Broken Field Running
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Like most Angelenos, the Urban Man is the master of many games not played at the Olympics. I drive the 405 Freeway at 5:04. I deliver 30 second pitches during 20 second elevator rides. And yes, I can move as deftly as an NFL tackle among the round crowded tables of a large fundraising dinner.
As it happens, the tables at these events are often numbered with little signs, so it's easy to keep score.
Tonight, for example, I'm in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, seated way back at table 37. Nevertheless, I'm determined to speak with the leading quarterback of an entertainment concern, seated up front at Table 2. I'm sure you know him: huge of influence, huge of appetite, eyes of gray steel peering pitilessly out from teeny tiny spectacles.
I don't actually want to tackle this man, I just want 60 seconds of his time. Okay 45. Just enough to drop a clever idea and make him beg for a Monday morning follow up. "Mr. Quarterback," I plan to smile with confidence. "Saul suggested we talk. I happen to be working on..."
Okay, I won't bore you with the details. And please...don't mention this to Saul.
From the viewpoint of table 37, located conveniently near the washrooms, the ballroom seems to disappear into a dark and forbidding mist, glowing only with huge candelabra centerpieces, as if a playing field had been lit by the Phantom of the Opera. Sure enough, on a distant stage, someone opens the game with a song.
I devote just 12 seconds to my salad and 22 seconds to the apparently nice people at my table, when I spot the Quarterback running up the aisle near table 5. "Okay," I say to myself, "get off your butt and mingle." But before I can rise, an older guy seated next to me begins to speak about the secret of a happy life.
"Sorry," I say, clutching at my jacket pocket. "I'm getting a call."
Soon I'm dodging through the knife-thin women clustered near table 28 and I'm muscling past three beefy penguins at 27, all the while planning a collision with the Quarterback around table 19. Even as I move swiftly from 26 down to 20, I find time to smile at an old friend, June, seated alone at table 21, and toying with her wine. It would be nice, I think, to chat with June.
Then...damn...the Quarterback stops short at 18, where three men in gray suits arise to greet him. Still, I manage to catch his eye and give him a little wave as if to say, "It's okay, we'll talk when you're done." He looks back, puzzled, trying to place me.
Now I need somewhere to hang, so I take three steps back to 21. "June!" I say, "Can I join you for a minute?"
"Sure," brightens June, but then the Quarterback suddenly ditches 18 and heads into the dark mist, guarded by one of the grays.
"Be right back," I say to June, clutching my pocket. "I'm getting a call."
Now the field is clear down to table 5, where I'm blocked by 10 waiters marching in with the main course, a choice of Chicken Florentine or grilled salmon, and I have to rush to beat them to table 2, where the Quarterback and the single guard now stand. I know it's going to be tough to break into even this huddle, but a true athlete never hangs back, not when it's third and goal.
"Hi," I begin. "Saul..."
The gray man looks up with annoyance and the Quarterback peers at me, yes, pitilessly through his tiny spectacles. I try to continue, but the microphone squeals and the Chicken Florentine arrives. The quarterback clutches his jacket pocket. "Sorry," he says, "I've got a call."
"No problem," thinks the Urban Man, as he leaves table 2 and finds an empty seat at table 8. "Let's see...eight minus two. It's just the first quarter, and I'm only six points behind."
Copyright © 2009 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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