It is perhaps enough to simply say every thinking American should read this book, regardless of what the privileged scold David Brooks might opine.
It is a warm summer evening and the top is down on the car as I glide south on Highway 1 toward Monterey.
This should give me pause because in actuality after I had snagged my luggage at the San Jose International Airport I hopped a courtesy shuttle to the Hertz lot and picked out a shiny new hardtop Malibu (why, you say? well…duh; hello!? anyone home?) But what the hell, the breeze felt nice so I went with it.
On a whim I stop at Moss Landing – the last time in Cali Nora and I had eaten at Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery. The food had been great and they put those colorful little plastic mermaids on the rims of our drink glasses. Afterward Nora placed the miniature gals into a folded Kleenex then stashed them in her purse to take back home with us. So I stop.
Surprise – they have a deuce available and I’m led right to it.
I’ve a drink in hand, gazing out over the moonlit bay 1 when this generation’s (straight) Cary Grant stops by the table.
“Excuse me,” Clooney says. “Tell me if we’re intruding (I just then notice Amal at his side)…”
“No, no – you certainly aren’t.” And I stand (yes, I’m old enough that I stand when women are presented to me.) “Ma’am,” tipping my head in Amal’s direction, “a pleasure.” Asta would be proud that I didn’t say that in French. She has described my accent as “comically execrable.” Oh, youth! “Can I offer you folks a drink?”
Amal offers me a slight smile and, in the manner of beautiful women the world over, gently nods back to me, acknowledging my acknowledgement of her beauty, but remains silent. George gracefully (of course) declines.
“Thank you, no. We’ve just finished. Really, you should try the salmon Marsala – it’s great tonight. Oh! and the sanddabs, we always get the sanddabs. Any way, Amal noticed you were alone – you are alone, aren’t you? Great! – and thought we should invite you over. We’re having a small thing at our house tonight and Amal can’t stand to see any one alone. But,” and here he rushes his words a little bit, “please don’t feel like you have to come over. No pressure. But we would be pleased if you did.” And then there’s that killer smile. What? I’m going to say no?
“I’d be happy to join you after I finish dinner – thank you.”
“Great, great!” Man, but George can be effusive. “So let me write down the directions…” and he does on a pristinely white cloth napkin a beaming waitress just then shows up with. “There you go; see you in a couple of hours? Good – until then!” And they head outside where I imagine what passes for George’s posse is ready to whisk them away.
I finish dinner (no idea of what I ate) and head back down the PCH. After a 20 minute drive I’m in Studio City 2 peering at the street signs, which really aren’t all that easy to read at night, what with the delicately soft designer glow the antique street lamps throw out, checking against George’s directions. It takes a bit of back and forth and a couple of wrong turns down dead ends, but eventually I find the place. As I pull up the winding drive a valet snappily presents herself and takes my keys. I turn to the house – you’ve seen pictures, right? – and there’s George at the entrance, an obviously warm snifter of cognac in his hand 3, that famous smile all over his mug.
“Welcome! Glad you could make it; Amal will be so pleased.” And he hands me the snifter and claps me on the shoulder, guiding me indoors.
The party is populated by exactly those people you would imagine George hangs with. Matt Damon, for example, is there, but not Ben Affleck. Amal drifts over, places a hand on my arm and turns me to a group of starlets, they have to be starlets they’re all so stunning. Before she leaves to return to George she murmurs “Make yourself at home.”
The starlets find me fascinating. 4 After a luxurious half hour of amusing conversation one of the more nubile blonds suggest we go skinny dipping. “We always do that when we’re here,” she nearly pants, finishing it off with the epitome of coquetry. 5
Who am I to argue, right? So I just go with it and head out to George’s pool. I nearly make it, too, before a stunning raven haired beauty steps in my path.
“You remember me? Please say you do… I gave you a ride from the Marriott? You had been watching the sunset over the bay and found your car wouldn’t start? Does that ring a bell for you? Please say it does, I’d be terribly distressed if you didn’t remember me…”
Or something like that. In truth I just made all that up. Oh, she talked to me, it’s just I was so lost in her eyes I didn’t hear a word she was saying, until…
“I said, well, we had our fun, and it was really really nice and all, but after you left I found out, and of course I had no way to reach you, to prepare you, so this may seem out of the blue, as it were, but, dang it! I’m just going to say it: Nick – meet your son, Nicky.”
At this she steps aside to reveal a lanky 10 year old boy. The lad has her coloring and her icy blue eyes but I’m afraid I recognize that chin and those lips. Damn it, this is a disaster; I don’t see how it could be much worse.
So of course just then George walks up, his arm comfortably around Nora’s shoulders. She has a Sea Breeze in hand, that’s all she ever drinks when we’re in Cali – Sea Breezes.
“Nick, old man,” George is positively beaming. “Look who just dropped in!”
Do you have that dream, too?
- Phil’s sits on a spit of land between Monterey Bay and the Old Salinas River, though how you can tell the difference between the Old Salinas and the Elkhorn Slough, which is what the water is called no more than 100 yards further north, is beyond me. Again, I just go with it… ↩
- Yes, I know that’s impossible; it’s actually more like a 6 hour drive. But, again, I just go with it… ↩
- Martell’s Cordon Bleu, or I’m no judge. ↩
- Hmmm; just like real life! ↩
- I’m sure I’ve seen her in something, but the film’s name escaped me right then. You know the one. Where the nubile young blond spends a lot of time seemingly bouncing up and down while standing still? That one… ↩