Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams


October 7, 1991

The people below me are fighting again. They’re so loud that I can understand what they’re saying without laying down and pressing my ear to the floorboards, which is what I usually have to do. It’s not as bad as last time. Last time I heard them wrestling and throwing things at each other. Stuff was smashing against the wall and furniture was toppling over.

Oscar is stuck with a horrible boyfriend. Everyone tells him he should walk out. He hangs on because he says he too homely to find someone else. I wonder if that’s how I’ll end up? I invited Lucy to a movie preview tomorrow night. It’s at the Warner Brothers screening room up on 6th Avenue. I’m hoping it serves as a powerful aphrodisiac.

I got very, very drunk at Dorothy’s dinner party but I didn’t make a fool of myself (so I’m told). She did a very sweet thing. We were discussing caviar. I told her I was a virgin and wasn’t going to try any until I could get my hands on black Beluga. I wanted my first taste to be the best, most expensive stuff there is. The conversation was a while ago and I’d forgotten all about it.

When I got to her apartment no one was there. It was a half hour before anybody else arrived. I took my coat off and sat down. She went to the kitchen and brought out a tin of black caviar on a silver tray. She served it with plain crackers and hard boiled eggs. We spooned it with a tiny, delicate silver spoon. She opened a bottle of champagne, too. I liked it.

Randy Brecker lives across the hall and was there. We spoke for a long while but I didn’t bring up music or his career or let on that I knew who he was because I thought it would’ve been tacky. I don’t think anyone else knew who he was. We stood in the kitchen and talked trash about the people at the table.

After a few drinks I wasn’t so concerned about being tacky and told him I had Heavy Metal Be-Bop, but I lost it when I moved from Phoenix to New York. I didn’t lose ALL my albums. Just SOME of them, including that one. He offered me a replacement and was nice enough to go across the hall and fetch a CD for me. I told him his trumpet on Springsteen’s Meeting Across the River and Rundgren’s Hello It’s Me is the best part of those songs. And I wasn’t blowing smoke up his rear. I really feel that way. A nice guy. Afterwards, Dorothy told me he fights with his Japanese wife. Everyone fights.

After dinner we moved the furniture, blasted her stereo and danced like crazy people. I was completely soaked with sweat. I felt bad for the people I talked to because I held a folded paper towel and was constantly blotting my face, neck, arms, etc. Disgusting. There were some single women there and it was fun to flirt but I didn’t leave with any phone numbers. One girl was really drunk and really forward and I didn’t love that.

I finally got home at 3:00. Went to bed and had terrible bed spins so I got up, sat in the living room and watched the cats fight. For some reason, I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen and was buckled over with hysterics. I almost threw-up.

“Daddy, can you help me with my math homework?”

“Sure, honey.”


I blanked out. I had no idea how to solve this. I didn’t know how to begin. Do you know how humiliating it is to not be able to help my NINE YEAR OLD daughter solve her 4th GRADE math problem? I sent it to my best pal, the accountant. He said it was a tough one but he figured it out. She hasn’t asked me for help since. I hate my lack of education.

Meanwhile, in 8th grade science:



81 thoughts on “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

  1. They changed all the math problems between when I was a kid and when my son was a kid. That’s my story, anyway. I did feel better when my husband couldn’t help either.

  2. You have lived quite the interesting life. Good descriptions as usual. And as for math holy shit nothing gives me more heart palpitations than when my son asks for help. And he’s in the so-called advanced math! Meaning he’s doing 12th grade work and he’s only in 7th. Like I can help him!

    • You’re back! How do you feel? Get a post up with a full report, please.

      The irony is that I didn’t THINK I was living an interesting life at the time. I thought I was walking on a treadmill of nothingness. Good thing I can appreciate it in hindsight.

      Re: the homework. I knew this day would come. That they’d surpass my ability to help. I just didn’t think it would come in FOURTH GRADE. I battled with whether or not to post this. It’s really quite embarrassing. Welcome back!

      • Don’t feel bad, my daughter is in third grade and her math is over my head. I feel great, thanks for asking. That surgery was the best decision I ever made. Too bad now I regret subjecting all of you readers to all the gory details…my next post will be back to the humor.

