Last January, Sports Illustrated assigned Frank Deford to cover all the Super Bowl activities in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he traded his press credentials to a stranger for a handful of seeds and spent the entire time visiting Santa Anita. Luckily, however, he was able to obtain wire-tap transcripts of phone calls that were made by several typical Super Bowl guests, who were enjoying this great American sporting spectacle for the first time. Deford has assured us that these random impressions will provide a more accurate portrayal of the week-long Super Bowl scene than he could possibly have managed.
Hello, this is Cheryl, may I help you?"
"Yeah, Cheryl, I have a message to call Operator 6 in Amarillo, Texas."
"You can dial that direct, sir."
January 16, 1978
"No, Cheryl, I don' think you unnerstan' me. I'm in a motel."
"Yes, sir, I know. Just dial eight, and then zero, the callback area code and number, and an operator will come on the line."
"Is that a fact? I didn't know you could do that in a motel. Thank you now, Cheryl...."
"Hello, this is Jessie. May I help you?"
" 'Deed you can, Jessie. I'm tryin' to git aholt of Operator 6 in Amarillo."
"This is Operator 6."
"Son of a buck. Now ain't that a coincidence? All the operators in the Lone Star State, and I get right on through to you."
"Uh, yes, sir. And who is your call-back party?"
"Who are you trying to reach, sir?"
"Why, Herb Wiley. Mah boss over in Mesquite Creek. You unnerstan' now—it's him tryin' to git me."
"Mesquite Creek Globe-Express, good afternoon."
"This is Los Angeles, and I have a WH on the line for Mr. Wiley. And your name, sir?"
"I'm Punch Zimmer."
"Hey, Punch! Hey, how's old Ellay? It's me, Doreen."
"Hey, Doreen, is Herb around?"
"Sir, ma'am, please. This call is for Mr. Herb Wiley."
"Well, operator, you tell Mr. Bigtime Punch, Mr. Super Bowl Hotshot, that Herb's in the little boys' room right now."
"Shoot, Doreen, he's rilly been tryin' to git aholt of me."
"Well, uh, ma'am, we can hold for one minute."
"Hang on, operator. I see him goin' over by Emil now. Herb! Herb! Punch is callin' from Ellay.... He's comin', Punch."
"Mr. Herb Wiley?"
"I have your call-back party from Los Angeles. Will you accept?"
"Hey, Punch, what's up? Here I go sendin' you off to the Super Bowl—the first reporter from the Panhandle ever to git within spittin' distance of the big time—and here it is Tuesday, two whole days later, and we ain't heard one word outta you."
"Herb, I was jes' now gonna phone in mah early prediction story to Emil."
"I ain't jes' talkin' 'bout your ole story, Punch. I mean, you could have called us—collect, o' course—jes' to let us know how-all it's a-goin'. Goddam, it must be some excitin', right, ole buddy?"
"Well, Herb, I, uh...."
"You bet. The greatest, most thrillin' single e-vent in the whole wide world of sports. Bar none! It must rilly be sumpin'. Right, Punch?"
"Fact is, Herb, uh, it's uh...."
"What-all is this, Punch? You ain't tellin' me one word 'bout how tee-riffic it all is."
"Well, now, Herb, I don' know real well how to let on to this, but the truth is, Super Bowl Week's 'bout the most borin'est, the most blowed-up, the most stupid...."
"Punch, Punch! Hush up! Doreen, are you still on this here line?"
"I'm jes' now hangin' up, Herb."
"Hold on there, boy. That's all we need—ole Doreen goin' round tellin' every soul in the county that mah sports staff don' like the Super Bowl. You plumb crazy, Punch? You been drinkin' too many of them sissy California drinks, where they stick Morton's salt up alongside the rim?"
"Well, it's a damn nothin', Herb. It's all hokey, it ain't got nothin' to do with sports, let alone the gridiron, and...."
"Punch, Punch Zimmer! You gone be committed, you talkin' so foolish. Why, all the nationally known fellas I'm a-watchin' on NBC, they tell me the Super Bowl's 'bout the next best thing to heaven. And CBS allows that only heaven and last year's Super Bowl beats it. Now, Punch, who am I gonna b'lieve: ole Punch Zimmer from Mesquite Creek, or NBC and CBS? Hmmm?"
"Flat-out, Herb, I'd b'lieve me. 'Cause I ain't sellin' no commercials. And I ain't no regular NFL writer, shillin' for the league by callin' it a 'showcase.' I give you a little hint, Herb: anytime you hear a fella say this here is a showcase, that is one sure sign you have got yourself a shill."
