Haunted Heat Wave 2

See the source image

Marg: Thank you. Hello…yes, she died ten minutes ago, this is a recording and when you hear the beep leave your name and number…what’s the matter Daisy, you think I’m a weakling? No, Bill Gopher came by to…Bill Gopher… Bill, what’s your apartment number?

Bill: 22

Marg: Number 22 came by to repair the set and we’re eating now. Yes, come up. OK. That was the landlady, she’ll be up as soon as she makes a fresh Bloody Mary.

Bill: She’s kind of weird isn’t she?

Marg: Not really. A widow who raises six kids and lies about her age to get this job so she can remain independent has got to have something going for her. By the way, if she calls you and old fart, it’s a Boston compliment!

Bill: (Laughs) Did you know her before you came here?

Marg: No, I moved in shortly after I got divorced and I think it threw her mother complex into high gear. It’s funny, mention a number in this building and she’ll rattle off all the information, in order, that we submitted on the application form.

Bill: Indiscriminately?

Marg: (Laughs) Pretty much… oh she might skip the cab driver. But she means well.

Bill: If you can, swing the conversation to the central conditioning unit, I would like to volunteer to look it over.

Marg: (Background noise, barely audible, of a heavy jelly-like swishing) Shhh…Bill, listen.

Bill: What? I don’t hear anything.

Marg: Get closer to the door, I think it’s coming from the hallway. (Sound loudens then stops)

Bill: (Whispering) Yeah…I hear it. Stand back, I’ll open the door. (Opens door just as Daisy’s prepared to knock)

Daisy:Oh my God, must be telepathic. (Enters) Ahgh! It’s like and oven in here. (Bill starts to close door) Christ, leave that door open and let’s get your temperature down to normal…you look like two cases of ptomaine.

Marg: Hi Daisy, I guess it is pretty sweaty in here. Sit down. (Daisy sits in chair L.) Bill, more wine or would you like some coffee? (Still slightly stunned she picks some dishes off table)

Bill: (Hugs her) Go make the brew Margaret, later I’ll reveal my hidden talent as a dishwasher. (She exits)

Daisey: Well 22, any luck? (Big wink)

Bill: Bill Gopher, Daisy…no, I need to replace a couple of parts. I’m sure I can have it going by tomorrow night. (Fiddles with A.C.)

Daisy: I didn’t mean the air conditioner, Say, I’m glad you kids got together,..you’ve got a lot in common.

Bill: Yeah?

Daisy: You’re both single, You’re twenty-eight you don’t want life to pass by and end up a sterile old fart?

Bill: (Laughing) Guess I better start hustling huh?

Daisy: Well that sounds healthy, if I were a few years younger, I’d have been breathing on your door for a screwdriver the day after you moved in.

Bill: (Laughs) Knock off a few years and you’d have gotten a lot of free service Daisy.

Daisy: (Chuckles) You’re OK in my book Bill, I’d even accept the rent an hour late.

Marg: (At kitchen door) Bill, cream or sugar.

Bill: Sugar.

Marg: Daisy, can I get you anything?

Daisy: No, I’m too old for anything but bloody Mary’s.

Marg: Oh my god, I’ll get a spade! (Exits)

Bill: Did you hear anything strange as you came down the hallway?

Daisy: No, just number 26 belching in the kitchen. Did you ever hear of an Italian who gets gaseous from garlic?

Marg: (Enters during above, hands Bill coffee and sits above table) Daisy, if I scraped my conditioner, how much would the central unit cost me?

Daisy: $150.00 not including electricity. For you baby, we’ll skip the deposit.

Marg: Bill, how much do you think repairs will run?

Bill: Deduce the meal, $5 or $10 bucks for parts. Daisy, who maintains the central unit?

Daisy: He came with the building. Aerosol Inc. I believe, why?

Bill: Nothing serious, it’s just an occasional sighing when the machines turn off. Since I’ve got the tools here, how would you like a free estimate?

Daisy: Well that’s an idea. This heat is affecting any wits anyways. By the way, keep an eye out for my cats. Seems my own cats and some other tenants pets have gone missing lately. Must be the heat. (Heads to door)

Bill: Margaret, I can’t do anymore here till I pick up some parts tomorrows. If you’re not busy, I’ll finish the coffee later.

Marg: Sure, while you’re doing the dishes.

Scene 2

(Next day, early evening..Bill is standing at open door ringing bell, Marg enters from Kitchen)

Marg: Come in and leave the door open till the temperature goes below 115.

Bill: Whew! Throw a little water around and you’ve got a sauna. (Starts fixing machine.)

Marg: (Exits to K.) Red or white wine..the white is cold.

Bill: The cold naturally. What are you doing?

Marg: Trying to decide what to defrost.

Bill: Forget it, we’re going out to a cool relatively quiet restaurant I know.

Marg: OK, (Returns with wine) Daisy called earlier. She thinks you’re great. Told me to get clean sheets on the bed pronto.

Bill: (Laughs) You ought to change them once a month anyways. You look kind of green, the heat too much last night?

Marg: No, I really slept well. It’s something that happened today. (sits L.)

Bill: Yeah, I know, tell me anyways.

Marg: You mean it’s happened to you? Oh it was sickening.

Bill: Go on, try to describe it objectively.

Marg: Remember that strange sound we heard last night? I was standing at the bus stop both before and after work and heard the exact same jelly-like sludging. This morning I couldn’t even turn to look until I had gotten on the bus. I looked out the door and…and there seemed to be a huge quivering outline just behind where I had been waiting!

Bill: (Sits on arm of couch) You couldn’t see anything solid?

Marg: No, just the edges.

Bill: Hey… drink the juice while it’s cool. A few more nights without an air conditioner and you’ll see more than the outlines.

Marg: Bill, are you serious? What the hell’s going on?!

Bill: (Closes door) I don’t know Margaret, but you look pretty good all sweaty and nervous.

Marg: What?

(Bill lunges for Margaret, grabbing her by the arms and dragging her to the bedroom. Unbeknownst to him and under the sounds of the tussle between the two, a jelly-like swishing sound begins to make it’s way up the hallway…)

Marg: AAHHHHH! HELP!

Bill: Shut up! I’ll show you hot!

(The front door creeps open, the visage of a giant potato-shaped creature appears, it slides it’s way in under the light. It’s a mass of the same grayish semi-translucent jelly Bill had been finding in the A.C. units. Only this one has bits of hair, both animal and human, in patches covering its body. Worst yet, inside bones can be seen, even a couple of skulls. It makes it’s way to the bedroom where Bill has pushed Margaret onto the bed. His back is turned but Marg sees over his shoulder!)

Marg: AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Bill: AAAHHHHHHHHHH!

(The stage blackens, you hear a strange sucking and plopping sound, rapid footstep and the front door slam.)

Scene 3

(Marg is banging on Daisy’s door)

Daisy: (Answers) What’s going on?!

Marg: (Crying) I…I…We have to get out of here! There’s a monster in the building and it just ate Bill!

Daisy: What in the world are you talking about?! Come in! Come in! Do you smell that? Smoke! (Just then the building begins to fill with white smoke.) We have to get out of here!

(Marg and Daisy rush to the nearest fire escape connected to the back of the building and head down the metal stairwell. As they reach the bottom and turn to the building they see flames coming out of most every window.)

Marg: Oh my! Looks like the heat wave just got hotter!

(The building proceeds to burn almost entirely to the ground with only structural remnants remaining. They blamed it on the heat but Margaret thinks it had something to do with the creature. No one believed her story but rather thought she suffered a mental trauma from the near death experience and loss of her home. As to the blob, we assume in died in the fire, but no one really knows….)

END

Posted in America | Leave a comment

Haunted Heat Wave

This is a short play I wrote for some of my high school theatre students to preform for class. We had a lot of fun with it!

The TIME: Modern/present in any large city.

The SETTING:A one bedroom apartment (in any typical apartment complex) of Margret Melon. Who is in her early twenties, appreciative and is one of many secretaries in a large office. Bill Gopher is an electrician in his late twenties and lives in an efficiency apartment in the same building. The only other character in the play is Daisy, a widow who manages the apartment building.

BACKGROUND: Fantastic heat. This was the third summer that the thermometer had gone so high or remained thusly for so long. People refused to discuss the weather, even the television ran only one weather forecast per week. Air conditioners moaned everywhere. Cars, apartments, offices, even the subways had installed huge edifices that roared cooling winds all through the rabbit warren tunnels, if you timed it right you could keep your race through the searing heat outdoors to eight or ten seconds. Backyard and public pools stagnated and evaporated. Trees cowed and grass brittle-snapped died. Baseball bats and baby carriages rotted in steaming garages.

SCENE ONE:

The door to the apartment opens and you can see the lit hallway outside. Margaret rushes into the dim room, flicks on the air conditioner (D.R.) and runs back to stand in the hallway for a moment; waiting for the room to start cooling. Re-enters and flicks the light switch, Stands C. of living room, throws purse, papers, etc, on chair L.