      • Listen…you don’t need to apologize. You last post was compelling stuff. You don’t have to be funny all the time. Just most of the time. Very glad to hear your systems are up and running. Ain’t modern medicine the best?

  3. Is the answer 11-and-something and 3-and-something? That’s how I do math; hazard a guess and then keep plugging in variables until it fits. Pretty much how I do life, come to think of it.
    Your interaction with Brecker was seriously cool (as in “hey man, be cool”). Perfect.

    • The answer is: ask your friend who’s an accountant. That’s how I do math.

      Do you know how I say my journals remind me of a lot of stuff I’d long forgotten? I remember that party clearly without assistance.

  4. I really enjoy the old stuff. Your storytelling really puts the reader right there with you, and it’s fun to read someone else’s New York experiences. As for math – well, I didn’t major in English for nothing. I haven’t been able to help my daughter for the last two years (4th and 5th grade), so this doesn’t bode well for middle school next year.

    • Hey, I had to approve this comment. You’re new. Thanks for taking the time to read and for your kind words. I appreciate it. I like the old stuff, too. The good old days. It’s WAY more interesting than the new stuff. As for math, maybe we should form a support group.

      • Indeed. I’m not “exactly” new. …I just recently moved my blog to WordPress and so my comments have to be moderated again until I’m”recognized”. Thanks for approving. 😉

  5. Movie aphrodisiacs, a virgin to caviar and champagne. You lived the 90’s highlife, Mister!

    Who knew that caviar was such rave material. Did it taste nice? Is it worth it? Did it get you laid?I’m still a virgin…

    9 year olds do these sums in maths? Holy crap. I’m sticking to the creative subjects.

    • From what I remember (25 years ago) I liked the caviar. I think it was a bit salty. I got over the fact that I was crunching little fish egg shells. The champagne helped. I don’t recall the movie screening having the desired effect. As per usual. Or, at least, I haven’t come across that entry yet. I have the mathematical acumen of a 9-year old. So EMBARASSING.

  6. I’ll have to say, among many things I like about your pieces I like the music references and the fact you don’t explain that, it’s good. It makes the room feel small, if you know what I’m saying. Maybe that’s too ‘out there’ a comment.
    My mom has an American friend in for a Frankfurt music trade show that’s just passed and he and I stayed up late the past two nights sort of DJing for one another since he’s in his early 50s, played music all his life, fun seeing who’s heard what, you know. But we did it all via YouTube, just passing the laptop back and forth, taking turns. He played this “Be-Bop Deluxe” band for me, early Tubes, early Cheap Trick, it went on and on…and my tinnitus is back now, like a whining gnat in my left ear. I’m glad you’re back here, fit and working again.

    • First of all, THANKS, as always. I didn’t explain the music references because I was talking to myself and didn’t need to. I never imagined anyone would ever see this stuff and I don’t want to start editing for clarity. That’s too much work.

      I was a HUGE Be Bop Deluxe fan but that’s not where this guy played. He was a jazz trumpeter who had a band with his equally famous saxophone-playing brother Michael Brecker. The two of them had a band called, appropriately enough, The Brecker Brothers. They had an album called ‘Heavy Metal Be-Bop.’ So that’s the story there.

      • Cool, you’re welcome. But thank YOU and yes, I figured this was jazz (and not the Steely Dan Brecker, knowing how you feel about THEM). It made me think of that other band, who was quite something.

      • Both Brecker brothers played on multiple Steely Dan albums. I like Steely Dan. Did I give the impression otherwise? Actually, they were kind of a big deal to me when I was a tyke. I’m seeing them over the summer at an outdoor venue. No Breckers in tow, though.

  7. I’ll resist the temptation to ask what happened with Lucy, even though I’m more curious than your fighting cats!

    There are a lot of people with humanities degrees who wouldn’t know how to begin that mathematics problem. I’m sure a lot of great writers would have been stumped!

    • I’ll tell you exactly what happened with Lucy…NOTHING. Lots and lots of trial and error, but mostly error. Some success later on. A little success.

      I appreciate you trying to let me off the hook but my daughter is so young. Surely I should’ve been able to help out at this point? God, what she must think.

