Spine Intact – A Final Note




A writer friend of mine once said of his then current project, “I guess I’ve offended everybody, I can wrap it up now.”

I have not intended to offend anyone, if only because I am quite sure that I have never knowingly caused another pain without suffering at least as much as he. Still, I have lived long enough to know that there are those people for whom no joy quite equals being miserable and I have no doubt that there are some of those who are mad at me for what I have written.

What I am trying to say is that, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t see things your way. Someone once asked Lady Churchill if she and Sir Winston always agreed on everything.

“If we agreed on everything,” Lady Churchill replied, “one of us would be unnecessary.”

So if you find yourself offended by what I have written, you can just consider me necessary. The French have an expression: Tant pis. (By now you will have noticed that I appreciate a little foreign tongue, which I think can add so much to an episode.) And no, it doesn’t mean that, either. It’s just another way of saying, as my friend Donald used to put it, “If they got mad, they have the same dresses to get glad in.”

Anyway, I showed this manuscript to a friend and when he gave it back to me he said, “This has everything in it but your recipe for Cheese Balls.”

Which only served to remind me that I told you a fib earlier. It was only a minor one, true, but lies are to your soul as rust is to your fender—well, that is to say your car’s fender, although I will admit that my own fenders aren’t what they used to be—Anyway, my point is, if you don’t clean it up it will keep spreading until it spoils everything.

I said earlier that my cheese balls were legendary. The word, really, was infamous, at least in certain circles, though there were those who loved them, and I suppose I shall have to explain that.

I co-hosted a party some years back with some friends. We considered having the food catered by Perino’s, which was then the grandest restaurant in Los Angeles. This was not, I should explain, a “beer keg and dance away the night” affair, but an honest-to-goodness stand up cocktail party with bartenders dispensing drinks and the entire dining room tented in green and white silk. And with the guest list at one hundred and fifty and climbing it quickly became clear that catering was out of the question.

We set out to do our own spread and I can tell you it was plenty spiffy. I think the hit of the afternoon was the little chicken drumettes, an idea that then hadn’t yet been done to death. One of the guests asked me what they were and I laughingly told her they were hummingbird wings.

To my surprise she called me a few days later to say that she had been all over town looking for hummingbird wings and had gotten nothing but some funny reactions, and could I tell her where I had gotten mine. I gave her a lengthy description of the work involved in accruing that many hummingbird wings from nature, and suggested she try chicken wings instead; but I considered her request a favorable comment on the food.

Then there were the cheese balls. It was evident while we were working on them that they were not turning out as we had envisioned them. One of the roommates said he thought we should toss them. And that would have meant literally tossing them. We tried putting the first batch down the garbage disposal and stopped up the plumbing for the entire building.

Still, doing away with them seemed to me unnecessarily extravagant. “Don’t be silly,” I replied, “I know they are vile and you know they are vile but someone is bound to love them. I say we serve them anyway.”

Serve them we did and in the course of the evening, a guest, unaware that I was one of the hosts, made a disparaging remark about them.

“Really?” I replied in the most innocent manner I could summon—and those of you who know me can well imagine what that was like—“I am surprised. The food was catered by Perino’s.”

It was not fifteen minutes later that I heard the same guest tell one of his friends, “You must have one of those cheese balls. They”re from Perino’s and they are divine.”

What I am trying to tell you is, serve the cheese balls anyway, someone will love them.

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