In my case it was an audition. Jack is very specific, and knows exactly what his shortcomings might be, should he be called upon. Pop culture, he is certain that he would need some help in that category. Until I admitted that I thought Lady GaGa might be the RuPaul of 2010, a comment that apparently disqualified me immediately, I thought I was the perfect pick. For this he chose my cousin Trey, a man with an amazing amount of knowledge on a bizarre and far reaching assortment of subjects. Trey knows Lady GaGa, although I have no idea if he likes her, or him.
Jack confidently allows that he can handle science, math, and finance without backup. He would add my aunt Lynda to his list but is concerned that her great wisdom could become buried under what might best be called the inability to hear the clock ticking; while she quite likely knows the capital of Yemen, she could chose this time to discuss the chicken she is roasting. As I imagine this phone call:
Regis: Well hello Lynda, you are on Who Wants to be a Millionaire!
Lynda: Hello! Who is this? Regis!
Regis: Lynda, your nephew in law needs some help today; Jack, can you ask her the question?
Jack: Lynda, what is the capital of Yemen? A, Sporto, B, Tubadi, C, Sanaa, or D, Toledo?
Lynda: Jack! How are you? How are the girls?
Jack: All good Lynda, what is the capital of Yemen?
Lynda: Hmmm? Let's see, it certainly is...oh, there's the timer, I've got a chicken in the oven!
Jack: Lynda, Yemen?
Lynda: Don't you love a good roasted chicken on a cold day?
Jack: Love it. Lynda, Yemen?
Regis: Tick Tick Tick
Jack: Lynda, time is almost up...
Lynda: Did you say Yemen? Isn't that funny? I was just reading a book about the treatment of women in Yemen, in the capital city of Sanaa...
She's in, clearly the benefit outweighs the risk. Should the questioning turn to history or cooking, I'm on the short list. And possibly politics, he thinks he could turn to me if faced with the name of John Kennedy's press secretary (Pierre Salinger), but there remains one great problem, we'll call him Erik. We have crossover knowledge, but he can also cover sports, law, philosophy, Tibetan umbrella etiquette, and ladies fashion. On these I am lost, and my ability to list the components of a classic Bearnaise sauce is sadly trumped by his insight into post World War II hosiery trends, not to mention a 2 second turn around time on the winner of the 1972 Superbowl, an event that happened before he was born.
Preliminary auditions are held annually on Christmas night. After a round, or two, of limoncello someone pulls out the Trivial Pursuit. Immediately we divide, Erik, Lynda and Trey forbidden from the same team. Never chosen in the first round, reliving the agony of going late in the Dodgeball picks of sixth grade, I am none the less armed and ready to play. I jump in on the yellow questions but oddly enough, occasionally find the answer to things completely out of my repertoire. A few years ago I actually knew what MP3 stood for; right now, on the train, my best guess would be Magic Player the Third, and I would suspect that to be not exactly right. It's the magic of Christmas, or possibly the limoncello.
"Pardon me nice flight attendant, might I have a shot or two of limoncello and your latest copy of the Tibet Daily?"