[Last night was the professor’s book launch party, and things got weird. Here’s what happened: Z and I get to the Princeton club a little after eight. The crowd is mostly older people but there’s a good amount of young ladies there which puts a smile on Z’s face. After getting drinks at the bar Z says, I’m going on a trim hunt, and he was off. Earlier he had said that his strategy was to tell ladies he was an editor at The Economist. It’s perfect, he said, because there’s no masthead. So they can’t look into it.
The professor is near the bar talking to Bill Murray and a young dude who I later found out was the editor of her book, so I’ll call him Editor. Bill Murray is so far gone that he has to lean on the bar to stay on his feet. The professor plays with the hair on the back of his head. She has long arms and long fingers and she’s wearing a backless black dress that most people would say shouldn’t be worn by women her age. Her face looks to be 50 or so but the gin blossoms around her nose add a decade. If I had to guess I’d say she’s 60, but why do I worry so much about women’s ages?
Do I walk over there and introduce myself? She did invite me, but does she remember? Unlikely. Does Bill Murray want to be approached by a young man? Unlikely. But I didn’t come to the party to drink alone. So I walk over. They are talking about Bill Murray’s ex-wife:]
Bill Murray: She was a sex barterer. It was sick, but I have to say, it kept things interesting. She’d say, I’ll make you eggs and bacon but after breakfast we’re going to take a bath during which you’ll pet my hair and rub my feet and then you’ll go down on me for no less than five minutes.
Editor: That sounds tiresome.
Professor: I’ve met this woman. She’s a piece of work. She told me that Bill was passionate lover but a huge baby. And it’s true. He’s a beggar. He begs for affection. But we’re working on that, aren’t we?
Bill Murray: When did she say this?
Professor: At Miriam’s kid’s bat mitzvah. We met each other outside and we had a chat about you. It was nice. Most American women who have been with the same man never get together and talk because they think they’d hate each other, but they really should try it. They are both one guy’s type so they probably have a lot in common. It’s what the French do, you know. In France after an affair the mistress and the wife will often meet for a glass of wine and bitch about the man who promised them both he’d love them forever; the same guy who weeks later leaves them both for a 20-year-old. Dana and I got along very well. She said she called your dick the little ghostbuster. Now THAT’S funny.
Bill Murray: It was never funny. Have you seen her since?
Professor: We met for coffee a week later and hashed out a few things. She says you told her that I was only a vagina to you – something to pound at while you worked things through with her. That wasn’t very nice, Billy.
Bill Murray: I had to say that. It was complicated. Let’s change the subject. [He turns to me.] Who is this kid?
Me: Hi. I met you at the party in Bushwick. You invited me here.
Professor: A party in Bushwick? I don’t go to Bushwick. Do you go to Bushwick, Bill?
Bill Murray: If I’m feeling old I’ll go to a Bushwick party to be around the youngs. But I don’t remember you being there.
Me: You were both there. We met in line for the bathroom. We talked about cocaine, I think.
Bill Murray: Do you have any cocaine?
Professor: If we do coke I’m going to need a pen and a notepad to jot down my ideas. Do you have a notepad?
Me: I don’t have cocaine or a notepad.
Professor: Then you’re useless to me. Who did you come with?
Me: My friend Z. He’s around here somewhere. Put him in a room full of people and he’ll bounce around looking for girls. Tonight he’s saying that he’s an editor at The Economist. Because the magazine doesn’t have a masthead so the girls can’t check up on it.
Editor: That’s not bad. Here’s what I used to do when I was younger and broker: I’d hang out in a rich part of town, like the Upper East Side or whatever, and I’d find an ATM machine. Then I’d look for the nearest trash can. I’d dig around in the trash for an ATM receipt, and maybe I’d find three, but I’d keep the one with the largest balance – anything over fifteen grand in checking would be fine. I’d pocket the receipt and go to a dive bar full and scope for low-hanging fruit. I’d sit next to one who looks like she’s having a bad decade and offer to buy her a drink. We’d chat for a bit, but I wouldn’t try to bring her home; she’s used to that. She has her defenses up. So I’d day, I’d like to see you again. What’s your number? I’m going to give you mine, too. And I’d take out the receipt with twenty grand on it and write my number on the back. She’d look at it and think: This guy is loaded. I’ve hit the jackpot. It’s a perfect plan. They’re not going to be suspicious. They’re not going to say, You must have dug that receipt out of the trash. Because only a lunatic would do that. And I look like a regular guy. But I’m nuts! It’s a shame that doesn’t work anymore. You just exchange numbers on your phone. Cell phones have ruined everything. Think about it: So many classic plot devices don’t work anymore because of cell phones. That’s why the characters always have to lose service for the story to make sense. It’s dumb. I hate my cell phone. It gets terrible service. Do you use Verizon?
Bill Murray: I don’t have a cell phone.
Me: I have Verizon.
Editor: And how do you like AT&T?
