Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

At least this driver might speak marginally comprehensible English and is probably here legally Mike thought to himself as the taxi pulled up to the curb. It was raining and there were puddles in the street but the car was not moving fast enough to kick up a lot of water. That was good. Mike didn’t need to get out of a cab that had just doused some soon to be fellow diner. He didn’t want to get into a shouting match with some woman wearing silk. Not tonight, not now. Not with what he had to do.

The front of the restaurant was an island of light in the otherwise ink black sky. Clouds were moving in. The sun had rose red that morning foretelling storms. No shit, Mike thought as he stopped to push the door open for a woman. She was black haired and porcelain skinned. He had spotted her on the platform, getting off of his train. He was intrigued and wanted to follow her. He wondered what she looked like naked and feared that that wonder played itself on his face. So he kept back. Ten paces at least. She walked fast, then slowed as she approached the front door of the restaurant. He quickened his pace slightly, caught up with her and reached for the door to pull it open.

She smiled slightly at him, whispered “Thank you” and went in. The foyer light caught her red curls and set them on fire. As red as the sunset had been.

“Sir, your coat is wet.” The maitre’d said. Mike looked down. It was wet. He had no idea why.

“I have no idea why.” Mike said.

“Please. Perhaps you’d prefer to check it. Andrea will take it for you.” The man pointed at an alcove off to one side of the restaurant. A bored looking brunette was resting her upper body on her elbows. She stared off at the far reaches of the dining room, quietly chewing gum.

Mike took off his coat. It was a London Fog classic cut rain coat. He shook some of the moisture off. A drop caught Andrea in the eye and for a moment she looked as if a tear of joy was running down her cheek. Then she winced as the motor oil, tar and chewing gum residue that lived in the drop of water hit her cornea.

“Goddam!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry about that. No idea how it got wet.” He took his small green chip for the coat claim and stuffed it in his pocket. He turned and thought he heard Andrea pouring some liquid, or perhaps she was spitting, in the coat’s pocket. He decided to ignore it.

Kristen sat at one of the tables in the corner. She looked up to see him approaching. He regarded her carefully. She looked lovely. That didn’t make his job any easier. Her hair was neatly coiffed and one lock hung over her right eye. She was wearing a dark green strapless dress that emphasized her pale skin and thin build. The dress was low cut and emphasized her cleavage. Mike stuffed a hand deep into his pants pocket and pretended to root for change as he crossed the open dining room floor.

“Hi” he said as he sat down, folding his hand neatly back upon itself inside his pocket. He winced.

“What is it?” she asked.

”Nothing. You look lovely.”

"Thanks. I know the red dress is your favorite. That’s why I wore it. You look nice too. Did you see the sunset?”

”It was raining.”

”Drink, sir?” the waiter asked. “May I recommend something from our wine list?”

”Please do.” Mike encouraged him.

“The Meridian merlot is a wonderful choice.”

”I’d prefer a white.”

”I’m afraid that the Meridian merlot is all I can think of right now.” The waiter seemed both confused and obtuse.

“Why is that?”

”It’s the only thing we have a glass of right now.”

”Something isn’t right here.” Mike said. Things weren’t adding up. Usually waiters had a much better sense of wine. So did Mike. But all he could think of right now was the damn merlot. Kristen was no help whatsoever. When he wasn’t engaged with the waiter, she sat quietly in the background. Almost motionless. It was as if she needed to be animated by some outside force. What was more, the waiter was following the same pattern. Top it off, he only seemed to be casting the slightest of shadows. Mike looked at him. Straight on. Nothing wrong there. Then he looked at him askance. The man was as thin as a rail. As a matter of fact, he was thinner. Viewed from the side, he was as thick as a sheet of cardboard.

“Honey?” he looked straight at Kristen. Then he looked at her from the side. She seemed fully formed and fleshed out. “You all right?” he asked.

