A Room with a View

I received a survey. About my future roommate. Well, answer all of the questions conservatively and I’ll get a good roommate, I reasoned. So I did. Her name was Ayako. She called me in mid-July. I was surprised. But I had it on my mind to be serious about my studies. No TV. No telephone. No refrigerator. Well, a hot pot, that was okay. Nevermind it was against regulations.

Well, Ayako determined I had a beautiful voice, but we needed a TV, telephone and a refrigerator. But she didn’t hold it against me. I was able to watch said TV, use said telephone, as long as I shared in the expense, and make use of said refrigerator. And I bought a hot pot. Always Twinings Black Tea in the evenings. Earl Gray, Lady Grey, Darjeeling and Irish Breakfast. And all stained on my jersey cotton bathrobe. If only I still had it. But I have another.

The girls next door used International Delight. Sacrilegious. But then they watched ‘Dirty Dancing’ on a weekly basis to calm their wilder feelings brought out by the frat-boy next door. He endlessly invited me to parties while I endlessly said ‘no.’ At least I wasn’t like ‘Felicity.’ And I would make them watch ‘A Room with a View’ as I enjoyed the view.

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As Good As It Gets

I’d disturbed people. The greatest film I’d seen to date was ‘Ordinary People.’ But tell people you identify with the film and they automatically assume you tried to off-yourself. As it was, I did not. But I wrote my entrance essay to NYU on the subject and what can I say? I love Robert Benton. I love John Bailey. And I love the actors.

When I arrived at NYU, there was a movie filming on 12th Street. A beautiful street. John Bailey was shooting. It was a pleasure to see him work. But further than that Helen Hunt, in the scene in which she appears rain-soaked, knocked on the door to find a Jack Nicholson startled by her arrival. I wasn’t startled by his arrival, however; he was walked to set by who cares now, flashing that mega-watt smile of his, only an inch or two within my height. My brother would have been pleased. The joker in my life. So he was.

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Post Prom

Prom was murder. Well, not quite like ‘Carrie.’ Certainly not iconic. But it could have been. Ours was in the Riveria Ballroom on the Lake in Lake Geneva. Beautiful. One could only think of the evenings spend with the Glenn Miller Orchestra or Benny Goodman from its bygone era. As it was my dress was from a bygone era. Emilie Schindler wore an identical version in the scene from ‘Schindler’s List’ in which she and her husband went dancing as he eyed another woman. But I was eyeing another man.

I didn’t formally go with Anders. No, that was left to Janine, who stole all of my boyfriends. And on this occasion, Anders was the victim. Yet I danced with him the cheesy Celine Dion prom song I voted for, while she danced with my ex-Joe, whom she still wished to be with. Of course, my professor was there with his fiance Melody, who aparrently was a diva. I still don’t know what he saw in her, but it seems to have been enough to lure him away to Buffalo, New York, with all of its snowfalls. I’d move on to the City and quickly forget about him.

A lovely photo was taken. Our most beautiful virgins taken in perfectly fit dresses, with the foreign exchange students in cool looking dresses which did not flatter. Did they know something I didn’t? As it was, it was not taken that night. Anders being too honorable a man who later married his college sweetheart. She tolerated me for a night of martininis and dancing in Madison, the UW known as “a party school,” where they later married on Lake Menona. We don’t keep in touch. I couldn’t ever tell him his love of ‘Star Trek’ made me hesitate to the point of silence. What type of love? It wasn’t storge, so it must have been philia. Lucky me.

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Spring Street Natural

We stayed in Chinatown. Of course my mother wanted to get out as quickly as possible. Eager to visit every byline in ‘Seventeen Magazine,’ I insisted we lunch at Spring Street Natural. Ginger Carrot Soup. Enough to sooth the soul after the flight. We were in Soho. And my mother didn’t like it.

Where did I want to go? Where else but ‘Screaming Mimi’s!’ Then ‘Cheap Jack’s,’ ‘Broadway’s Closet’ and ‘Alice Underground.’ But where did I spend my money? Not on vintage. Too intimidated. At the ‘United Colors of Benetton.’ And as it was, when I entered NYU, I bought a sweater there once a year. I still have them. Somewhere. Flattering. Covering every curve, yet covering everything. My mother’s dictate: accentuate your shape, reveal nothing. And they will come. Come they did.

