Since I was first old enough to read a newspaper (we are talking about over forty years ago here), I've been pondering what four famous people I would invite to my fantasy dinner party. You know those kind of newspaper columns about some local person-of-the-hour: What kind of car do you drive? A rusted-out puke-yellow Chevy Nova with a defective air intake ...What kind of car do you wish you drove? The Rhinemaiden always wishes to drive the 1961 Plymouth Sport Fury...What would you choose to eat at your last meal? A Nebraska corn-fed beef T-Bone, of course, and a baked potato with sour cream...Your all-time favorite TV show? If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life, what four books, four movies, and four LPs would you want to have with you? (Ignore the absurd premise of the question).
For much of my life of worrying about these major philosophical questions, I've been inviting Dr. Seuss, Alexander Calder, Jerry Garcia, and Henri Matisse to my fantasy dinner party. Sometimes I decide that I have to invite at least one woman, and that leads to lots of guilt and anxiety. Henri Matisse gets dumped, and I feel just horrible about that. The women I've considered inviting over the years include children's author Margaret Wise Brown, quilt artist Nancy Crow, novelist Louise Erdich, NPR contributor Bailey White, Bonnie Raitt, Hillary Clinton (when I thought she was going to change the health care system), and writer Nora Ephron. I can't ever seem to find a woman with the playfulness, creativity, humor, and impact to fit in with the guys. And who is supposed to cook and clean up at this fantasy dinner, I ask you that. It better not be me. I was planning to retire to the study for port and cigars with the men.
The desert island LP list has two constants; Derek & the Dominoes, and Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". A recording of Mozart's clarinet, bassoon, and oboe concertos is usually on the list. I used to sit out in the front yard digging dandelions and listening to the Top Forty countdown on my AM transistor radio with the earphone on Saturdays in the mid-Sixties. A 45 rpm recording of Petula Clark singing "Downtown" cost 88 cents, and a vinyl LP of Peter, Paul, and Mary cost $3.98 plus sales tax. I made between thirty-five and fifty cents per hour babysitting. Even then I worried about the fantasy dinner guests and the desert island.
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" always leads the movie list. I would be quite willing to trade places with Katharine Ross/Etta Place even if I had to stay forever on the desert isle (or in Bolivia) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Let me ride just once on Butch's handlebars! I often list "Dr. Strangelove" and "What's Up Doc?" They have mysterious curative powers.
Desperadoes, by Ron Hansen, is always the first book. I know, I know. It's some kind of outlaw attraction that goes along with Butch and Sundance. The outlaw attraction is powerful, and can lead a good woman to marry a no-good gunfighter or a bankruptcy attorney... Pussywillow, by Margaret Wise Brown is next. After that I always decide I should get to choose at least ten books for the island.
I do have my heroes, despite my fondness for outlaws. "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" is my favorite TV show of all time. Mr. Peabody is sooooo my type!
I am hoping if I confess all this I will be relieved of my life-long obsession. Maybe I'll just be too embarrassed to ever mention it again.