”Fine. I was just thinking about that time on the beach. You know, on Fire Island, when we rented the cottage and walked down to the beach after midnight. I had a bikini on under a windbreaker. You slipped the overcoat off my porcelain white shoulder and looked at the rest of my skin, glowing in the moonlight. The waves were crashing in and masking our breath, heavy on each other as hands pawed and groped in dark regions, setting brains on fire with what might be. Finally, you slipped fingers in under my suit and began to inch the bikini bottom off. A dark, nether patch, red, natural red hair was exposed on the white flesh. You took my top off and pushed me down on the sand, thrusting your tongue-“


“Sorry sir. But Banrock Station seems to have just hit me as a fine selection.” The waiter interjected.

“Why are you not wearing any pants?” Mike asked.

“No idea sir. But did you see Monty Python Live in Hollywood?”

”No. Banrock station will be fine. Thank you.” Mike said. The waiter didn’t leave. He watched Kristen lose her top in the moonlight. Her breasts relaxed and she ran her hands over them slightly.

“Her name is Diane.” Said Mike.

“Huh?” said no one in particular.

“Her name is Diane. My wife’s name is Diane. She is not tall and slim and a redhead. She could lose about ten pounds and has brown hair. She’s at home right now and Kristen is the art director on the second floor over whom you seem to be having masturbatory fantasies.”

”Could be.” Said no one.

“Look.” Mike continued. “I realize that I’m an imagined extension of your persona with the name and moxie of your friend the copy editor. And I realize that as a fictional character, I pretty much come and go as you please. I’m ok with that. It’s not bad work. There’s a lot of downtime, particularly the way you write. But can I ask you this? Could you please not publish me until you’re beyond the first draft.”

”Don’t know what you’re talking about.” The voice said.

“Yes you do. Look. Scroll up for a second. I’ll wait.” Mike paused and the restaurant seemed to slip away. Then it was back. “See. This is your first draft. And that’s ok. We all gotta start somewhere. I’ve always been an advocate of keeping going. You can always circle back and fill in the gaps. But this is ridiculous. Its obvious that this is a first draft and yet you’re posting like it’s the final deal. Look, its clear that I’m the only character you’ve thought out. I’m here but she’s not. In fact, you’re just going on right now so you can put her back on the beach and jot down a quick paragraph about her tits. This is absurd. Stop writing right now. Print this out, get a red pen and correct it. Then put it out for publication and not a second before. Got that? Oh and stop writing while you’re horny, would you please?”

There was a silence. Kristen looked up. Her green gown contrasted with he smooth, silky skin beneath. “Is everything all right, honey?”

”Fine.” Said Harry. “Do you remember that night on the beach? Your breasts relaxed as I took your top off. They glowed in the moonlight, firm and pert and each the size of a softball, the nipples pointed slightly outward...”

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Critic's Corner

From this reviewer's notebook comes last night's opening of "Hamlet" as produced by the Klingon Reperatory Theatre. KRT, as you well know, has taken up a space in the old Tudbury's department store, converting what was the "Karpet Loft" into a black box theatre with limited but comfortable seating. The rest of the structure was razed and the ruins set afire.

The Danish Prince is an interesting first selection for the Subaeish klan than makes up KRT as it is an ambitious piece for anyone, particularly those who aver the Stanislavsky method. Other companies in the country, for instance, Pittsburgh's Dyzala Klingon Imperial Entertainment Company of Players premiered somewhat lighter fare. They opened with "The Music Man" just before they were ritually slaughtered during the Blood Hunt of '04.

Nonetheless, I chose to keep an open mind as the lights went down. The set was gothic and gloomy and very fitting for the morose soliloquy that opens the play. However, I felt that the players rushed the piece as they immediately launched into combat scenes (very realistic, the stage trainer should be proud) and I felt that Rosencranz and Guildenstern were dispatched a tad early, never even delivering a first line.

The introduction of audience involvement put me off a bit too as the grave scene developed.

"Alas poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Now, who amongst ye is a Federation spy? I will slaughter one an hour until you come forward!

