dimecres, 23 de maig del 2018

You’re not happy with the conch

My favorite tablemate was Trudy, whose husband was back home in Tamarac managing some sudden crisis at the couple’s cellular phone business and had given his ticket to Alice, their heavy and very well-dressed daughter, who was on spring break from Miami U, and who was for some reason extremely anxious to communicate to me that she had a Serious Boyfriend, the name of which boyfriend was Patrick. Alice’s part of most of our interfaces consisted of remarks like: “You hate fennel? What a coincidence: my boyfriend Patrick absolutely detests fennel”; “You’re from Illinois? What a coincidence: my boyfriend Patrick has an aunt whose first husband was from Indiana, which is right near Illinois”; “You have four limbs? What a coincidence:…,” and so on. Alice’s continual assertion of her relationship-status may have been a defensive tactic against Trudy, who kept pulling professionally retouched 4 × 5 glossies of Alice out of her purse and showing them to me with Alice sitting right there, and who, every time Alice mentioned Patrick, suffered some sort of weird facial tic or grimace where one side’s canine tooth showed and the other side’s didn’t. Trudy was 56, the same age as my own dear personal Mom, and looked — Trudy did, and I mean this in the nicest possible way — like Jackie Gleason in drag, and had a particularly loud pre-laugh scream that was a real arrhythmia-producer, and was the one who coerced me into Wednesday night’s Conga Line, and got me strung out on Snowball Jackpot Bingo, and also was an incredible lay authority on 7NC Luxury Cruises, this being her sixth in a decade — she and her friend Esther (thin-faced, subtly ravaged-looking, the distaff part of the couple from Miami) had tales to tell about Carnival, Princess, Crystal, and Cunard too fraught with libel-potential to reproduce here, and one long review of what was apparently the worst cruise line in 7NC history — one “American Family Cruises,” which folded after just sixteen months — involving outrages too literally incredible to be believed from any duo less knowledgeable and discerning than Trudy and Esther.
Plus it started to strike me that I had never before been party to such a minute and exacting analysis of the food and service of a meal I was just at that moment eating. Nothing escaped the attention of T and E — the symmetry of the parsley sprigs atop the boiled baby carrots, the consistency of the bread, the flavor and mastication-friendliness of various cuts of meat, the celerity and flambé technique of the various pastry guys in tall white hats who appeared tableside when items had to be set on fire (a major percentage of the desserts in the 5stars C.R. had to be set on fire), and so on. The waiter and busboy kept circling the table, going “Finish? Finish?” while Esther and Trudy had exchanges like:
“Honey you don’t look happy with the conch, what’s the problem.”
“I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
“Don’t lie. Honey with that face who could lie. Frank am I right? This is a person with a face incapable of lying. Is it the potatoes or the conch? Is it the conch?”
“There’s nothing wrong Esther darling I swear it.”
“You’re not happy with the conch.”
“All right. I’ve got a problem with the conch.”
“Did I tell you? Frank did I tell her?”
[Frank silently probes own ear with pinkie.]
“Was I right? I could tell just by looking you weren’t happy.”
“I’m fine with the potatoes. It’s the conch.”
“Did I tell you about seasonal fish on ships? What did I tell you?”