Saturday, December 21, 2002

Last night we met after work, a whole lot of us, at that terrible place the Cutting Room. A. D. dreamed up the event, a kind of holiday cocktail hour that had nothing to do with the holiday, but not the place – she had wanted to go to Dewey's on Fifth, which was way crowded. So we end up in this place with awful dressed-up and made-up people elbowing and jostling and generally violating the delicate, unspoken protocol which governs the lane before the bar. We were seated on stools some of us, others standing. A. introduced me to Steve, a friend of her boyfriend Michael, and right away, the way he launched into a self-deprecating and not very funny joke about being the guy no one knows, he struck me as somewhat lost and pathetic. He had wide, ingenuous eyes.

There was a sort of running joke between P. C. and Rachel about how all they ever talk about is sex, bodily functions and real estate, and this phrase penetrated the rest of our group by osmosis. I had ordered food and was bringing a slice of precious, overpriced gourmet pizza to my lips when Steve asked, bizarrely, "What category does that fall under? Sex, bodily functions or real estate?"

I examined the pizza for a moment, as though I were searching for the answer.

"Strangely enough, real estate," I stated, then took a bite. I looked at him, my mouth full, and added, "Location, location, location."

This was not terribly funny of course – just weird – but he laughed very, very hard – too hard – and for a long time. 

Later we went down to the Silver Swan, that old-time German beer bar, and it was clear that Steve was totally hammered. At one point he returned from the bar to our table gripping a hard pretzel. He had a manic, strained expression on his face. We all stopped talking and turned to him, warily awaiting his next move. He extended his arm almost ceremoniously and placed – sort of proffered – the pretzel on the red tablecloth, and – mission accomplished – collapsed into a chair, not to be heard from very much again.