close your eyes and smile

I feel a slight dull ache just behind my eyes. I'm tired, and I know why. Last night I had nearly too much fun—and champagne—at an annual Oscar party in Portland, Maine.

The gala, hosted by my homie Tim who goes by the alias Swifty (embodying the famous Hollywood agent Swifty Lazar) was his twenty-fifth soiree. About fifty of his dearest friends—forty-five, or so, of them men—packed the loft of a downtown sports bar. As usual, the gig came equipped with a half-dozen giant wall-mounted televisions, a few big speakers, bottomless glasses of champagne, a red carpet with a professional photographer, appetizers, a catered sit-down dinner and dessert. Guests arrived wearing their fanciest duds, including several chic tuxedos. With his signature waxed bald head and large black glasses, Swifty, acting as our master of ceremonies, guided us through the evening with clever commentary during each commercial break. He managed the evening's best-dressed male and female competitions, and gave a play-by-play of his guests' Oscar picks, all of us vying for golden trophies Swifty had especially engraved for the event.

After a delectable dinner including salad, pork loin, lasagna, baked whitefish and sautéed green beans, and following a few of the on-screen awards, I stepped up to the mike to read Swifty a limerick I'd written especially for him. It was meant as a sort of lifetime achievement award marking a quarter century of hosting the annual event. With some borrowed cheaters (my vision isn't what it used to be), and having previously sent Swifty's Limerick to a friend's smartphone, I read my poem from the device. My favorite stanza goes like this:

Swifty knows how to host a good show,
With a mike in his hand he’s a pro,
In his tux and black shoes,
He’s a Red Carpet schmooze,
More famous in Maine than fried dough.

With some effort, I managed to recite the first several verses without cracking myself up. But then I arrived at that last line above. Upon reading it, I doubled over, breathless in hysterics, my eyes tearing, even peeing my pants a tiny bit. It was difficult regaining composure, and with my body in a standing fetal position, I couldn't see the crowd though I could hear them erupt with laughter, causing me to lose it all together (though, thankfully not the entire contents of my bladder).

It was a perfect evening. No doubt it is hard to beat a room full of fit, handsome men—some of them couples, married and otherwise, others single—plus a handful of attractive and gregarious women. A few costumes were simply riotous. My chauffeurs came dressed as twin Swifties. Tim (a different Tim than our host) shaved his head bald and his wife Stephanie donned a champagne-colored swim cap, tucking her hair into it neatly. Both of them dressed in tuxedos and wore Swifty's signature black glasses. They had everyone cracking up, especially Swifty himself. Another friend came dressed as Tonya Harding from the movie I, Tonya. He wore a crappy wig yanked back into a tacky early-nineties ponytail. He'd smeared his face and neck in orangey makeup, wore a ladies figure skating costume with white lace-up boots resembling ice skates. His friend, Marieke, dressed as Tonya's mother, brushing her hair forward into crude bangs. She ran a piece of plastic tubing under her nose which masked as an oxygen tube. I haven't watched the movie yet, but seeing this hilarious couple, I didn't need to.

After a few hours of chatting, whistling, clapping and laughing, I said my goodbyes with many hugs and kisses. I crawled into bed just before eleven, my son Calvin sleeping soundly in the next room. Laying down my head, I closed my eyes and smiled, remembering the events of the night—the hamming in front of the camera, sitting on a gentleman stranger's knee for the group photo, meeting some new folks and seeing old friends, weeping a bit at some heartfelt toasts for our beloved host and emcee, chuckling again at all of the gags. In one happy night—the kind I need more of in light of the regrettable condition of our disabled and chronically ill son—I think I might have added ten years onto my life.

Hamming it up with Swifty and the ladies at last year's event

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