  8. Thank god for youtube, because I can’t do the new “maths”. Saved my ass more than once when it came to helping my son with 5th grade math. I used to be smarter than a 5th grader, but damn if they don’t expect them to know some different math stuff now. He’s 15 now, and living with his dad, so I guess his dad’s the one who’s googling for assistance.

    I’ve never had caviar, but have tried sushi, so I’m guessing I wouldn’t like it. However, I’ve heard it’s salty, and I love salt. So much so, that maybe I should have one of those salt licks like the cows get.

    • I wish I could’ve stride into the room with the confidence of Stephen Hawking and whip up that math problem for her with an understandable explanation but that’s just no how it went. I stared at the paper with a stupid look on my face. Eventually, I tucked my tail between my legs and called my friend. Fail.

      The caviar was nice. I don’t recall having the really, really good stuff since then. Just the sushi caviar. I like how it pops in your mouth when you press them against the roof of your mouth with your tongue.

  9. Umm, it’s a pretty straightforward algebra problem a+b = 153/10 and a-b = 85/10. One way would be to say a=153/10-b and then substitute so 153/10-b-b = 85/10 or -2b= -153/10+85/10= -68/10 or b=34/10 so a+34/10 = 153/10 or a = 119/10 Hence the answers are 3 4/10 and 11 9/10 the sum being 15 3/10 and the difference being 8 5/10.

    And perhaps the science project was you Mark – Bwahahaha! That is an absolutely awesome grade on the genetically engineered creature. Please congratulate her for me.

    Excellent writing as always mark – a joy to read.

    • Straightforward for you and, apparently, 9-year olds. For crusty old salts who haven’t been in maths for decades it’s an impossibility. But thanks. I think. That’s the same answer my accountant pal came up with. Remember: the world needs ditch diggers, too.

      I will pass along your congrats to my daughters. And you last sentence redeems the first one! 😉

      • Ha! My minor in university was math too. That said when I tested for entrance exams for the last degree, I did my worst in the math section. it pee’ed me off because math always came easy to me but like everything else it seizes up with disuse.

  10. I teach math at the college level (English, too), (I know that I’m not supposed to be able to do that but there’s lots of other things I can’t do, so I figure it evens out.) and know that people seriously have math phobias. There are teachers who are supposed to be teaching it who are scared to death, too. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but at the college level, people almost need counselling first. Yikes!

    Great dip into your past. 🙂

    • Numbers FREAK me OUT and they always have. I always knew this day would come. I didn’t think it’d come so quickly but here it is already. I had it in my head that I’d sell my library when it came time to my girls to attend college. That’s how I’d pay for it. Now that my 14-year old is approaching high school, I’m freaking out. I don’t want to sell my books! I never actually thought that day would come, either! Glad you enjoyed the dip. At least I’ve got THAT mastered.

    • If you scroll up, Paul worked it out in the comments section. That didn’t help me one bit. I still have no idea what anyone is talking about. I’m trying to find someone to blame for this sad state. I’ve decided on my parents and the below-average schools I attended.

  11. I had a similar math thing when I was in high school. I asked my dad if he could help me with quadratic equations (I still don’t know WTF those are!), and he said I had to work it out for myself to build character or something like that. I knew what he was saying. “I’m stumped, kid.”

    • At least your dad bailed out on you in high school. My daughter is still in elementary school! I am seriously floored by this. I know my daughter still loves me (at least, that’s what she says) but I can’t shake this feeling of abject failure. You seem to have a lot of character so perhaps it works.

      • Ah, well, whatever character I have came from my mom, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in the math lesson … But that doesn’t mean you’re toast with a grade-schooler! Study, man, study!

  12. So do you remember what movie you invited Lucy to?

    Love the science project. Sounds far more exciting than dissecting an earthworm. As for that math problem? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    • I don’t remember the movie. Here’s the thing that’s really pissing me off in these journals: I have dozens of entries that say, “took so-and-so to a play” but I never mention the play. So stupid of me!! What play? What venue? Who was in it? I left out the good stuff and just complain instead.

      • I guess we can blame things like that on our underdeveloped, youthful brains. Unfortunately, once our brains do become fully developed, we start forgetting things. But surely there’s a good five-year-window in there before that happens?