MARG: Come on baby, cool, cool! You spartch along another year and I’ll reward you with a decent funeral. *(Pantomimes looking out center front windows at the sun and searing heat below and closing drapes; sits on floor by air conditioner, enjoying breeze.) Love, you are a purring kitten compared with your roaring, belching tiger-mama in the office, *(Rises and exits kitchen, returning with a glass of wine just as the machine hiccups, coughs, freezes, the machine starts up again, hums along.… Marg. Relaxes… and the air conditioner quits. Marg runs over and flicks the switch, one gurgle…and nothing.) Oh my God, you can’t do this. Kitten? Puss? Shit. It is one hundred and twenty—five degrees out there. *(Replugs plug and runs over and flicks light switch.) Nothing. *(Goes over kicks machine.) You dirty moving coward, you’re no kind of friend. *(Takes wine, kicks off shoes and sits in chair.) I’ll compose myself, sedately drink the wine…then I’ll slit my wrists. That’s the only reasonable thing to do in a crisis. *(Picks up phone.)

Operator would you please dial an electrician for me. I’d do it myself but I would probably yank the cord out of the wall. Thank you so much. Hello? Yes, I would very much like an electrician to fix my air conditioner. *(murmured) Oh..not till next week… Yes, I can hear you, I sound muffled to you because my slit wrists are bleeding all over the mouth-piece. Yes, thank you, Margaret Melon, 13 Alexis Rd. West, apartment 27. If I’m deceased, the landlady will let him in.

*(Hangs up)

If I’m to roast to death, at least I should be we’ll basted.

*(Gets bottle from kitchen, pours and dials phone.)

Hello Daisy, this is Margaret. No. 27…yes. I sound sad?? Rather suicidal, my air conditioner died. Daisy, for a remark like that I’ll make damn sure I bleed all over the carpet, the drapes and the stove! Thanks, if it sets too bad I will come down…but the paper predicted a cool one hundred degrees tonight. No, I’m already reheating last night’s stroganoff…how about a rain check? Yes, thanks, if you don’t see me at the bus stop tomorrow morning, call my mother and tell her to write a nice obituary. Goodbye. What? No, I mailed the rent yesterday. *(Hangs up) You rat. (Carrying glass, exits to kitchen…a few minutes later the doorbell rings. Margaret opens the door slightly, but the audience cannot see who is there until he enters.)

Bill: Hi, I’m. Bill Gopher, your fantastic electrician, you will never get this kind of service again…unless we always live in the same building…say, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

Marg: Yes, we passed in the basement laundry room last week.

Bill: I thought you looked familiar. (Pause) Would you like to bring the air conditioner out here…or do you want me to come in and fix it?

Marg: Oh I’m sorry, come in. (He does and heads for A.C) I’m Margaret Melon. These past ten minutes of both heat and silence have retarded me. Excuse me. (Exits to K.)

Bill: (Taking out tools and crooning back of A.C., calls) You want to hear a sad pun?

Marg: Yes, what?

Bill: I’m a Gopher in a melon patch.

Marg: Ah… yes. That’s very funny. Would you like a glass of wine?

Bill: No, it’s sick and yes I would. I’ve been working too much overtime. (Marg gives him a glass of wine and sits in chair L.) You know what you said about the silence paralyzing you? I’ve noticed a strange reaction too. If you can stand the heat, a couple of hours of the quiet are really shattering. Warm in here isn’t it?

Marg: Sweltering. Shall I open the hall for awhile?

Bill: No I hate the heat but I hate the God-damn mechanical drone of the air conditioners more.

Marg: Now that’s funny…that’s all you work on isn’t it?

Bill: Just these past three summers, with the wild heat wave an all. I do other things in the winter, say Margaret, what’s this, do you know? (Holds up a small jelly like blob, Marg inspects it and shakes her head.) That’s funny. I’ve found hundreds of them and can’t figure out what they’re for or why they are in the machines. Say, that’s some great smell!

Marg: (Exits room but calls) It’s only leftovers, but would you care to join me?

Bill: Great, let’s do it. (Drops all tools, large screwdriver lands on foot) Argggh! Bitch, shit, damn, fort, kiss..

Marg: (Re-enters, sets table) What did you say, I didn’t hear you.

Bill: Just some electrical terms.

Marg: Help yourself to the wine, it’s the only cool thing in here.

Bill: (Does so and sits L. arm of couch) Funny blob, it’s almost translucent.

Marg: Have you investigated this before?

Bill: Yep, but the head office thinks I’m looney…they know nothing about it. It’s not just new models either, I’ve found them in old tanks like yours.

Marg: I resent that. Mine is a family heirloom.

Bill: When was the last time you had it serviced?

Marg: Not in the four years I’ve had it. That is queer, the hardware looks brand new.

Bill: (Rummages in case and pulls out mason jar with larger blob) look at this one. (About 3 inches long and as thick as a thumb) I took that out of a huge industrial complex last week. You know, I think I’m either blowing my cool with overtime or I’ve boon reading too Much Bradbury.

Marg: Why, what’s the matter?

Bill: (Refills glass and sits L.) The shifts were changing when I work and the men that were leaving seemed unfocused and vague in both speech and actions.

Marg: Maybe they were just besotted with the heat.

Bill: No, No. the machine had never-completely broken down. The first thing I spotted was this wire…when I pointed it out to the maintenance man assisting me he, I think unconsciously, started to push away, and then just wandered off. Later he helped me to clean up and seemed much more alert….doesn’t make any sense does it.

Mark: No, but not a hell of a lot does! How would you like some chow? (exits)

Bill: Sounds like an excellent idea.

Marg: What did the conditioner sound like at first?

Bill: I’m not sure… if it isn’t working right in the first place, it’s hard to determine pother the sound is due to a parts failure or the addition of something else. Margaret, does anyone have a key to the apartment besides yourself?

Marg: (Entering with food) No one except Daisy, And she’s so particular I had to give her written permission last winter to let the maintenance man regulate the heat outlets.

Bill: When was that?

Marg: Late November.

Bill: That’s funny. I don’t think they did anything, in my apartment… maybe the efficiencies didn’t matter.

Marg: Do you have your own air-conditioner or use the central unit?

Bill: The central unit, but I leave it on all day and turn it off when I get home. Usually after 7 in the summer.

Marg: Why, the noise?

Bill: Yes, I read a bit and concentration is nil with all that snarling over my shoulder. By the way, excellent dinner.

(Phone rings)

Part 2 coming next week!

Posted in America | Leave a comment

Serendipity of Travel

If you’ve followed any of my previous blogs you’ve probably noticed our inclinations for accommodations on our travels.  We eschew the big, sterile international chains (like the Hiltons, Hyatts) and prefer small scale hotels with, hopefully, historical and/ or cultural significance.  We’re not seeking the plush places with all the bells and whistles but friendly hotels with comfortable rooms, private bathrooms and, yes, a bar.
But….and so the story begins.
Somport pass
 
