Who's Coming To Dinner?
Have you seen this video? This is what happens when someone sits down with the Dalai Lama and attempts to have some light, enjoyable conversation
Heh. I like that joke, and I'm fairly sure I would attempt to tell it to the Dalai Lama, even while every rational synapse in my brain was firing with all its might in an effort to get me to shut up. Kind of like the time I found myself chatting over wine and cheese with a Biblical scholar who had just delivered an original and fascinating lecture about the peculiarities of Aramaic, and I discovered, to my horror, that I was already halfway through a detailed account of how my high school German teacher went to an amusement park one time and almost got run over by a guy with a bleeding head. No, I didn't get interrupted before I was able to get to the point of that story. It had no point. And yet there I was, telling it.
The reason I'm thinking about this is because I ran across this dumb little poll that says that, given the choice of Romney or Obama for a dinner guest, more Americans would pick Obama. These results doesn't necessarily mean that they would actually leap at the chance to entertain Himself. It's just like if someone says, "So, tape worm or bed bugs? Pick one!" you'll go ahead and pick the tape worm, because at least you know what it's up to.
This "dinner guest" question is one that lazy or desperate journalists ask when they are really hard up for a story (not that I would know, because I am clearly not a journalist). Most people, given this opportunity to design a hypothetical guest list, fall prey to the temptation to show how historically astute, or how sociologically progressive, they are. And so you have people expressing and ardent desire to have dinner with George Washington Carver, or the Emperor Hadrian, or Salman Rushdie, or Hannah Arendt "because I have always found her ideas so fascinating." And I'm like, No. You wouldn't enjoy that. That would be a bad, bad dinner.
So, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Mother Teresa -- these are people I find interesting; but do I yearn to personally entertain them for an evening? Not really. Even everyday social situations are something I try to survive, rather than something to look forward to; so I think my guest list would be made up of people who would make the time go by quickly, so I could say goodnight, close the door, burst into tears with sheer, pent-up social freakout pressure, and go lie down with a bottle of Tanqueray retrofitted with a rubber nipple.
But seriously, for real, who would you like to have dinner with? I always thought that Arnold Lobel would make a great guest. He clearly has a great sense of humor, and is a gentle but observant guy, gentlemanly and self-deprecating, but with a little edge. I wouldn't want to ask him about his books, I don't think. He just seems like someone who would be nice to hang around with; and he would probably bring pastries.
Who else? How about Mel Brooks? I have heard that, when he was caught in an awkward or socially fraught situation, he had a magic solution: he would whip out a box of Raisinets, and offer one to you. "Raisinet?" The man is a genius. (P.S. I do not like Raisinets.)
Vladimir Putin. I'm sorry, but wouldn't that be interesting? I don't think he has the capacity to feel awkward, and if there were cameras around, the evening could turn entertaining really fast -- he would take off his shirt and do something really impressive and macho, like EATING ALL THE MASHED POTATOES WITHOUT EVEN CHEWING. And he would be like, "Watch THIS. Putin will now add EXTRA CHIVES, and Putin will wash it down with WHOLE BOTTLE OF TEXAS PETE HOT SAUCE." All without so much as an excessive dialtion in those icy blue eyes.
St. Joseph. Okay, so I wasn't going to go for the edifying, self-aggrandizing choice of guests, but really -- if there was ever anyone whose side of things I'd like to hear, it's St. Joseph. This is a guy who had to get up and have his morning coffee with the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception across the table from him. Your turn, man. Your turn.