      • And I never, ever thought I’d be mining these for material. I was writing for the day. Venting, really. Wish I’d been more forward thinking. And paid attention in math, for that matter.

  13. Maybe the kids today can handle the new math (or maybe not), but can they balance a checkbook? I can (more or less). As for a genetically engineered creature, I’d like to clone me but a little taller, a little thinner, and a whole lot wealthier. I’m sure DNA can be altered to accomplish all of that, right?

    • I’d like to see my 9-year old parallel park. What a joke that’d be. That’s my superpower. I’m an expert. I’m bummed that they’re making cars that parallel park themselves. It’s one less way to distinguish myself.

      It’s different for kids these days. When they were in kindergarten, they were learning to write. When I was that age, I was identifying colors. I will ask my 14-year to whip up a genetically-engineered cocktail that will make you taller, thinner and wealthier. Smarter, too. Anything else?

    • Why can’t she have homework relating to the current theater season? THAT, I can help with. A complex math problem? Who cares! When are the 7:00 curtains? How can you score a discount? That’s useful stuff.

  14. Mark for Pete’s sake get over the feeling embarrassed re: 4th grade math or 5th? Children are extremely advanced now. They have to be. I always hated math and still do. Every course a child takes now “has to be” advanced or they will not be able to keep up in college or cope in modern day society. I read on someone’s blog that some young folks can’t read cursive writing. Now, that is pitiful but they can work the hell out of a computer.

    • Of course, you are so right. I wish I could just snap my fingers and have that sense of inadequacy disappear but when she looks at me and I can’t help, that’s what boils up inside me.

      You are so right about all the “advanced” children in school. We are surrounded by gifted, extraordinary, and precious wonders. But they all seem quite regular to me. The most popular sport in the suburbs is competitive child rearing.

      • I’ve heard and seen the effects of competitive child rearing. Folks go to the extreme. I feel for the kids but maybe it’s necessary but with a bit of temperance.

  15. I’ve always wondered why Americans call it “math”. It’s a contraction of the word “mathematics”, so at which did the plural get lost?

    I quite enjoy sitting down with problems like this sometimes. But maybe not on Sunday morning.

    Has Dorothy got a sister? 🙂

    • Honestly, I always wondered why it’s called “maths” in the UK. Thanks for providing a perfectly good rational. I find maths hard to say. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue easily so I’ll stick with math, thank you very much.

      Problems like this give me angina, any day of the week.

      I wonder what happened to Dorothy? Lost in the decades.

      • With the greatest of respect to Scarlet, the sign-off signature kisser par excellence, I must point out that unequal fractions are not confined to the US. We have them too. In horse racing, we have people down the pub who could instantly tell you whether a bet on a horse at 11/8 is longer or shorter than one at 15/7.

        (And no, I am not one of those people)

  16. You lead such an exotic existence, hanging out with musicians, eating caviar and dancing the night away with your paper towel. That made me laugh. It just seems to be from another era when I read about your past! It’s fun to read. I know all about that homework. My son is in 4th grade, too. Luckily, my 13-year-old doesn’t ask me for help with math! It’s like another language, truly.

    • Good morning, Amy. Thanks for the note. Sometimes, when I read these journals, I can hardly believe it was me. Many (most) of the entries are about how miserable I am and how life seems to be for other people. Meanwhile, I was having a pretty decent time of it. It just goes to show you that youth truly is wasted on the young.

      Fortunately for me, all the homework gets done before I’m home from work, so I am spared that humiliation. It’s just once in a while I get tripped-up. I know my daughter still loves me but it’s disconcerting.

  17. I think I could do that math problem. I haven’t actually tried because, since I don’t have the teacher’s answer key I wouldn’t be able to check my answer, but I’m confident I could manage it…given enough time. And a calculator. And the option to poll the audience and/or call a friend.

    Fascinating glimpse into your past life. Now I have a burning desire to listen to some Todd Rundgren – loved that music.

    • Not to name names, but if you scroll up, I think some show-off-smarty-pants (Paul) solved that problem for us. I could’ve done it but it would’ve left me with nothing to write about.

