"You can't give up so easily," Irv says.
"Thirty years," yells Irv. "That's nothing!"
Uncle Irv has come over to cook, which means of course that the kitchen is filling with smoke and there are a couple of cold bottles of happy juice on the counter. We've thrown open all the windows and the doors, because if the smoke detectors start going off they'll drown out the pleasant chatter of children, particularly the warm cooing sounds of teenagers as they pass in and out of the front door.
"Yo," a teenager says.
"Hi," I say.
"Where's the princess?"
"In her princess room."
"Thanks," the teenager chirps and heads to the girl's bedroom
There's a lot going on here. Let me just try to capture the essence: Irv is over cooking, which is a mega-event by itself. There is also an important football game on TV, which we have cranked to a high volume. The oven fan is going full blast, and I've switched on the vent behind the stove to remove more of the smoke before it can turn to soot and I have to repaint. Because every time we baste the wings, a minor warm front of smoke blows out of the oven and across the kitchen, up the Pacific Coast, then eastward across Utah.
It's a bit of an ominous scene. Dusky, with the green tint of impending doom. In fact, I keep waiting for Helen Hunt to come running in, screaming, "IT'S A TWISTER! IT'S A TWISTER! EVERYBODY IN THE DITCH." But that hasn't happened. Not yet.
"Where's Mom?" the girl asks.
"Mission work," I say.
"Oh," says the girl.
"Mission work" is code for the many philanthropic organizations that Posh is involved with. Last week, for example, she devoted an evening to her bunco group, which, as far as I can tell, raises money to buy lots and lots of Chardonnay, which the bunco members drink in their PJs, presumably because when they come home, they just pass out. At least that's been our experience.
Tonight she is off to another meeting, the Society of Sugar Plum Fairies, or some other such. All I know is that she was trailing pixie dust as she left. Which is what makes her so difficult to catch.
"Got any cilantro, dude?" Irv asks.
"What's it look like?"
"Oh, here's some," I say.
Before leaving, Posh pulled out a lot of the ingredients we needed to make turkey wings (yes, turkey). Honey. Soy. Bourbon. Cilantro.
She made certain that we coated the pans with nonstick spray, because she would wager her lovely life that when she gets home tonight that the kitchen will be a complete disaster -- dishes everywhere, beer and honey on the floor, hot sauce in the little crevices of her beloved maple cabinets. This is not the case. We did not, in fact, get any hot sauce in the little crevices of her beloved maple cabinets.
But, boy, did we roast up some wings. The trouble with keeping the doors and windows open in the process is that the girl's friends keep coming in and out. They are like geese. Honk, honk. One arrives, then two leave. Honk, honk, honk.
"Make yourself at home," I tell one of the teens.
"Already have," says Natasha, as she makes tea in the busy kitchen.
Teenagers, they all look the same to me. I can barely tell the boys from the girls. Honestly, they all change so quickly. They are like that Christina Aguilera, a different person every time.
I love the sparkle in their eyes, though, and the way they're always trying to fool their parents. Not since the heyday of the French Underground have rulers been so hoodwinked.
Yep, I love the teenagers. I understand teenagers. Favorite fluid: beer. Favorite hobby: each other. Favorite food: free.
"Mr. Erskine, can I try a wing?" someone asks.
"Of course," I say.
Nearby, the little guy is singing "We Are the Champions."
In the kitchen, Irving is sliding trays in and out of the oven -- sounds like gunfire, bang-bang-bang. And geese, honk-honk-honk.
"Dude, we did it!" Irv screams at one point, and I'm not sure what he's referring to. Did we finish the wings? Did we set another dish towel afire? Did the oven explode?
Let me just say that Irv is an amazing guy, a friend for almost 20 years, an accomplished cook, sommelier, philosopher, consigliere, computer geek, mechanic, sex therapist, dog expert, raconteur. The things Irving does with a spatula, Heifetz used to do with a fiddle.
"We are the champions, we are the champions . . . " croons the little guy.
"Dude, these wings are the champions!" yells Irv as the evening winds down to a dull roar.
Pass the happy juice.