Man, I need to get out more. Friday night, a friend is having her 50th birthday party, which came about in a fairly roundabout way. She and some of her pals were at a charity auction a few days back, and someone bought a cake. This one:
What girl doesn’t want a Barbie cake, especially a glamorous bridal Barbie in a dress made of snow-white fondant? Once she’d been secured, the party was scheduled for a fortnight hence, and Barb spent the interval wrapped in plastic on the birthday girl’s unheated sun porch. The plan was to go to one bar and then to another bar, where they have a dance floor and a DJ and all the rest of it. I skipped bar no. 1, and arrived so early at no. 2 that the bartender and I looked at one another across an empty room. Oh well, I thought — this is why casinos were invented. I was in Greektown, and figured an hour of low-stakes blackjack might pass the time. So I walked a block, and, well.
When Michigan passed a law banning smoking in restaurants and bars statewide, they exempted casinos for the usual bad reasons (lobbyists). It must have convinced a lot of unapologetic smokers to take up slots, because of the hundreds of people crammed into two floors of gambling, at least three-quarters were puffing away. I understand that over time, I’ve lost my tolerance for smoke, but this was ridiculous. And that was only the beginning. The lowest minimum bet on all blackjack tables was $15, ditto on poker. There were a couple of craps tables that looked interesting, but I’ve never understood the game, and the table is so bizarre — COME and DON’T COME sounds like stage direction in a dirty movie, as does “hard eight.” I ended up doing a few slow circuits of the room, leaving and getting a little snack before heading back to the bar, where Barbie was glowing under dim light on a table in back.
From there, it was the usual night with buddies, with a few observations:
1) Anyone who drinks any alcoholic beverage mixed with Red Bull is insane.
2) Those jobs on Craigslist offering to hire young people for “fun PR jobs” are really for the miniskirted blondes who pass through the place in their branded clothing, passing out free samples of their branded cocktails, leaving T-shirts in their wake, but not before asking everyone to pose for glass-in-air pictures. Which is fine if you always wanted to be a cocktail waitress, but not get any tips.
3) Marketing alcohol to young people is a big business. When I went in, the street was deserted but for a few strollers. When I came out, a branded RV from some sort of booze concern was parked across the street, and the block was thronged. I wondered if I’d trade all the physical degradation of middle age — back pain, knee pain, avoirdupois, gray hair and the rest of it — for a second chance at youth, and this would be what I’d do on weekend nights. Decided: Nope.
Barbie finally gave it up yesterday. Once the fondant was peeled off, she sported three layers of vanilla-and-chocolate goodness, plus buttercream. My mother made me a doll cake when I was little. Whatever else they are, they are memorable.
What was your best birthday cake?
Newt Gingrich is practically dead, but we’ve said that before. The WashPost digs deeper in his background and finds all that Reagan butt-kissing isn’t exactly a consistent position for him:
In an unnoticed 1992 speech, Newt Gingrich in a single utterance took aim not only at a beloved conservative icon but also at a core tenet of the conservative movement: that government must be limited.
Ronald Reagan’s “weakness,” Gingrich told the National Academy of Public Administration in Atlanta, was that “he didn’t think government mattered. . . . The Reagan failure was to grossly undervalue the centrality of government as the organizing mechanism for reinforcing societal behavior.”
A review of thousands of documents detailing Gingrich’s career shows it wasn’t the first time he had criticized Reagan, whom he regularly invokes today in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. When Gingrich was in the House, his chief of staff noted at a 1983 staff meeting that his boss frequently derided Reagan, along with then-White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III and Robert H. Michel, the House Republican leader.
Mittens might pull it out in Michigan after all. I’ve learned not to bet on this race, but I’d guess the outcome will depend on whether Sweater Vest actually pledges allegiance to the Pope before it’s over.
Wyoming, Mich. — A Michigan man whose son was killed while on patrol in Iraq in 2005 burned the New Jersey flag on his outdoor grill in protest after learning flags in that state were ordered flown at half-staff for the death of Whitney Houston.
Via Hank, why the Oscars are so lame: Oscar voters are overwhelmingly white (94%), male (77%) and old (86% older than 50). Now you know.
Monday! Come and get me!