Monday, April 13, 2009

Pass the Jello

As the market burrowed a new tunnel today, I thought about what I might do differently. Not differently from a personal finance perspective. I mean, which dead guys would I like at my dinner table.

There’s a book, written and quickly published during the darkest days of WWII, called Van Loon’s Lives. It’s a series of vignettes where two modern, middle class Dutch gentlemen invite a couple of famous six-feet under folks for supper. The logistics of the resurrection are pretty hazy, but somehow the dead traverse the space/time continuum for one evening of dining, drinking, and debate.

Some guest lists: Plato and Confucius. Montaigne and Rabelais. Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Moliere. Sir Thomas More.

You can find this collection of twee stories on my bookshelf, hidden behind Love in the Time of Cholera or The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

I’m sure the concept is not unique to Van Loon, and others have explored the fantasy of swapping philosophies and artistic theories with the likes of Kant and da Vinci.

But the thing is, if I could meet a few dead notables for an evening, I wouldn’t go the genius route. First of all, I'd spend much of the evening hunched over Wikipedia. More importantly, the great minds would just ignore me, so I’d drink too much brandy and say or do something totally inappropriate, like sit on Dante’s lap.

No, I’d put together a relaxed evening with my intellectual peers. Maybe Ward, Jack Tripper, and Aunt Bea.

Wait, before you too ignore me and I start drinking too much and sit on your lap, admit: The mysteries of the universe aren’t only held between the covers of a book. Consider: Why did the Cleavers keep letting Eddie Haskell in the house? And wasn’t that nickname a problem, even back then? And how about: Why was no one in Mayberry ever married? Isn’t it kind of creepy that everyone was a widow or a spinster?

Dead sitcom stars may not be to everyone’s taste, so I have some back-up plans involving dead athletes (not the ones who were actually good, more like the Fred Perrys who played tennis in trousers).

And inventors. Not of the internal combustion engine ilk, more like the guy who invented tube socks. Or paperclips. No telling where that discussion would lead, but I think I could hold my own.

40 comments:

Susan C said...

I want Aunt Bea too, but only if she brings one of her famous berry pies.

Petrea said...

I would like to meet the person who invented high heels so I could have my revenge.

PJ said...

It was a shock I tell you, to find out that Ant Bee was gay and didn't like Andy in real life, not one bit.
I wonder what Dante would have to say about that?

Vanda said...

Billy Wilder and/or Orson Welles. They are both sound like they could tell stories all night long with just a little prodding.

Anonymous said...

But Aunt Bea would still bring a pie, right? And Orson is fine, though good luck getting any of that brandy.

Laurie said...

I'm still wrapping my head around the image of you sitting on Dante's lap.

I'd like to get together with Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Carole Lombard and Lillian Hellman. We could rent a limo and go clubbing and sit around in the back of bars heckling people and writing stories on bar napkins.

Laurie said...

Actually, Aunt Bea might be fun on that excursion, too.

Cafe Observer said...

There's a song, written and quickly recorded during the down days of the Rolling Stones, called I think, Start Me Up. The words of the song are pretty hazy, but I recall it's a tune which also mentions a dead man. With your post, you reminded me of that.

I wunder if he was on your guest list too.

Virginia said...

I'm wiping tears ( of laughter) as usual. If I dine with any of the dearly departed they'll have to be those with some spunk. I"ll get back with you when I've had time to quit laughing and give it some thought. It sho as hell won't be Aunt Bea though. Clark Gable has a fighting chance but the jury's not in.
V

altadenahiker said...

I had no idea aunt Bea would elicit such stories and strong feelings. And Laurie, put those women around a table and there'd be nothing left but a false eyelash. (Tho for some reason, I'd put my money on Carole.) Virg, weigh in again, I want to know your dinner party. And CO, damn, you do a pretty fair imitation.

Margaret said...

I like the idea of not having to be intimidated or feeling pressured to be clever. Hmmmm...How about Erma Bombeck. I bet she'd make a person feel at home.

Petrea said...

I'd like to hang out with the Monty Python guys. They're mostly not dead, though.

This is a hard one.

John Bonham! Zeppelin reunion!

AmyR said...

But think of the potential anecdotes from sitting on Dante's lap!

Cafe Observer said...

Great! Then, you must've played the part opposite to mine.

bandit said...

Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen.

Keith Moon and Oliver Reed.

Anais Nin and Hunter Thompson.

Santoka Taneda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Andy Kaufman and Jack Kerouac.

Daily Brain Scan said...

I just want to talk to the ShamWow guy for five minutes.

Daily Brain Scan said...

Okay, he's not dead yet...

