Take the Gift Bag and Run
"What happened to your column this week?" Dieter asked me as I measured out two shots of Bombay Sapphire gin and half a shot of vermouth. "It’s really late."
I explained that I had been busy writing up a wine event.
"Oh, please. Slurp and jot, what could be so hard about that?"
Well, actually, it does take a lot of time to write about this stuff.
"Like the six months it’s been since you took me to that ’Taste of Autumn’ event you were supposed to write about?" scoffed my ingrate cousin. "Look at you! Mixing martinis in the shaker they gave you! Serving them in the very same cocktail glasses! What kind of louse are you anyway? Take the gift bag and run!"
Iqued, who was passing through town for the week and watching these proceedings with interest (one of the martinis was for him), asked what we were talking about.
"Nothing, except your best friend here is a lowlife!" Dieter chortled. This was all pretty saucy, considering that the other martini was for him.
"Dude, you’re adding olive brine to that martini?" Iqued asked in alarm.
"Just to Dieter’s," I reassured him.
"I like my martinis the way I like my Saturday nights," Dieter quipped. "Wet and dirty."
"Ha ha ha," I muttered, handing Iqued his brine-free drink.
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
The "Taste of Autumn" event was hosted by a local fine dining establishment. Journalists were invited to bring along a plus one, so I asked Dieter to meet me at the address. By coincidence, there was a scotch tasting event for the same night, just a few blocks away, that would be ending just before the "Taste of Autumn" was going to get underway.
Being a hard-driving journalist with a surplus of verbiage in his word-hoard, I thought it would be no problem to attend both events and then whip out two articles.
What I didn’t reckon on was that after tasting an array of fine scotches, I would be faced with wine pairings at each of the four courses that comprised the "Taste of Autumn."
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE PRESENT...
"So what happened?" asked Iqued.
"He got shit-faced!" Dieter crowed.
"At least I was able to walk up the street afterward without careening into a lamppost," I pointed out. "Not to mention, I wasn’t the one who tried to jump over a parking meter with tragic results."
"I clobbered myself right in the baby making bits on that parking meter. I might be sterile now," Dieter told Iqued.
"That might not be so tragic in your case," Iqued said, downing a good gulp of his drink.
"It was a tragedy because I couldn’t do anything with Manda for days, and she was looking hot last fall!" Dieter retorted.
"Is that the night you slept on the floor at the office?" Iqued asked.
"Well, I mean, it was only a few blocks from the ’Taste of Autumn,’ " I said. "It seemed the responsible thing to do."
"As opposed to SUI," Iqued said dryly. " ’Riding the Subway Under the Influence.’ "
"And who do you think you’re fooling?" I demanded of my cousin. "Manda? You were totally chatting up that woman from ’Patrician Gourmand’ or whatever that magazine was called."
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
The maître d’ brought us more cocktails. The dinner was about to start, but Dieter was deep in conservation (if not love) with the attractive female writer he’d seen the moment we walked in. I couldn’t tell if she was similarly smitten, but she did join us at our table, where she and Dieter canoodled, exchanging whispers and giggles throughout the evening.
And oh, it was a heavenly feast indeed, complete with matchless wine pairings. To top it all off, at the end of the evening the publicist handed out gift bags containing cocktail shakers and two large martini glasses.
Dieter and the writer traded business cards, which seemed strange because Dieter doesn’t have any business cards. Or had the exchange been a trick of the light? I had definitely mixed grape and grain, even though I wasn’t actually drinking the scotch earlier in the evening... but neither, come to think of it, had I been spitting it out, a practice I found disgusting and would never do in public. Instead, I took minute sips.
But there had been nothing minute about the generous glasses of wine we’d been served at the dinner.
"Should I drive home?" wondered Dieter.
"Hell, no! You are drunk, dude!"
"Right," Dieter said. "Drunk! You are right about that! And anyway, Manda has the car. I was supposed to call her to come by and get me..." He fumbled for his cell phone, then suddenly set down his phone and gift bag. I feared be might be fixing to get sick, but then he looked up with a frat-boy grin and I saw his eyes fix on a parking meter.
"Here’s the windup," Dieter slurred, "and here’s the on your mark... get set... and go!" He sprinted toward the parking meter with a shout of drunken glee. An instant later, his shout had become a stunned moan as he lay on the sidewalk clutching his crotch and writhing. Drunk or sober, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.
"Sadist," Dieter muttered as I finished my account.
Iqued offered no comment, though he somehow managed to laugh heartily and drink deeply and not choke, all at the same time.
"And that glass in your hand, mister, was in the gift bag that this guy here," Dieter said to Iqued, jabbing a finger at me, "accepted under false pretenses!"
"Going to those events does not mean you necessarily write them up," I argued. "Though they hope you write something at some point, it’s not really such a quid pro quo as a general marketing opportunity. It’s all about getting your name out there..."
"Tell yourself that if you need to," Dieter sneered. "That’s not the way you made it sound when the publicist sent her hired muscle around to get an article out of you."
"Hired muscle?" Iqued asked.
"She did not! She sent me a polite email asking whether I would be writing up the event."
"Why didn’t you?" Iqued asked, delving back into his cocktail.
"Life got crazy. I had lots of higher priority assignments to write up, and then I decided to step down as web producer and that meant finishing some other stuff before my last day. And then I started the new job, which means that even though I still do write arts items for EDGE, I have less time for writing in general. And then it got to be kind of a long time and not really topical any longer..."
"Excuses, excuses," Dieter said with a disdainful wave of the hand. "All of them lame."
"I don’t notice you writing anything about it," I fired back.
"I was a guest! A plus one! An innocent bystander! Anyway, I may have lost my chance at perpetuating the human race that very night, so be kind to me."
"What do you think?" I asked Iqued. "Yes, I went to the event, and yes, they gave out some nice swag, but am I obliged to write something up?"
"Yeah, go ahead, take his side!" Dieter screamed, before Iqued had a chance to reply. "You always do!"
Iqued thought about it long and hard as he chewed on his gin-soaked olive. "I think," he said, at length, holding out the glass, "that I will have another."