In the summer of 1993 we planned a trip along the 10th century pilgrimage route –some 600 miles–of the Camino de Santiago.  The route is well known in Spain and many parts of Europe but not so in the U. S. at the time of our trip (this changed with the 2010 film The Way starring Martin Sheen).  We crossed over the Pyrenees from France  via the Somport Pass in our trusty rental Renault.
Most pilgrims walk the way (or parts of it)–we, lazy Americans, drove.  Mike did his  homework and found our first night stay–the Monasterio de Leyre -a 11th  century Romanesque monastery with its adjoining 18th century inn. The structure is set high up a mountain side over looking a beautiful lake, as seen in the last photo. The interior cathedral was magnificent and it would have been nice to attend a mass there.
Leyer 3
Monasterio de Leyre Interior 2
Perfect–historic, cultural, a great restaurant and relaxing–ah!  Of course being pre-email days we had made no reservations–as in previous travels in Spain we just showed up.  Onward–as we pushed our car up the circuitous path we noticed and dismissed  several black SUVs with blackened windows parked facing down hill along the road.  At the top we were met by a flock of black suited policemen–all with serious automatic weapons.  Wow!  I chided Mike to just continue–to the vocal and loud consternation of the security folks.  Push on we did–Mike sweating profusely.  I jumped out of the car and made a dash to the monastery with the aide of a priest at my side pulling me along and out of the way. He was speaking rapidly and in a frenzy, as was I, expect the conversation was nothing more than loud emotionally-charged sounds since neither of us understood the others language. But we both understood we weren’t suppose to be there. While Mike stayed in the car and tried to ignore the glaring police and their guns but finally chickened-out and safely parked the car.
Fifteen minutes later I returned to the car.  No rooms at the inn!  What’s up?  Well–it turned out that the Spanish King was visiting and staying overnight in the monastery.  At this time the Basque separatist group, ETA, was raising havoc in this region–consequently the heavy security for the King and of course no rooms for the public.
We slowly left–wiping our brows–but alive!
On to Plan B–but we had no Plan B.   We decided not to move on and to seek  local accommodations in the small village of Yesa because the next day we planned a “must  visit ” to the nearby stunning 11th century Monasterio de la Pena. (What makes this monastery so unusual–mind boggling in reality–is that the cloister is covered like a dome with a massive boulder.  Ah, those playful monks!)
The second picture gives a good idea of how massive the rock face it was built under is. They definitely had protection and secrecy in mind.
La pena
san-juan-de-la-pena
Driving on the outskirts of Yesa we spied a low-slung 2 story building of 1940 vintage ,with a unusually large parking lot, set back from the tree lined main road–ah! A hotel.  With a smidgen of Spanish, bits of English, hand gestures and timely grunts we secured a room.  We dragged our luggage upstairs and entered our room–Spartan but clean–2 single beds, no carpeting, no chairs, no TV nor phone, no chocolates on the pillows–and no private or shared bathroom!  What?! (There was a small pot that I assumed was a bed pan, and if not it became one.) Down the hall we found the huge communal bathroom for the entire floor of 30 rooms.   The single open room housed multiple open shower heads, toilets and wash stands–just like a high school gym locker room–and this one for men only.  There seemed to be no one on the top floor in the late afternoon, but to be safe Mike guarded the “bathroom” door as I went about my ablutions.  Mike was next–no guard necessary.  Well, it turned out that the “hotel” was in reality designed as a dormitory for long haul truckers– hence the mammoth parking lot.
Clean and relaxed we skipped the hotel/dorm restaurant and went into town for dinner at a very local tavern.    A bottle of good Spanish wine and a excellent meal–great–except–when we got the bill Mike handed over a credit card.  No cards accepted.  We had no Spanish pesetas (pre-Euro days) since the currency office at the border was closed when we entered Spain. The French francs, the U.S.  dollars and our travelers checks were all refused.  Washing dishes at at a small out of the way Spanish restaurant?  Good for our resumes?
Much to our relief a woman diner approached our table.  As an English woman living in Spain with her Spanish husband she, of course, spoke fluent Spanish and was able to convince the restaurant owners to accept our traveler’s checks.  Saved.  Interestingly, we encountered this woman and her husband several more times in the following days since they, too, were traversing  the Camino de Santiago by car–lazy folks!
Do memories of travel always align with times when plans go off just right?  Well, twenty-seven years later the travel’s of our first day in Spain in 1993 are engraved fondly in our memory.  The serendipity of travel.
Posted in Spain | Leave a comment

The Doctors Orders

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen and quickly, even insidiously, something slipped from the counter to the floor. I jumped and lunged forward to catch the monstrous spider, or whatever it was, before it could hide, only to sneak out later and bite my bare feet. That morning was the first time I had waked before the rollicking belching the clock makes when it announces dawn.

Anyway, the creature had disappeared. It wasn’t even in my huge open purse that sits on the floor by the china cabinet. The day passed as usual. I should have been warned by that. Being a teacher of mainly psychotic high school students I am always wary of things with a tinge of normalcy.

Last might I told Mike. A Mistake. He felt I should see a good brain specialist, but since I was not the possessor of a super brain he said maybe a psychiatrist would do as well. He adroitly side-stepped my well aimed kick to his shin and offered to do the dishes if I would recuperate over a glass a wine from my day in the black-board jungle.

The following week I made an appointment with an eye-doctor. I told the receptionist that I would be dead inside of thirty-six hours if they didn’t take me withing the next of twenty-four. This was a dastardly lie but the first opening he had was for six months hence and I was frightened by the denseness and frequency of these vague dark blobs that seemed to be increasing each day.

The day of the appointment I was driving home from school when an apparently a driverless car passed me. My curiosity was piqued as to whether it was remote controlled or being driven by a midget. So I accelerated and as I glanced over and the only reason I did not faint was from the five year habit of the same lights, stop signs and traffic at this time, each day driving to and from school. My reflexes became totally automatic and I could not, later, remember having thought about another thing on that particular drive. I think my reactions pleased the nurse, who eyed every emergency patient as a deliberate and purposeful threat to her dinner hour.

A black, writhing, quivering blob.

“Pardon?” Said the eye doctor.

“Sorry” I murmured, “As he plunged the pencil thin light into my right eye, “just thinking aloud.”‘ “Now” he said, breathing heavily into my ear and gleefully keeping his balance on the poka-dotted bar stool which matched the poka-dotted awning over his tool chest, the floor length drapes in the reception room, and the future plan for a life-size poka-dotted Mickey Mouse Cartoon on the ceiling.

“Now” he warmly breathed again, furtively consulting his wrist watch for my remaining, number of minutes, “what seems to be the trouble?”

Matching his geniality I smiled, “Doctor, I seem to be having an on slought of the blobs.”

“Hmmm.” He minutely inspected a damaged cuticle. His adorable secretary wiggled through the room and diplomatically placed the next case history on top of mine. Her smile congratulated the doctor of his fantastic discoveries in the field of science.

“I see. Perhaps you could be more definitive.” He stood up. A signal that I had about a minute and thirty seconds left.

“Doctor, for the past two weeks I’ve been seeing black blobs, like marshmallows in density, and they all disappear when I get tam close. This morning I reached for the alarm clock and a big black glob covered it. On the way here I looked into the diver’s seat of another car and it was filled with a massive, quivering blob. I thought you might be able to discover if it had anything to do with my vision.”

“I see,” he said giving me his fatherly-concerned-look, “oh yes, I do see.” “We would have to consider this a preliminary examination, and, on the basis of your problem, go into much further indepth in the future. The eye, my dear is an unusual and very finely tuned organ of the body…and blah, blah, furthermore…. and possibly in the next examination etc., etc. Have my secretary schedule for a month from now and afterwards I suggest you take two aspirins and drink plenty of fluids.”

“Try to relax my dear.” As he patted me on the shoulder in the direction of the door, “If your spots are a result of some slight imperfection in vision just put yourself in my care.”

Mike met me at the door with a glass of wine and a hug. The embraces were always the best part of the day, long and saying much with no words.

“I say the doctor.” “Oh” pause,”should we be knitting booties.”

“No idiot, the eye doctor. I’m not sure what he said, if he said anything, but I’m supposed to take aspirin and return in a month.” I responded.

I related the incident driving home and he just frowned and sipped his wine. We were to dine with my parents that evening and the nostalgic sight of my father fondly stirring the martinis dispelled all anxieties. For a while… It was comfortable sitting in front of the fire place, sipping cocktails and teasingly nudging Mike with my knee. He was frowning over his pipe as my mother went into her usual proclamation and dissertation. This time it was about the unique advantages only those who had attended boarding high schools had and she could not understand how one could make it through life without having done so. My father smiled and nodded, sneaking a third martini.

“…don’t you agree Mike?” “Uhm, yes, I see.” said Mike as he tapped the burned tobacco into the ashtray.

“Good. Sissy, you light the candles o the table and everyone else carry their glasses into the kitchen ordered mother. I stopped at the entrance to the dinning room, fumbling for the light switch and froze. The entire darkened room swayed and undulated, quivering and retreating before me. From doorway to the French windows it was filled with a jelly-like spongy black mass. It breathed and sighed and seemed to mesh out toward me when Mike grabbed me by the shoulder. “What’s the matter giddy, what is it?” He flipped the switch to the chandelier. He smacked me on the fanny and muttered “No more martinis for some of us.” as he disappeared into the kitchen.

Dinner was normal. As Mother ran through her usual verbal tirade on the neighbors, the Catholic Church, Miami Beach, and her Family. Dad would wait for her to take a breathe and pounce to change the subject. Between her oratorical kickoffs and his interceptions, we progressed from soup to dessert without a break. The only dramatic relief was Mike quietly breaking the stem of his wineglass. I was the only one who noticed. “….don’t you agree Mike?” said Mother. “Ummm, yes, I see.” said Mike as he calmly broke the handle of his coffee cup.

The comedic relief only lasted a moment when a crackling news announcement interrupted the radio in the room over that had been playing some soft jazz.

“State and county health advisers are announcing a recall on all table grapes and grape products, including wine. A new and, until recently, undiscovered fungus has been affecting the grape crops of this region and others. This new fungus is known to cause a kind of delirium and hallucinations of moving black splotches and blurred vision. Worst yet, it can lead to aggression and psychosis and nerves break-downs.”

Stunned, my jaw dropped and I looked over at Mike. His eyes were bloodshot red and crazed and his broken wine glass stem was being held like a knife. Looks like I wasn’t the only one getting carried away with the local wines… which were highly contaminated.

Mike rose from his seat and lunged for my father, a tussle ensued and the two fell to the floor with Mike on top.

