Andy Cohen wrestles barnacles and dead batteries in New Jersey.
By the end of last week, I'd spun myself into a white-hot state of exhaustion and hell. I was very "Calgon, take me away."
My salvation to running around like a freaking idiot didn't come from a massage or cocktail, but in the form of Molly Alter's Bat Mitzvah in Montclair, New Jersey. What better way to take a pause and collect than by watching a 13-year-old go deep and break it all down on a Saturday morning?
Like any Manhattanite faced with a trip off-island and the myriad of issues that poses, Mapquest and I grossly underestimated my travel time to New Jersey and I arrived v. early. I took great joy in snagging a great parking spot even though no one else was keeping score and there weren't any bad spots.
I've been friends with the Alters since I moved to NYC in 1990. Emily and I worked together at CBS News and now she's a producer at "The Colbert Report." Jonathan Alter sits at the top of the Newsweek masthead. He's also an author and pundit on every show with smart people, which begs the question why he's not been on a Bravo show of late. (Memo to self: book Alter on "Watch What Happens" to take viewer calls re: "Shear Genius" and Tabatha.)
Jon and Emily have 3 amazing chillins, Charlotte, Tommy, and the Bat Mitzvah girl Molly. The BM was at their house. That's what I call one stop shopping! Not only would there be no awkward transition from a Temple to a lunch to an I don't know what, but I wouldn't lose my golden parking spot.
Jews have been fleeing something forever, we were told, and they can create places to worship wherever and whenever they need. So the Montclair Jews (Jon and Emily) set up shop under a tent in the Alter's backyard. It seemed to this Jew like a reasonable place to throw on a yarmulke and go deep with a Haftorah.
Harry Smith and I surveyed the crowd pre-service. He's now CBS' elder statesman and, if you ask me, the man who should replace Katie Couric if they actually pull the trigger. (See today's New York Times biz section.) Looking around the group wistfully, Harry told me he wished he owned a piece of the blue blazer industry. I and everyone else had one on. Steven Colbert was there. (I think he had on a blue blazer too.)
At the beginning of the service the Lady Rabbi asked if anyone had never been to a BM and he raised his hand. It was funny. I believe this was unscripted. I love to sit back and listen to a Bat Mitzvah speech and Molly didn't disappoint. She intoned about her Torah portion and what Judaism means to her. She said Jews don't have to agree w/ everything God says and that everything is up for debate. I had never heard of the tradition of throwing candy at the Bat Mitzvee, but I went there.
Moments after the service was over I ran into a lady who Amy Sedaris would describe as a "Barnacle." Every party has a Barnacle. In her bestselling book about entertaining, Amy dubs Barnacle's "that one person in your life you can never get rid of.... for every barnacle there is a shipwreck they can attach themselves to." I vowed then and there not to be her shipwreck.
The barnacle corners me. "How are you getting back to The City?" She wants to know. The service JUST ENDED, rude lady! "I am driving," I tell the barnacle, terrified she's going to ask for a ride. "No but HOW are you getting BACK??" She wants to know. "What direction? What road." "I am going to reverse the directions. I am going to go the exact opposite of the way I came." I calmly tell the barnacle. "But I am not leaving for HOURS." I tell her this so she doesn't think she's going to get a ride home. I wanted to say: "I mean, it could be sundown before I leave this party! Or sun-up!" "Where did you GET your directions?" Barney wants to know.... "Mapquest," I tersely reply. "I would NEVER Mapquest!" She tells me. I actually REALLY DON'T CARE! And I let her know. "OK," I say as I walk away.
The day was fantastic. I never saw the barnacle again. I reconnected with lots of CBS pals and Alterphiles. I made Sony chief Michael Lynton talk to me about "The Young and Restless," a white-hot Sony property. (As hot as Spidey!)
I gracefully exited in the early afternoon to head to the set of "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style". (The barnacle was long gone.) I got in my car smiling only to discover that in my zeal about my platinum parking spot, I hadn't realized that the car's lights were blaring. My battery was dead. Panic. I'm stuck. In Jersey. Barnacle is probably at Scoop by now and I am suddenly drenched with sweat, totally helpless, calling roadside service for car jumping.
Why did I suddenly feel like a Jewish Homo with no Motor Skills leaving a Bat Mitzvah? Oh wait... But at least I'm not a barnacle. They said it'd be 90 minutes. As ungracefully as I'd exited 10 minutes earlier, I busted back into the party. I found Reid Collins, Jr. and asked him to help me. He asked if I had cables and I felt dumb telling him I didn't. His were in his other car. We were about to drive to a gas station when it occurred to me that perhaps I should LOOK to see if I had cables before assuming I didn't.
I opened my trunk and there they sat. Pristinely wrapped and shiny new. We jumped that car and I made it safely back into the city.