"They better have reservations," I warn Courtney in the cab.
"Just don't smoke a cigar, Patrick," she says slowly.
"Is that Donald Trump's car?" I ask, looking over at the limousine stuck next to us in gridlock.
"Oh god, Patrick. Shut up," she says, her voice thick and drugged.
"You know, Courtney, I have a Walkman in my Bottega Veneta briefcase I could easily put on," I say. "You should take some more lithium. Or have a Diet Coke. Some caffeine might get you out of this slump."
"I just want to have a child," she says softly, staring out the window, to no one. "Just... two... perfect... children."
"Are you talking to me or Shlomo here?" I sigh, but loudly enough for the Israeli driver to hear me, and predictably Courtney doesn't say anything.
The Patty Winters Show this morning was about Perfumes and Lipsticks and Makeups. Luis Carruthers, Courtney's boyfriend, is out of town in Phoenix and will not be back in Manhattan until late Thursday. Courtney is wearing a wool jacket and vest, a wool jersey T-shirt and wool gabardine pants by Bill Blass, crystal, enamel and gold plated earrings by Gerard E. Yosca and silk-satin d'Orsay pumps from Manolo Blahnik. I am wearing a custom-made tweed jacket, pants and a cotton shirt from the Alan Flusser shop and a silk tie by Paul Stuart. There was a twenty-minute wait at the Stairmaster machine at my health club this morning. I wave to a beggar on the corner of Forty-ninth and Eighth, then give him the finger.
Tonight the talk centers around Elmore Leonard's new book - which I haven't read; certain restaurant critics - who I have; the British sound track from Les Miserables versus the American cast recording; that new Salvadorian bistro on Second and Eighty-third; and which gossip columns are better written - the Post 's or the News 's. It seems that Anne Smiley and I share a mutual acquaintance, a waitress from Abetone's in Aspen who I raped with a can of hairspray last Christmas when I was skiing there over the holidays. Deck Chairs is crowded, earsplitting, the acoustics lousy because of the high ceilings, and if I'm not mistaken, accompanying the din is a New Age version of "White Rabbit" blaring from speakers mounted in the ceiling corners. Someone who looks like Forrest Atwater - slicked-back blond hair, nonprescription redwood-framed glasses, Armani suit with suspenders - is sitting with Caroline Baker, an investment banker at Drexel, maybe, and she doesn't look too good. She needs more makeup, the Ralph Lauren tweed outfit is too severe. They're at a mediocre table up front by the bar.
"It's called California classic cuisine," Anne tells me, leaning in close, after we ordered. The statement deserves a reaction, I suppose, and since Scott and Courtney are discussing the merits of the Post 's gossip column, it's up to me to reply.
"You mean compared to, say, California cuisine?" I ask carefully, measuring each word, then lamely add, "Or post- California cuisine?"
"I mean I know it sounds so trendy but there is a world of difference. It's sub tle," she says, "but it's there."
"I've heard of post-California cuisine," I say, acutely aware of the design of the restaurant: the exposed pipe and the columns and the open pizza kitchen and the... deck chairs. "In fact I've even eaten it. No baby vegetables? Scallops in burritos? Wasabi crackers? Am I on the right track? And by the way, did anyone ever tell you that you look exactly like Garfield but run over and skinned and then someone threw an ugly Ferragamo sweater over you before they rushed you to the vet? Fusilli? Olive oil on Brie?"
"Exactly," Anne says, impressed. "Oh Courtney, where did you find Patrick? He's so knowledgeable about things. I mean Luis's idea of California cuisine is half an orange and some gelati," she gushes, then laughs, encouraging me to laugh with her, which I do, hesitantly.
For an appetizer I ordered radicchio with some kind of free-range squid. Anne and Scott both had the monkfish ragout with violets. Courtney almost fell asleep when she had to exert the energy to read the menu, but before she slid off her chair I grabbed both shoulders, propping her up, and Anne ordered for her, something simple and light like Cajun popcorn perhaps, which wasn't on the menu but since Anne knows Noj, the chef, he made up a special little batch... just for Courtney! Scott and Anne insisted that we all order some kind of blackened medium-rare redfish, a Desk Chairs specialty which was, luckily for them, an entree on one of the mock menus that Jean made up for me. If it hadn't, and if they nevertheless insisted on my ordering it, the odds were pretty good that after dinner tonight I would have broken into Scott and Anne's studio at around two this morning - after Late Night with David Letterman - and with an ax chopped them to pieces, first making Anne watch Scott bleed to death from gaping chest wounds, and then I would have found a way to get to Exeter where I would pour a bottle of acid all over their son's slanty-eyed zipperhead face. Our waitress is a little hardbody who is wearing gold faux-pearl tasseled lizard sling-back pumps. I forgot to return my videotapes to the store tonight and I curse myself silently while Scott orders two large bottles of San Pellegrino.