Dinner For Schmucks

Several months ago, in one of the more philosophical discussions that Ren and I are so prone to having in the deep hours of the night, she asked me if I were to have a dinner party, and could invite five deceased people, who would make the guest list?

My baby Ren & me
My baby Ren & me

She launched into her own lineup, topping the list: Carl Sagan, saying that he would, in her words, “Sit at the head of the fucking table.” She spoke of her awe for his curiosity in the world, sharing her deep admiration and respect for him, quoting him several times, and reiterating how much he has inspired her.


In my response, the obvious immediately sprung to mind: Mom. What I wouldn’t give to spend an evening with my Mother, who was stolen away from this world so many years before her time. How I would love to stand over the stove with her, preparing a feast, and absorbing her collected culinary wisdom. How I wish we could sit and enjoy the end result of hours spent in preparation. And how I crave an evening of both deep conversation and disorderly laughter, either- or both, ending in tears.

My Mama
My Beautiful Mama

Mom is all I really need at this dinner party, and I recognize that an evening spent with just the two of us would be priceless- and not something I often found while she was living. As a mother of eight, and Grandmother to 20+, time alone with her was a very rare and valuable thing, indeed.

The last Neal family picture,  2004, with many- but not all, members of the clan.
Neal family picture, with many- but not all, members of the clan. (2004)

Still, the charge was five individuals and in two of my friends lost within the last year, I found additional attendees, who would certainly compliment the evening.

My friend Tim Carter, who died barely a year ago, would be a fantastic inclusion to the party, with his fabulously twisted sense of humor. The evening of laughter just got a bit more boisterous with this one around, as his dialogue is forever spotted with irreverent jokes and perverted puns. My mom would have loved him.

A "Weird Little Ginger Gnome", as another friend near to Tim called him.
A “Weird Little Ginger Gnome”, as another friend near to Tim called him.

Thomas Foster, a dear friend from my teenage years who I didn’t know as well as I would have liked as an adult, also passed within the past year. Thomas- who I will forever and always know simply as Tom, was the friend who I was thrilled to visit with every few years when he made the pilgrimage to Oregon from his home in New York. A fellow aspiring writer, I saw in him the Great American Novelist, and expected as such, occasionally holding myself up to what I saw as a very unrealistic yardstick. In his clever speech and quick wit, he would bring as much culture as comedy to the table.

My friend, Thomas Foster
My old friend, Tom

Albert Einstein is another I wish to be sitting at my table for this dinner party- and certainly not because I pretend to understand a whole lot of his theories. Einstein, in all of his brilliance, understood the importance of imagination, saying, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” He loudly proclaimed that imagination is more important than knowledge, as knowledge is limited to what we know and understand now, while imagination goes beyond the today and into the unknown-and even incomprehensible. And in all of that, as well as his subdued cleverness, he was still a man who knew how to have a good time.

How can you not dig this guy?
How can you not dig this guy?

To round out this party, I’d like to invite Miss Mary Jane West, who was a Vaudeville Actress in her teens, becoming a Hollywood Sex Symbol at nearly 40- decrepit by today’s industry standards. Mae, as she is more commonly known, was lauded as immoral,and as a force of corruption for the youth, and, was arrested and prosecuted on morals charges with her thinly veiled sexual innuendos and double entendres. She was an early supporter of both women’s and gay rights, and her sharp tongue  and audacious ways made for many religious enemies. She sure was fun, though, saying once, “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad I’m better.”

A very controversial pic & caption for the time
A very controversial pic & caption for the time

So, there we are- A dinner party for a bunch of shrewd, lively, radical people. The idea of collecting all of them in the same room is exciting, to say the least, and my only reservation comes from the fact that by the evening’s end, the cops may come a’calling- especially if the wine has been flowing. But, hey, what’s a dinner party such as this without some folly? Besides, as Mae put it, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Well said, Mary Jane. Well said.

4 thoughts on “Dinner For Schmucks

  1. Oh how I would love to be at that dinner!! Thank you for yet another moment where I am transformed by your words to a world of like mindedness 🙂

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