"But Punch, jes' ever'body says it's a showcase. If it ain't a showcase, what is it?"
"Well, I guarantee you it ain't no football game. You and me seen football games all over the Panhandle and as far away as Waco, and this sure ain't no game. This here is one big ole commercial that runs for a week, with a football game chucked in at the end. And excitin'? I seen more interest generated in a pinball game down at Skeeter's Starlight Lounge than for what-all Ellay cares. They might as well be playin' this game on the moon."
"Punch Zimmer, you stop with that subversive talk. Why, it says right here in the wire service that, quote, interest is at an alltime high, unquote, and Vikki Carr herself gonna sing America the Beautiful. And then you come on the phone tellin' me stories that it ain't a showcase."
"You know, Herb, maybe I ain't on no first-name basis with the players, maybe I ain't never been to no Indonesia to see Muhammad Ali fight, maybe I only got the one off-cream leisure suit to mah name, but I can spot me a phony. This ain't no Super Bowl; this is a supermarket."
"Well, damn you, Punch, you keep these anti-'Merican thoughts to yourself, you hear me? And what do you know about traditional classic American e-vents, anyhow?"
"All right, I'll tell you one thing. When I was in the service up in Fort Knox, a spec-four in armor, I seen me two Kentucky Derbies, and also one year a bunch of us went up to Indy and seen that, too. And when I got released, 'fore I came back home, I went over to see mah cousin Ralph who lives in Greater Pittsburgh, P.A., and it was when the Pirates was playin' the O-ree-oles in the World Series; so no, I ain't no virgin in these exact matters. And lemme tell you, Herb Wiley, the Derby and Indy and the World Series is altogether diffrunt from this here showcase. Them other things was fun and there was real folks. And you know what-all, Herb? They had charm. And you're sayin' to yourself, what does ole Punch Zimmer know about charm from a carburetor, and I'll jes' tell you flat-out that if sumpin' ain't got no charm, then all of a sudden you know what charm is. And that's a fact, Herb."
"Well now, Punch, don't git me wrong. It's the 'Merican way to let a man holt a diffrunt opinion."
"Shoot, Herb. Ain't nobody even talks about the game here. All you hear is how much money it's a-goin' to pump into the local e-conomy, like it was some kind of new shoe factory comin' to town.
"I was down in the press room yestiddy, pickin' up the press releases they churn out ever' few minutes, and I started talkin' to this bigshot reporter from New York City, and he says, must be your first Super Bowl, and I says, yes, it sure is, and he says, it is sure one large slice of 'Mericana. And I says, well, this sure ain't no 'Mericana I ever seen. This here is only Hollywood and Madison Avenue thrown together.
"And he says, well it sure-all beats the World Series, don't it, 'cause, he says, he has to go to places like Cincinnati to see it. And he says, they are sure takin' the World Series away from Joe Fan, 'cause they play the games at night when it is a little cool and inconvenient for his deadline. And I says, it seems to me to play the games at Cincinnati at night is just about perfect for the workin' man in Cincinnati. And he says to me, what-all are you, son, some kind of Communist?
"He says, this here is the way sports should be played: someplace in the Sunbelt where there is plenty of nice hotels and restaurants for the press. He says, don't you unnerstan' what a showcase the Super Bowl is? They would never get the corporate biggies and the movers of Madison Avenue to come to the Super Bowl unless they played it for their convenience in the right resort areas. He says to me, I'm afraid you don't unnerstan' the bottom line a-tall, and I says, I always thought the bottom line in sports is the final score, and he says that jes' goes to show you you're jes' another naive country boy when it comes to this here showcase."
"Well, Punch, how is your 'commodations?"
"We are what is called 'centrally located,' which means that the press is 40 miles from the players in one direction and 'bout another 40 from the stadium in the other. And then, all the real important folks...."
"No, the owners and advertisers. They're out in Beverly Hills. So all us press is stuck here, talkin' to ourselves. They have got more PR men than Heinz has pickles to take care of us, so I asked one of them why are we here, plumb in the middle of nowhere. I says, if I was coverin' the President, would you put me in Baltimore? And he says, this location is for your convenience, and I says, oh, thank you, I din't 'predate that. He says, why sure, it is real convenient to the airport. I says, that would be nice if I was a 727, but I ain't goin' nowhere for another week. I says, I b'lieve I would rather be convenient to the football game.
