covered to a socially acceptable extent by a cute little tank, for all you perverts out there who jumped to conclusions). She’s also wearing a suite of amber jewelry—but still, a little antsy. Don’t know why. Well, later on, she described the event as “the gathering where everybody is 5’4” and Amy! did you meet my bald homely friend with two children?” and that was probably the reason.

She did brighten when a lady guest entered the living room. ”Will you look at that rock!” she said, and rushed to the woman’s side who, come to think of it, did have quite a ring on her finger.

The first time I went anywhere with Amy was to Costco. We went because a day or so earlier, Amy asked me if she should sell her old engagement ring. “This is me with the ring,” she said, holding up her right hand, smiling a queenly smile and giving a regal wave. “This is me without it,” she said, dropping her hand below the reception desk, rolling her eyes heavenward, and heaving a sigh. “I’ve seen you come in every day for about two weeks and never once noticed your ring,” I replied. That was when we realized we might become good friends, but I definitely had a lot to learn about jewelry. At Costco, we looked at an assortment of gems and she briefed me on which cuts and settings were acceptable. She was still looking when we were in the food court and this woman sporting a gigantic diamond ring passed by. Amy said, “Excuse me…,’ and made the woman’s acquaintance. I only had eyes for my hot dog on that occasion, and our appetites haven’t changed appreciably since. But thus are friendships born.

In the Shadow of the Acropolis Photo
A woman sat in the place Amy vacated. “Look, the Acropolis,” I said. “Ever been?” I didn’t get to my Casino anecdote, but promised to tell her if we met again that evening before she darted off. I looked at the empty seat, then to the trio of way too skinny and cool for the likes of me to the right, and abandoning my empty plate and glass to be collected by the tiny Latin clean-up crew got up to work the room.

Some of the guests made the most of the theme and wore bridal outfits or swinger outfits, or were in drag with lewd signs…something to do with lollypops…? on them. One was a centurion. I met him later. The rest I did not meet. Until I sidled up to a craps table, next to a handsome blond fella in a tuxedo.

Craps is a confusing game, and all the times I’ve watched Gilda have done nothing to clarify it. But it does give me an excuse to talk about Gilda whilst pretending to learn. “Do you make your own luck?” I asked Mr. Blond. He explained about how sevens are desirable except when they aren’t and introduced me to the centurion, Todd. He gave me some chips and we played till they we lost them, then we meandered to the roulette table.

There we saw Amy with a short, balding man. Roulette seems like an even worse bet than craps, if somewhat more straightforward. Amy had a skeptical aspect, but she gave me one of those frown-raised-eyebrow combos that indicated she approved of Mr. Blond. He and I, having no chips to bet, went to the porch in search of red wine. “Have you seen the movie Casino?” I asked, and he let me tell my anecdote. He said something about the deviousness of human nature, and I (mis)quoted The African Queen—“Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are here to overcome.” “You know,” he said, when most people talk about movies, they don’t talk about Gilda or Bogart or The African Queen.” I thought it best not to mention that when I talk about Gilda or Bogart or The African Queen people tend to make their excuses and wander away.
But I did panic and when I spotted the woman from earlier I excused myself, rushed up to her and told her and her husband the Casino story. They said they had to leave. Dang it. Next time, include the ghost. Better contact Philip for a follow up. I found Mr. Blond again, upstairs, waiting for the auction.

The Auction
Sending party guests home with a small gift is a terrific idea. Lou Reed, for instance, sings about Andy Warhol doing it: “It's a Czechoslovakian custom my mother passed on to me/ Give people little presents so they remember me.” And Big Lots! is a terrific place to find all sorts of mad stuff costing thirty-nine cents for people to fish out of a bag whilst Partick shouts “DOOR PRIZE!” and cracks jokes (“Best surname—Jen Semon!”). Then you get to take a lot of photos of Josette pretending to eat a rubber lizard or Will proudly holding aloft a can of cat food, et cetera.

