Sunday, September 11, 2016

What Walks Through the Door

When you host a party, you never know what will walk through your door. Even if it’s a small party with a select group of people, once you open your home, anything can happen. And it does. Last weekend we hosted a BBQ and open house for a hand-picked group of close friends whom our children wanted to see while at a family gathering planned for them to spend time with their grandfather, who was visiting from NJ. My daughter invited a couple of women-friends who grew up with her. One of these women (I’ll call her Cindy to protect her identity) turned up at around 9:00 (well after dinner had finished) with her new boyfriend, whom my daughter had never met. I will call the boyfriend Leaf-of-Life, because that was how he introduced himself and I have no reason to protect his identity, and because you really can’t make this stuff up.

Leaf-of-Life was tall and anorexically thin. He had several gold teeth, an affected Jamaican accent, a ten-foot high green turban on his head that made him resemble a cactus, and he reeked of weed. He was wearing a suit and tie with the shirt untucked so the shirt tails hung out. The suit looked like it had come directly from Goodwill after having been used to clothe a scarecrow guarding the fall pumpkin patch for a month. His fashion sense appeared to be dictated by someone who had taken one too many blows to the head. He enthusiastically accosted everyone in the house with his business card and flyers advertising the release of his new CD. He also had a bottomless pocket full of said CDs, which he attempted to sell to our guests. Ron kindly purchased one of the CDs and Leaf-of-Life was so encouraged by the sale that he attempted to recruit Ron as his volunteer publicist.

When Ron declined to leap at that opportunity, Leaf-of-Life asked Ron if he had any weed. As it turned out, it was a trick question. Leaf-of-Life had an enormous bag of his weed on his person. Once he determined that he couldn’t mooch any weed off my husband (who didn’t have any), he retired to the deck and proceeded to smoke volumes of his own stash. This was our first real clue that he was a certified freeloader.

When he returned from his session on the deck, he resumed his conversation with Ron, revealing that his actual name is Lincoln. Why would someone select Leaf-of-Life as his stage name when so many other catchy names could have been chosen instead? Leaf-of-Life sounds like a name that came to him in a moment of inane epiphany while colossally stoned. Oh, wait, that’s probably what happened. He might as well have named himself Legalize-It. When he introduced himself as Leaf-of-Life to the older of my two sons, my son nodded his head once in acknowledgement and said, “OK, well, I’m out of here.” He left Leaf-of-Life standing beneath a ceiling fan that was off with his skyscraper turban poised between the fan blades, flashing his gold teeth, surrounded by a fog of weed fumes. My son went to talk with an old family friend who said quietly, “I’ll give you $10 if you turn that fan on.” He didn’t turn the fan on because 1) he’s not that mean and 2) he was afraid of what we might have discovered underneath the turban. A bird in a birdcage? An enormous bag of weed? Giant Russian nesting dolls? Nesting turbans? A nuclear reactor? Pot roast? Jimmy Hoffa?

My daughter felt so embarrassed that her girlfriend had brought this unsavory character to the party. At one point, I took her aside and said, “I thought Cindy had pretty good taste in men.” My daughter replied, “No way. She has dreadful taste in men. If she had told me beforehand that she wanted to bring her new boyfriend I would have told her no, sight-unseen. This one is even worse than her last one.” Eye-roll.

And the worst was yet to come. Round-about 10:00 I began to tackle the massive clean-up in my kitchen while family and friends congregated in the front room for a music jam. My youngest son began to play the piano, my husband plugged in his bass guitar, one young friend sat down at the drum set and another picked up the lead guitar. An assortment of percussion instruments was passed around to other guests. I was all set to groove to the beat as I sorted my kitchen, and then the bomb dropped:  Leaf-of-Life returned from another session on the deck with his friendly weed, commandeered the microphone, and “rapped” along to the music. (Or should I say he raped the music?) He did not sing and he did not make any sense. He chanted nonsensical strings of words in a monotone. My father said to me, “That music is weird.” I didn’t want him to think this was the kind of music to which his grandson was devoting his life, so I told him, “It’s not music, Dad. It’s Leaf-of-Life destroying everyone’s groove.”

I considered paying Leaf-of-Life not to rap. Not to open his mouth. I almost took the microphone away from him and showed him the door. But Cindy is one of my daughter’s oldest and dearest friends, despite her abysmal taste in men. The musicians attempted to ignore Leaf-of-Life and simply play together in spite of his droning. He drove all of us crazy for some time before the munchies got the better of him and he wandered into the kitchen in a weed-induced stupor to look for food.