"So we hang around the motel here, watchin' the airplanes overhead and speculatin' on the TV ratings, and, most important, talkin' 'bout this golf toonament they're havin' for us Thursday. I was a-wonderin' where all them cardigan sweaters came from, Herb. And another PR man says to me, do you know that Warner-Lambert is puttin' out nearly $100,000 for this golf toonament, and I says, sorry, I don' know the fella, and, besides, I'm a bowler.
"Well, he says, there is always a first time for ever'thin', but, he says, the NFL does have a free gift for you, which turns out to be this fruity little briefcase the color of spit-up that looked to me like it had been picked out by one of them faggots in Green-wich Village. Herb, if I was to tote this briefcase into the pressbox at West Texas, they would laugh me clear to Albukerk."
"Don't you ever get to see the players, Punch?"
"Sure, Herb. Ever' mornin' this bus picks us up and drives us off to Mexico or wherever it is they're at. The bus has a big ole sign up front that it also goes to Lion Country Safari, to Marineland, and to the picture studios at Universal, so the Super Bowl fits in right well with this bunch.
"First it takes us to the Vikin's, till this other PR man says, 'For your convenience, the buses will roll to the Raider camp at 9:45.' The players is all sorted out. At the Raider hotel, it is like a sock hop, with each table havin' a Raider's number on it, and the important ones like Stabler and Atkinson has tables full of writers, and some of the other fellas just sit all by their lonesome, like they was an ugly-type girl at a dance.
"O' course, nobody much-all talks about football. All the talk is 'bout the media theirselves and how-all will the media affect the game, so the more ever'body talks 'bout it, the more effect it has, I 'magine. This whole thing jes' turns in on itself so.
"I am over at the Vikin's, and I see this pretty blonde who is some kind of built, and I hear somebody say, lookee there, it is Chrystie Jenner, the wife of the world's greatest athalete, and a celebrity in her own right. And so I move up close to where she is talkin' to a bunch of hotshot writers from New York City, and they are sayin', remember me from Montreal and where is Bruce at and so forth, and one says, well, what are you doin' here anyway, Chrystie, and she says, well, I am coverin' the players' wives for ABC, and what brings you here yourself? And he says to her, well, I am coverin' all the hoopla at this showcase. Are you followin' me, Herb? Here we got a football championship, and we got a wives reporter and a hoopla reporter.
"But, for our convenience, it is time to see the Raiders. And their coach, the heavy-set guy, stands up. This is Madden, who they call Pinky, which is the part I like best 'cause that means the coaches at the Super Bowl is Bud and Pinky, jes' like they was over to Skeeter's. And a writer says that Tarkenton has let on that his team is obsessed, and what do you have to say to that? And Madden says, well, we will out-obsess them, a remark which gets some kind of guffaw out of me. And then he starts gettin' all these questions about rhetoric, which, b'lieve me, Herb, if I didn't know any better, I would think was some kind of a formation, or a linebacker, maybe. Ever'body is askin' Pinky, will the rhetoric hurt the Raiders, and will they get used to the rhetoric and how will they dee-fense the rhetoric and what-all.
"Half the time. Herb, I don' know what anybody is talkin' 'bout. Bud Grant, he keeps referrin' to stature-type players. At first I thought he meant they were, you know, like statues that didn't move laterally real good, but later on I caught his drift. He means they have reputations. Ever'body talks funny at the Super Bowl, Herb. It's kinda a simulated language, the way the astronauts used to carry on.
"Well, I'm goin' to hang up now, 'cause it's your nickel. But I'll phone Emil mah early prediction story soon."
"O.K., Punch, and lissen up now: I'm gonna tell ever'one you're havin' one great ole time. I don' want folks to think you're no traitor to our 'Merica, Punch. I'm gonna do that for your own damn good, you hear?"
"O.K., Herb. And you tell Mary Beth I'm still scoutin' 'round for that simulated Vikin' corsage she asked for."
"You bet, Punch. Bye now."
"Operator, this is Los Angeles. Routes for Northfield, Ohio, please."
"Two-one-six, plus seven digits."
"Thank you.... There's your number ringing, Miss."
"Hello, Karen, it's me, Dianne!"
"Ooh, Dianne! Where are you, hon?"
"I'm calling direct from Beverly Hills!"
"Ooooohhhh. I won't keep you, but...."
"Don't worry about the three minutes, Karen. Sandy told me—you want to call your girl friend, take as long as you want. He says he has a WATS line on his expense account!"
