If a man truly loves a woman, he will do anything for her. He will attempt to unclog a toilet. He will kill a spider armed only with a magazine. (I mean the man is armed with the magazine; the spider is usually unarmed.) He will leave the woman sleeping comfortably in bed at 5:37 a.m. while he takes the dog out and stands around shivering while the dog, which only seconds earlier was DESPERATE to get out, conducts a meticulous 20-minute inch-by-inch nasal survey of the entire yard before selecting precisely the right spot upon which to make weewee.
Yes, love will make a man do many things. But sometimes a man’s love is sorely tested by a woman. Here I am using the term “a woman” in the sense of “my wife.” Recently, out of the blue, she asked me to do something that was truly repugnant to me, something that violates one of the two fundamental moral principles by which I have lived my life (the other one is, never drink light beer).
She asked me to go to a Barry Manilow concert.
Now before I get a lot of hate mail, let me stress that I think Barry Manilow is a very talented entertainer who has written some terrific songs. Mandy, for example. I’ve always liked that one. Another Manilow song I like is the one where he sings about . . . no, wait, that’s Mandy. So for me, the sweet spot of the Manilow catalog pretty much consists of Mandy. If Barry did a concert where he came on stage, sang Mandy, then did an encore consisting of Mandy, then left, I’d have no problem with it. I’m just not a fan of the rest of his work. Many times I have very nearly fractured my right forefinger stabbing the car radio to make it stop playing Copacabana.
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My wife, of course, LOVES Barry Manilow. So does her mother. As you have no doubt deduced, both my wife and her mother are women, as is roughly 167 percent of the Barry Manilow fan demographic, which also tends to be middle-aged (defined as “between 40 and 135 years old”). They love Barry because he’s nice, and his songs are romantic, and they know them all, and they can sing them along with Barry. All night! To every song! Really loud! Right into their husband’s ear!
Thank God we went to a bar first. While there, we ran into a couple we know; the husband and I suggested that we’d just stay at the bar and watch basketball on TV, then pick the ladies up after the concert.
“Ha ha!” laughed the ladies, who truly thought we were kidding.
The concert was at the University of Miami Bank United Center, which that night had an atmosphere consisting of 21 percent oxygen, 67 percent estrogen and 12 percent vapors. The opening act was a man who declared that he was the creator of a TV show called The Mentalist. I will attempt to recreate his act here:
• Pick some numbers.
• Now let’s build suspense with 15 solid minutes of repetitious stage patter.
• And now . . . here are your numbers!
• OK, pick some MORE numbers.
And so on. It was an excellent warmup act, not in the sense of being entertaining, but in the sense of making me actually yearn for Barry Manilow to get up there.
Which, finally, he did. Let’s get this out of the way: He appears to have had some surgery, in the same sense that the Pacific Ocean appears to contain some water. He doesn’t look like Barry Manilow so much as he looks like a man wearing a realistic, but ultimately not believable, Barry Manilow mask.
But, as my wife pointed out to me numerous times: He can still sing! And by God he sang ALL of his hits, accompanied by a 60-piece orchestra and my wife and mother-in-law and every other woman in the building. And almost every song ended in a big Vegas-style finish, with Barry holding his arms dramatically outstretched, followed by a standing ovation. And then Barry would launch into yet another one of his many, many, many — you would not believe how many — hits, leading to still another big outstretched-arms finish. I have to admit that, although I began the evening feeling grumpy about being there, after spending some time really listening to Manilow — a very accomplished and charming entertainer — I was rooting for the creator of The Mentalist to come back out.
Ha ha! I’m just kidding, sort of. What I was rooting for was Mandy. The good news was, he finally played it. The bad news was, he didn’t finish it. That’s right: HE ONLY PLAYED HALF OF MANDY. Right in the middle he veered off into some other song. I can’t remember the name, but it had a big finish.
Needless to say, he played all of Copacabana.
Anyway, it was all over in about 90 minutes, and I can honestly say that it was not the worst 90 minutes of my life, because I have had a colonoscopy. The important thing is, I did something that made my wife really happy, and I know she appreciated it. I also know that the next time she needs a spider killed, she is on her own.