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The Parent Trap

I loved my grandmother.  Virginia.  She always bought me clothes.  Dresses, to be precise.  If I had a school portrait, it was in her dress.  Of course, that was until I was ten and demanded to have a hairdresser do my hair.  You can guess what I came out looking like.  So, gone were the dainty florals with lace overlay, and on with the trips to the United Colors of Benetton on State Street in Madison.

There was to be a wedding.  Some cousins I didn’t know.  But I was curious my father had an uncle.  His father passed before I was born.  A plane crash.  He’d built the plane himself.  My mother picked out a plant green pin-tucked dress with a portrait collar.  I loved it.  But then I had to wear it.

We traveled down to southern Indiana to visit my Uncle’s farm where the wedding was to be in their little chapel.  Another little white church in the country.  And the moon hung low.  I met my four second-cousins that evening along with their various children.  We liked the farm.  My Uncle was in the Navy and met his wife in San Francisco where she was a WAV.  My one cousin wore her uniform!  We spent the rest of the time hiding in the woods around the farm and playing on their gigantic trampoline, having the gayest old time.

Then came the dress rehearsal.  And out came my dress.  Suddenly no one would speak to me.  They just stared.  They just stared.  And I hated it.

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Before Sunset

Another year, another small group.  No jitters this time.  Just real girls.  I’d signed up with Hannah.  Red Shoe Hannah.  But there were 14 of us!  How were to get to know each other with 14 of us!  But get to know each other we did.  And the one I got to know the best was Katie.  Katie who looked like Julie Delpy.  Katie who always looked like she was wearing Helmut Lang.  Katie who drove me home every night.

Then I learned Katie had a Clay.  Ah.  Her own Jesse to her Celine.  But I don’t think they met on a train.  Or went to the theatre in Vienna.  And I think it was Clay who sang Katie a waltz.  They met while she interviewed him for a radio station.  I guess Clay’s dang good looking nose, crooked smile and Wisconsin accent got to Katie.   And, well, Katie’s anything would get to anyone!

What got to me about Katie?  Well, she was Finnish.  How’d I know that?  Well, figure skaters Susanna Rahkammo and Petri Kokko won the Gold Medal for Ice Dancing the year I graduated High School.  Their names were funny to me, so I got to learn more about the Finnish language.  Well, she studied English.  I got her Secret Santa gift.  My Utmost for His Highest.  And she’s funny, compassionate, giving and kind.   And that I just know.

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The Paradise

Enter NYU. Enter Woody Allen. I’d gotten a volunteer job projecting movies at a revival house movie theatre in West Allis, a section of Milwaukee, still the city, called ‘The Paradise Theater.’ Another movie palace. Except, like me, so many wrong things had been done to it over the years. Painted blue circus colors in the 50’s, red in the 70’s, when it was X-rated, and then a ramshackle version of the cream, pink and blue it was when it originally opened in 1929.

I projected, or at least saw, everything from “Casablanca” to “Gone with the Wind” (it’s really stagy, really) and 70mm with the revival of “My Fair Lady.” I opted to see “Lawrence of Arabia,” instead. “No, Dryden, it’s going to be fun.” Only it wasn’t fun. The manager of the theater told me he lived in what used to be the dressing rooms of the theater and would I like to see them?

I consented, but I found his pointing to his bed and announcing, “That’s where I sleep,” as well as his explanation of how they had to hoist the cast-iron bath tub through the window rather inappropriate. As indeed was his Christmas card with the snow-man with the pointy carrot nose. Was he suggesting what I thought he was suggesting? He had a girlfriend. Who played the Cello. Always her own variations on the Bach Cello Suites.

But it was Shakespeare who rescued me. Some local feminist organization wanted to put on a version of “Othello” told from the female point of view, called, originally enough, “Desdemona” and would I like to come see it? Afterwards I didn’t feel guilty at all about ignoring him.

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