One life to search for tomorrow.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it until my friends start patting me on the head and saying, “That’s nice,” but: The best thing about a 5 a.m. factory whistle is the 1 p.m. quittin’ time. I headed out the door and went directly for La Margarita to meet Alex for lunch. La Marg is Kate’s favorite Mexican joint, so the food is all too familiar, but when I meet Alex there we sit on the bar side, because he smokes.

Indiana has a bizarre two-door policy for restaurants that serve liquor. Children can eat in places with adult beverages, but only if they can’t see the bar. Seriously. They can’t walk past the bar en route to the so-called family room, either. Now that smoking is a factor, most new places make their bar the smoking area, wall it off, and everyone’s happy. Older joints like La Marg have two entrances. Turn left for bright lighting, gaily colored pinatas and high chairs, turn right for dim lights, deeply padded booths and sin. (You can get margaritas on both sides, but you can only watch them being made on the bar side.)

And television. Usually it’s tuned to ESPN, but today, for some reason, it was on a soap. Don’t know which one — whatever’s on CBS at 1 p.m. eastern — but it was on over Alex’s left shoulder, so I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse now and again. I was never a soap fan; the action is too slow, the acting too bad, the setups too preposterous. I don’t mind a little suspension of disbelief, but I have my limits. I’m also too slow-witted to tolerate that favorite soap trick, the Sudden Personality Transplant, in which a character who once acted one way abruptly starts acting another way, usually turning e-vil. Brain tumor? Maybe? Bored writers? Just as likely.

But this soap today — the Hot and the Horny, whatever — cleared up one mystery for me: Oh, look, that’s that pretty actress who played Lt. Fancy’s wife on “NYPD Blue,” the one who had the dodgy pregnancy and the great perm. And I thought about soap freaks I have known, like my late friend Paul, who adored Erica Kane. Once, when we were vacationing in Florida, he’d always take his lunch break from the pool to coincide with “All My Children.” I came in one day to get another beer and found him preparing an elaborate cheese and snack platter, and opening a bottle of champagne. “What’s going on?” I asked, still dazzled from the sun. “Erica’s getting married today, so I’m having a reception,” he said. Not that he ever needed an excuse to open a bottle of anything, but it did make for an amusing hour or so. Her wedding dress was red and sequined. Soaps can afford anything but subtlety.

Alex told his soap-fan story, about the time he got hooked on some serial he can’t even remember now, and it was building, over a period of months, to some big revelation/climax/plot tie-up, and oh but it was so good so good so so good and he was tuned in and the moment of truth was arriving, and then–

“We interrupt this program to bring you this news bulletin. President Reagan has been shot.”

You want to know why people call networks when that happens? You’d be frustrated too if you’d been making out with someone for four months, being led along a bit at a time just forEVER and just when you were going to close the deal, they were called away on an urgent errand.

Anyway, Alex doesn’t watch soaps anymore. I stick to the ones in prime time.


Congratulations, Judy Blume. I’m too old to have been a fan, but I’m raising one. And you deserve ’em all.

Posted at 7:33 pm in Uncategorized |

10 responses to “One life to search for tomorrow.”

  1. brian said on November 17, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    I liked the Alex/soap opera/Reagan shooting story.

    That day I was busy playing Scrabble against my first mother-in-law (and losing, as always; the cleavage between her vocabulary and mine was huge! – and yes, the big cleavage joke points to another pair of factors in my lack of Scrabble focus!), when one of her other daughters emerged from another room because her soap opera had been interrupted. It was several minutes later, when she complained that it was still off the air that she thought to mention that it was because of something about the president being shot!!

    Well – that was the end of that Scrabble game (mercifully!) – and we adjourned to the family room in time to eventually see Al Haig give his somewhat sweaty, shifty-eyed and screwball “constitutional” order of succession (which made me answer back the TV!).

    Many many years ago, I liked Dark Shadows, which was a sort of pre-teen, after school soap opera…Angela was hot!

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  2. Linda said on November 17, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    I was a pre-schooler when Dark Shadows was huge, but I still clearly remember how it seemed that EVERYONE was watching that. Long before the VCR days, you had to actually be in front of a t.v. when it came on. I can still recall being at my grandmother’s house and my mom saying, “get your shoes on, we have to get home before Dark Shadows starts”. Why we didn’t just stay and watch it with Grandma, I don’t know.