*THWOMP!*

My mother stood over Mike with a rolling pin, who’s body was now pancaking my father to the floor.

She looked at me and said, “Now why couldn’t you have married a nice Catholic boy?!”

 

—Co-authored by Kevin Klimczak, tech extraordinaire. (The ending scene was my work but influenced by Caroline’s humor- which is delightful!)

Posted in America | Leave a comment

1976- Dreams, Jobs, & Love (Part 4)

What the hell are you doing here I gasped. Sid sat down and said they were wondering what our first Thespian production at the high school was going to be. I asked Dean why he hadn’t sent a letter instead of traveling eight hundred miles and did their parents know where they were and where the devil could I put them that night. It was now ten after twelve. The Hulk answered soothingly that he had already made arrangements with a neighboring tourist home shortly after the boys arrived. How did they arrive, what time, I asked. Dean answered that they had flown into Boston at seven and arrived at the front door of the theatre, via Greyhound bus, at 10:30.

The Hulk had taken them on tour of the stage and made the sleeping arrangements. He now quietly sat between the boys and put an arm on the back of Dean’s chair. We had made the Leisure Hour an open invitation at the beginning of the summer but apparently nobody buy myself and Bud cared to fraternize with the help. I was very surprised that the Hulk hadn’t just directed the boys to the bar and left it at that. At one o’clock we left the Inn and walked back. I said I’d see them around 8:30 and Nora said if they wanted to pay $2.00 each that they could eat in the mess hall. My separation of teacher/personal life was going to be badly strained by this visit.

At seven the next morning Nora dragged into my room and said the boys had just beat on her door, wanting me to dress and come down to the lounge. When I arrived they were in the middle of an argument with our high school senior who was paid to do the heavy construction. Sid, whose sole credit in set construction was an outhouse he designed for Lil’ Abner last year, was defending the creative versus practical approach to designing sets. I could see from their eyes that they never went to bed at all and then discovered that they had been walking on the beach since 5 a.m. With breakfast not starting for another forty-five minutes, I took them to a cozy restaurant by the Lighthouse. I had three additional cups of coffee while waiting for them to consume their second round of eggs, bacon and toast. Afterward, while hobbling on the beach, I explained that I’d be busy till three and they had to shift for themselves till then. My attempt at diplomacy failed completely. At two minutes to twelve they were in the kitchen asking if they could pay for lunch in the mess hall. The Hulk immediately rose from his usual seat and joined us at a corner table. Between bites of potatoes soup he offered to entertain the boys while I rehearsed after lunch. I agreed and wondered if the Hulk were making shy advances to me through the boys. Wrong again. His chumminess irritated a little when he left the dining room with an arm around each of the boys.

At 3:15, sitting on the kitchen table and drinking Nora’s coffee, I told the boys what the agenda would be for the remainder of their visit. Due to the all-male play, I still had Friday and Saturday night free but Sunday they were to be on the noon bus back to Boston. Sid, I said, with your artistic abilities, you will immediately create and execute a superb painting to advertise our Shakespearean comedy. And Dean, you will spend your time in the construction shop acquiring the knowledge and ability to assemble a first-rate set. We’ll eat dinner here tonight and you can spend the evening backstage watching the technical production of a show. Maintaining the same vigorous authority I used when directing a high school production was my only means for separation of Church and Stage.

During dinner Sid said he had completed the charcoal sketch of the poster and could finish it by Saturday afternoon. Dean was excited by what he’d learned in the shop. He added that the Hulk had volunteered as guide for the backstage tour and invited Sid to come along. Suddenly noticing the averted face of the Hulk at the next table, I put 2 and 1 together and got 3. So that was his bag. I requested the boys to stay together and join us in the Leisure Hour after the performance. They did but not until 12:30.

Dean’s face was flushed when they entered the bar but Sid was laughing. On the walk home I maneuvered them into telling why they were so late. Dean looked away but Sid launched into a five minute description of the Hulk’s offer to drive them to the Inn, his roundabout route there and his subsequent laying of hands on Dean’s knee and later, thigh. I had a suspicion that both boys were enjoying this but weren’t fully aware of the consequences. They objected to my suggestion that they catch the 8 a.m. Saturday Greyhound and begged to remain till Sunday. On one condition, I said, you remain with me like glue.

I spent part of Saturday morning watching Sid paint a beautiful poster and the afternoon on set construction helping Dean build a section of the ramp for our final production. During coffee break one of the crew painted my cast. Using a sponge, she alternated lavender and blue and made it a work of art.

The boys had paid their way that day and I took them to dinner at Wesquosette Inn. My painted cast and matching lavender knit suit caused a slight stir. Several people stopped by the table to express their enthusiasm for our summer season and one romantic even sent a martini with a single rose. I ordered wine with our dinner and the waiter unblinkingly placed wineglasses in front of the boys. Since no one questioned the boys’ ages, we later moved into the patio bar for an after dinner drink. I suggested they dance if anyone was available and Sid immediately trotted over to a 45ish blonde who had been smiling at him. Dean, his sun-bleached hair falling over his eyes morosely stirred his drink. I asked him why the depression and he said Sid had been working on him to befriend the Hulk to see what would happen. I said do you know what could happen. Yes. I asked are you willing to deal with the results just to satisfy your curiosity. Dean said that was the problem, he didn’t know. This guy’s over 40 Dean, this is neither a game nor a novel experience.

Knowing they would do exactly as they wanted, I said no more. At. 9 o’clock Sunday morning, Nora, Dee and I were having coffee in the kitchen and Sid strolled in. I was planning on ten o’clock church, an early lunch with the boys and escorting them onto that noon bus. Where’s Dean I asked. Sleeping I suppose he said and smiled. Oh you ass, come on and I grabbed his arm and headed for the tourist home. Sid refused to go upstairs and remained in the living room. I opened their door to find the Hulk standing beside the bed staring down at a sleeping Dean. I closed the door softly and the Hulk looked at me. I moved across the bed from him and pointed to the door. Get your sick body out of here or I’ll write your school board and screw your ever putting a foot in the classroom again. When the door closed I sat on the bed and shook Dean. I’m awake he said, just slightly petrified. I asked if Sid had done that and he said probably. Come on I said, get dressed and packed, you guys are going to church with me.

The noxious bus fumes were like perfume when I watched the boys out of sight.

Starting at one o’clock that afternoon rehearsals for As You Like It would run around the clock until Wednesday’s opening. My part as the Fairy Queen only entered the last half hour so I’d be free from four til nine with nothing to do. There was one final move I could make and with one week of stock left, I decided to do it today. At four-thirty I walked into the bar beside the wharf where George’s boat would dock. I sat at a corner table over-looking the water and opened a book. I watched every boat that entered the harbor. At ten to six the Herself Alone began her circle up to the dock space. I left the bar and stood about 100 feet from the dock site. I could see George on the deck rewinding a length of rope. Ben, his best friend, was piloting. George had lost weight and had deep circles under his eyes. I wondered if he were ill. His movements were slow and aimless. Ben. looked up, gazed at me for a moment, yelled something to George and headed the boat back out to open sea. George had not seen me and now had his back to the dock. I hoped that Ben would tell him later that I had been on the wharf. It was over. He was to call my parent’s home twice at X-Mas, but I was not to see him again. Driving back to the theatre I decided on one week of self pity, and with my exit from summer stock I would start some planning for the future. Miss Stratford, our director of this final production, was beginning to suffer some pangs of remorse. Sherri, the luscious bitch, had warmly befriended that lonely old maid and literally sweet-talked her way into the lead role. Now that she had no more use for her, Sherri cold-shouldered Miss Stratford every chance she got. We felt sorry for Miss Stratford but it was the kind of pity you have for someone dumb enough to get bilked.

It was generally a good opening. The review was quite praising of everything . . except for the lead female. They compared her to milktoast after a bout of the flu.

The last two days were great. There was a great deal of warmth, sharing and laughter. Most were leaving on Sunday and I made plans to drive Dee and Nora to the Hyannis Airport as soon as the noon meal was over. I was going to spend a week in Falmouth and head home Labor Day weekend. On the way to Hyannis we stopped at the hospital and I had the front part of the cast cut off and the bottom half rewound with gauze to keep it in place. I was supposed to wear it another two weeks, but at least now I could remove it for swimming and replace it myself. I figured that a lot of swimming would enable me to discard it a week early.

Falmouth was great. The sun every day, the ocean and salt breezes, a great Inn with warm hosts, and a variety of eligible males. It soothed. I had an address in my wallet and a letter that had to be written by Labor Day. On the opening night of the last play, a grey haired man, a good friend of our noble director, met me backstage. He had a proposition. In October he was having tryouts for a Broadway play and if I was interested, he would guarantee me a part. There it was, take it or leave it. I said I would have to think about it. He said one week, write and I’ll send you a contract. No lights, no music, just a straight forward business offer.

