On the TV screen in Harry's is The Patty Winters Show, which is now on in the afternoon and is up against Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey. Today's topic is Does Economic Success Equal Happiness? The answer, in Harry's this afternoon, is a roar of resounding "Definitely," followed by much hooting, the guys all cheering together in a friendly way. On the screen now are scenes from President Bush's inauguration early this year, then a speech from former President Reagan, while Patty delivers a hard-to-hear commentary. Soon a tiresome debate forms over whether he's lying or not, even though we don't, can't, hear the words. The first and really only one to complain is Price, who, though I think he's bothered by something else, uses this opportunity to vent his frustration, looks inappropriately stunned, asks, "How can he lie like that? How can he pull that shit?"
"Oh Christ," I moan. "What shit? Now where do we have reservations at? I mean I'm not really hungry but I would like to have reservations somewhere. How about 220?" An afterthought: "McDermott, how did that rate in the new Zagat's?"
"No way," Farrell complains before Craig can answer. "The coke I scored there last time was cut with so much laxative I actually had to take a shit in M.K."
"Yeah, yeah, life sucks and then you die."
"Low point of the night," Farrell mutters.
"Weren't you with Kyria the last time you were there?" Goodrich asks. "Wasn't that the low point?"
"She caught me on call waiting. What could I do?" Farrell shrugs. "I apologize."
"Caught him on call waiting." McDermott nudges me, dubious.
"Shut up, McDermott," Farrell says, snapping Craig's suspenders. "Date a beggar."
"You forgot something, Farrell," Preston mentions. "McDermott is a beggar."
"How's Courtney?" Farrell asks Craig, leering.
"Just say no." Someone laughs.
Price looks away from the television screen, then at Craig, and he tries to hide his displeasure by asking me, waving at the TV, "I don't believe it. He looks so... normal. He seems so... out of it. So... un dangerous."
"Bimbo, bimbo," someone says. "Bypass, bypass."
"He is totally harmless, you geek. Was totally harmless. Just like you are totally harmless. But he did do all that shit and you have failed to get us into 150, so, you know, what can I say?" McDermott shrugs.
"I just don't get how someone, anyone, can appear that way yet be involved in such total shit," Price says, ignoring Craig, averting his eyes from Farrell. He takes out a cigar and studies it sadly. To me it still looks like there's a smudge on Price's forehead.
"Because Nancy was right behind him?" Farrell guesses, looking up from the Quotrek. "Because Nancy did it?"
"How can you be so f**king, I don't know, cool about it?" Price, to whom something really eerie has obviously happened, sounds genuinely perplexed. Rumor has it that he was in rehab.
"Some guys are just born cool, I guess." Farrell smiles, shrugging.
I'm laughing at this answer since Farrell is so obviously uncool, and Price shoots me a reprimanding look, says, "And Bateman - what are you so f**king zany about?"
I shrug too. "I'm just a happy camper." And I add, remembering, quoting, my brother: "Rocking and a rolling."
"Be all that you can be," someone adds.
"Oh brother." Price won't let it die. "Look," he starts, trying for a rational appraisal of the situation. "He presents himself as a harmless old codger. But inside..." He stops. My interest picks up, flickers briefly. "But inside..." Price can't finish the sentence, can't add the last two words he needs:doesn't matter. I'm both disappointed and relieved for him.
"Inside? Yes, inside?" Craig asks, bored. "Believe it or not, we're actually listening to you. Go on."
"Bateman," Price says, relenting slightly. "Come on. What do you think?"
I look up, smile, don't say anything. From somewhere - the TV? - the national anthem plays. Why? I don't know. Before a commercial, maybe. Tomorrow, on The Patty Winters Show, Doormen from Nell's: Where Are They Now? I sigh, shrug, whatever.
"That's, uh, a pretty good answer." Price says, then adds, "You're a real nut."
"That is the most valuable piece of information I've heard since" - I look at my new gold Rolex that insurance paid for - "McDermott suggested we all drink dry beers. Christ, I want a Scotch."