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  3. Connie said on November 17, 2004 at 11:26 pm

    Ah, Indiana’s strange family room restaurant law. And I learned recently that kids may actually see the bar, but only if the floor level is different and there is a railing separation. Think Applebees. Who thought this up. Some dumb legislator. Probably mine.

    Michigan makes much more sense. Kids may go in bars IF the bar serves a full food menu, and only until 9 p.m.

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  4. Randy said on November 18, 2004 at 9:57 am

    Here in Winnipeg we have eradicated smoking from all public places, part of a national trend. The only places left to smoke are in your own home and at least twenty-two miles (well, actually 50 feet) from any public doorway.

    As a smoker who is always making half-hearted efforts to quit, these new policies have helped me – I have actually smoked less, simply because I have less places to smoke. It also helps that minus-40C winter weather curbs one’s urge to step out for a smoke. It works for me, anyway.

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  5. Connie said on November 18, 2004 at 11:18 am

    When Reagan was shot, I was training a new employee how to use a complicated public address sound system. I remember saying “now, to send the radio out over the loud speakers in the offices just turn this knob.” And out blared the words “President Reagan has been shot.” I’m long gone, but he still works there, and I here he knows exactly when his first day of work there was.

    And I was sitting in a Michigan City restaurant on my home from Book Expo in Chicago when my companion said “I can see the TV in the bar and they keep showing pictures of Reagan, I wonder if he died.”

    And as we say at our house every time his name pops up again: Reagan is still dead!

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  6. Mary said on November 18, 2004 at 11:33 am

    Reagan is still dead and they keep naming stuff after him here in So Cal. The naming of stuff after Bob Hope seems to have subsided, thankfully.

    I’m not sure where I was when I heard Reagan was shot. Probably stuck in traffic in NYC. I know I was stuck in traffic on third avenue in NYC when the Pope was shot. I heard it on the radio, and was freshly stunned by the news when a station wagon full of nuns pulled up next to me and rolled down a window. They asked me what time it was. I told them, and then threw in the news about the Pope, which prompted all sorts of uluation in the station wagon. I felt terrible for being so blunt about it, but the whole situation was so surreal.

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  7. juan said on November 18, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    Oh my. I didn’t realize that there were so many “where were you” stories attributed to Reagan being shot.

    I was 13. I was not allowed to date girls. I had been clandestinely “sneaking around” with a 17 year old beauty. To this day, I have no idea what she was doing with the likes of me.

    At any rate, I had snuck off to the woods with my paramour, and lost my virginity in a mercifully brief encounter.

    I returned home, nervous as a cat; certain that my mother would look right at me and know. As I slunk in through the kitchen screen door she was angrily pacing around the kitchen, rearranging things that didn’t need to be rearranged. My heart sank like a stone. She already knew.

    “What’s wrong, Mom?”

    “Well… They KILLED him. They finally KILLED him. They shot and killed the President.”

    Mom had a flair for the dramatic. (You see, I come by hyperbole honestly!)

    I remember feeling very… very… very wide. I remember being unable to process all of the various emotions at one time. I pictured my spiritual self as Violet Beauregarde, swollen into a giant, purple ball that would eventually have to be rolled away by Oompah-Loompahs.

    I read once that the actress Marilou Henner lost her virginity as Neil Armstrong was taking his first steps on the moon. That is just so much more poetic than an assasination attempt.

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  8. Connie said on November 19, 2004 at 11:23 am

    Wow Juan, what a way to remember.

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  9. Danny said on November 19, 2004 at 12:10 pm

    LOL, Juan! Having you describe the event that way kinda reminds me of that scene from Godfather II (or was it I) where Michael Corleone is getting his son baptised while all of the hitman are making their hits.

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  10. first-time caller said on November 20, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    Juan — About Marilu Henner — I remember that story, too, from Bob Costas’ great “Later” show.

    They were discussing her savant-like quirk of being able to remember what she was doing every single day of her life, and as luck would have it, Bob asked her about the day of the moon landing.

    She added that they were standing up in the shower. I think he went to commercial.

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