Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Dinner With Rose

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

(Editor’s note: In the interest of maintaining my Oprah Winfrey Good Writing Seal of Approval, for the record I state up front and unequivocally that unless otherwise noted every word you read in my column is based on fact and therefore true. Hopefully the words will also be humorous, but at the very least when I say something happened, it happened.)

There are moments in one’s life when you just want to light a candle to the writing gods and thank them for giving you a humor column. Something happens and you just can’t believe how fortunate you are to have this forum for discussing your thoughts on the matter. It’s like owning an auto body shop and waking up to find Long Island in the grips of an unexpected ice storm during rush hour.

That’s how I felt when I read the news the other day that the Unholy Trinity of Trysts, Joey Amy and Mary Jo, is looking to re-unite and take its act on the road. Well, re-unite, anyway. Apparently they want “closure” on everything that happened and they want that closure to take place in the glare of the television spotlight that they used to scream was ruining their lives. My guess is that when they start to sweat under the heat of those spotlights they also want to be able to mop their brows with hundred dollar bills, but that’s just me. I’m sure closure is the be all and end all reason for this little get together.

Now, I could carp and rant about how these three helped bring about the downfall of society in that their little escapade is what led media executives across the nation to realize that “there’s gold in them thar scandals.” But I shant, primarily because unless you’re Lewis Black or the late Sam Kinison rare is the carp and rant that proves humorous. No, I choose to share a story with you related to this whole sordid affair, one that involves not one of the three main players but rather Amy’s mom, a nice woman named Rose.

Rose, you see, was the interior decorator for one of my previous employers before all this silliness – and Mary Jo - went down. My employer at the time invited my wife, Sharon, and I out to dinner with his wife. We were going to see an entertainer whose career my boss was trying to support perform at a restaurant in Queens. My instructions were to meet my boss and his wife at the place where we worked, in Valley Stream, and that we would then follow him to the restaurant in Queens.

Well, Sharon and I pull up to the building in Valley Stream and my boss and his wife are already in their car, waiting for us. He signals to me to follow him, which I do. As his car pulls away from the curb, however, Sharon sees a smallish woman in the back seat and, rather perceptively, notices that she bears a striking resemblance to the aforementioned Rose Fisher. This is taking place at the height of the scandal, mind you, so Sharon turns to me and asks, “Why in God’s name is Rose Fisher in the back seat of your boss’ car?”

I knew about the interior decorating relationship, of course, but I had no idea that she was joining us for dinner. During our journey into Queens Sharon and I bandied about matters that we should not bring up while in the company of Mrs. Fisher. Typical topics of conversation - the problems associated with raising children in today’s society; too many guns; too much violence; teenagers; love, unrequited and otherwise; the difficulties we all face in finding a good auto body mechanic – they were tossed into the taboo pile. We decided to play it safe and just say as little as possible.

Eventually we turned down the street where the restaurant was and as we followed my boss’ car into the valet parking Sharon and I simultaneously saw the sign over the restaurant door and realized - to our collective horror - that the name of the establishment was “Joey’s Place.” This did not bode well for the rest of the evening.

We stuck to our game plan and for the most part got through the dinner unscathed. During dessert, however, the topic turned to college educations, as both Mrs. Fisher and my boss’ wife had just recently started taking classes at Nassau Community College. One of them, I am not sure who, said she enjoyed taking the classes because by doing so she felt smarter because she knew more about what was going on in the world around her. That’s when the topic filter in my head shut down, like a sump pump in the middle of a flood.

I thought about the time while in my late teens that I was listening with one of my brothers to a popular band from the late 1970s. During one of the songs the singer made a reference to a famous piece of literature. My brother asked me about that reference and since I was able to explain it to him because I had read that piece of literature in college I felt smart.

As is my wont I started to share this little vignette with my dinner companions but about halfway through a chill went down my spine. “Omigod,” I thought. “How am I going to get out of this one?” The song, you see, was “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” by “The Police.” The lyrics that stirred my brother’s curiosity were:

“He sees her
He starts to shake and cough,
Just like that,
Old man in,
That book by Nabokov.”

“That book,” of course, was “Lolita,” and here I am telling this story to the mother of the “Long Island Lolita.” I pretended not to be able to remember the rest of the story, which surprised Sharon because while I can never remember to take out the garbage I am able to remember the tiniest minutiae from things that happened years ago. She asked me about it when we got in the car and once I explained it she laughed. We both agreed that even by my standards – and I am a guy who would be very wealthy today if there was any money in putting one’s foot in one’s mouth – the odds of such an esoteric reference creating a problem were pretty astronomical.

Come to think of it, the odds are right up there with the odds that a woman who took a gun shot to the face at the hands of her husband’s teenage lover would want to “re-unite” with her assailant for profit and prizes some 14 years later.

Thank you for reading this column. [2006-01-26]

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