daily preciousness

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

call me max

I shoved the key in the lock a second time and jiggled it -- still, no result. My partner shuffled around, tangling the two of us with his leash. His big brown beagle eyes stared up at me with an air of bemusement.

“I know, Bailey. It’s not working at all… we are so, so locked out!” The key went in, but refused to turn. I shimmied it, but the lock wouldn’t budge. In the shadowy corridor of the building, I feel deeply alone. Florescent lights buzz above me and Bailey mills about some more, looping the leash around my leg.

“Bailey, what are we going to do?” I whispered, not wanting to bother the neighbors. Phlegmatically, he blinked at me. “You’re right. We’re going to work together like a team, because there’s no “I” in “hopelessly stuck out of Todd’s apartment.” As if to agree, he licked the back of my hand affectionately, then turned his head towards the door to the stairwell.

He seemed to be pointing me in that direction, as effortlessly communicative as Lassie. “You’re right, Bailey – we should go downstairs and see if that cute neighborly couple is home. I’ll bet they have a key that works! Or do you mean that Timmy’s fallen into a well down by the old homestead?” He didn’t even acknowledge my snide comment. (I can’t way that I blame him, either.) Instead, he made a little front-end leap, tugging at his lead.

Bailey always makes a beeline to his owner’s friends’ apartment. The two guys that live there are his babysitters whenever Todd, his owner, is out of town. That’s how Bailey knows them. I know them because they had a fab little Oscars party where Todd and I made “an appearance” a few months back. (Side note: Todd is the kind of guy who makes appearances. While I generally play the role of wallflower, Todd enters a room, warms up the crowd then proceeds to introduce and endear himself to the entire gathering. Todd is my personal schmooze consultant. It’s great to have a social trainer. Every time we go out together, I learn something new… sometimes it’s a bold but effective technique to butt into a conversation. Other times it’s something subtler -- like how to make sure everyone around you is having a good time. Todd Elmer is simultaneously the social glue, holding the party together and the social lubricant, who gets things moving.)

But Todd’s “mad skillz” at mingling weren’t doing me any good right now… But could they?

I sprint downstairs, taking Bailey’s advice. I knock on the neighbors’ door for a few minutes. No luck. So Bailey and I go outside and sit on the front porch of the condo building.

We plop ourselves down and watch as the masses go by. It’s a busy little stretch of road, the 1900th block of 17th street… Guppies and Yuppies, all walking their puppies. They parade about like contestants in a dog show. While I was walking Bailey, just a half-hour earlier, I’d joined their masses: me, a guppy poser!

In the span of three minutes, two people come to gush over Bailey. He’s just that kind of dog, I guess. He’s got beautiful, expressive eyes, a lustrous coat, a springy, Snoopy-like tail and a very obedient manner.

I figured by positioning myself right on the stoop of the building, I might meet some of Bailey’s many admirers – and some of them might have Todd’s cell number or maybe even a spare set of keys to his place.

I was right. It only took ten minutes – and a few awkward conversations (example: “Todd who? Um. Well, he’s my neighbor… I could pick ‘em out of a lineup, if that’s what you mean, but know his cell phone number? Nope.”)

Before long, I was able to locate the very couple I’d looked for in the first place. They were headed off to the gym, but they stopped to key me into the apartment. Bailey was home, safe and sound, tail wagging and cheerful.

So now I could suit up for my evening on the town. I dumped a thick handful of name badges into my bag. They were for the 80 or so guests for the fundraiser. Todd and I had slaved for three hours over a hot computer and fussy diva with PMS style printer to produce these. These little demonic badges simply had to make it to the party, or all the torment would be for naught! For naught! I wasn’t going to let that happen.

I grabbed a grocery bag of cokes from the trunk of my car downstairs – felt like 10 pounds worth – and hailed a cab.

In just a few moments, I find myself at 2101 Connecticut. The building is of the old school – very classy. Stone facings, beautiful brass and dark wood interior, doormen and elevator opening people at the front desk… the works!

I saunter in with my suit and tie, carrying a bag of groceries. I quietly wonder if these sort of people – people who can afford doormen – do these folks carry their own groceries? I ride up in the elevator and find my way to the party. The cheerful din of the event ripples out into the hallway, echoing off the marble trim. The room I step into is elegantly appointed. Flowers, modern art, dark Euro colors… surrounding the double-breasted, hand-tailored gentlemen, all mingling and doing that peculiar banter/schmooze two-step of political partydom. I join the dance, at first awkwardly carrying the heavy bag full of soda. I’m feeling tremendously out of place. The host of the event, a friendly man in his 40s, greets me with a warm handshake and smile. I thank him for allowing us to use his place, then I tell him I’m a volunteer working for the event. I make for a speedy drop-off of the Coke. (That sounds shadier than I meant it.) Next, I regroup in the roomy guest bath, checking my hair.

Ms. Kitty was there. This little Russian-speaking cutie is one of Todd’s peeps. She works for trade and handles sensitive deals with the vodka-swilling boys in the former Soviet bloc. And she does it all with style and panache.

Ms. Kitty sat and talked with me. We compared band-aids and our recent injuries. (She’d cut herself shaving, while I shaved myself [with the sidewalk] while jogging.) People looked on and editorialized on our wounds and our band-aid choices. Ms. Kitty had the more stylish cartoony padding. She won that round.

Charming spokesmodel (at least I think he looks like a spokesmodel) Joseph was there. His was the first familiar face I glimpsed as I waddled in under the weight of the grocery bag. At this point, sweat was streaming down my brow and getting into my eyes. The mousse in my hair was charging down my face in a sticky, possibly carcinogenic mess. In short, I was a wreck. Still, Joseph said hello. If I’d been in his shoes, I might just as well have pretended not to know me. No doubt, he considered this, as he nibbled on the crackers and cheese. Somehow, he fought the urge to stare right past me and found the courage to say “Hello, Jeffrey.” I was touched.

Todd and I called Joseph just a few hours before in a desperate attempt to find a bartender. The evening’s bar help had pulled out at the last minute. Instead of trying to have a party for gay men (who have a much higher prevalence for alcoholism than the general pop) we made a quick call to Mr. Joseph Pindy. In addition to being a talented actor and cool copyright consultant, Joseph is also a bartender type. So Todd called him up and pleaded for some help. Fortunately, when he arrived, it turned out that the host’s help could mix a perfectly good drink all by himself. So Joseph got to have the evening off to socialize. It was good to see him again. The last time we’d broken bread together was on the national mall, gazing up into the azure sky that was colorfully punctuated by flying kites.

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