Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Something as Simple as a Mixed Cone in Battery Park City Can Shape the Course of World Events

I remember the sticky day at the beginning of June when Alex Rodriguez, Pervez Musharraf and I were sitting on a bench in Battery Park City eating half-chocolate/half-vanilla ice cream cones and sucking down cans of Red Bull like there was a crazy Pakistani dictator sitting on a bench in Battery Park City. Oh, times were simpler then. Men were men. Women were women. Quantum physics still trafficked in realms of uncertainty. And my days were a colorful melange of innocent games of tag, scouring the city in Pervez's stretch limo looking for dandelions to pick, and sleepovers at Derek Jeter's place in the Trump Tower, where Alex wasn't invited because he had already been there four times that week and still hadn't cleaned up the Blue Raspberry Slurpie he spilled on the kitchen floor.

That day in Battery Park City, as A-Rod and I were busy lamenting Britney's sudden February haircut and worrying over her ongoing battle for custody of her two boys, it was Pervez who lightened the mood by reminding us that in his country, Britney would probably have been stoned to death in some obscenely barbaric ritual for any of her numerous and unforgivable transgressions against her role as a woman. We laughed for long minutes at the thought of it. Then, and it might just have been the Red Bull talking, I said, "hey, Pervez, is there anything that would make you consider giving up the head of the military thing?"

Pervez's usually jovial face turned dark and angry. His buoyant expression sank underneath the dark clouds of his cheeks and the grim horizon of his eyebrow ridge. A stray droplet of choco-vanilla dripped out of the corner of his mouth just below the fine brushwork of his moustache, and just above his turgid jowls. "No," he said flatly.

Between the ice cream dripping down Pervez's chin, the idea of Britney Spears' being stoned to death, and the dizzying high from too much energy drink, A-Rod started laughing his fool head off.

"This is not funny," insisted Pervez. But once one of us started laughing, it was like a laughter grenade exploding on a pile of other laughter grenades, sending laughter shrapnel in all directions, and making passersby run for cover even though there wasn't really any danger of being hit by the shrapnel. This was Battery Park City, remember, where passersby are not generally noted for their ability to distinguish between real shrapnel and the kind of shrapnel that exists only metaphorically.

"Come on," said A-Rod, who had laughed until there was ice cream dripping down his chin too, "there must be something."

Pervez's face settled into a gentle, wise smile. "No," he said. "There is nothing."

"What about another ice cream cone?" said A-Rod.

"Yeah," I said, "since you barely got any of that last one in your mouth anyway."

We all lost it again. The passersby hid behind bushes and called their loved ones on their cell phones.

"Okay, I will tell you what," said Pervez. "Alex, if you can get the Yankees to agree to a contract worth more than 300 million American dollars, then I will resign as the military head of Pakistan."

Alex looked at me, then back at Pervez, then at me again, then at his wallet-sized picture of Britney Spears (pre-psycho haircut), then back at Pervez, then in quick succession at each of us three times. Baseball players are so superstitious. Anyway, then he said, "all right, but can part of the contract be laid off into what will be called 'Historical Achievement Bonuses,' which will ultimately be a convenient way of being paid to reach home run milestones in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement?"

Pervez looked momentarily stunned. "Why, Alex," he said, "it is simply diabolical. Make it happen."

I remember that day in June for lots of reasons. I remember that it seemed such an unseasonable time for Pervez Musharraf to be in New York wearing an impeccably tailored brown wool suit. I remember being reasonably sure that A-Rod was supposed to be in Chicago for a series against the White Sox that night. But mostly, I remember looking at the ice cream trickling down both their faces and thinking what idiots my friends were.

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