But these Vegas themed auction items were something else. Most had much more in common with baskets prepared for celebrities at charity events than anything I would consider presenting to somebody just because they showed up at my party and found fortune at the roulette table. The currency for the auction was tickets cashed in for chips won gambling. The chips, I believe, originated in complimentary bags presented to those who didn’t have to journey from distant southern climes and therefore arrived earlier in the evening. Todd was standing with Mr. Blond, and between them they had four tickets. Mr. Blond gave me two of them (enough for the Celine Dion mouse pad? Please, please, please!) and we exchanged cards, and for once in my life I figured I had this whole social interaction code cracked.

Then came the decline.

The Decline and Fall of the Cobra Empire
Amy arrived on the scene to hear me answer Mr. Blond’s question, “Is your phone number on this card?” with “No, but my e-mail address is.” She gripped my arm—“Did you just refuse to give him your number?” “No, no. I just told him it wasn’t on the…wait—is that the same thing?” Amy shook her head sadly. Then, Mr. Blond and Todd asked to meet my fascinating friend. Sure! Everybody should meet Amy! But even as it happened, I felt like William Miller in Almost Famous introducing Penny Lane to his new rock star friend, that feeling of, “Whoa, this might have been a mistake.” And if you don’t know what I’m talking about it’s your own fault, I’ve been telling you to see Almost Famous for years. But I stand by my decision. Everybody should meet Amy.

The auction went on and the auctioneers were getting testy. Interest in the items just wasn’t what they anticipated. “This is a good bargain, people! Do you have any idea what this would cost retail?” They decided to allow American dollars to be used in place of tickets, and that’s what led to my next catastrophe. Todd, Mr. Blond, and I pooled our (okay, their) tickets, plus two dollars (neither mine), and we bought a basket with a bottle of wine in it, plus little decorative plaques. Almost immediately, I tilted the basket and watched the bottle push though the cellophane, fall in slow motion, then SMASH on the floor. Thank heaven it was white wine, and had a delicious smell that the squad deployed to clean up the mess maybe wouldn’t have an impossible time eradicating. I apologized to every one of them who came up, plus a few other workers downstairs. Breaking things puts me in a near frenzy, though you’d think I’d be used to it by now. The irrevocability of it stings me, like a long, thin) needle that penetrates my sternum and pokes me in the heart. And if you think that’s drama, man you should see what happens when I burn food.

There were, handily enough, three decorative plaques, the one Todd liked, the one he thought Mr. Blond (who had slipped away again) would like, and the orange one that fit nicely into my coat pocket. There was also the basket. “Here, Todd—take the basket,” I said. “No, that’s okay, you take the basket.” Could be he was being polite, or maybe he’s just not into baskets. But I, I hate baskets. I have a loathing for baskets that borders on the pathological. “No, really, Todd—I break things and don’t deserve the basket.” “Don’t be silly. The basket is all yours.”

Mr. Blond reappeared. “Here,” I said, “have a basket.” “I don’t want the basket.” And because nothing facilitates a budding relationship like a little light extortion, I pulled his card out of my pocket and said, “If you don’t take the basket, I’ll sign you up for every bit of spam I can think of.” So the card exchange proved profitable after all. He took the basket, and I was so relieved to be rid of it that I left the party with a light heart.

Amy and I went downstairs, which was pretty empty though the hour wasn’t terribly late. Turns out upper class decadence is mellower than John Updike’s accounts of it from a couple decades back. I overheard random discussions of violated HOA regulations and sightings of security personnel, which seemed a lot of bother considering the loudest, most irresponsible thing I witnessed all night was the destruction of that poor bottle. But even that trauma was alleviated by Amy’s company—the gossip and complaints that make me laugh out loud—the clear and pleasant northern sky packed with stars, and me in a basket-free condition. That is the memory, the Vision, if you will, that I have of the evening.

PS We later did get a ghost story out of Philip—stay tuned.

Written by Sharon C. McGovern
From Volume 43
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