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A full plate of banquets and dinners

I sit next to this amazing woman at the school fundraising dinner. Turns out I know her a little. We were married 26 years ago. To this day I can remember how her hair smelled in church that day -- like shamrocks over very good pasta.

"Any children?" I ask her.

"Four," she says, "not counting you."

As you may have heard, March is madness. Each weekend, there seems to be another obligation. Tonight, we're in the little frontier town of Pasadena, at a school fundraising banquet in a grand hotel that is far nicer than any classroom I have ever seen.

It is bustling when we walk in, and I do what I normally do in such circumstances, head straight for the happy juice. At the bar, I order Posh a glass of Chardonnay with an estrogen boost, her favorite.

"Here you go," I say, handing her the glass.

"See you later," she says.

I have been trying to get her drunk for years. But she always flitters off like a bumble bee, stopping to chat with every flower in the garden -- usually loud, well-informed women like herself.

Fortunately, there is a silent auction to keep me occupied. This event is one of the best silent auctions in the L.A. area, with an amazing array of items. I think it's how we got our house. And a couple of our kids.

I remember the description of the first silent auction child very well:

Mouthy, high-maintenance American child. Looks like Mom, snores like Dad. Has awful taste in music. Bites. Addicted to friends and cellphone. Estimated value, $100. Minimum opening bid, $40.

Who could resist? To this day, it's one of the best 40 bucks I've ever spent.

Anyway, tonight's silent auction has the usual wide assortment of prizes. There are spa trips and weekends in Mammoth, tickets to Lakers and Kings games. They call it a "silent auction," but in reality it's often the noisiest night of the year.

As with anything involving money, it's all very civil. One guy I know says that he remembers one such auction in which a woman wrote down her bid, then turned around and sat on the sheet of paper so no one else could get at it.

"I said, 'Lady, you want it that bad, it's yours.' " my friend said.

Tonight, one workout studio, or maybe it's a strip club, is offering an item called "Boobs, Butts and Bellies." See? Dignified. I sip my ginger ale and wonder how I ever got here.

Love the 'burbs, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I feel I can't keep up emotionally. There are nights like this when I think I'd rather be home in front of the TV cheering on my beloved Lakers. Or yelling at "Matlock," "IT'S HIS SISTER, IT'S HIS SISTER, YOU DOPE . . . IT'S ALWAYS HIS SISTER!"

Such activities exhaust me, and the night usually ends with Posh carrying me into bed and gently singing me to sleep. It's a good life, with few surprises -- just how I like it.

But this is March, after all. Duty calls.

"What about this?" Posh asks, waving the placard for "Boobs, Butts and Bellies" in my face.

"Do you get your choice?" I ask.

In the main dining room, we sit down to dinner. Our table is right up front, where I can bask in the warm glow of longtime friends thinking, "How the heck did HE get THAT table?" Fortunately, the people we know keep such thoughts largely to themselves.

"How'd you get up here?" bellows my buddy Mike.

"How do you rate?" asks our pal Susan.

I shrug and tell them I'm with Posh, which carries a lot of clout. I couldn't get a foot in the door of a joint like this were it not for Posh and her substantial army of friends and co-conspirators.

So, we're at Table 23, with Brad and Lisa, Bill and Nancy, Will and Linda. Seth and Tillie are here too. I don't know them as well, but they are a lovely younger couple, at least she is. Seth, who is not as lovely but pretty funny, claims to have run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 as a college football player. To put that into perspective, Superman ran a 4.4.

"My kids don't even want to play football," he says.

It is almost 10 now, well past my bedtime. A sensational Newport Beach band takes the stage and everyone dances, except me. I am shyer than I'd like to be and dance as if falling from a plane.

Besides, the dance floor is jammed, packed with moms and dads glad for a glamorous night out, including several hoochie mamas (think Peg Bundy or Patti LaBelle) who threaten to dance right out of their revealing dresses. They dance like Viking warriors. They dance like sailors tossed at sea.

And the month ain't over yet.

Next Saturday, we have something else, followed by something else the next week, including more banquet salmon, a little undercooked.

It's March . . . it's madness.

chris.erskine@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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