I lay on the beach the last day of summer. Suddenly the forth coming new crop of students and the future seemed much more exciting than a play could ever be. My daily acting in the class-room far exceeded the exertions for any theatre.

I laughed when I found one of the pictures the baby had stuffed into my jewelry box. It showed a tall, starry-eyed creature costumed for John Brown’s Body. Winnie was just beginning my education in real dramas!

End.

Almost, hang on for one more minute. I’ve never said much about that summer because when we married, five months later, it was still too close and raw for me to handle objectively. Delighted with our life style, you and Winnie, I wanted to explain my infrequent eruptions of hambone. They’re part of me and will continue. I hope you can grow to love that facet of me too.

Posted in America | Leave a comment

1976- Dreams, Jobs, & Love (Part 3)

Monday afternoon we started rehearsals for Barefoot in the Park. I had been waiting for that mother-in-law part all summer. Right in the middle of a big monologue, Bud stuck his head up the stairs to the rehearsal room, located above the lobby, and signaled I had a visitor. Our director, being noble, called Coffee Break and I went down the steps three at a time. My enthusiasm vanished when the guest turned around and I recognized one of our hosts from the Clam Bar. We arranged to meet at’10:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Wayfare Inn. I had hoped the appearance of three of us would dampen his ardor. It didn’t, but I did. As we walked back to the theater afterward I echoed his desire to meet again saying that my fiancee and I had agreed to date this summer. The implied word marriage sent him rushing off without even a kiss. For weeks I had been waking up hoping to hear the crash of pebbles on the window.

On the two occasions I visited our solitary pay telephone in the costume shop, there had been fittings for the forthcoming production. With luck, and lots of costume fittings, I could hold out as long as George. The winner of course would be the loser. Nightly I still checked the parking lot. Sunday, during noon dinner, our director announced that there would be an emergency meeting in the lounge after coffee. The air immediately vibrated whispers as to whether there was a thief among us, our housing had finally been condemned or was the stew loaded with ptomaine. Each one came up with their own conclusion, mine being that a talent scout had observed me in a Barefoot rehearsal and the meeting was to announce my immediate departure for New York. I was quietly rehearsing a THANK-YOU FOR EVERYTHING SPEECH when our director began talking. Apparently there was a snag in obtaining the rights for the play that was originally to follow Barefoot and they were now switching to an all male play. My joy was overwhelming. Starting tomorrow, other than minimum duties, I had all afternoons free! Sharing my abandon with Dee and Nora in the kitchen, they immediately planned a week of casserole dinner so we could hit the beach daily.

Monday and Tuesday worked well but opening night brought a catastrophe that almost finished Barefoot in the Park and my summer. Wednesday I skipped dinner and spent the extra time at the Chatham Fishing Pier solidifying my lines. The mother did not enter until the middle of Act 1. I avoided the pre-curtain chaos and didn’t make-up until the play started. The first Act went smoothly and the audience was delighted.

Near the end of the play, the mother-in-law, caught in the typical Simon sticky situation, reappears from the neighboring bachelor apartment in same bachelor’s bathrobe and slippers. Only a slight variation from the final plot: one of the feet in the enormous slippers was broken. Between the final curtain calls my stage daughter hugged me and said you were great, that last scene was so real you had tears in your eyes! I said you would have too if your left foot was gradually filling a size thirteen slipper. Help me to the hospital. The quick change in the costume shop located about 50 feet from the back of the theater and linked to it by a rutted dirt road and the subsequent race for my entrance had been too much. I had caught that slipper in a pot-hole, fell, and bounced up to find a definite weakening in the left ankle. By the end of the play the foot had swelled enormously and turned eye shadow blue. The prompt application of alternate ice and warm water did nothing but the medicinal Scotch obliterated all feeling except the memory of the applause.

Thursday morning the doctor solemnly announced that the foot was broken and I must stay off of it for 48 hours. The directors wife and I exchanged glances and I said the Show Must Go On and what can you do to enable me to appear on stage this evening. Oh, he said. Well….(Dramatic pause), I can give you a walking cast if you promise not to put your foot down until eight o’clock tonight. All was saved, modern medicine had conquered again.

That evening, at 8:05, our loyal director mounted the stage steps and announced that due to an accident, one of the cast members was in a cast, but directed the audience not to ignore the total cast but only the foot cast. The real irony lay in the fact that my first entrance came after I had (supposedly) just climbed seven flights of stairs. When I staggered onto the stage there was an unbreathing quiet. I was supposed to pant for a few minutes and did so. The audience had been watching each character’s entrance, with bated breath, for 20 minutes, anxiously awaiting THE cast, and now it-was here. After considering the cast from all angles, I meanwhile dramatically panting, they decided to rise to a standing ovation. I, in character and panting diaphramically, smiled and made a mental note to write Helen Hayes in the morning and ask her to airmail the crown. The review, of course, I framed. Copies were sent not only to family, but also friends and casual acquaintances. There was only one person I didn’t send the review to, I knew he had it already.

The additional free time now with my other duties deleted, gave me hours to dream. And think. Since the left foot was broken, I could still drive the car and began to investigate the surrounding countryside with short excursions. One of the side trips turned out to be the high point of my summer. I caught a matinee of Little Foxes with Geraldine Page at the Cape Cod Play-house. Lillian Hellman herself could not have envisioned a more superb Regina. Afterward, over a lonely cocktail, I contemplated a future in theatre.

To do it well, one would have to subordinate every other desire. There was much more involved than G.B. Shaw’s quote “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” It was a choice between real life or spot life. Our leisure hour discussion that night delved into philosophical arguments as to the meaning of life and etc. Since Nora and Bud were openly holding hands, the final hour of Last Calls got into a heated debate over man’s intrinsic need to love versus career, goals, family and etc. Fundamentally we agreed but enjoyed argueing over semantics. Sunday dinner and only two weeks of -stock to go. The Hulk and I lingered over coffee and compared notes on Hopes not Fulfilled so far that summer. I was charmed at his disappointment in not getting to know me better until a few days later when I found out exactly why this hadn’t happened.

Both the mornings and afternoons of these last two weeks were to be spent in our final production, a Shakespearean Comedy. My foot problem had eliminated any chance for one of the juicier female parts involving much prancing about the stage, but landed me with the character (I was embarrassed to write this to friends) of the Fairy Queen. She appeared the last fifteen minutes of the play and again solved all the problems of those involved. Luckily I didn’t have to introduce anybody to their long lost son. Tuesday, after breakfast, our director asked me to help on one of the vitally important creative aspects of summer stock. Without investigating further, I immediately said yes and found I had agreed to paint the five by nine foot poster hung on the street in front of the theatre to advertise the final production. I, who had flunked Crafts in kindergarten. One entire afternoon was spent staring at the canvas trying to get an inspiration. I got a good case of sunburn.

Most of the men disappeared shortly after dinner to make up for the all male company. The cooks would be busy for another hour and I had just reread the newspaper headlines for the third time without assimilating anything. Watching the setting sun flicker through the windows of the lounge, I suddenly longed to be home. To be surrounded by the humdrum and mundane. Maybe my period was coming. I even missed doing the dinner dishes. Deciding that two aspirin and an hour at the laundromat might improve my spirits, I hobbled out to the kitchen to see if Nora and Dee wanted any laundry done. Bud was tied up in the ticket office that night and couldn’t make the Leisure Hour. Nora and Dee had gotten teaching positions in the same city and were discussing the possibility of sharing an apartment. Dee had already made arrangements to live with a good friend and felt that the three of them could manage in a two bedroom apartment. From there we went into a discussion of high-school classes and the initial problems of a first year teacher. Remembering my own beginning agonies I laughed and said that anyone who could manage 25 nitwits for three meals a day could certainly handle 30 teenagers in a classroom. At that moment the Hulk entered the bar with two boys in tow. The boys came to the table and stood there grinning at me. I began choking as I recognized Dean and Sid, two of my last year’s drama students.

Still to come: Part 4 (The finally)

Posted in Turkey | Leave a comment

1976- Dreams, Jobs, & Love (Part 2)

The heat in Boston was intense and it drove us onto the Cape a day early. Provincetown was exciting, vivid and packed. I have to laugh when I remember our last dinner there. We sat at a bar overlooking the activity of Fisherman’s Wharf till the sun was setting. Dorothy brought my attention to the fact that the bar had become packed with men. Of the two remaining empty seats, one was on my right and the other on her left. Our dinner waitress informed us that this was the “in” spot that summer for the 25 and over “swingers”. We went elsewhere for dessert. Out last stop was Chatham. And George.

Chatham Light House was to be my flashing beacon for the remainder of that summer. Later on, when some of us from the theater would get ourselves together walking that moonlit beach at the end of a grueling day, I would remember the emotions shared with George that foggy Saturday afternoon.