Maybe we should stick to more classical interpretations.

"Hamlet" runs now through the twelfth. Tickets are still available and there are discounts for children and senior citizens although I would encourage you to approach this as a family night with the appropriate prudence.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

T-I-O-N...Are we home yet?

When last we left our small boy hero he was in the suburban Washington Horrible Johnson’s Motor Lodge where the beds were so questionable they negated one of his favorite motel room habits. Namely, breaking the place in by jumping from bed to bed and back again until the old man growled that he was getting vertigo watching Cronkhite on the evening news or Mom got upset at the popcorn ceiling abrasions on my forehead.

Whichever came first.

Usually the old man, bucket-o-water on the fun fire guy that he was.

At any rate, we checked out of there right quick, filled out a nasty survey card lambasting the innkeeper with the note that “it wasn’t as clean as it could have been, was it now?” and slunk away hoping he wouldn’t hire goons to track us down and give us the what fer somewhere in South Carolina that night.

We usually had pretty good hotel and motel experiences. That was a bad one. Another remarkable one was the room they gave us somewhere outside of Toronto, Canada that unfortunately already contained a shaving male with a perplexed look. That is to say the hotel rented this poor guy the room, he was in the can getting lathered up when the Confused family showed up at his door with the key. No problem. We went back to the front desk, got another room and that was the end of that. But I do remember my Mom eyeing clean cut guys in the restaurant with more than her usual suspicion that night. She remarked for too many years afterwards how we never got billed for that night’s stay. Like there was a time value of a hotel room analysis or something.

On to Florida, whereas we made it to Virginia on day one, we usually got to South Carolina or Georgia on day two and then hit Florida on the early afternoon of day three. Unless of course the old man got lost or we took the bait of all those billboards and stopped to see what “South of the Border” was all the hell about. Day two was remarkable in that the old man got his first whiff of warm air and went positively Pavlovian about it. Just let the temps creep up to about sixty four and he cranked that car window down all the way to bask in the ensuing balm. That of course sent me for a wool sweater or several pounds of goose down as I was in the back seat in the ripping breeze he created freezing my ass off. Made sense that every year I got to Cape Canaveral with a case of the sniffles.

We’d pull off the interstate somewhere in the Carolinas at one of the firework shops like Looney Larry’s, Crazy Lucy’s, Insane Bob’s, Maladjusted Bet Wetting Roger’s, buy tooth numbingly sweet pecan concoctions and run across a highway crew that made my parents invariably stop and stare. See, our little corner of Canada in the sixties boasted diversity that Mr. Poser down the road DIDN’T serve in the war because he was ALREADY TOO OLD. Beyond that, we were all pretty much lily white so when faced with a truck full of black men with shovels and rakes, hey, here was something to gawk at. Poor guys busting their humps on state road 12 all summer and to top it off you’ve got a Chrysler full of pasty goofballs pointing at you like a sideshow and check the plate out: Where the hell is Labial Province anyway? I’ve never been there.

Like I said, on the early afternoon of day three, freshly chigger bitten in Georgia, we’d roll into our usual Florida digs, the efficiency with the stucco walls painted coral and aqua to complete the illusion. Mom would unpack the kettle, the old man would gather me and hoof off to the nearest beach where he got enough tar on his feet to extend I-95 to Havana and I’d broil every exposed skin area in fourteen minutes or less.

That was OK. Peeling was a ritual and a game. Details of the rules of which are better left unspoken.

And what did we do in the Sunshine State? We went to the beach, I buried my toys and forgot where. I got dragged into the ocean kicking and screaming. We ate at fabulously cheap restaurants that offered a children’s menu and the old man would usually get wrapped up in something stupid that would cap off the trip. Once it was taking out the front quarter panel of his car in an accident on the boulevard because he was tailgating again. Once it was winding up chest deep in an ocean full of bluefish-chasing sharks because the bonehead was too busy or illiterate to read the “NO SWIMMING TODAY-FISH MIGRATION AND SHARKS” sign some lifeguard had helpfully but uselessly posted.

