Waiting for the national society’s president to wrap up his opening speech, I sat restlessly at the head table, on platform risers, high above the rest of the ballroom crowd in the Boston Convention Center. I examined the attendees, estimated at 1300, as they devoured crème brulee decorated with two or three blueberries nestled on top. Several guests still picked at their Cornish game hens as if trying to avoid the radioactive parts. Almost everyone left the soggy zucchini lay exactly where the chef had placed it on the fake china plates. The entrée, the trimmings, the dessert, the wine – why wouldn’t they have checked in advance to determine what I prefer to eat and drink? It’s a simple courtesy, don’t you think? Especially for the banquet’s honoree.
The dining hall glistened under lighted chandeliers and intermittent camera flashes. A huge ice sculpture of the Greek god Atlas, adorned at its base with Alaskan king crabs and Hawaiian flower petals, slowly melted in the center of the room. Approximately one hour ago, thousands of succulent jumbo shrimp formed a ring around the sculpture’s outer edge, but now only their mangled shells and tails lay heaped on the plates of table #23, hosted by my hometown newspaper whose reporters had never before crossed the Wisconsin border or seen crustaceans as big as badgers.
Most of the audience consisted of couples in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. A few were newlyweds or engaged, easy to identify because they practically sat on each other’s laps and took turns feeding each other a spoonful of the succulent brulee. One guy sitting up front wore a bowtie – he either taught Comparative Literature at Cornell or served as an art gallery curator. Or his mom still dressed him. A dead wolverine, or maybe it was a mink or a fox, draped the shoulders of a lady sitting about four tables deep into the ballroom. I called PETA’s hotline on my cell phone – they’d be waiting for her near valet parking to violate her choice of clothing with snow leopard urine or black rhinoceros dung. All in all, a good mix of people representing America’s melting pot attended tonight’s banquet to witness my acceptance of the award for Husband of the Year.
That very night, in the lavish ballroom, is when I pledged to share my talent, my superpowers, with humankind.
I never anticipated winning this burden. No inkling. No premonition. The bestowed honor feels like an armored vehicle sitting atop of my shoulders, loaded to the roof with gold bullion and stuffed with ten humongous security guards wedged into the truck’s front seats.
When you possess an amazing one-of-a-kind talent, though, then you simply make sacrifices, bear the crushing weight and shed some of the load by evenly distributing it to other minds thirsty for nourishment.
Other iconic figures accept this responsibility. Barry White shares his deep, sexy voice, helping men romance their ladies. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow contributed his poetic prose to guys who enjoy reading something other than Sports Illustrated. Bob Vila donates his handyman how-to knowledge to men who don’t know how to. Spiderman uses his superpowers to pulverize evil and make our neighborhoods safer places to walk and jog. And in the spirit of their unselfish sacrifices, I bequeath my 30-plus years of emotionally and physically satisfying my wife to men who desperately need a boost and an injection of adrenaline. This is my contribution to the male gender that I passionately admire and unequivocally represent.
(next post: "Scratch Yourself for Freedom” and the dangers of routine conversation)