Friday, February 23, 2007

Jewbiquitous Outing: Ernest Borgnine

Wednesday night, I planned on going home, curling up with the DVR, and catching up on Veronica Mars, but my plans were derailed by the crafty and compelling Annie, who used her wily ways to convince me to grab margaritas with her and the roommate at a place called Tortilla Flats. "It's on your way home," she argued (for clarity's sake, Annie thinks that anything south of midtown is "on my way home.")

I can resist neither Annie's charms nor the sweet siren call of tequila, so off we went, unwittingly heading into the bowls of the beast: the West Village. Tortilla Flats is the type of venue I ordinarily avoid out of a sense of self-preservation. The decoration was the kind of bright that makes you pray for a quick, streamer and sparkle induced coma (or some major sunglasses). It's the sort of venue you go when you are (a) already drunk and don't care that it reminds you of the hell that were children's parties growing up, (b) currently embroiled in that ritualistic slaughter known as a bachlorette party, or (c) a sorority girl who confuses kitsch with character.

Unwittingly, we had stumbled in on a magical, mystical night at Tortilla Flats; a night that transcended its irresponsible obsession with kitsch and misguided Mexican food. You see, the third Wednesday of every February, for the last 15 years, is Ernest Borgnine night. The three of us were ushered to a booth and there, along with our salsa and chips, rested our first indication that tonight was not going to be like every other night: Borgnine masks, We *heart* Ernie hats, paint brushes, paints, and glitter. I was in crafts heaven. To be clear, I am not a “craft” person in the Martha Stewart sense. I neither macrame nor knit and you wouldn’t catch me hot-gluing a ribbon to a basket to personalize a gift (not to denigrate that activity, I come from a long line of craftswomen, but when you are as accident prone as I, you avoid bedazzlers like the plague). I do, however, love anything that involves paint, evidenced by all of my oil paint- stained clothing from high school.

Two pitchers of margarita, a sparkling hat, a painted mask, and an ill-advised bowl of spicy black bean soup later, CJ, the upstairs neighbor (who, it turns out, is a terrific dancer), and the Iowan had joined us and we had witnessed the first game of the night: pin the smile on Ernest Borgnine. So of course, when the woman with the husky voice who was running the contests came by to sign participants up for the Ernest Borgnine impersonation contest, we cajoled CJ to register. The contest consisted of watching a scene from The Greatest (a 1977 Mohammed Ali biopic) and reading Ernie’s line off a cue card. About a dozen people participated, but when CJ’s turn arrived, he wussed out, leaving me to fill his big, manly shoes.

The competition was stiff, but I have Borgnine in my blood (a misrepresentation—I didn’t know who he was until that evening, although I did recognize his picture). The people present at Ernest Borgnine night were true fans, though, many of whom had been to this annual event since its inception, men whom the hostess knew by name, all with the gut and the requisite balls to drop their voice to Ernie’s timber. I had no expectations, particularly given my lack of history, knowledge, or balls. So when the hostess announced a tie, imagine my surprise when she called my name! I had tied with one of those paunchy, gravely, gesticulating Borgnine obsessives!

To resolve the tie: a dance-off to Michael Jackson. Needless to say, I walked home with $115 worth of gift certificates and a SpongeBob SquarePants Mermaidman Beanie Baby. Weirder things have happened, but not recently and not to me.

Luckily, Prettyboy showed up just in time to escort me back to Brooklyn, winnings in hand, Ernest Borgnine T-Shirt clutched to my chest, a new talent revealed.

More evidence that Jews Love: Italians. Watch out Prettyboy, you have some gap-toothed competition and his name is Ernest.


Amishav said...

Not that there's anything wrong with Borgnine, but what about Bogart?

harley said...

What do you want from me? It was a Borgnine competition. You want that I should have channeled Bogart, instead?

Or do you know of a Bogart competition and you're holding out on us?

Hmmmm... maybe I can turn this "talent" into a lucrative living.

harley said...

NB: althought Tortilla Flats may be characterized as "kitschy," it is an awesome place and anyone who would think to take us there is an amazing and brilliant person. Please excuse any implications to the contrary.