Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Let's take a walk down through the park reminiscing, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers

Fifteen years later, and I can still taste the perfect clear, crisp New York Fall late Saturday afternoon. After an epic touch football game in Central park - and the resultant beer drenched celebration at a East side pub - my buddy Hondo and I, all beery and rose-cheeked, wove our way back through the park, heading toward the auburn gloaming, playing catch as we went. I was hurrying not to be late to meet my out-of-town semi-girlfriend for a hot west side date.

One of Hondo’s typically errant passes landed in the famous reflection pond. (As seen in countless movies, almost any Woody Allen flick, "When Harry Met Sally" etc, the one with all of the toy sailboats) In my booze-addled attempt to retrieve it, I slipped and fell head-first into the murky-green chest-deep water. Hondo almost died laughing.

Resplendent in my drenched-with-stagnant-mossy-pond- water, mud and grass stained torn baggy gray sweat pants and Walter Payton jersey, all the way down to my squishing-water-as-I-stepped football cleats - not to mention a swollen and bloody lip from a missed block - I marched into the elegant Mayflower Hotel as if I owned the joint. I went up to the massive polished cherry wood front desk and asked them to announce my arrival to my girlfriend, Mary. (She was in town as a buyer for an equally fancy New Orleans department store)

Well, who do you suppose was also at the desk standing right next to me? None other than the great English actor, Sir Ben Kingsley himself. Sir Kingsley was looking every inch - though not many inches, the man is nearly a midget - the British, sophisticate that he is: bowler, black top-coat jauntily draped over his shoulders, trimmed pencil-thin mustache. He was even sporting a cane, no less. Admittedly, I was excited by his presence, but I did not want to make a fuss like some classless celebrity fawner, so I politely leaned over to him and said;

"Excuse me, but I thought you were great in "Gandhi." (Sure, I was going out on a limb with that statement seeing as he had won the Academy Award for the damn thing)

Well, my new pal Ben must not have heard me, because he remained stone silent. So I repeated myself, this time a tad louder;

"Ahem. Excuse me, but I thought you were great in "Gandhi."

He had heard me the first time. Ben icily glowered at me up and down with the most disdainful "How dare you?" expression of vile disgust I have ever heard about, let along been subjected. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Sir Kingsley acted as if I had just pee’d on his thousand- dollar shoes.

And just when I didn't think Gandhi-boy could pour out any more contempt, the guy – and I am not making this up - sniffed at me. (And you thought that was just an expression?) He actually sniffed at me. Then he haughtily turned away, and, without a word, dismissed me with a foppish wave of his unnecessarily gloved hand.

Well, I don’t allow that kind of rudeness from anyone. Although his snub was totally uncalled for, all the same, I wanted to handle it with all of the class, grace and dignity I could muster given the situation. I turned and faced Sir Kingsley, cleared my throat and calmly said;

"F--- you, you little snotty weasel."

(And Brits think we Yanks aren't witty.)

It was at that instant that I realized that I was, at least in part, a real New Yorker. As security “escorted” me out, I actually got the chance to yell out that classic Groucho Marx nugget;

"I have been kicked out of classier places than this."

That was a lie. It was, by far, the classiest place I had ever been kicked out of.

Somehow, I managed to skulk back in to the hotel and slink up to Mary’s suite. On the condition that I take a shower and ice my lip, Mary ordered Chinese food and wine sent up to the room. She rightfully didn’t want to be seen in public with me in my football clothes. (After all, she was a clothing buyer with a reputation to maintain, for crying-out-loud.)

We flipped on a movie, climbed into bed and polished off, in order, spring rolls, cold sesame noodles, hot kung pao chicken, a crisp and cool as that Fall day chardonnay and then one another.

Sniff on that, Sir Ben Kingsley.