Professor: It’s OK. I’m sorry, but can we not talk about cell phones, please? It’s the new talking about the weather. I can’t stand it. When I hear people talking about cell phones I want to find a drum set and start banging on it to shut them up. Is that so weird? I don’t think so.
Editor: Fair enough.
[I look around for Z. He has two little girls cornered near the bathroom.]
Me: Look. My friend found some friends. I wonder if those girls read The Economist.
Professor: He has his hands full. You should go over there and help him out.
Me: I would, but I’m with someone. We live together.
Bill Murray: That’s sweet. How old are you?
[The professor begins to laugh.]
Professor: He’s twenty-three and he lives with his girlfriend. Bill, talk to him. I’ll leave you two alone. Phil, come with me. [She and the editor walk into a welcoming group of friends. She says:] Marshall, come here, you lovely nerd.
Bill Murray: Are you out of your fucking mind? You’re 23 and you’re serious with your girlfriend? You live together? Did you grow up in a foster home or something? What’s wrong with you?
Me: It happened quickly. And now we have a kid. Sort of.
[Bill Murray chokes on an ice cube.]
Bill Murray: You’re a father? At 23? OK. It’s not too late for you. OK. How many women have you slept with? I’m not saying you have to rack up women or anything, but tell me how many.
Bill Murray: Two. Listen up: I’m not going to tell you how to live. I am in no position to tell anybody how to live. I have lived how I have wanted to live and it’s caused much suffering to other people. I realize this. But if you stay with your girlfriend straight through without fucking around and you guys get married then you will wake up one day in the future, maybe you’ll be forty, maybe you’ll be thirty – you will wake up as self-hating monster and you will regret settling down so early. It will gnaw at you. I have friends who are fifty who have been with the same women since they were twenty. And they love their women more than anything. They would kill themselves if it meant their wife got to live another day. But are they pleased with themselves? No. They are not. Do they think they have lived full lives? They don’t think that. Because they haven’t. If you stay settled with this girl, what’s her name?
Bill Murray: If you stay with Ann all through your life you will grow bitter when you’re older. You will see young women on the street and think, I could have talked to them and taken them out when I was 23. I could have danced with them and bought them shit and had a great time. But I didn’t. Because I had a wife and kid. And now that I am old and boring they won’t talk to me, let alone have sex with me. It’s called sowing your wild oats. I don’t want to tell you how to live. But I’m going to anyway: you need to sow your wild oats.
Me: Funny you bring that up because Ann says she wants me to cheat on her. For her art.
Bill Murray: What’s her art?
Me: She makes birdhosues. Shitty birdhouses that nobody buys.
Bill Murray: Are you going to cheat on her?
Me: I haven’t decided yet.
Bill Murray: I’m not going to tell you to cheat on her. But I will say this: The wild oats need to be sown. I’m not saying that sowing wild oats will guarantee happiness later in life. I sowed wild oats from when I was 18 through 30. And then again from 50 to, well, I’m still sowing. And I’m miserable most of the time. But I’d be more miserable if I hadn’t sown wild oats. And boy, did I sow. And you, too, should sow. Sow two oats at once, if you can swing it. Sow large oats, tiny oats, funny-looking oats, oats who cry at the movies, oats who will beat you with a belt, oats who call you papi, oats who know they’re oats.
Me: Is the professor a wild oat?
Bill Murray: She’s a special wild oat. She’s the type of wild oat you hold on to and maybe when you’re done sowing she’ll want to become your … your never-ending whole grain oat. It’s always good to have a whole grain oat in your pocket. You don’t want to finish sowing and have nothing to make a meal out of.
Me: Why do they call it sowing your wild oats?
Bill Murray: It has something to do with a type of oat that farmers didn’t want. They couldn’t use to make food and it was always a pain to separate it from the good oats, but it had to be done. So someone had to go around separating the wild oats. It was a frivolous activity and so it later became associating with dicking around while you’re young. Dicking around with girls, I mean, and not trying to settle down with anyone.
Me: I get it. And it’s also like, wild oat…oat seed… seed…spreading your seed. So it works on that level too. I’m talking about semen.
Bill Murray: Now you’re thinking straight. Now go over near your buddy and sow. SOW!
[I move across the room and stand near Z and his two little girls. Both are short and well-dressed and seem to be reasonably drunk. Z has his arm around the one whom I’ll call No. 1. No. 1 thinks Z looks like the kid from Two and a Half Men. No. 2 and I talk about our hometowns until we decide to make out and then we talk some more. No. 2 is in the professor’s ancient Greek architecture class and she’s having trouble with her Parthenon paper. It’s fun to hear the professor talk about it, she says, but I hate writing about it. She says the college boys she meets don’t know what they’re doing in bed. One of them wouldn’t stop biting her ear and saying I love you. She says that brunch is the best meal and she says it like she’s certain that she's the first person who's ever said it.]