daily preciousness

Sunday, May 04, 2003


All the flim-flam fun had to end somehow.

Where was I? Holding a glass of chardonnay, breathing in the smell of grilled shrimp salad, in the middle of the Arts Club. It was a write-it-up-in-your-blog glamoriffic party with Henry and friends.

There was jawboning all around. I was chatting it up with fascinating folks from near and far. We talked poli, we talked techy, we even talked opry (the Italian kind, not the grande ol' variety). Fun, fun, fun all around. Laughter, like the bubbles in a glass of champagne, filled the air.

But then it happened: I got broad-sided by the most recklessly boring person I've met in ages. Now, I'm far too much of a gentleperson to name names, but let's just call him Mr. Boredom. (Hint: His name does sound like a brand name peanut butter.)

So Mr. Boredom cornered me. He fidgeted with himself nervously - it looked as though he was playing air piano badly - and asked if I'd heard opera music before. From the snide look on his face, I guess he thought I didn't look like I was in the right socio-economic bracket to have ever heard opera before. (Hello?!? I practically breathe the stuff -- my radio is permenantly set to NPR!)

As you might imagine, this peanut butter-named freak was already scoring high in the jerk department from that very first comment.

He had the fluffy, wispy hair of an infant or a newborn chick, but lacked the sex appeal of either. On top of that, he couldn't quite manage to look me directly in the eye. He was shifty-eyed with a beady little bespeckled gaze. I had met the guy before and managed to get away quickly. But this time, I was pretty much cornered.

So I weathered the storm of his bromidic presence, as he launched into the subject of opera. (To his credit, we had just finished listening to some opera music, so at least he tried to discuss something we'd both experienced together.)

With the charisma of a dusting rag, he decides he wants to tick off the operas he's seen and tell me his detailed impression of them. He noted set design, costumes, sound quality, vocal performance and staging. Meanwhile, I'm wondering how I can get away from him. I decide to provide an easy way out.

"When I hear a particularly lovely aria, I always picture in my mind's eye sunlight dancing gaily on the water," I state, apropos of nothing in particular. (Sometimes, I find, it's helpful to offer a non sequitor to shut somebody up or to get them talking about something more interesting. Other times you can say something random enough to leave them debating your sanity. Upon reflection, this comment wasn't really outlandish enough.)

And he replies, "Yes, the water on the Arno... So you've been to Florence, then?"

I don't really know why he mistook the word "water" for the River Arno. But maybe he was thinking of Italy what with all the Italian music that we'd just heard. I can forgive him for that. But I can't forgive him for the self-indulgent story that he then shared with me.

"When I grew up, we were always taking trips to Italy. It was fun," he chortled, hog-like.

"We had cousins that lived over there. They always let us stay at their Palazzo San Lorenzo. That was when I was little. Many years later, when I found myself traveling around Europe with some friends, I didn't think to contact my family who lived there. So I was walking near the 13th Century church Santa Croce, when I heard somebody call my name. I ignored it, of course -- I mean, who would be calling my name in Florence? Well, it was my cousin. He recognized me and asked for me to come to the Palazzo. Of course my friends berated me for not having mentioned my family living there. I had all but forgotten them and I protested that they were a far-off branch of the family that I barely even knew. But my cousin embraced me whole-heartedly, in the European manner, on the street outside the church. Then, he scolded me, as if I were a naughty child, for not informing his parents of my presence in Florence! By the time we got back to our tiny pension, our luggage had been transported to the family Palazzo and a taxi was waiting for us."

Now, let's do a reality check here. Up until this point in the story, I was mildly interested. Coming from this guy, who had the unadulterated charm and swagger of a squashed cabbage leaf, the story was actually mildly entertaining. (Keep in mind, however, that he managed to rattle on for about six times the length of my summarized version above. And his prose was nowhere as dreamily lyrical or phat as mine. Let's face it, Garcia Marquez and 50 Cent both envy my mad skillz. Word.)

So I was about to tell him how terribly awful it must have been for him to have to suffer with the unwashed proletariat like that and how could he have put his friends through the ultimate torcher of mediocre holiday travel when he could have lapped it up at the lap of luxury in Florence. How difficult for you to be suddenly thrust into a lumpen role like that! But he stopped me right then and there when he mentioned, off-handedly but in the unmistakable DC tone-to-impress, just who that "side" of the family was.

"Yeah, so I told Aunty Medici, 'You really don't have to do this, but I'm glad you did. Thanks for letting us stay over."

By this point, I came close to doing a spit take with the wonderful, buttery chardonnay and spray Mr. Boredom with it. He'll probably never know how close he came to wearing my drink that night.

He must have realized that I wasn't all that impressed with his grossly under-developed sense of humility or grace at some point, though. Mr. Boredom apologized for "going on and on about that," so I assured him, in my best white lie voice, "Oh, no -- not at all!" It was my patently false white lie voice. The "disregard entirely the literal content of this message and rely solely on the tone of my voice so that you can interpret my true meaning" voice. The "Screw you, jerk" voice.

And with that little sound in my voice, I realized that the flim-flam fun had started again. I excused myself to refresh my drink, walked over to Henry, noticed his needed a little help, and then got more booze for the both of us. "Hello, wonderful," he said, as I offered him a refill. "Missed you," I offered back...


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