"I can't begin to tell you, Karen. It's so fantastic, like. I saw Bob Newhart and Lorne Greene...."
"And Joe Namath was in the Polo Lounge, and last night was the official Super Bowl party, given by the National Football League itself! Oh Karen, if only you could have been there to share it with me. Up With People entertained!"
"Ooh! I've seen them on TV."
"And there was just nothing spared on the food and beverages, Karen! The canapes would not stop! And Sandy introduced me to this exotic foreign drink that has salt on the rim!"
"Oh Dianne, I'm so happy for you. How is...he?"
"Karen, he's just a doll. Some women...his wife doesn't understand him at all. He told me that confidentially. He's so sensitive, so concerned about my feelings. I told him back in Akron, in the cafeteria, oh Sandy, how could I come with you to the Super Bowl? Why, I would feel just like a common.... And you know what he said, Karen?"
"He said, Dianne, don't ever say that about yourself. He said, I am the real hustler, I am the one forced by my company to go out to the Super Bowl and go to meetings and dumb parties, to drink with network people and football people, to try and keep our products in the corporate and video spotlight. Your going with me would give me the respectability I can't get from my job."
"Oh Dianne, that is beautiful."
"He's just a beautiful-type person, Karen."
"Where is he now?"
"He had to play tennis today. His company makes him do that. It's one of his obligations, like. Sandy says if he doesn't play tennis with the right people, his company might not be allowed to buy football commercials next year. And Sandy says that is the upwardly mobile, high-demographics audience he seeks."
"Oh, I see."
"Sandy's so conscientious, Karen. He hates all these meetings he has to go to around the pool, but it is his nature, like, never to miss a one. And yesterday, he had to play golf all day. He was so tired, the poor thing, we were late getting to the party."
"But it was good?"
"Good? Karen, I saw Julie London there."
"You see, like Sandy says, you really have to know someone to get in, Karen. Either that or you have to help make money for the NFL. They hold the guest list down to 2,500 VIPs. Some years they have had it on the Queen Mary or in the Astrodome. It's not for any Tom, Dick or Harry, like. This year they had it at the Pasadena Civic Center, and it was all decked out. Sandy said it was a south-of-the-border decor. He knew that because there was a mariachi band."
"Dianne, you said Up With People were there."
"They both were, Karen, Up With People and the mariachis."
"Oh, my Godddd, Dianne, two bands!"
"And two rooms, Karen! Two ballrooms! Adjacent, like."
"Oh, it's a fairyland, Dianne!"
"And not only that, but there was a special little section all fenced off where the people who own these football teams could stay all by themselves, like, and Sandy knew one of the owners, and we got right in there, right in the first-class section, and Sandy introduced me all around."
"What players did you meet there?"
"What players, Dianne?"
"No, there's none of them, Karen. I heard that the teams playing in the game are on the Coast, but nobody ever talks about them. Sandy says, maybe we should go down to Tijuana Sunday and see a bullfight instead. He says nobody cares about the football game. He says, this is the great American corporate game. Sandy says there's a veritable who's-who of the business world here. He says, this is the way business gets done in America. It's fascinating. Everybody has private planes and limousines. Sandy says an NFL man told him that the people here for the game will spend $50 million in Ellay. Sandy says the NFL man told him: 'Sandy, this is not your Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm-type crowd. This is your sophisticated, drinking, betting, upwardly mobile-type all-American sports crowd.' Why, everybody, just everybody, stopped off at Vegas. Sandy says, that's why Ellay is the ideal place to have the Super Bowl, because it is convenient to Vegas."
"Did we! Nipsey Russell was in the lounge and Wayne Newton himself was the main attraction, like."
"Oh, Goddd, Dianne. I'm so happy for you, hon."
"That's why we had to leave Akron a day early. You see, Sandy's company made him go to Vegas first. They said he could make contacts there. Sandy says it is harder these days for a guy in the business to get the job done. Sandy says something called NFL Properties used to throw a special party for all the businessmen at the Super Bowl, but they found out they didn't have to anymore, because all the businessmen come anyway. So the businessmen have to find each other on their own. That's why Sandy has to spend so much time at bars, because as much as he hates the thought of it, a lot of the business types hang around there."
"Oh, I see."
"But it's not all work for Sandy, Karen. He knows some TV types, too. Both NBC and CBS are putting on these terrific variety-type shows. With a football motif, like, Karen. Like we saw a rehearsal and the announcer says, 'Page sacks Stabler on the 19,' and Charo says, 'Who ees thees 19 in the sack?' "
"Oh, that's so comical, Dianne. Charo has such a funny accent."