And then, beet reddened some ten days later, we would pile back into the car and slog back home. These rides weren’t as memorable. The closer we got to the border, the colder it got. The car windows got rolled up again, the heat would come on, the dollar bills with Elizabeth’s picture got pulled out of the side compartment of the purse and we steeled ourselves for snow still on the ground in April. The last high point would come when the old man got the vacuum out for the car and would empty the bag out in the backyard whereupon I got a four by five inch patch of real beach to trot memories out on and pretend to bury toys again.

Bunny on.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Give It To Me Straight, Doc.

I was asked to shepherd one of the Thumper's bunnies and of course I failed miserably. It was a little conventional wisdom to be doled out pre, during and post a routine physical check up and another guy could have smoothed over pressing anxieties over, well, you know, guy stuff.

It happens, we all get it. Its a rite of passage.

But I failed miserably because I had to do the career thing and instead of imparting wisdom I was in New York, power lunching with self engrossed media types so unaware of how boring they were that my eyeballs almost fell out into my partner's quail egg salad and I had more than one panic attack as he speared something white and tender.

There's really nothing to getting a physical at eleven. You and I know that, we've been eleven. Its the fear of the unknown that drives panic into the hearts of true believers. That unknown could have been cleared up but, like the foundation the volunteer fire department finally saved, here's the poor Monday morning quarterback excuse.

There are a couple of firm and fast rules about physicals.

One: When you're eleven, you're still developing. We in adult land call it maturing at a different pace. You, rightly so, call it "what the hell is that growing and why is it suddenly sprouting hair????" It happens at different times to different guys, but it happens. Like your voice changing. Mine broke during a class presentation on steam engines and I very carefully explained exothermic energy sounding off like a rabid caliope.

Hair happens to us differently too. All at different times. There was a flourescent bulb the old man put in to an old linen closet he had taken the door off of and mom had arranged shelves with pretty little gee gaws in because twelve straight hours of dusting was just not enough fun. The light was to light the gee gaws and provide emergency illumination for the middle of the night runs to the bathroom when Mexican food had been consumed. The flourescent was artfully mounted on its side to provide illumination not unlike a holding cell in Star Trek. It also caught the fine, delicate hairs on my upper lip and gave me quite the manly moustache at age fifteen if I stared at it long enough and let my eyes glaze over ever so slightly.

You age as you age and you develop as you develop and everybody does differently and there will be no "holy shit run to the bathroom drop trou and check that out" moments if you're comparing schoolyard notes with your buddies.

Two: No medical professional gives a tinker's damn what you look like without your shirt and pants. Wear those Sponge Bob undies with panache and pride. I had Disney boxers once but got rid of them simply because I only wanted one Goofy down there.

Three: Turn your head and cough. Nobody, not the Doctor, not the insurance adjustor, not even the school district administrator can explain the relevance of an exam where your wanker gets grabbed as you hack one up in a hurry. No idea what's being tested there. Embarrassment? Reaction to sudden cold? Just do it. It only happens once unless you're Catholic and then you need to go tell a Protestant adult real fast. Then its over. Its a guy thing, a rite of passage. Plus these days you get to do it one on one with the Doc. Back in my time we were herded without explanation into the nurse's office. That was OK, we all thought we were going to get a spoonful of the tasty pink medicine. Imagine the shock of having to strip down to the waist, then stand in line and step up to Dr. Gripper. I was seventh back and watched as kid number two damn near fainted when kid one was told to drop 'em, turn and cough.

Four: Unless you're prone to spontaneous and uncontrollable outgushings of bodily fluid in a large, arcing manner, you'll probably be okay at your physical. Nothing bad will happen and no bad things will be done to you. That won't always be the case. In about thirty five to forty years, you're going to hear the sound of latex snapping that will weaken your knees and bring tears to your eyes.

It'll be time for Dr. Jellyfinger.

Until then, bunny on. As best you can.

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