Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cocktail Knowledge

So I was at a cocktail party last weekend. I don't particularly like cocktail parties. It's not the "cocktail" part, I do pretty well with that. It's the "party" part. I'm not sure how this has happened but I find that I just don't like big crowds of people (even if they are friends and all immensely interesting in all sorts of ways) who are gathered together just to chat.

Maybe it's my itchy hands. I should bring some knitting to the next one, perhaps.

It could be my terribly poor repertoire of cocktail knowledge. I had a high school English teacher called Mr. Weiner who advised us at the ripe old age of 16 to start immediately collecting cocktail knowledge. "Trust me, it will be very useful to you in the future", he counselled.

Mr. Weiner was a brilliant English teacher, well respected by faculty and students alike. He was a British Literature teacher directly out of central casting, right down to the costume - a tweed jacket and tie. He even spoke with a British accent which I always found remarkable given that I was quite sure he'd never spent any length of time on the Island.

In addition to cocktail knowledge, Mr. Weiner felt it was his duty and mission to increase the vocabularies of his poor simple students from our mainly agricultural town in Wisconsin. Weiner Words...that's how we poor simple students referred to weekly lists of vocabulary enhancers that he forced on us. "I remember being on the balcony of a penthouse apartment in Manhattan with a friend. We didn't speak, we just listened to the cacophony of the city", he recounted one day. Wow. Most of us poor simple students had never been to New York much less could we imagine standing silently a penthouse balcony, but I think it's safe to say not one of us missed that word on the Friday quiz.

Anyway, having not heeded wise Mr. Weiner's advice about the importance of cocktail knowledge, I employed my usual strategy at Saturday's party. This involves finding the oldest people in the room, who are usually seated in a quiet corner away from the cacophony of the young, and I listened. I figure that old people are more likely to impart cocktail knowledge than be in need of collecting more. And sure enough, the little old Italian ladies I glommed onto last weekend didn't disappoint.

The ladies were lamenting the changing times. In particular they were concerned and worried about a society moving forward in a direction that was losing the very valuable trades of times past. "You just can't find good seamstresses any more!", commented one. "And what about a materassaia?!", responded the other.

I had to ask for clarification on that one, having never heard of this Italian word before. Some quick translation lead me to understand they were talking about a "mattress worker". Hmmm...what exactly would a woman do who worked in the "mattress trade"? And why were these ladies lamenting their disappearance? Quickly retrieving my mind from the gutter, the ladies explained how all mattresses used to be made of pure wool. The mattress worker would be called into your house periodically, steel comb in hand, to tease and fluff your mattress.

I like that one. I think I will start that collection of cocktail knowledge, after all, and put that at the top of the list. Better late than never, right Mr. Weiner?

Does anyone know what a person doing this combing of mattresses would have been called in English? I'm guessing my "mattress worker" translation is not quite right. I'd like my cocktail knowledge collection to be bilingual.

Note to Neighbor Barb from the comments...thanks for the english word for the door salami from a couple weeks ago, very helpful. I must have forgotten that Weiner Word.

Note to Wayne from the comments (and anyone else who is dying to see the stone wall David and I built) you go, pal.

Very impressive, no? I can tell you this, after busting our backs for 4 hours to make that 2'x 3' wall, we have a new appreciation for this...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:59 PM


    Loved loved loved the recollection of Mr. Weiner. What great memories. I think he must have spent some time in abroad, as I remember he told stories of having had tea with Mick Jagger. :) You would have made him proud, I'm sure as I remember fondly one of his speeches where he told us that the world does not end at the city limits of Elkhorn. You have definitely taken that one to heart.

    You are not alone on the whole party thing... I would much rather be in the company of 2-5 friends than in a super large crowd.