Smith Says

  • Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sigh. There’s another item to cross off my bucket list, and not because I did it.
The Oak Room in New York City’s Algonquin Hotel has closed, which means I’ll never have a drink at the home of the Round Table gang, a celebrated group of writers, critics, actors and wits. 
Members included Dorothy “What fresh hell is this?” Parker, humorist Robert Benchley and authors Edna Ferber, Alexander Woollcott and Charlie MacArthur. (MacArthur co-wrote “The Front Page,” a hysterical play about the perils of print journalism that was made into a hysterical movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.) 
The Round Table—or "The Vicious Circle," as they dubbed themselves--met for lunch each day from 1919 ‘til 1929, drinking vodka gimlets and exchanging sophisticated wordplay and witticisms. Members became legendary for their sparkling wit. (My entire life I’ve longed for someone to refer to my “sparkling wit.” Then I could die happy. And sparkling.)
The Oak Room became a nightclub in 1939, and launched the careers of many jazz and cabaret stars. Eventually, after years of declining attendance, the NYC landmark closed in January for renovations and will reopen as… wait for it…. a lounge for Marriott Reward Elite guests.
I’ve been to New York—even saw Bobby Short at The Carlyle—but I always thought there’d be another chance to bend an elbow in the Oak Room and eat sea bass at Tavern on the Green, but turns out I was wrong on both counts.
My life has been wonderful—I’ve had good health and great adventures, and made a living doing the only thing I ever wanted to do. But, being human, I want more. Don’t we all?
Life is fleeting, my friends. I worry that I’ll die or the European economy will collapse before I can fulfill my dream of eating Swiss chocolate in Switzerland.
So, no more putting off until tomorrow what I can, by hook or crook, get done today. Or next month. You know what I mean.
• I’m going to publish that book that’s been languishing under a stack of files behind the church pew in the back bedroom, just as soon as I can claw my way to it. (Yes, it’s also on a flash drive, which lurks somewhere under the six-inch stacks of receipts, catalogues, bills, lottery tickets and old recipes that clutter the desk in front of the church pew. Pray for me, people.) 
• I’m going to figure out Excel if it kills me. I may never need to use it, but I can’t stand not knowing how it works.
• I’m going to skydive because it scares me senseless, and it’s time I jumped headfirst into something I’m afraid of.
• I’m going to master a manual transmission. My dad tried to teach me to drive a Ford Falcon 35 years ago, one Sunday afternoon on our dirt road. Wouldn’t you know there was a license check, and I ran over a Highway Patrol trooper’s foot. True story. My husband bought a little Geo Tracker two years ago for the express purpose of teaching me to drive a stick. After two lessons, I scared him so bad he sold it. Don’t judge.
• I’m going to own a little burro, which I need as much as I need lice. Some women want diamonds. I want a donkey.
• I’m going to slurp pasta in Rome… and buy chocolate in Switzerland. You can count on it.
Julie R. Smith, who’s had “learn Spanish” on her bucket list for four years, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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