It was the first time we were together since Christmas. He squired us to dinner that evening at the Wesquasette Inn. The rambling restaurant caps a small hill and presides over a lovely bay. We drank and laughed on the tree shaded patio till the twilight chill blew us inside. After maneuvering for a window table, he ordered baked stuffed lobsters and a delightful puckery white wine for the three of us. No, I don’t remember whose or what wine it was. While dancing in the bar later, I suggested that we drop Dorothy at the motel and go back to his boat. He refused and said since I came with her I would remain with her till we took her to the airport on Sunday. He added that we would make up all lost time the following two days. We did.

Tuesday at noon we parted. George drove back to Lee and I had to report in. In full theatrical splendor I entered the hallway and fell over a piece of luggage. It took me ten minutes to find our noble director. And he was noble, believe me. I only saw him lose his calm once all that frenzied summer. He said I was lucky because I had the only single bedroom in the house. After one look at the room I decided that there was no luck involved at all, it was an oversized closet that you could only get to by going through the cook’s bedroom.

The house itself was enormous and ugly. There were twenty-four of us bedded down in the two ramshakle wings of the main structure. Eight females shared the same bathroom. By the end of the summer we had our processes of elimination down to seconds.

The theater was only fifty feet from the side entrance of our dwelling. It was beautiful. Before I unpacked I had to see the stage to which future generations would point and say SHE spent a summer here. Who cared about the bedroom, I would spend my summer in this plush little theater prancing about the stage.

We had our first group dinner that evening and it was as bad as opening night. Only a few people knew each other and they sat together. The rest of us nervously praised the bread, margarine, dishes, food and the weather. I felt badly because I couldn’t get the names straight… then someone called me Bud.

Over coffee our director made general announcements about how our working day would be divided. We did have some time off; Sunday till noon. The other six days would consist of morning voice and diction classes, lunch, afternoon rehearsals for the following weeks play, dinner, and make-up for that evening’s performance at 7:15. Since we were doing eight plays in ten weeks, we would have to find our own time for memorizing lines. Our first play would open twelve days from now he said, so we moved into the living room for tryouts. The cast list would be posted by nine the following morning. Tryouts. My fingers began to tremble and my nose to twitch. On opening night you could hide in the character, during tryouts you were bare and vulnerable. Since there were only five females picked to act, my turn would come soon and often.

Luckily I was last and encouraged by hearing the others misread the pithy, witty lines of Christopher Fry. I did well and got the part I wanted. An auspicious beginning to my chosen career! Now if I could only manage not to fall when I made my first entrance.

The opening productions were two one act plays. In my play there were three characters, two females and a male. Most of the action was the interaction between the two women. Sheri, the other woman, was 21, luscious and totally devoid of any emotion or feeling that did not pertain to sweet-talking, snarling or clawing her way to success. This did not include working hard. Only my theory of solid effort tempered with occasional lunacy kept me from drowning here in cold cream. She frequently interrupted rehearsal to tell the director that, perhaps I (meaning me) should move this way instead of that, or say thus instead of so. During the first dress rehearsal Sheri neither knew her lines nor all of her blocking but outdid Helen Hayes in charm and sweet apology. That was the only time I saw our noble director throw his cool that entire summer. His anger left her in shreds. It took her two days to regain her normal vigor and then she spent the rest of the summer verbally castrating our director. Except to me.

Saturday morning at 6 A.M. George threw stones at my window. He motioned me down and I scrambled into clothes and makeup in seven minutes flat. As I finished, Flora, one of the cooks, bounded in to tell me that George was in the kitchen. She later told me that he pounded on the door demanding to know which room was mine then came back and demanded a cup of coffee.

I found him there, sitting on the sink and both Flora and Dee fighting over his refill. He patted them both on the fanny, grabbed my arm and whisked me out to his Lincoln. Making love early in the morning on a secluded shore is an experience. The only drawback was one vigorous sandcrabs.

Later, after an enormous breakfast, we talked. We drank more coffee and talked. We could have talked non stop for a year. Since I didn’t have to be back at the theater till one (classes didn’t start till Monday) we managed to cram a whole day of sharing into a few hours.

George picked me up at seven Sunday morning and waited for me while I attended Church. We repeated Saturday except that after breakfast we returned to the beach and walked. George brought up a subject that I usually avoided: marriage. He was separated with his wife wanting absolutely everything. I, happily, was not the cause of the Big Split but was the reason George wanted the final decision quickly. He wanted us to marry the day, the hour, that the divorce became final. I agreed but only if it were late Spring or Summer. George questioned this and I said that I couldn’t legally or morally walk out on my school without giving sixty days notice. He said screw the school. I said I would never be able to get another teaching position… and from the way things looked financially, wouldn’t my working be a real asset? Yes he mumbled, yes God-damn it, yes. He had me back at the theater at 12:58.

Wednesday, opening night. Make-up, panic, lights and applause. Just before curtain call I saw George’s car in the parking lot. He drove 300 miles round trip just for my opening. He didn’t come backstage afterward. I was to see him two more times that Summer.

Thursday at five minutes to five every cast member appeared at the drugstore to catch the Review. Some slinked away, some smilingly walked and one strutted. Me. Even my mental reviews weren’t as glowing as the real one. Geraldine Page, move over, you’re about to be usurped.

Three weeks, two plays, and minus six pounds later, I realized that I hadn’t heard from George. Seeing him for more than an hour would have been impossible but he had neither called nor written and I was vaguely disturbed.

The following Wednesday, during the opening night intermission of JOHN BROWN’S BODY, I saw his car in the parking lot with the overhead light on. I waited 30 minutes after curtain call then checked the lot, his car was gone.

I had missed the beach walk with our cooks, Flora and Dee, and Bud, our house manager, but was in time for a couple of “last calls” at the Wayfare Inn. I was happy that the cooks liked me. If they hadn’t I would have had to sleep on the couch any night they felt like locking their door, and consequently, my closet/bedroom.

That night we had the first thunder storm of the summer. Even the brilliant flashes of lightening couldn’t blur the image of his car with the overhead light on. I took the script of the forth-coming play under the covers with me. The rain chilled wind sent love pats through the two blankets and thick bedspread. Adding my robe helped but apparently it was too cold for the fleas on the beach blanket and they migrated to me for warmth. Even when my single window was tightly closed-there was a two inch gap on the right side of the sill. I could hear the rain plopping on the floor until the sky started to lighten.

The last bell for breakfast rang allowing me seven minutes to dress, make-up, and obtain the bathroom. I managed the first two in a record four minutes but it took another five to obtain free access to the toilet. Flora and Dee allowed me to snatch oleoed toast and lukewarm coffee as I raced through the kitchen to the theater. The cooks were limited to $2.00 per person per day but managed to make the other two meals more enticing by holding breakfast to about $0.15 per. Consequently the starches were astronomical, but the meals filling.

I slithered into line three seconds after the class bell and was annihilated by one glance from Miss Stratford, as we had unanimously nicknamed her, our Voice and Diction coach. Punctuality was next to Godliness she had announced on the first day of class and if one could not manage to be Punctual, then one should not attend class at all…etc… all said with her most clipped British consonants.

For one and a half hours we, breathed, gasped, hollared and beat our diaphragms into fuller and richer consonant sounds. At the end of ten weeks, any one of us could have passed the afternoon in a London pub without being recognized as an American. Release came with the 10:30 coffee break. Most of us sneaked a cigarette while either in the coffee line or the mailcall. Between the two, the time was blown.

My most welcome letter was always that grey high school paycheck. After eight years, I was now earning a livable salary. One third went for the car payment, another third into savings and the final one hundred and twenty dollars went to me for two weeks blow money. The cigarettes evaporated and hands surreptitiously failed the smokey air when Miss Stratford cheerily announced Dance Time. That muscle bruising and pounding half hour was only to be dismissed when it rained. Needless to say, other than nighttime storms, the only day it rained all that summer was on a Sunday. As I limped into lunch I spotted a dark, green Lincoln parked on the street. Taxi! Taxi! I shouted as I raced for the back door of the car. George usually enjoyed idiocy, but not this time. Get in front he said. How much time do you have? Since I didn’t have an entrance until second act, I figured I had a good two hours. George stopped the car in front of Ho Jo’s and reappeared five minutes later with a bag of food.

The cool morning had kept the beach deserted. The in-coming tide erased our footprints as rapidly as George’s words blurred our relationship. I wanted desperately to touch him but knew the emotional timing was bad. His words were simple, but clear. He figured his divorce for about six months hence and would I be present that same day to become Mrs. George. I said I didn’t know. George was 42. I was 28. An immediate decision that would so alter my life required more than just vibrant emotions when I saw him or touched him. I did not know.

