I used to be a party animal. If there was a party, I was there, and I did not leave until it was over. Even then, I did not always leave. Sometimes the people who threw the party, if they wanted to get rid of me, had to move.
And these were not sedate parties. These were parties where naked swimming was as common as onion dip. I recall one very cold New Year's Eve in New York City when a group of us decided around 1 a.m. that it would be a great idea to go to Jones Beach and swim in the Atlantic Ocean, which for your information is not heated. The water was so cold that the fish had crawled onto shore and built little driftwood bonfires, but we charged right into the surf and frolicked until we had the same internal temperature as an Eskimo Pie.
If we had drifted into the path of an ocean liner, our bodies would have punctured the hull and sunk it. That is the kind of party animals we were.
I was thinking about this recently, at a party. Like most of the parties I attend these days, this one was to celebrate the birthday of a person who is younger than my current set of contact lenses. There is no nudity at these parties, except when a guest removes all of his or her garments, including diaper, and sprints around squealing, pursued by a parent terrified that the child is about to make peepee on the carpet of semi-complete strangers.
So there I was, holding a balloon puppy that had been made for my daughter by the party clown. (All children's birthday parties are now required, under federal law, to have a clown. If you don't have one, armed agents of the U.S. Department of Child Whimsy will come to your home and forcibly paint your face.) I was talking with my wife and another mother, who told us she had started buying her groceries via the Internet.
You can do this where we live: You go on the Internet and select the groceries you want, and they are delivered to your house.
If you have a chair with wheels, you can just roll from your computer to your front door, let the delivery people in, then roll back to your computer, without ever standing up. We live in wonderful times.
Anyway, this woman was telling us about ordering her groceries online, and some other mothers, overhearing this, hurried over. I will not lie to you: We were all very excited. When the online Mom told us that you could even specify, online, whether you wanted your bananas ripe or unripe, there were audible gasps. I made a gesture of amazement with my daughter's balloon.
That was when a chilling thought flashed across my mind: What has happened to me? How did I -- a person who once made the front page of the newspaper in Armonk, N.Y., because, of all the lawns I could have chosen to lie down and fall asleep on, I chose the lawn belonging to the chief of police -- how did I turn into a person enthusiastically thrusting a balloon puppy in reaction to the news that I had an online banana-ripeness option? Is my life really this dull now? Have I turned into a pathetic old person, like Strom Thurmond, or the Rolling Stones? Wouldn't Thrusting Balloon Puppies be a good name for a rock band?
Do you want more proof of how dull my life has become? Do you want to know how I spend my leisure time? No? Too bad. I spend my leisure time watching The Wizard of Oz on DVD. My daughter, who is 2 1/2 (years old) (also, feet tall) is obsessed with it. I have watched it more than 100 times. I find myself thinking about it a LOT. I have concluded -- and I realize this view will be unpopular -- that the REAL reason why Glinda, the so-called "good" witch, does not tell Dorothy right away about the power of the ruby slippers is that Glinda secretly hates Dorothy, because Dorothy gets all the big song-and-dance numbers, whereas Glinda is virtually immobilized inside a giant pink dress that makes her hips appear to be the size of a 1958 Buick Riviera.
Yes, this is how I, Former Party Dude, am currently spending my leisure time. At night, when I am trying to sleep, I hear Munchkins shrieking in my head, especially the Coroner of Munchkinland, reporting the medical findings of his autopsy on the Wicked Witch of the East.
"She's not only merely dead!" he sings. "She's really most sincerely dead!"
I know how she feels.