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'Extreme Hosting,' Stable-Style

The New York Times Home & Garden section is always good for a Thursday chuckle over their practical advice and heartwarming stories of domestic challenge among the affluent and urbane.  Today's edition was a whooper, featuring "extreme hosts" who subject their guests to various mortifications to preserve their posh pads from stains, dings, and scratches: a host who insists visitors  don special booties to spare the marble floors, another who won't open red wine unless you offer collateral for his dry-cleaner's house call, a hostess who turns away pot-luck offerings that are oh-so-indelible red or brown. Then there are these guys:

host.600.jpg Meet John Yakubik and Marc Berman, who shroud all their horizontal wood surfaces in plastic wrap before every party. (As Eddie says in Absolutely Fabulous, "Surfaces, darling, I want surfaces.")  They do endure some mockery from their guests, they admit, but find it a small price for avoiding the curse of watermarks from carelessly placed glasses.

[Ah, but notice that something paranormal has arisen to thwart their madness. It is Raffles, the Renal Failure Cat, whose lavishly applied pee has already begun the onerous work of stripping the paint off the floors of the CrazyStable! He has arrived in his party hat like the nephrologically-challenged ghost of Marley, and is ready to boogie down! Sorry, boys--hope you like distressed finishes, bwah-hahahahaha!]

Actually, we're old hands at Extreme Hosting, but here it sort of works in reverse: Guests are asked to perform heroics to defend themselves from the house. Footwear is mandatory rather than forbidden, given the whack-a-mole nails in our aging parquet. Thanks to the quirks of the Rewiring Monkeys, they must grope for lighting switches in unpredictable places.  At least one staircase remains banister-free (just sort of claw at the walls as you ascend and descend). What banisters remain must not be sat upon or leaned against (creak, splinter, crash). The haunted doorknobs have been removed from the bathroom after several guests became trapped there, but now they have to stick their fingers in the doorknob hole to pull the door shut and pray that the cats don't push the door open to join them.  (I trust no fellow old-houseblogger will be surprised to learn that our toilet flush handle has a jaunty instructional sign on it, explaining its special needs.) And once we go outside to the garden for elegant summer entertaining, everyone must sign a waiver indicating recent prophylaxis for malaria, rabies and tetanus.  Well, okay, not yet, but maybe next summer.

For all that, they keep coming back, a fact that always seems to amaze Spouse. Although you will find few flawless Surfaces around here this holiday party season, there will be toffee bars and sour-cream cookies, and homemade eggnog (sign a waiver for salmonella, I top it with whipped raw egg whites),  and homemade hot cocoa; if you are nice to the Stablemistress, she will squirt Redi-Wip directly into your open mouth. If you drink too much eggnog, you can stagger upstairs past the kitty-litter pans (which Raffles might even have deigned to use, as a novelty) to a small cozy guest room with a chenille bedspread and ball-fringe curtains and your own little bathroom with a foofy glass stall shower that hardly leaks at all.  You will be fed a Brooklyn breakfast of bagels and lox, and will be re-invited if you give a bit of lox to Lexi the Ragdoll Cat when she begs for it.  And no matter what you spill or break, you can rest assured that it's unlikely to make a dent in the ambiance. 

No Saran Wrap. No booties. RSVP.

We saw a stranger yesterday.
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place, 
Music in the listening place,
And with the Sacred Name of the Triune God
He blessed us and our house,
Our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
Often, often, often goes the CHRIST
In the stranger's guise.
                        --A Celtic rune of hospitality
Posted on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:07AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments3 Comments

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Reader Comments (3)

I had to laugh; it sounds like you'd right at home at the Devil Queen.
November 30, 2006 at 01:34PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Ack! You have officially freaked me out. Will people see me as an extreme host? I have been toying with the idea of offering slippers to people when they come to our house in winter. Not to protect our floors (since those come with plenty of "character") but to keep their poor feet warm. It is a midwest tradition to remove shoes upon entering a home in winter. Damn that Martha Stewart for giving me that slipper idea. I'm sure she is the ultimate "extreme" host...she's probably only saying that those slippers are to make her guests comfortable when in fact she doesn't want them to ruin her hand-shined floors!
November 30, 2006 at 03:59PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
First of all, LOVE your blog name. As for the footwear-at-threshold issue, I'd say the offer of slippers is all in how it's done--"want some cozy slippers in our drafty house?", for example, sounds friendly and inviting (unless you have rented-bowling-shoe OCD like me and will freak out wondering whose toes were in there before yours, but that's another issue altogether). Whereas "Booties, please! Mustn't mar the new Travertine!" is more, shall we say, off-putting.
The real solution to this entire dilemma, of course, is to be Japanese, in which case people will feel thrillingly multicultural as they doff their shoes at your serene abode, but I have been working on this for years without the slightest result. Cheers!
November 30, 2006 at 06:01PM | Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn

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