      Thanks for your pretty words about my glimpse into my past life. You know, there’s lots and lots more where that came from.

  18. I remember ‘bed spins’. I would stick my leg outside the bed to stop the spinning. Once a good sweat started it was hard to pat dry. It seems rare you didn’t score from the party. Randy Brecker was married to a Brazilian and Italian, don’t recall a Japanese wife like Dorothy mentioned. I feel Oscar’s dilemma. When do you just give up and accept? I enjoy these past journals as I can identify something from all of them. Even though you were in NYC, me in small town Ohio, we had the same goals, our next pleasure.

    • Sir, I rarely scored. RARELY. I was never a lady’s man. In retrospect (these journals lead to a lot of this kind of thinking) I should’ve been more focused on something to do with my life and not my next pleasure. I could’ve used some guidance but I was completely on my own and had to figure everything out.

  19. Hi Mark! Hope all is well with you! I haven’t been a very engaged blogger lately… so I apologize for being so late to this post… I always enjoy reading about your past escapades though!
    I’ve never tried caviar except for the little orange eggs on sushi sometimes. I saw in the comments that you are going to see Steely Dan… I saw them a couple of summers ago at Nautica in the Flats. It was a great show! I laughed at your bed spin recollection – haven’t experienced that or even thought about that concept for a long time! So thanks for the reminder as to why I am so committed to moderation now! 🙂

    • You and me both, sister. I have taken a very casual approach to blogging. Reading and writing. I’ve put down the keyboard and picked up books. I feel disconnected from a community but the books are like seeing an old friend again who I’ve been neglecting.

      As far as I can remember, that’s the first and last time I had black caviar. It doesn’t come up in the circles I travel in.

      • Same here! I just struggle so much with time. Always trying to find balance and then I feel bad if I fall behind in blog land… but I think everyone understands that… I mean people have a lot going on and go through stuff that just takes them away now and then – you really can’t help it!
        No caviar at your weekend dinner parties, Mark?! You just dashed my opinion of you and your sophisticated life! lol

  20. Isn’t it strange how in our youth we always thought things were boring? or could be more exciting? as if we were just sitting around and twiddling our thumbs when we were actually having a grand old time? i mean i knew i was having a blast but it always seemed there was something more, something missing, and even when i wasn’t wheeling i’d hit the streets in search of action or kicks or whatever you want to call it, and we didn’t just go to the bar or club or coffee shop to sit and stare at our phones, we actually interacted with people, but as that old saying goes, “the problem with youth is that it’s wasted on the young.” But here we are, wise sorta old sages, lol… good stuff as usual sir.

    • If it weren’t for these journals I’d have probably gone to my grave thinking I spent all those years as a miserable fuck. Don’t get me wrong…there’s a lot of bitching and moaning in these pages–I spare you guys the worse–but it wasn’t ALL bad. Proof positive that if you get old enough you can realize that these kids don’t know how great they have it.

  21. Math – UGH!!!!!! Is it 6 8/10? What was the answer. I always had to see the boys homework when they got it back, it is the Type A personality – can’t help it. I love the writing, it is reminiscent of JD Salinger, it made me think of Holden Caulfield.

    • Hi! Your new. I had to approve this comment. Thanks, very much, for reading and taking the time to comment. And thank you for your kind words about the writing. I appreciate it.

      The answer, as posted above, is:

      “…3 4/10 and 11 9/10 the sum being 15 3/10.”

      I didn’t figure that out. Someone else did. That’s what I was hoping would happen.

      • Oh I see. Oh well, I am glad I don’t have to help the boys with their math anymore. They ask me to edit their papers, which I don’t mind doing at all.

  22. I’m supposed to be a math something or other and I don’t know how to solve that equation. Makes me feel like when something really hard comes up at work. Pass the coffee.

    Love the story, the sweaty dancing, the forward girl but no phone numbers, the caviar, but mostly the trumpet dude. I think that’s just awesome. Anyway, it seems as though you weren’t homely enough to just get a someone – correct?

    • Are you saying you don’t know how to solve it just to be kind or are you actually flummoxed? How very charitable of you.

      I didn’t get a someone because girls can smell low self-esteem and a personality disorder a mile away.

Vent Central:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s