Melodramatic Herb col

Open a bottle, like this Melodramatic red blend, and hop online to chat with friends and family like columnist Herb Benham.

Cocktail hour is back with a twist as satisfying as a wedge of lime or a glass rimmed with sea salt.

“Let’s call Bea and Ron and have cocktails with them,” Sue said, of my cousin and her husband.

Good idea! A cocktail hour call is something to point to, fashion a day around and lean into as if it were the tape at the end of a hilly marathon.

We’ve been doing a lot of that lately. The virtual cocktail hour. Cousins, sisters, brothers, college roommates. We’re rifling through the list and should this last through June, we’ll be calling people we met briefly in airports, our respective second-grade teachers and Peanut Jim at Dodger Stadium.

Soon, we will develop reputations because our desperation is palpable.

“Oh, my God, it’s them again? Don’t they have anyone else to talk to?”

No, we don’t and it’s not as if we can talk about our days with the people with whom we are hunkered down. Their days are our days, and ours theirs and the twain often meet.


We’ve FaceTimed and Zoomed (a video conferencing tool that cool people have been using for years), something I’d never heard of before a month ago and now I lord it over people like I invented it.

FaceTime is fine but only people under 5 look good on FaceTime. People over 55 look like they spent the night in the Greyhound bus station sleeping against the wall. It reminds me of going into the House of Horrors at the fair where your face either looks too fat, too elongated, too pointy or just too plain awful.

“Would you mind pointing the phone at Sue?” a friend said during a FaceTime call over the weekend.

I don’t mind at all. I’d rather not be in the picture. I wish this were like the obits where people used their high school graduation picture, prom picture or the-day-they-got-their-first-promotion picture.

Zoom has several things going for it including some sort of anti-aging feature in the software, guests are invited to a meeting, which makes it feel like an occasion as well as an honor, and up to 100 people can be on the call. The more the better because then you can sneak away without being missed when you hit the wall.

I’ve done that twice, once during a call to Sue’s family, whom I like, and once during a Passover dinner Zoom call. Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land and I forged ahead to make sure the coast was clear.

Whether you FaceTime or Zoom, you’ll want to lay in a good supply of snacks — I like pistachios or a spring party mix — and make sure not only is your glass full but you have a second glass should you require backup because these calls can go long.

We spoke to my cousin and her husband for about 45 minutes, that’s probably on the low side, and if you are talking to grandkids who’ve been with their mother for five straight weeks, she may say something like, “Take as much time as you want. They’re driving me nuts.” If that Zoom call lasts less than an hour, you may have one disappointed daughter.

Cocktail calls can be competitive. A few days ago, we were Bigfooted by our youngest son, Thomas, and his girlfriend, Alicia, who FaceTimed a friend at 4:30 ahead of our 5:30 appointment with the same friend.

“I’m going to have to cancel you because I'm not sure I’m going to be coherent by 5:30,” he texted.


We talked about everything with Bea and Ron and then started over and talked about everything again. No one was in a hurry because where are you going? There is no game on TV and dinner can be later and then later still.

The calendar is open but the bar is high. You have to be somebody we’ve met, want to meet or live within 8,000 miles of us. Other than that, you might be out of luck.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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