Anonymous said...

Vince= ShamPow!

to the moon, Alice

Mister Earl said...

I'd definitely like to talk to the carpenter guy from Nazareth. I'd like to settle once and for all what really happened. And I'd like to have a chat with Der Feurher - just to gloat.

Start Me Up? In their down days? Don't think so. One of their most played recordings. No dead man in that one.

altadenahiker said...

Funny, I almost included dead drummers. Bandit, well thought out -- A+. Mr. Earl, what would you serve, have you thought about that? (Had to look up ShamWowPow; apparently we don't have the same insomnia habits.)

Ken Mac said...

you get me to thinking. Why do you do that?

Mister Earl said...

Menu: For JC of Nazareth, I'd give him a small loaf of bread and a small fish and I'd say, "See what you can do with these." For Schickelgruber I'd give him a luke warm broth made of boiled jackboots and a rat carcass and a small piece of moldy bread, about 6 weeks old.

PJ said...

I came back to comment because I've been thinking about the menu as well and thought it might be more important than the guests. My menu would include all manner of things spicy and savory, cold and compelling alcohol for balance followed by everything that's bad for you: sugar, possibly sponge cake, chocolate, heavy dairy, posssibly caffeine, other intense flavors to be determined later, maybe even a liqeuer. I would leave the conversation to the wordsmiths and just enjoy.

altadenahiker said...

I like that PJ, sort of a dinner, four, ate. And taking my guest list seriously, I think, for me, Henry Miller, Colette, Jane Austen,Mark Twain, John Gielgud.

Mister Earl said...

Korla Pandit and Marlon Perkins.

PJ said...

I've given this a lot of thought, all I want are seminal Blues singers and musicians. And Korla Pandit.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Guess I arrived fashionably late to this post. I want King Hussein and Marlon Brando over and I get to have sex with both of them (not at the same time) and they have to act like they're "happy to see me"

Cafe Observer said...

I was talking in general, about a period, ME, whereas you responded with a specific song, which was a hit for them. I can also confirm now, unsure earlier, that there is indeed a dead man in that one.

Mister Earl said...

CO - Help me find the dead man in Start Me Up. He's late for dinner, and I must have sent the invitation to the wrong song.

Mister Earl said...

OK, CO. My apologies. I now see where it is. It does not appear in many versions of the lyrics, but I see that it's in other versions and was the subject of some controversy during a Superbowl appearance.

The history of the song is actually interesting. It was written 4 years before it was released and was originally done as a reggae, with 70 takes made. It was resurrected and released when someone later found a rock passage in one of the reggae takes.

Virginia said...

I'm not going to be able to give you the whole guest list but for starters let me say that Paul Newman will sit right next to me and he WILL be glad to see me. That said, I'm bummed because Mel Brooks has to be disqualified..... still kicking, which I thrilled about mind you. I'd also invite Jackie Kennedy ( I don't use Onassis) so we could talk fashion. Henri Cartier- Bresson and he'll need to bring his camera with him. Oh, and my ringer is Tim Russert! Now you have to admit this is an interesting group so far. Stay tuned.....
V

altadenahiker said...

Wow PA, rough night?

CO & Earl, isn't it "you'd make a dead man cry?"

Virg, very creative; I can see now that a ringer is important for balance. (And he'd probably bring the wine.)

Virginia said...

I think PA is onto something there, but I"m not sure about the King. Are we allowed to make substitutes to the line up PA???

KB,
I have an idea. How about another day do bloggers we'd invite to dinner? I'd need a mighty big table for sure.!

Petrea,
I'm all about the Monty Python guys. Hilarious

-K- said...

I imagine I'll be invited for inventing the type-writtien Post-It. "ATTN:" "Please Advise"

"Happy Birthday"

I'll be the first to admit it didn't really catch on.

Daily Brain Scan said...

I want to have white chocolate covered sorreos with Michael Nesmith's mom, get real drunk on Liquid Paper and sit on Raymond Burr's lap while fondling his grapes.

Mister Earl said...

AH: Throughout most of the song, the lyric is "You make a grown man cry," and that's all you'll see in many versions online, but apparently, the final couple lines are, "You make a dead man [arrive at a happy ending.]" Hence the commentary...

altadenahiker said...

Oh I see, and then he'd cry.

WV:Comenci

Petrea said...

Appropriately the French call that happy ending "le petit mort," the little death. It fits in nicely with this discussion, don't you think?

Mister Earl said...

Petrea: That reminds me of "Post coitum omnia animal triste est."

Cafe Observer said...

It's what's actually sung in the song: the dead man.
And he's not cryin.

Happy 40th, KB!