He kissed me in front of the theater and said goodbye actress. I was on time for my entrance. My uneasiness about that noon walk dispersed when The Hulk called me to sit at his dinner table. He was an English teacher, 40 and single, and I had gently avoided him after hearing, earlier in the season, his opinions on predatory females. I was interested but only for some daily male companionship. He was subtle. “Where were you at lunch?” he said, you missed our noodle sandwiches. I was highly adept at fencing questions. “Out.” I said. We got into an argument about our fourth coming tryouts for T.S. Elliot’s Confidential Clerk. He asked which character I wanted to do and I said the director. The wordy, dry, philosophical comedy would leave the audience yawningly checking the number of acts in their programs. I was right. When the lights came up for the curtain call it was only the stagehand’s applause that caused the parking lot flight to throw a few handclaps at the stage. Maybe it was me that jinxed that play. With comedy being my forte, I shied away from straight dramatics, and naturally ended up as the tragic widow who made her only entrance the last 20 minutes of the play and straightened everybody out as to who was really married to whom and whose son and daughter was legally whose. It confused everybody, including me.

The only fauxpas I made that summer was during CONFIDENTIAL CLERK’S opening night. The review, with largesse, said it was the only really humorous line in the play. At the climax of the crucial revelations, I pointed to a husky, handsome male and said to the Duke, “…and this, sir, is your long lost daughter.” Sherri, the luscious bitch, had a screaming hernia backstage and accused me of ruining the play. Since everyone ignored her and hustled off, I did the same.

Nora and Dee had already left for the Inn, I was in a hurry to join them. As I left the house Bud grabbed my arm and asked me to tell Nora he couldn’t make the Leisure Hour tonight. I turned to go and he detained me. Hey, he said, that Sherri is a real witch. She had to hit you to cover her blowing four lines in the first act. Thanks, I said. That was one of the few generous impulses I had experienced thus far. Nora, Dee and I became slightly maudlin during the third martini. I was treating because they had produced a pretty fair beef stroganoff for dinner. The only drawback was they forgot the mushrooms. Dee explained that their home ec. major had only prepared them to cook for 150 people and our dining hall of 25 had really stumped them the first couple of weeks. That explained the first three nights of ham, ham hash and ham loaf. Nora passionately defended (no one was arguing, or had even mentioned the topic) her choice of degree as a major effort in obtaining a husband and family, in that order, or any other order. I questioned the value of cooking for 150 as opposed to a mini-gourmet class, but apparently the university only was prepared to mass produce institutional cooks.

Bud raced in at the final last call and walked us, Nora, back to the house. As Dee and I went into our rooms she asked if she could borrow my make-up mirror sometime. I said anytime except before a show. She asked if I was allowing Sherri to use the mirror and my make-up because she had been. I discovered the and there where the bitch had been headed when she left dinner early. After Thursday night’s dinner, I gave Sherri a five minute start and caught her in the act. Get out I said. She was a smooth sweet talker but left with the third, “Get out”. Dee entered her room as Sherri was exiting and, having a German sense of vengeance, I immediately offered Dee the use of the mirror, adding

I wouldn’t be using it for another two hours. Three days later Dee revealed that Sherri had just asked her to borrow my mirror and let her use it. Dee was usually a gentle person. She told Sherri to buy her own mirror and then where to put it. By the end of the summer everyone had turned on Sherri, but, unhappily, and she never understood why.

Sunday morning was a rebirth. Having appeared in six straight plays I had pleaded with our Director for a week’s break and ended with the dubious freedom of Props, 7:30 parking attendant and 9:30 concessions. Since collecting props would be finished by Wednesday eve the other duties would be joys in comparison to the backstage tensions.

Dinner was at 1:00 on Sunday and from 3:00 on Dee and Nora had their only break of the week. At 3:04 exactly, we climbed in my car and headed for the ocean. We spent two joyous hours riding the waves and straggled back to dress for Dinner on the Town.

Thompsonse Clam Bar was crowded but we amicably decided to drink the hours wait for a dining table. Being the only three single women in the bar, the call for the table came too soon. We had agreed to accept any and all offers for drinks, but no one was sterling enough to volunteer the dinner. Just as well. We had chowder, lobster and desert that could have strained the most generous wallet.

Part 3, up next!

Posted in Turkey | Leave a comment

1976- Dreams, Jobs & Love

In 1968 Caroline met Mike, who she married the following year, but the years leading up to their marriage and child were quite an adventure and perhaps one of the most eventful periods of her life. Combining her skills as an English teacher with her theatrical ones she created this humorous recount of her first loves, job and opportunity of achieving her dream of being an actress- and how they all tied into each other. She found a way to express her untold feelings and experience to Mike in the form of this amusing and light-hearted story.

June 20, 1976

Open letter to the man I live with: Hi there!

“Oh my God.” I bear you moan, “Another damn fool note.” “But hang in there, I’ve got something to say” I say.

Now if the shower steam has dissipated your wine fumes and if our daughter isn’t destroying the bedroom – it’s entirely too quiet in there – I would like to jot down a few thoughts. Agreed, thinking is not something in which I excel, but let me try.

The Looks. In particular, your Looks.

Not your physical appearance, nothing can help there, but those puzzled, questioning glances you shoot me whenever we’re mixing socially. Although the word, “socially” is too sophisticated for our mutual friends, you know what I mean.

This will be what I tried to explain last Easter when I cornered you in the kitchen and after I bleated and blathered ten minutes, you handed me two aspirins and went to bed. And remember Christmas, when I had you in a hammar-lock under the tree and you thought I wanted to screw?

Hence, back to, “The looks.” Obviously our three year marriage still needs some work in the area of oral communications. Since we excel in the non-verbal, there’s got to be hope for the other! I like to beat that, “mumble…never understood the real me” bar syndrome.

Are you still with me? Then get a pipe and a warm beer and read on. I’ll keep Winnie occupied in the playroom. Remember last week when I cried because Winnie had torn all my summer-stock pictures off the wall? You said good, the tape was yellowing anyway. And while I sorrowfully re-moved the remnants, enshrining them on the top shelf of the closet, you lectured on the newest developments in the Eastern Chardonnay wines??

For an entire week I glumped over those pictures, they weren’t just an era in my life, they were me. Every time I tried to talk about them, you handed me a glass of wine and lectured on it’s body, bouquet, fruitiness, or the lack of same.

The removal of those pictures was like a physical amputation. All I needed was a brief verbal recovery period. I’m being discrete in saying that we have a bit to learn about the other. Carry on, I’d like to introduce you to me. At least to one facet. In the mail with my divorce decree came my acceptance for that same summer stock. The concise description of my dramatic scholarship far over shadowed the legal terms of divorce. I was flying so high that I hardly noticed the sudden chilly

withdrawal of my fellow teachers. Their reaction wasn’t surprising. Remember Julie? She had been in maternity clothes for four months, finally announcing that she was taking a year’s leave in June and the faculty hot line sizzled with the question as to whether or not she was pregnant!

My parents were thrilled. Their Catholicism quaked with embarrassment in saying that their daughter was a, “divorced woman” and now they could counter with the announcement that she was a Success! After all, said my mother, one who is creative and talented certainly can’t be called Normal.

At that time my teaching position had a title: Director of Speech and Drama. I enjoyed the added “class” but would have preferred a larger paycheck. My students were beautiful. I could have lectured on the sex life of Venetian blinds and they would have responded with the same wide-eyed fascination. From then on I was a somebody. Whenever I headed for cafeteria lunch there would be a small contingent, jostling, nudging each other, trying to physically brush me as though I were something contagious and a particle of star dust might land on them. It went straight to my head and I reveled in it. My senior Thespians were ecstatic and presented the graduation, “Senior Skits” with such dramatic excellence that I knew my rumor had paid off.

Unashamedly I admit to having hinted about a talent scout being in the area. You can understand that I wanted to finish with a flair. I was very emotional the last day of school. Both the seniors and I were wandering the halls eyeing the cafeteria,

auditorium and the classrooms for the Last Time. Summer stock would only be a stepping stone to Broadway and the Big Time. I had ten days between the close of school and theater “check-in” on Cape Cod. Do you remember meeting Dorothy at the faculty party last Christmas? I coerced her into going with me and flying home from Boston. She was forty eight at the time and one of the best sports I’ve ever known. George was crazy about her. I’ll get to him in a minute. Dorothy had that happy faculty of laughing frequently and never bruising the air with empty chatter. She was a beautiful person to be with, and there was never a question of saying or doing the right thing. One of the few times I saw her frown was at a waitress giving us a snow job.

And then there was George. I believe I mentioned him during our per-nuptial discussion of past loves, but just in passing. He only played a minor lead in my life that summer but was the major reason I was on the Cape. The previous summer, just after I had separated, I landed both a waitress job in Falmouth and George. He was in the same situation as I, but perhaps his being 42 kept him a little more together. He thoroughly convinced me that I was not over-the-hill at 28 and that I was quite attractive bait for other fish, namely himself. He was the only lover I ever had until I met you.

