I came home Friday evening and walked through the door to the intoxicating smell of browned butter, garlic and parmesan. My daughter’s fiancé was making Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner. Let me tell you — I rarely eat pasta in heavy cream sauce because it’s a national debt-sized withdrawal from my Weight Watcher weekly “points” bank. But if some sweet young fellow offers to make me dinner at the end of a particularly grueling work week, it goes straight to my loving heart, not my hips. I poured myself a glass of wine and headed to the living room to get out of his way.
Emily called through the open kitchen door, “Hey, Mom, is it OK if we watch the Olympic opening ceremonies? Can you set it up to TiVo?” By the time dinner was ready, it was recording and we settled in on the small couch to watch, plates on laps.
When I was a schoolgirl in San Francisco, my family had a “no television during dinner” rule. Dinner was for educational conversations, not the “Idiot Box.” We sat in our formal dining room around a polished mahogany table set with linen placemats and napkins while discussing Viet Nam, Watergate or the most effective method of removing crude oil from the wings of brown pelicans.
But as with most rules, there were exceptions. For any broadcasts involving Apollo astronauts, presidential “State of the Union” addresses or Olympic athletes, my father would carry our bulky square TV down the spiral staircase and place it carefully on the sideboard. It was a rare treat.
I would like to tell you that I never allowed my own children to eat while watching TV. I would like to tell you that but I would be lying, and my nose is big enough as is. However Friday night was the Summer Olympic opening ceremonies so, Dad — I get a pass, right?
The familiar faces of NBC commentators Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira beamed down from the 42-inch LCD mounted above our fireplace. Every weekday morning I watch Matt’s hairline recede a few hair follicles further as I sit at my kitchen counter eating high fiber cereal and cinnamon almonds, so I feel like he’s a buddy. If I passed him on the street, I would expect him to say, “Hey, Alice — how’s that fiber working for ya?”
But I swear the balding fellow looking into the camera from London was a different man.
Lauer seemed as excited as a Kindergartener at Christmas as he struggled to keep from wiggling in his seat. As we say in our family, he was “alive, alert, and enthusiastic!” It made me realize that poor Matt has been sleepwalking through his regular morning gig — same old, same old, day after week after year.
A few minutes in, the broadcast switched to Ryan Seacrest interviewing one of the athletes. A 20-something-year-old watching with me (…insert pixel-blurred facial image and voice distorting software here…) asked me if Ryan Seacrest was the new Bob Hope.
Confused, I tried unsuccessfully to correlate the two. I said, “Are you sure you mean Bob Hope? Bob Hope was a comedian of your grandparents’ generation who entertained the troops during World War II.”
“No… not Bob Hope ... The other guy … You know — the guy that did the Times Square / New Years thing all those years and never got older?”
“Right — Dick Clark. Is Ryan Seacrest the new Dick Clark?”
That made more sense. I settled back into the couch and fast forwarded through the next set of commercials to a segment of adorable Welsh choirboys. Those little rosy-cheeked cherubs and their clear, treble voices reminded me of my older twin brothers back in the fourth grade at Grace Cathedral School for Boys.
I can tell you from firsthand experience the dangers of picking the quality of a wine based on its artsy inspired label. It’s the deceiving looks / book cover judging thing. A brother might look and sing like an angel, but brothers are boys, and boys are not angels. Don’t let those looks fool you for a Greenwich Meantime minute.
The NBC camera panned to the stunning Kate Middleton who must have forgotten that a charismatic young royal newlywed can’t let her canned media smile slip for even an instant. William was mouthing something in her ear and she looked downright cranky. I think she was about to spit-whisper, “Shhhh! Listen to the bloody angelic choirboys, will you? There are cameras everywhere!”
Although almost every little girl wants to grow up to be a princess, I think there’s no way to prepare someone for that level of public scrutiny. After all these years, I still miss Diana…
By now Princess Emily, Baroness of Bay Street, was stretched out and snoring softly on the sofa beside me. I had to poke her in the ribs to get her to raise her heavy eyelids long enough to catch Danny Boyle’s “James-Bond-Parachuting-Queen” segment. (Mitt Romney — think about hiring Her Royal Highness’ PR team. They took the stodgy octogenarian straight to cool without even passing “Go.” It might be your only chance to repair the diplomatic damage done by your Olympian diplomatic faux pas.)
I still can’t believe Boyle talked HRH into playing along. Don’t tell me it was a stunt double who stepped out into the coal black sky. It’s called “suspension of disbelief” in a land far across the sea where there are queens, castles and Olympic heroes.
It’s the stuff of dreams.