"The casts are just star-studded, Karen. Besides Charo, there's Andy Williams, Don Rickles, Elliott Gould...."
"And they'll be on TV?"
"Tonight. Live on tape from the Super Bowl. Oh, I just adore football so much, Karen. And you know, it's funny, but I never cared that much for it before, back in Akron. But I just adore the Super Bowl."
"I'm so jealous, Dianne."
"Well, I better hang up now. I have to get dressed. Sandy's going to try and take me to the theater."
"What are you going to see?"
"I really don't know. He just said he'd try to get away from the tennis long enough for us to get in a matinee."
"Oh, I hope you have good seats, Dianne!"
"Karen, believe me, Sandy's right. Every American should try and go to the Super Bowl, because it is so representative of Americana, like. I'll see you at work Monday, hon. Be good, now."
"Well, if I can't be good, I'll be careful."
"O.K., bye, Karen."
"Have a happy, Dianne."
"Hello, operator, would you be so kind as to get me a number in New York?"
"You can dial that direct, sir."
"Yes, I should like to very much, but I don't know the bloody number."
"Sir, dial one, plus 212, then 555-1212 and ask for the number."
"I see, yes. Thank you so much...."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I was trying to reach information."
"Look, this is directory assistance. Mister. Do you want a number in Noo Yawk?"
"Indeed I do. I'm trying to secure the number of the Algonquin Hotel."
"Is it a new listing?"
"No, luv, I was there just the other day, and it was standing as straight as ever."
"Madame Assistance, do you have the number?"
"All right, make a note of this: 687-4400."
"Thank you so much...."
"Hello, this is Dale, may I help you?"
"I do hope so. I should like to reverse charges."
"Yeah, what's the name?"
"Just Room 407, please."
"Long distance for 407."
"Are you paid, operator?"
"No, it's collect to the room."
"Is this 407?"
"Yes it is."
"I'm so sorry, what?"
"Darling, it's me, Michael."
"Sir, this is a station call!"
"Lady, will you accept charges?"
"Yes, of course I will."
"All right, go ahead."
"Where are you?"
"I'm in a bloody phone booth somewhere along Sunset Boulevard. I really don't know. I just had to get off this damned bus."
"Bus? What bus?"
"This awful chartered monstrosity that took me to the Super Bowl."
"Darling, the what?"
"The Super Bowl. Oh, Sylvia, you can't imagine. It's the American football championship, although as nearly as I could fathom, the journey to the bloody game, on this dreadful bus, was much more an attraction than the game itself."
"Darling, please back up. What in the world were you doing on this bus at this bowling alley?"
"No, no, football, Sylvia. And it's all so depressing. You remember Nick, that ghastly producer who belongs to the nude backgammon encounter group?"
"Oh, God, yes."
"Well, he called me up at a fever pitch last evening to say that an extra ticket to the Super Bowl football had come into his possession, and would I care to go. And of course I protested that it would be a terrible thing to waste the ticket on someone such as myself, who knows nothing about American football, but Nick insisted that this was the single most important cultural event in the United States, and for me to turn down such an opportunity would be—and I fear this is a direct quote, darling—the equivalent of turning down an invitation to have dinner with the Queen at Buckingham Palace."
"Oh, my God, Michael. I'm so sorry for you out there, poor thing."
"Well, if we're going to get the financing and a chance for McQueen, Nick is the fellow. Any port in a storm. So I accepted with gratitude. And then he informed me about the bus. This game, for reasons that still elude me, is between a team from Minnesota, which is somewhere amongst the Midwestern states, and Oakland, which is a rather shabby working-class suburb of San Francisco, but it is being played here in Los Angeles. Or rather, it is being played in some godforsaken place known as Pasadena, which is primarily famous for its smog. And it is, apparently, inaccessible by automobile, which is why everyone journeyed by bus. Well, I should not say everybody. The Midwest rooters all seem to have traveled in these awful conveyances known as vans—every last one of them boasting a CB radio—while the fans from San Francisco appeared to have arrived en masse on motorcycles. Most of these fellows even affected the early Brando."
"Poor Michael. Was it all so bad?"
