the Power of Wig!
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)
& the Parthenon. You've never been?
Amy, being Amazing in Nepal.
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."
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.
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
The party wasn’t my only destination for the night. There’s an
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
by Sharon C. McGovern
From Volume 43
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