And only that. Lime Barty made this bold proclamation once each weekday at 9:30 a.m. -- loud and italic, singsong like a '50s Burbank housewife answering the doorbell with I'm coming! -- then finished his shower and carried on with his now all the more mysteriously silent Lime Barty life.
Was it in fact "lime barty" -- not "wine party," or even "line barty" -- that Lime Barty said? I couldn't be certain. But from across the narrow channel separating our buildings, that's what it sounded like, not only to me but to several of my friends. Even Rachel, a doctoral candidate in linguistics, agreed that whatever it was Lime Barty was actually saying, it sounded more like "lime barty" than anything else.
After a few weeks, I decided to stop questioning. Things could be worse. As it happened, 9:30 was a convenient time for me to wake up, and I came to integrate the call of Lime Barty favorably, as an alarm clock.
A month passed. And another. Every weekday at 9:30, I'd awaken to the Stern voice, the ensuing shower sizzle and "lime barty!"; I'd rise, turn on my LCII (all tricked out with 10 megs of RAM and an 80MB hard drive) and make coffee. By the end of the first cup, all traces of Lime Barty had evaporated, and I settled in to work.
One day I found myself inexplicably awake before 8 and taking out the trash at 9:30. The dumpster path led me directly below the Lime Barty window, where, owing to an auspicious mix of timbre and proximity, the Lime Barty mystery ended like this:
First came the voice of Stern, then the sizzle of shower, then, with the crystalline ebullience of a first-time bride releasing her bouquet, "I'm farting!"
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Frightening? Terribly. And disappointing. It was like finding out that the Cars, in Candy-O's "Let's Go," were saying, "She never likes to choose" and not "She never likes the Jews." And, in keeping with the paradigm, after I'd heard the call of Lime Barty as it was intended to be heard, it was hard to imagine how it had ever sounded like "lime barty" in the first place. Moral: Never take out the trash.
"UH . . . YYAAWWW!" TO MY FRIEND RAY, the name Lime Barty evoked some ancient, reissued bluesman -- Kansas City cousin, perhaps, of Blind Melon Chitlin', the flatulent chanteur of early '70s Cheech & Chong fame. I thought it sounded more like a mixed drink served in a zombie glass. "And Raymond here would like a double Lime Barty, on the rocks." But Ray's characterizations were convincing, and I eventually came to realize that he was right. Cheech & Chong's complete "Going Downtown Gonna See My Gal" sketch is available in RealAudio format at http://bennyhills.fortunecity.com/miller/256/audio/blindmelon.ram.
IN THE EARLY DECIPHERING STAGES, before I decided on "lime barty," a strong contender had been "wine party." And now, through the magic of modern technology, a working beta demo of Intellex Inc.'s Wine Party, the Internet's favorite wine-tasting-party management software, is available at www.wineparty.com. A smashed little French stereotype will guide you, quietly, from invitations and planning to running your party and post-party cleanup. Wine Party 1.0b retails for $75 plus shipping.
ONLY RECENTLY DID I LEARN THAT AROUND THE TIME of the Lime Barty incident, Howard Stern was nurturing an alter ego named Fartman. When I found this out, my hopes were high that I'd discover, all these years later, Lime Barty's true raison d'être. I imagined a ritual wherein devoted Sternlings proclaimed their flatulence all over town -- thousands of simultaneous Lime Bartys, and who knew how many mystified neighbors? Unfortunately, as we go to press my research has revealed no such cult activity. Still, the connection is very likely more than a coincidence. Perhaps Lime Barty found his Stern experience -- or all of life -- enhanced by singing along. Why not Howard Stern karaoke? For the sake of comparison, Ronan's Online Karaoke (www.visi.com/~dowling/karaoke/) will play your choice of 154 delibrettoed popular musical selections in MIDI format for sing-along fun at home. Lime Barty recommends: Tom Jones' "Not Unusual," the Village People's "YMCA," Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town."