"Where did you go?" Vanden sighs after it finally becomes clear to her that no one is interested in Camden.
"Well, I went to Le Rosay," Evelyn starts, "and then to business school in Switzerland."
"I also survived business school in Switzerland," Courtney says. "But I was in Geneva. Evelyn was in Lausanne."
Vanden tosses the copy of Deception next to Timothy and smirks in a wan, bitchy way and though I am pissed off a little that Evelyn doesn't take in Vanden's condescension and hurl it back at her, the J&B has relieved my stress to a point where I don't care enough to say anything. Evelyn probably thinks Vanden is sweet, lost, confused, an artist. Price isn't eating and neither is Evelyn; I suspect cocaine but it's doubtful. While taking a large gulp from his drink Timothy holds up the copy ofDeception and chuckles to himself.
'"The Death of Downtown," he says; then, pointing at each word in the headline, "Who-gives-a-rat's-ass?"
I automatically expect Stash to look up from his plate but he still stares at the lone piece of sushi, smiling to himself and nodding.
"Hey," Vanden says, as if she was insulted. "That affects us."
"Oh ho ho," Tim says warningly. "That affects us? What about the massacres in Sri Lanka, honey? Doesn't that affect us too? What about Sri Lanka?"
"Well, that's a cool club in the Village." Vanden shrugs. "Yeah, that affects us too."
Suddenly Stash speaks without looking up. "That's called The Tonka. " He sounds pissed but his voice is even and low, his eyes still on the sushi. "It's called The Tonka, not Sri Lanka. Got it? The Tonka."
Vanden looks down, then meekly says, "Oh."
"I mean don't you know anything about Sri Lanka? About how the Sikhs are killing like tons of Israelis there?" Timothy goads her. "Doesn't that affect us?"
"Kappamaki roll anyone?" Evelyn cuts in cheerfully, holding up a plate.
"Oh come on, Price," I say. "There are more important problems than Sri Lanka to worry about. Sure our foreign policy is important, but there are more pressing problems at hand."
"Like what?" he asks without looking away from Vanden. "By the way, why is there an ice cube in my soy sauce?"
"No," I start, hesitantly. "Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. Ensure a strong national defense, prevent the spread of communism in Central America, work for a Middle East peace settlement, prevent U.S. military involvement overseas. We have to ensure that America is a respected world power. Now that's not to belittle our domestic problems, which are equally important, if not more. Better and more affordable long-term care for the elderly, control and find a cure for the AIDS epidemic, clean up environmental damage from toxic waste and pollution, improve the quality of primary and secondary education, strengthen laws to crack down on crime and illegal drugs. We also have to ensure that college education is affordable for the middle class and protect Social Security for senior citizens plus conserve natural resources and wilderness areas and reduce the influence of political action committees."
The table stares at me uncomfortably, even Stash, but I'm on a roll.
"But economically we're still a mess. We have to find a way to hold down the inflation rate and reduce the deficit. We also need to provide training and jobs for the unemployed as well as protect existing American jobs from unfair foreign imports. We have to make America the leader in new technology. At the same time we need to promote economic growth and business expansion and hold the line against federal income taxes and hold down interest rates while promoting opportunities for small businesses and controlling mergers and big corporate takeovers."
Price nearly spits up his Absolut after this comment but I try to make eye contact with each one of them, especially Vanden, who if she got rid of the green streak and the leather and got some color - maybe joined an aerobics class, slipped on a blouse, something by Laura Ashley - might be pretty. But why does she sleep with Stash? He's lumpy and pale and has a bad cropped haircut and is at least ten pounds overweight; there's no muscle tone beneath the black T-shirt.
"But we can't ignore our social needs either. We have to stop people from abusing the welfare system. We have to provide food and shelter for the homeless and oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights while also promoting equal rights for women but change the abortion laws to protect the right to life yet still somehow maintain women's freedom of choice. We also have to control the influx of illegal immigrants. We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values and curb graphic sex and violence on TV, in movies, in popular music, everywhere. Most importantly we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people."