What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 21, 2010

My Dinner With Hitchens

Ok, so it wasn't exactly dinner. It was only lunch.

To bring y'inz up-to-date, we'll have to start with Tony Norman's column. It's all about Hitchens, the well-known atheist, the well-known writer, and now the well-known esophageal cancer sufferer.

In the course of the column, Tony writes:
On a personal level, there are few intellectuals I enjoy more than Christopher Hitchens. When he taught at the University of Pittsburgh in 1997, he was kind enough to invite me to a private reception for Salman Rushdie when that writer was under threat from the soulless theocrats of the Iranian regime.

Since then, we've broken bread at the now-defunct Crawford Grill, had a drink at the Warhol and exchanged pleasantries at various book signings.
I was there at the Crawford Grill. I broke bread (well, kinda - you'll understand in a minute) with Christopher Hitchens.

It was April of 2001 and he was in town promoting his Henry Kissinger book. That night, he was to read from the book at the Frick Fine Arts building and Tony, being the all around cool guy that he is, was kind enough to invite me along for lunch.

As I worked in the Frick Building at the time, I knew it would be a half hour walk to the now-closed Crawford Grill and while I can't recall exactly I think Tony gave me a ride to lunch. I do remember walking in with Tony.

I also remember that there was a bar was on the right as we walked in. It was 11:45 (am) Hitchens was already there.

When we walked in, he was sitting facing the bar and we could see his profile. Odd thing though - when we walked in he turned to to his left (we were on his right) to meet us and by...how...slowly...he...turned, I pretty much knew he was already completely plastered by that point.

There were five of us for lunch. Me, Tony, two other people I couldn't possibly remember even if you held a gun to my head, and Christopher Hitchens. We got a table and amid the copius cigarette smoke, the conversation was buzzing along very nicely without me. Film, politics (local and international) and Henry Kissinger were all topics of discussion. The lunch order was taken while we had our drinks. I remember I had a soda of some kind. Hitchens had already switched, I think, from a cocktail to wine.

When the food arrived, guess who's lunch order was lost?

Yea, mine. They ate but I didn't.

So that's why I can't exactly say I "broke bread" with Christopher Hitchens.

Later that night, after his reading from The Trial of Henry Kissinger, I stood in line waiting for him to sign my freshly bought copy. When I got to the head of the line, he looked up, smirked a bit and we chatted about lunch.

When he signed the book, it read "To David. Next time, lunch is on Crawford's."


rich10e said...

very cool!!

JenEngland said...

Wait, were you at Dinner w/ Rushdie and Hitchens? I was at that dinner! I believe I was at the reception and I know I was at the after party too, up on the Sugartop edge of Oakland. Funny. Very Pittsburgh that we would have met that long ago.

moeursalen said...

I'm polar opposite on most of your articles but this one's funny and amusing. For the politics of the others, all I can think of is we're being stuck with Obama, who, because he enjoys pig metaphors so much, is the "pig in a poke" that America bought and now regrets. Popularity ratings for Prez have dropped to 42 percent. His econ team had deployed parachutes...