Dorothy and I arranged our travel time so that we could lunch with George the second day. The Red Lion in Lee, Massachusetts will never be the same. Due to my eager anticipation, we arrived 45 minutes early and had just started our drinks when George arrived at the dining room door. Gabby he hollered and with arms outstretched raced across the room to hug Dorothy. Dorothy he yelled and swung me in the air, then feinting heart strain from the effort, had the maitre’d assist him to his chair. I’ve forgotten what, or even if, we ate but remember using all my tissues to wipe my running mascara. Afterward we sat in the lounge and plotted our agenda for the week. George was busy now but would meet us in Chatham the following weekend. Dorothy and I planned to spend several days in Boston and then to Provincetown, arriving in Chatham on Friday.

You’re probably beginning to wonder what the hell is the point of all this. There is one and I’ll get to it. By now your hangover should be fully dissipated so go open that ’67 Cabernet you were saving for my birthday. That’s how important this is to me.

To be continued…

Posted in Turkey | Leave a comment

Cuba Redo

Cuba part 3- 2hours

I added this third, “redo” of Cuba- mainly because I could not stand to hear the offensive words of President Trump. This relatively poor country of Cuba was interesting and full of friendly people. And it has to be seen!

Rhode Scholars Group did just that for us, they’re one of the few groups with permission to give tours of the country.

On the eve of the Revolution Cuba was a semideveloped country with more millionaires than anywhere else South of Texas and an urban workforce that had achieved, “the eight-hour work day, double pay for overtime, one months paid vacation, nine days sick leave and the right to strike. On the other hand a 1950’s World bank study found that 40% of urban dwellers and 60% of rural dwellers were undernourished and 40% of Cubans had never gone to school and only 60% held fulltime jobs. The Revolution improved the lives of millions while destroying the middle and upper class. Today the country is still in rough shape and many people rely on the, “Libreta” program which allots a monthly supply of food (actually more like 10 days worth, if even available.) If given the opportunity to integrate back into the world the country could be a developed and prosperous nation. They would of course have to allow for a successful working and business class to emerge again though.

This large and beautiful hotel was the first place we arrived and the last place we stayed. Allowing us to meet and share insight with other travelers.

The room was shared for the three days and it was lovely and allowed us to see the coming and going of the hotel.

The backside was magnificent. You could see the indoor and outdoor patios, the small restaurant, and the pathway headed all the way down to the sea side. 

We stayed at a hotel overlooking the plaza (top/ left) of the city hall building in Cienfuegos.” I inquired about a place to eat and drink and they pointed me to the top floor. When we got up there we were greeted by live music, commotion, and conversation. It felt like a true experience of the culture and social life of the country. It was wonderful!

Their cemetery was beautiful, as you can see in the middle picture.

Part of our tour took us to the countryside to see both the beautiful tropic nature and the lifestyle of the farmers. Of course there were many splendid giant trees that twisted and curled like vines and flowing waterfalls.

Speaking of the farm workers, in one of the art exhibitions we toured there were magnificent wood carvings representing the common people of the countryside. They are very accurate in portraying the appearance and hard work ethic of the people there.

By one of the schools we toured we met some young men making these beautiful hand-crafted cards. They were $8 and, to the protest of other group members, I slipped him an extra $20. The average daily wage is $6 for the entire day!

I also got these postcards of a city drawing done by an art student.

Walking the streets you could see a mix of renovated and restored buildings in the more commercial areas, but as you got father into the back streets the buildings and infrastructure become increasingly dated.

The other prominent and unforgettable feature of the island are the classic cars. After the US put an embargo on Cuba no new American products, including cars and car parts, could be brought into the country. Paving the way for the iconic and never changing classic 1950’s style cars that the island is so well know for. Having to fabricate and maintain their own parts has lead to a very close-knit and knowledgeable car community. 

Cuba was a splendid place to travel. And one day if allowed to go on ones own will and explore the different corners of the nation there are probably some true gems to be found. Many of the beaches and areas were off limits to foreigners. It was also frowned upon to take pictures of people or give them money. I am unsure of why this is so, perhaps the government doesn’t want the extent of poverty to be known or for it’s people to grow too cozy with generous Americans. Either way I managed to do all three and make it out alive!

Posted in Cuba | Leave a comment

Off the Beaten Path

At the conclusion of our Albanian trip, 3 days in Durresi on the Adriatic Sea were needed to unwind. Off season rates were” in season” and we got a top floor suite with a big balcony overlooking the sea.

Hotel Adriatik, Albania

Our view from the balcony overlooked the Beach walk and all the people enjoying it as we would shortly be when heading along the walk to find dinner.

Beach Walk

For the 3 days we were there,  around 6 PM, entire families,  would appear entering the park , purchase ice cream, popcorn or drinks and jovially continue walking the shore.

Our Concierge said that these were mostly poor people who rented small apartments in the older section and had no televisions.  (My feeling was they had something much better.)

While there we visited the Roman 2nd century Amphitheatre  and other sites including one of the  15th century fortifying  Towers the Venetians built….and now converted into a wonderful bar,  and, naturally sampled their wine.

Shipping port, Durres, Albania

Ships have anchored in this harbor since the 7th century BC. And eventually it grew into a vital staging port.

This is the site for our Ferry departure and thank God for the marvelous taxi driver or we would have missed it entirely.He had to park the taxi and help us with luggage for a half mile, then through passport clearance  and boarding. I know Mike tipped him well because he grinned and said “When are you coming back?”

Our cabin was small, 2 double decker beds (good, needed one for luggage), small bath with a shower over the sink(?)—but a large porthole.  Dinner offered in the Cafeteria from 8 to 10 and it was excellent. I took my coffee out to the top deck and noticed  2 ships paralleling I asked a deck hand and he said “We travel in trios because of potential hijacking.”

I went to the bar for another glass of wine.

Arriving at Bari

You see the last trucks exiting while 80+ people are lined up inside the left doorway… having been breathing the toxic fumes for an hour and being told to wait there. (If they ever want to get our money again: PEOPLE exit first!)

Picked up rental car hereHad to walk from the port to pick up our rental here. No problem, Mike carried the heavy stuff and I just sneezed and sneezed and….

Restourant at Montefalco

Stopped for lunch at a small village.  Food looked good but I couldn’t taste it….but the fresh air  was  delicious. Now on our way to see some of the 300 year old “Troulli  Houses”.

Trulli Houses

These were located in the middle of a narrow street in the village. Most of the owners advertised their shops on the outside to take advantage of tourism….but you had to drive a block to find a parking space. And we did!

alberobello_h1

Looks like a Hobbit Village!

Farmers originally built these Troulli  houses because they were inexpensive, expandable and moveable. They’re made of concentric stone rings and stone floors. The roof pinnacle  locks the last layer in place, double walled filled with rubble for insulation, and water drainage from the roof to a cistern below.  The originals were one large and one small room.

We found  one “For Sale” as we drove out of the village and stopped. The front door was open and we were fascinated by its simplicity!

We continued to Montefalco, not from road signs–nonexistent–but we saw it at the top of the hill.

Montefalco

The name means, “Falcon’s Mount”, not for the bird, but because of its sweeping views and lofty position. In the 13th century, with many warring tribes abounding, the height of the city was extremely  important.

Around Villa

 

There was a sign for the, “Villa San Luca” and the single lane took us to the front of the Villa. This building,  16th century, was everything you expected: classically formal dining room, a large friendly bar/patio with an excellent view.

 

Hotel Villa San Luca, Montefalco

This view from our balcony overlooked the surrounding mountains, vineyards and a large pool which had closed 2 weeks earlier…sigh…but it was October!

Panoramic_view_of_Assisi

It was Sunday  and I wanted to attend Mass at the Assisi Basilica di San Francisco and the 1228 burial site. There was no room left in the larger upper church so we squeezed in to the lower church (13 century) which was to accommodate the growing number of Pilgrims who came to honor St. Francis of Assisi.

The Lower level Church

A lovely ceremony but a little overwhelming with the smells of vino and garlic. Communion was a tussle with some rotund women pushing and pummeling to be first. When 2 of them “sandwiched”  me, I just stopped and said  “Appre’ vous  Madame”…loudly—then they backed off.

Afterward  we had coffee and toured this wonderful site. There was a local winery nearby and, of course, we had to taste their wares. Mike and the owner needed no translation for the “international” wine discussion while I got into the tasting and loved the Trebbiano Spoletino.

Since our formal dinner last night at the Villa, we wanted to find a local restaurant in the nearby village  of Montefalco. Our hostess gave us parking directions to the top of the hill, stopping outside the town, and walking through the main entrance. We understood her directions after seeing the single lane street.

Glad it hadn’t rained:  wet cobble stones are hazardous! The setting sun was reflecting  on the surrounding mountains and we watched till it dipped.

Cobblestoned streets

The Frederico II ‘s specialty that night was “wild boar” and I can’t think about it without drooling.

federico-ii

That was a trip (and a meal) to remember!

9/3/2015

Posted in Albania | Leave a comment