Webster Hall.

I'll never forget the time Webster burned down his apartment trying to make a rocket pack for his teddy bear using his chemistry set. One of my mother's most frequent comments to this day is, “God forbid there's a fire in this room”, and though it has never inspired me to throw away my books, comics, board games and other flammable possessions which surround me, my eyes still occasionally snap open in terror in the middle of the night when my radiator bangs too loudly. And a few years after the Webster episode aired, my aunt and uncle bought me a chemistry set of my own which I never played with because of that episode. It sat on a shelf over my bed, and there were years of sleepless nights until I finally relocated it to the basement, and ultimately a garage in another town where my dad grew up and still has property. The incident on Webster was scary, but was a catalyst for a change of scenery on the show. George, Ma'am and Webster all relocated to an amazing house with secret passages and a dumbwaiter, and the show endured for another five years.

Last night I attended a dinner party at my boss' home, and I don't doubt that his four children are living in a more wondrous paradise than Emmanuel Lewis' character grew up in. Despite avoiding a parkway and taking local roads,I arrived about twenty minutes early and was waiting in a nearby parking lot, and gave my folks a call on my cell phone to let them know I'd arrived safely, as well as to kill some time. My dad, who had spent the day puzzled that someone would schedule a dinner so late and not at a more reasonable time such as noon, assured me that I should just go in.

I knew my boss had been remodeling for the past three years and had seen some snapshots of his house, but I was still dwarfed by the life-sized dollhouse complete with animatronic holiday Disney figures occupying the generous house-length porch. I rang the doorbell and listened to a lot of panicked scrambling and calls of “Johhhhnn!!!” and “daaaaddddy!” as his wife and kids summoned him. He came to the door a bit surprised, and when I apologized for being a little early he exclaimed that I was “a LOT early!” From the kitchen, his wife called out an apology to me, that she had stuff on her face that would scare me and so wasn't coming out to greet me. I was shown into an immense living room with a 17-foot ceiling and a 12-foot Christmas tree, the largest I'd ever seen. An impressive train complete with playmobil passengers and operators circled the tree. I honestly didn't know where to look first, from the impressive fireplace separating this room from the foyer, to the buffet of unopened food, to the massive flatscreen television on which I was soon watching Jurassic Park with his seven-year-old son, a little man in a three-piece suit who spoke with more eloquence than I would at that age in describing the things he liked about the movie. He also pointed out the retractable movie screen hanging from the ceiling, and the projector mounted on the wall opposite.

Eventually, I did get to meet his wife and other three children, and soon other guests were arriving. I had naively thought it would be a party simply for his coworkers, but friends from his wife's job were there as well as other assorted friends and family. It was impressive to hear him describe the changes they had made in the house, particularly the living room, and how he had subcontracted and designed the project himself. The home, built in the 1890s, had horsehair insulation at one point and the new beams running across the ceiling were covered with 100-year-old barn wood he had shipped from the South. The tour continued and we were shown his “playroom”, complete with a full-sized pool table, classic Coca-cola machine from when it only cost 10 cents, and seats from a baseball stadium as well as numerous golf awards and pennants. Dinner consisted of an amazing lasagna, as well as chicken, rice, bow-tie pasta and empanadas. Appetizers, prepared by his daughters, included meatballs, tortillas, and a dip they had baked using salsa and various cheeses. After dinner, I gladly joined in several games of pool for the next few hours, getting progressively better as the night wore on. I hadn't played pool since college and always enjoyed it, though never great at it. I didn't do too badly, and certainly didn't scratch. Once on a camping trip in college I struck the cueball with such force that it jumped on to the table of other players nearby, who ultimately decided on amusement over rage once they saw I was (fortunately) with some larger friends. After that incident, I'd have to do a lot worse to embarrass myself.

Dessert was spent listening to some interesting stories from some of the other guests, including one couple with parrots which not only spoke, but imitated the sound of their human masters exactly. The husband had trained one bird to perfectly say, ”You look MAH-VELOUS!” and once, when he informed his pet, “You're a bird.” received the surprising reply of, “I'm a person. I can talk.” At this point, most of the children were playing Twister in the living room while strobe lights flashed and techno music blared. When he was done dancing and embarrassing his children, my boss joined us at the table. I joked that his house was like a club. It was nearing midnight and, though most of the guests were still there and the party was in full-swing, I excused myself at the next available polite break in conversation. As we got my coat from one of the guest bedrooms, he joked about it being on the bottom since I “had gotten there so damned early.” Armed with a party favor, a candy-apple his daughters had made for each of the guests, I was soon on my way.

Though tired, I was feeling oddly relaxed and brave, and took the parkway home with little incident of dizziness. Earlier in the evening I had some mild cases on the way there and standing around before dinner, but somewhere over the course of playing pool they had disappeared completely. This would be the second occasion this week that my symptoms had nearly vanished after a night of fun and socializing. Call me crazy, but I'm starting to detect a pattern...

My boss has an amazing family and home, and works in the same field as me. I'm pretty sure I got a glimpse of where I want to be in ten years....


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