As you know, a conversation with Popsie Tribble about even the most banal subject can destabalize "wife of." This time Popsie dropped in wearing her Issaye Mikao jumpsuit (the new sloppy look, she explained) and asked what Mr. Ambassador and "wife of" were doing for our summer vacation.
"We're thinking of going to Europe in August," I said.
Popsie nearly choked on the lime in her Evian water. She never drinks the liquid that flows from Washington taps and claims that Perrier water is too gassy.
"Last year," she warned, "you had a nervous breakdown holidaying in the Hamptons. Now you're making another vacation mistake. The right people don't go to Europe in August, and only a fool would go this year."
"What do you mean?" I answered. "The airlines are already overbooked, and I've been scrambling to find a place to stay in Paris."
"My point exactly," Popsie said. "Europe will be overrun by all the wrong people. It's become too cheap."
Well, Beverly, that's why Mr. Ambassador wants to go, but I was afraid to say that to Popsie. I answered a little defensively, "Baron Spitte says Europe is not as cheap as you might think. They're jacking up the prices."
Popsie shook her head. "The only way an August vacation in Europe can be bearable is if you stay in one place and avoid the crowds. Visit Sonny Goldstone, who's leased a palazzo on the Brenta Canal, or one of those country homes in England -- maybe Chatsfield, the Duke of Devonshire's place."
"Don't you have to be asked?"
"Certainly," Popsie said. "You just can't barge in."
I felt we had reached an impasse in our conversation so I asked her what she was doing.
"South Hampton," she said. "Unlike you, I feel perfectly at home there. And then we're going to Newport."
"Are you renting?" I asked, ignoring her aside.
"No, we're house guests. Much cheaper, except for the tips. Dexter says it's our year to economize."
I don't know why Popsie can get away with saying she wants a cheap vacation and "wife of" can't. But that's the way it is.
"Is anyone else making a vacation mistake besides us?" I asked.
"Joe Promisall," Popsie replied. "He's driving through Burgundy and Bordeaux visiting the wine cellars in the morning, taking in a one-star restaurant at noon and a two-or three-star in the evening."
"Why is that a vacation mistake?"
"Have you ever drunk Chambertin at 10 a.m., lunched on snails in garlic butter and pike quenelles in lobster sauce with a little Montrachet at lunch, driven through the heat in the afternoon and dined on tripe, preserved goose, 30 varieties of cheese and Marquise au chocolat in the evening? Eat it and die, I say."
"It sounds a bit rich," I agreed. "But haven't some of those restaurants changed to a lighter cuisine?"
"Nouvelle cuisine is even worse. Squashed red pepper mousse sitting in a muddy pool of mushroom pur,ee. Why bother going to France at all? You can get the same mess right here on K Street.
"Is there anyone else making a vacation mistake?" I asked.
"Lionel Portant," Popsie said scornfully. "He thinks he's being chic doing this walking tour through Cornwall. It always rains and "wife of" Portant will have two inches of water in her evening bath, which will be tepid. She'll have to return to Rehoboth to get warm."
Beverly, I didn't tell Popsie about "wife of" Melvin Thistle Jr., who probably has the best idea for a vacation. She's declared her bedroom in Cleveland Park a hotel room, put a Gideon bible in the night table, rented a TV with a huge screen, bought a little folding luggage rack and is paying her teen-ager to bring up room service. I understand she plans to stay there a month. Only one thing is holding her back. Melvin is having trouble finding some of those no-steal hangers.
You should take a lesson from "wife of" Thistle, Beverly, because I think George's sailboat is a vacation mistake. You're going to spend hours treading water while you scrub the sides of the boat with Brillo pads. I know that George likes to think he's the ruler of the wind and tide. But I remember when he sailed on the wrong side of a buoy and had to be hauled off a rock by the barge man.
Believe me, by the time you're finished your sailing vacation, the very phrase Tall Ships will make you throw up.
Your best friend,