I don't actually look like a raccoon.
This is makeup designed to make me pop under inside lights in front of a camera. I saw a photograph of myself taken in the studio and I did indeed look like Dame Margot Fonteyn or perhaps an elderly Natalie Portman.
The makeup doesn't work as well in full spectrum sunlight, but this is the apartment building I grew up in, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to pose.
The Jeopardy auditions, it turned out, were right down the street.
I thought I did fairly well on the written test. There were a few answers on the written test I didn't know, so I made obvious joke answers thinking, If I amuse them, they'll remember me. I did very well on the actual game playing part except for once when I spaced out after regurgitating the correct response and had to be prodded into burbling, "I'll take Astrophysicists in Tutus for $600, Alex!" The buzzer turned out not to be an issue – I just watched the lights and tuned out everything else.
I aced the perky interview part.
Will I make it to the show?
They audition 2,000 people a year for approximately 300 slots. I think it all depends upon whether the producers decide a quirky sextagenarian is the right fit for the Jeopardy TV demographic. I really can't call that one. I don't think I've ever seen a quirky Jeopardy contestant – although, of course, it's not like I actually watch the show – so I have to think my chances are slim.
But hey! It was a fun way to pass the morning.
I passed the afternoon interviewing potential Interdates, which wasn't nearly as much fun. In the interests of brevity, I'll only describe one. Guy named Marty.
Now, looks actually are completely irrelevant to me -- I mean, really! I have fallen in love with men who by conventional standards were extremely unattractive -- but I do register differences between profiles and reality. Thus, when someone describes himself in their dating profile as "fit" and it turns out they're actually shaped like a hippopotamus, it's irksome. It creates cognitive dissonace. I mean for God's sake! Just say you're above average in weight, okay? It's not a deal breaker.
Marty's photograph did not look like Marty. Marty looked like a hippopotamus.
Marty described himself as "fit." Marty is not "fit."
Marty's schtick is his lifelong love affair with Central Park.
Well, okay – I love Central Park too. My best friend Roberta and I spent every Saturday together between the ages of 10 and 14 walking in Central Park, weaving complex stories about the more interesting looking strangers we'd see there. Nearly all of these stories involved matricide and incest. We made up names for ourselves: I was Allegra or Dominica; she was Cecily or Fiona.
Roberta was a child star exploited by her alcoholic parents. We had a tendency to alter the mundane details of our dialy lives in our constant chatter to one another – something far more innocent than lying – so these were things I deduced many years later. Roberta would be absent from school for months at a time while she was out with various touring companies of The Sound of Music, which was fairly commonplace at the elementary school I went to: Jay North, another classmate, missed a whole year when he did Dennis the Menace in L.A.
The Miles family lived in a series of residence hotels all up and down West End Avenue. I remember watching Roberta's mother, Mrs. Miles, dye Roberta's hair in the sink. Miles mere and pere wouldn't let Roberta eat anything but lettuce and cottage cheese. Now, my mother used to abandon me for days at a time, throwing a five dollar bill on the kitchenette table for food. But I'd never spend that money on food. I went for days without eating. Instead, I'd save up that money for Saturdays, and Roberta and I would gorge on candy.
Years later, when I went back to NYC to see my grandfather, I visited Roberta. She had changed her name to Cecily Denham in an effort to make sure her parents could never find her, and she now weighed 300 pounds. Her hair was still a bright, buttery yellow though. Also, she was married, lived in a one room studio with her husband who weighed a little more than she did, and the entire rooms was stacked with toys.
At one point, the husband said shyly, "Would you like play with us, Patty?"
"Sure," I said.
So we spent a couple of hours playing with the family of dolls that lived in the most elaborate of the F.A.O. Schwartz dollhouses. They were Mr. and Mrs. June and Ward Cleaver-Doll! Wally Doll and Beave Doll had more brothers and sisters than the Brady Bunch! They lived a happy life together doing exotic things like going to the grocery store and cooking meals!
I stopped answering Roberta's letters when I got back to California.
My mother forwarded her last letter to me in Portland. In it, Roberta informed me that she'd just been diagnosed with uterine cancer.
I never answered that letter either.
But I digress...
Anyway, I told Marty I wanted to see to see the Alice in Wonderland statue. Since we had met up at the 72nd Street entrance, this wasn't exactly a stretch – just across the Park. I could tell he wasn't pleased.
As it turned out, he had planned the Marty Life Exegesis for the Ramble, which we eventually got to too.
The Marty Life Exegesis turned out to be a monologue about how New York City in general and Central Park in particular were the best places on the planet!!
"Look at this!" said Marty, gesturing at the lake and the big fountain opposite. "They call this the Central Park Riviera! It looks like the Riviera!"
"Have you ever been to the Riveiera?" I asked.
"No! Why would I when I have this?"
Marty made some stock market investments a few years back, which allowed him to retire from architecture.
"What do you do all day?" I asked.
"I learn!" said Marty.
All day long when he's not meeting potential hookups from the Internet Dating Site, Marty is learning! He's at the library at 9 A.M. every morning, checking out edifying books! He watches CSPAN! He knows more than I do, which means he got to lecture me a lot about stuff I actually know pretty well!
At the beginning of the hour, I misunderstood the rules and kept trying to turn the lectures into conversations.
Pretty soon, though, I learned my place and shut up.
Now, I have to say the Ramble is probably my least favorite part of Central Park. For one thing, it is a notorious gay cruising spot, and though I like gay bars, I actually don't like Greyhound bus station restrooms or other venues where the agenda – I don't care who you are; I just want you to suck my cock. They make me squeamish. Call me square!
For another thing, it is filled with wildlife that is really commonplace but that New Yorkers go absolutely apeshit over, like they just saw a snow leopard or a fucking giant panda. I mean, Marty – it's a raccoon, okay? It's not on the endangered species list.
Being dragged around by this guy and given a lecture on wildlife got really old really fast.
"You want to get something to eat?' he asked after about an hour or so of the Fabulous Central Park Tour.
I flashed him a big bright smile. "I wish I could! Unfortunately, I've got stuff to do at home. So should we talk about this? You're such a smart guy Marty, attractive too, but I'm not feeling the chemistry here. Are you?"
"No," he said, his mouth twisting.
"Well, okay then! That's probably why I'm not feeling it either. But I like you! We should hang out, be friends."
"Yeah," he said stiffly. "Sure. I go walking in Central Park every day. Can you imagine that there are people live in Manhattan who don't go walking in Central Park?"
"The mind boggles!" I said.
"You made that joke –" he said.
At some point, I'd gone off into a funny German accent – Greta the Dominitrix. It was the part of the Central Park Tour reserved for the Mel Brooks jokes. What can I say? I was still surfing on that Jeopardy audition high!
"Oh. Right. Gee, I hope I didn't offend you – I make an awful lot of politically incorrect jokes –"
"It's the opposite of what I am," he said, glaring at me.
Took me a couple of seconds to get this.
"Oh! I see! You're a Dom!"
Well, why didn't you write this in your online profile, fuckface? Tht way I wouldn't have had to waste an hour of my life that I'll never get back.
He leered at me, obviously enjoying my discomfort.
"Ss sure, we can be friends," he said. "You're very bossy though. You're going to need to tone that down."