Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Page: B05

Edition: C





By Lisa Suhay

If you hate to dry the dishes,

Such an awful boring chore.

If you hate to dry the dishes,

And you drop one on the floor.

They won't ask you to dry the dishes anymore."

- Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

A recent visit to the tiny village of Goodland, Fla., showed me a whole new approach to letting people know they should be careful what they wish for and even more cautious of what they demand.

I had occasion to revisit our old haunt, a little bump of a fishing village on the unfashionable end of opulent Marco Island. Marco is "where the rich folks live," while Goodland is a one-mile postage stamp where all "the help" lives.

A friend of mine, Ray, owns a restaurant in Goodland called the Little Bar. Some high-minded Marco mavens had "convinced" him to host a Chamber of Commerce "After Five" fund-raiser. As a reporter, I have attended many such events in South Jersey.

Ray was told that the restaurant provides the hors d'oeuvres and that chamber members pay $5 to get in. The money all goes to the chamber, and the restaurateur is supposed to benefit from the drinks bought at the bar and the dinners bought by those who remain after the function.

"See, what really happens is that people make a meal of the hors d'oeuvres, buy one drink, and beat it as soon as the free stuff's gone," Ray explained.

He has been there, done that, but gave in to the persistent chamber maids not out of lack of stamina, but because he had an evil plan to banish his restaurant from their call list once and for all.

At the fateful hour, the members of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce filled the place. Decked out in their yacht-club best, they were ready to snarf up the goods and be gone.

Instead of the traditional buffet, where people could load up and leave, Ray went with waitresses in fishnet stockings, black shorts and jackets, and white gloves, serving from silver trays.

Ray was decked out in a coral-pink blazer, black tuxedo pants and tux shirt, with hair slicked back and a pencil-thin moustache sketched on his hairless upper lip. The new temporary patrons were a bit stunned, but bounced back gracefully, and pressed on to the bar to buy their obligatory drink.

A good ol' boy stood in the center of the room singing "Margaritaville" and strumming his six-string. It was business as usual until the sound of thumb cymbals began to tinkle and the belly dancers arrived.

These were no ordinary belly dancers, but two women who had obviously been at this for a while. From the neck down they could easily pass for the average dancer and from the neck up, well, they weren't in danger of getting carded at the bar. It is safe to say few have ever seen senior women belly dance to Jimmy Buffett. Some will say it was not a pretty sight. I thought it was beautiful.

The dancers began to wend their way around the room and at Ray's careful instruction occasionally tossed a veil over the heads of the most austere-looking men, while Ray materialized with his digital camera just as the veil was lifted.

He captured more than just surprised and angry looks; he took back the beachhead for all time.

One would think he would have been satisfied that the proverbial "dish" had been irreparably shattered, but old Ray was determined that this "After Five" would be like a Greek wedding, leaving not a shard of crockery unmarred.

He chose for the finale a scene from the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, in which a fat lady is fed from a wheelbarrow. Out it came, a shiny red wheelbarrow fresh from Home Depot and heaping with spaghetti and meatballs.

The new pitchfork was struck into it at a rakish angle. Would they drop their pride for a free meal?

The chamber members, obviously done in by sheer sensory overload and what had to be the security of believing they must be dreaming, lined up and held out their plates. Singing a Beatles tune, Ray dug in and fed the fat cats with his pitchfork - the little devil.

The moment the barrow was bare and the serving girls stopped their flow of treats, the room emptied like a shot out of a gun. All that remained were the servers and locals and the satisfaction of a job well and truly done.

Looking around and seeing the looks of his friends and neighbors, Ray simply said, "I think that went off rather well. Don't you?"

Lisa Suhay, author of "Tell Me a Story," a book of fables for adults, writes from Burlington County.

Ah, she writes the way I eat and therefore deserves unlimited literary license with fact.  The book of fables is great.  Thanks Lisa, I love it.