My daughter’s boyfriend had the presence of mind to grab the open microphone. He began to sing along to the music jam and suddenly all was right with the world. Having finished cleaning up in the kitchen, I picked up a tambourine and joined the fun. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Leaf-of-Life and Cindy were hunting and foraging in my refrigerator. Before long, Cindy came over to me and asked, “Can we open a watermelon?” I told her to go right ahead.

Not much later, I went into the kitchen to refill my glass of wine, and discovered Leaf-of-Life and Cindy with my cutting boards on the table and all the fruit in my refrigerator (which was for breakfast for my family) spread out before them. They had bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, grapes, the last of my homegrown apples, and the homegrown strawberries that I had lovingly picked specifically for my children out on the table ready for dissection. They also had a box of Ziploc bags and they had already filled two of them with chopped watermelon, cantaloupe, and banana. They were preparing to cut up all my fruit and take it home with them! I was furious. I thought, step slowly away from my fruit. But I said to Cindy, in a calm and even voice, scrubbed of all hysteria, “You asked me if you could cut up a watermelon, Cindy. This is more than a watermelon. You can’t have all my fruit. This is for our family’s breakfast.” “Oh, yeah, OK,” Cindy mumbled, while Leaf-of-Life grinned enthusiastically. I took the fruit away from them and put it back in the refrigerator. I put the Ziploc bags back in the drawer. I left them one bag with chopped banana and watermelon.

Leaf-of-Life appeared crestfallen. “I didn’t get to eat my dinner,” he whined. “My plate disappeared.” This happened because he was too stoned to find his plate and it got cleared and cleaned up. It was after 11:00 at night by this time, for crying out loud! The food was put away and most of the guests had left.

“I have leftover barbecue if you would like some of that,” I offered graciously. “I’m sure we can find you something. But you can’t have my breakfast fruit.”

“I’m vegan and I only eat certain things,” he told me, sadly, as if being vegan was a disease. “It’s harder for me to find something to eat.” He was still trying to abscond with my fruit. But I would have none of it.

“I have vegan food,” I replied. “I have barbecued tofu and zucchini. There’s kale salad. Tomatoes. Quinoa salad.”

“Do you have any barbecued salmon?” he asked hopefully.

Salmon? Salmon?! “Fish is not a vegan food,” I informed him. He looked confused. Perhaps he thought salmon was technically a vegetable. I lost my patience. Game over. “I don’t have any fish. You know what? The kitchen is closed,” I said firmly. “Eat the watermelon and banana you cut up.” I pointed to the bag. I was not in the mood to start bringing food out again to feed a stoned-out freeloader.

While Leaf-of-Life remained utterly oblivious to how badly he was behaving, it was beginning to dawn on Cindy that I did not approve of him and that I was angry that they had tried to clean out my breakfast fruit. She hastily gathered her things, said good-bye to my daughter, and headed for the door. But then she couldn’t find Leaf-of-Life, who, as it turned out, was consoling himself for the discovery that fish was not a vegan food by smoking a spliff the size of the Empire State Building out on the deck. He had smoked so much weed on the deck by then that he was attracting skunks. (For those unaware, weed smells much like skunk spray.) Cindy told him she would bring around the car and he should meet her out in front. I wondered if he would need a compass to find the front of the house.

A few minutes later, Ron went out to his car to get something and discovered Leaf-of-Life roaming up and down the driveway looking disoriented. For a terrifying moment, Ron thought that Cindy had left Leaf-of-Life behind with us. “Oh, no!” he exclaimed. But then she pulled up at the foot of the driveway and Leaf-of-Life wove his way to the car, his turban glowing in the moonlight.

As I said at the start, when you open your home for a party, you never know what will come through the door. While I had to take a few deep breaths during the course of the evening to prevent myself from picking Leaf up by the scruff of the neck and placing him on the front porch, it turned out that his presence at the party provided an unexpected boon. At breakfast the next morning, while we enjoyed eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, toast, and the rescued fruit (delicious), the topic of conversation was Leaf-of-Life. My children had all of us in stitches riffing on our encounter with that disastrous individual. One lucky person will receive Ron’s Leaf-of-Life CD in their Christmas stocking this year. We are rubbing our hands in glee as we try to decide which child that will be.

I thought a photo of fruit would be more pleasant to look at 
than a stoner wearing a turban.

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