canned applause

It’s no surprise that boost is an anagram of boots. Every time I wear the Frida Kahlo boots, bought last winter during a period of mourning, I get a lift. I feel important.

I had a Coat with the same effect (cato?). Though I bought it at C-Mart, you’d never have known; it was made of the most voluptuous cherry-red fur, lined in satin, trimmed with shiny cerise buttons. The label said Saks. The collar stood at attention, and so did everyone I met while wearing The Coat. It kept me warm during Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, where a friend and I upgraded our own seats to Bill Bradley’s section—demurely giggling behind our fingertips and plopping down behind Kim Bassinger and Alec Baldwin, Kathleen Turner, and Jack Nicholson. Photographers cruised the aisles making note of the noteworthy, stopping, always, before me with a certain look that said, “I can’t make you out, but that Coat! You must be someone!”

I was a cherry dot in a Time Magazine centerfold.

Looking important goes a long way toward feeling important. People say if you fake a smile when you’re but a pimple on the ass of knowledge, you’ll eventually feel sunny. So it is with The Boots.

I wore them yesterday. I already wore an air of importance; after all, I’d been asked to be on a panel of food writer1 at a conference where Steve Almond was the keynote speaker. When I arrived, a woman held the door for me and referenced The Boots in a loving manner. “I wore them,” I told her, “so that people would compliment me all day long.”

And they did. Everyone—men, women, gods—bowed before my fancy footwear. After the conference, The Boots drove me to the mall and clopped the entire length of the fourth floor, from Crate & Barrel to Nordstrom. People stopped their conversations to gawk. Jaws dropped. Eyes followed The Boots to their vanishing point. I could feel the pull of longing from every young girl in low rise jeans and pierced navel, every old biddy in warmup suit.

The night before the conference, my daughter, husband, and I saw guitar miracle Joe Bonamassa. During the show, Serena had to pee. She’d held it in as long as she could, and, frankly, so had I, but I needed to make her feel responsible for our missing a Bonamassa feat. While we were washing our hands, I explained my rule of audience departure and return: we must head down the aisle between songs. First, it’s rude to walk out in the middle of a song. It’s like saying, “Sorry, Joe; that tune’s piss poor, and I’m piss rich.”

But the real reason is this: as you waltz back to your seat, you can pretend all those cheers are for you.

At the Writers’ Conference yesterday, I caught up with my old pal Rick Peabody, editor of Gargoyle. A friend once gave him a box of applause. Every so often, he opens the lid and takes a bow.

Few of us ever get to experience the thunder of a thousand cheers. Rock stars. Ball players. The pope. Most of us, if we get any kind of applause at all, get a golf clap. A thank-you clap. Polite hands of mild gratitude. I don’t know that I could handle it anyway. I imagine it’s like seeing God after a lifetime of disbelief.

I would cry, maybe vomit, and then I’d stop breathing.

1Almost: Henry Hong got locked out and arrived fifteen minutes late.

Close Menu