The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 117

“No messing around with the girls here, either,“ she warned me, “they’ll toss me out.” “It never entered my mind,” I answered her, with a little smile. “Everything in here is old, like me!” she sighed. “I think I bought the gas stove in the early 80s, three burners work. Too much of pain to fix the other.” I told her I’d try, I’m handy, I was an engineering officer on the destroyer—keep those engines humming—and I’d do the routine maintenance around the apartment. “Not to worry,” I offered, meaning the whole apartment deal. “Oh God, worry? don’t start.” “My ex-husband put those bookshelves up, he was so proud,” she remembered, “but the damn things are still crooked.” She hit one shelf with her little fist, and a cloud of dust rose from the old books. I looked at the shelves trying to figure out how I could adjust them but then gave it up. “Maybe I’ll be in for a reading now and then, but probably not, it’s too much trouble,” she sighed, though she did see her daughter occasionally in New York. The daughter also had a second home near Allandale, next to Bard College, and they got together on weekends when she was up in the country. So the place was pretty much mine, to do with what I wanted, and cheap—just paying her five or six hundred a month. “You can bring all the women in you want, just don’t get them from here, OK?” she said walking to the door. “Promise?” “Rest easy, Hillary, I’m too tired for that!” “And make sure you introduce yourself to all the desk people, each one, as ‘my cousin,’ so they know,” she stressed. “They’d love to kick me out, so they can quadruple the rent, put ten students here.” and with that she slammed the door. The second evening there I did my wash downstairs in the basement laundry. It was late when I took the elevator to the basement but when I got there, a young Hispanic woman dressed in what could only be called a t-shirt and thong was taking her clothes out of the drier as I loaded mine into one of the washers. She seemed to bend far into the drier, taking her time pulling out items one at a time, with her shapely behind starring at me all the while, a thin piece of twisted pink fabric separating her buttocks. She smiled at me through the whole unloading process, enjoying my obvious discomfort, and then left. For a moment, I thought I was having Sunday brunch on Venice Beach watching the parade of pulchritude pass by. My old director friend Terry Johnson had returned to doing Off-Broadway plays after twenty years of films, and I asked him to lunch that first week, trying to get some bearings in the city. He told me to go to one of the acting studios like Uta Hagen’s old place in the West Village, take a class or two, sharpen my skills. The last play I did in New York was something called MacBird, the Macbeth epic told with a Lyndon Johnson plot twist, at a small theater, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War soon after he had refused a second term. The Village Voice, when it was a real newspaper, in those years, had liked my performance, and the youngish reviewer had gone ahead to work for the New Yorker and later the Times. But alas, he’d since retired, and lived in Barbados with his lifelong partner, a choreographer, whom I had also met, at the opening cast party, afterward at the director’s studio on McDougal. I was clearly a relic here. Johnson thought for a moment over his coffee, and said, “Tell you what! I’m doing a revival of Tennessee Williams,’ Night of the Iguana, the original script, with the German tourists in Mexico! They way he wrote it.”