The Breakfast Table

The Three Martini Lunch

Dear Tucker,

Actually, I couldn’t afford to drink very much during my brief stay in college. I can even remember going to the bank and standing in line (this being before the days of the cash machine) to withdraw exactly $5. Don’t I sound like I went to school in 1936? Anyway, two years was definitely enough to convince me that college is wasted on the young.

Instead I went to work in book publishing, a pursuit that involved far more boozing than college had–I actually had lunch with people who drank the proverbial three martinis, and it took me about four years to figure out that I couldn’t get all the way through one without seeing double for most of the afternoon. Dropping out of college was certainly the right thing for me to do at the time, but I can’t say that reading the slush pile and typing letters for an editor (an impossibly old fellow of 30) was more ennobling than two more years of school would have been.

What a life Lardner led. The Post obit included the neat fact that Katherine Hepburn basically swiped the script credit from Lardner on Woman of the Year. I somehow missed the detail that Lardner had married his brother’s widow, but goodness! For some reason it made me think of the other best brother story I ever ran across. I went through a phase as a Post reporter in which I got fascinated by people’s wills—-the way you could just walk into Superior Court in Washington and get the last will and testament of all these amazing Washingtonians. At one point I read Joe Alsop’s will, which, among a great many other very controlling directives, set aside some money to replace the tombstone that Stewart Alsop, who died before Joe, had chosen in advance for himself. Joe found his little brother’s choice not quite up to snuff (if I remember correctly, the term he used was “very ill-chosen”) and had been biding his time for a chance to replace it. Talk about the last word.

Which this must be. It’s been a pleasure visiting with you all week, Tucker. After this cleansing tour through marital gossip and Jeopardy (and the jeopardy of marital gossip), I’m ready to get back to politics next week.

Here’s mud in your eye,