"Worse, I'm afraid. These people who inhabit the Sunbelt take a rather perverse pride in the vulgar, you know. They absolutely lack taste in all things but the climate. They can discourse upon a partially sunny day as literate men and women once spoke of poetry or philosophy. And saddest of all, they try mightily to bring the rest of the nation down to their level. I was told that this utterly tasteless exhibition was a classic representation of America. One especially annoying buffoon on the bus, who was wearing an off-lime leisure suit and drinking another margarita...."
"I'm sorry, dear, a what?"
"A margarita. It is this dreadful liquid concoction that was, alas, not stopped at the Mexican border by immigration authorities. As you know, Sylvia, Americans employ salt to excess on all foods. We should have known that before long they would find a drink they could also destroy in this way. Such is the margarita, which has become a sort of liquid French fry throughout the Sunbelt. In any event, this was the staple of our bus ride."
"Did you get to the match?"
"Oh, my God, I'm afraid we did. We had to leave at the crack of dawn to reach our assigned parking place, and to accommodate the television network, which schedules the game for the convenience of saloonkeepers in New Jersey, rather than for the poor devils, such as myself, who make the supreme effort to appear at the bloody thing in person.
"Then, when we emerged from our mobile vault, we were greeted by a scene, darling, the likes of which you would not attribute to Dante at his most vivid. A full landscape of CB vans and motorcycles, with matching people, all at their most outrageously harlequinesque, all consuming equal amounts of beer and bus exhaust and dodging Frisbees, which clattered about like hail. The lights of the stadium were already on, ready to penetrate the smog, I imagine, even though it was not yet midday. Everywhere, a profusion of vendors—of the quantity and persistence of beggars in Bombay—tried to foist upon us souvenir merchandise of such quality that it would all surely be rejected in Taiwan as beneath human standards. Here and there, as we drew closer to this antique arena, scalpers were trying desperately to sell tickets at face value."
"But Michael, I understood you to say this was the great championship that every American longed to see."
"Oh, indeed, there is a great deal of glib sociological talk about how it is the average fan who attends this spectacle, but the fact of the matter is that those present are either expense-account freeloaders, such as myself, or zealots who have traveled thousands of miles, and thus must be well-off—and further, they must also be rather asinine to do so.
"So basically, luv, what you have at a Super Bowl is not an average American at all. You don't even have an average American sports fan. Instead, you have a collection of the affluent foolish—The Affluish Americans."
"The worst of the lot."
"By and large."
"Well, I do hope that at least the game was exciting."
"No, not at all. It was perfectly dreadful. The team from San Francisco absolutely eviscerated the Midwest club."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
"No matter. It didn't bother a soul, because they assured me that they were all quite resigned to this circumstance—that it was almost always a terrible game, and certainly always when the Minnesota club played."
"And this didn't upset the fans?"
"Oh, no. The league and the press have convinced the fans that the only important thing about the Super Bowl is that it be played in nice weather. I came to understand that the Super Bowl really was very representative of America—at least of the worst of modern America. It is all flash and no substance. A duel of transients passing by, played before transients. Of course the games are always going to be awful. Even the players must sense that they are the end result of a programmed, franchised society. The Super Bowl is the ultimate remove in this nation, luv."
"I do hope you kept these sentiments to yourself, dear."
"Oh, I was the perfect guest. Besides, we were kept busy in the stadium. Soon enough the public-address announcer advised us: 'You are sitting in the world's largest card-stunt section,' and for all of us to get ready our cards."
"Michael, what in the world?"
"Well, darling, we were programmed rather like those poor Chinese in Peking on Mao Tse-tung Day, holding up these cardboard sections to form rather infantile color patterns. I did ask why we were expected to perform these maneuvers, and Nick explained to me that it was for the convenience of the TV audience. It seemed to me that this was all rather backward, inasmuch as we had paid $20 a seat—a hard seat—while the people watching on the telly were enjoying the proceedings more comfortably and gratis, but since I was a guest myself, I agreed to quietly go along with this dreadful mass exercise."
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you, darling."
"Well, thereafter, like any drone, I merely followed the path of least resistance and tried valiantly to develop a taste for margaritas. And, at last, we were back on the bloody bus, and when I happened to glance out the window an hour or two later and saw a street sign indicating that we had returned to civilization—or at least to that second cousin of civilization that calls itself 'El-lay'—I made very hasty apologies, claiming that I was going to meet a dear old friend at the next corner, and exited precipitously from the bus as soon as it came to a stoplight. Darling, if I ever get a taxi back to the hotel, I'll be on the nine o'clock flight tomorrow morning. Till then, Sylvia."
"Good night, Michael. Oh, you poor dear."