Sunday, December 31, 2006

Always Discuss Religion and Politics

When I heard M1 and the Exotic Flower returning home from the cinema, last night, I was upstairs at my computer. Nando had gone to bed as he's been ill and had to work this morning. As the Flower has gotten into the habit of bringing me left over popcorn from the cinema, I raced downstairs so I might receive my expected gift. All the lights were off and just as they opened the door, I flicked on the lights in the lounge. This caused the Flower to scream, as she was startled. She's a skittish little thing, who's afraid of horror movies. Of course, I laughed at her being so startled.
As I expected, she had brought me some popcorn. I turned on the TV and started the debate on what we should watch. Part way through the discussion, before we had decided on anything, the Flower went upstairs and changed into her jim-jams. I cycled through the music channels, while awaiting her return. I didn't want M1 settling on any of the rubbish he likes to watch. Once back, she started lobbying for "The Da Vinci Code," on DVD. I was happy with that decision, as I hadn't yet finished watching it. M1 wasn't thrilled. I later learned that, although he'd seen it before, he didn't understand it. It seems that anything more difficult then putting styling wax in his hair is too difficult for him.
As the film began, I tucked into my bag of cinema popcorn. Munching the first handful, I paused. It didn't taste right. It was "sweet" popcorn. The Flower usually gets salted with butter, which I like. "This is sweet," I said, "what happened?"
"I sent [M1] for it," she explained. "He got a mixture of sweet and salted."
The thought, "never send a boy to do a man's job," crossed my mind. I muted my displeasure and ate it anyway. At least some of it was salted. Three-quarters of the way through the film, I overheard the Flower explaining the plot to M1. She told me that M1 hadn't read the book, like she, Nando, and myself had. There were too many big words and it was too long. English is a second language to Nando and he left school at 14, but he read the book, in English, and understood it. How could she put up with such a dolt as M1?
After the film ended, the Flower and I started discussing the storyline and the implications for Christianity. This proved too much for M1 and he went to bed, at about 3:30AM. Although the Flower promised him that she wouldn't stay up too much longer, she proceed to talk with me for another two hours. We talked about her insomnia, a bit about her family, psychology, our exposure to Christianity as children, Meme Theory, and Deep Anarchy. She seemed to drink up this intellectual conversation like a flower in the desert getting a brief rain shower. Well, she is the Flower, after all. She also confided in me that she can manipulate M1 into go along with whatever she wants. Surely she would eventually tire of such an unchallenging, dimwitted doormat? She may not have been too excited about seeing me in a short film, the other night, but she was riveted over my analogy between "The Matrix" and memetics. Whoever said, "never discuss religion and politics," didn't know what he was talking about.

Artist of the Week: U2

This week, my Artist of the Week is U2. I thought of them because of their song, "New Year's Day," as it's New Year. They also have an album released last month, "U2 18 Singles," which is a best of album, containing sixteen of their famous hits, plus two new tracks. Originating in Dublin, Ireland, the band started performing as U2 twenty-eight years ago. They have had six number one albums in America and nine number ones in Britain. With twenty-two Grammy awards, they have won more Grammys than any other artist.
What can I tell you about them that you don't already know? They are known the world over. While I don't always agree with their political statements, they make great music. Their "18 Singles" album is a good buy, as it has so many good tracks. U2 are comprised of Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr. I am amazed that whoever runs their Myspace page hasn't put "New Year's Day" on their music player. Someone's fallen down on the job, there. You can listen to the two new tracks from the album, there and ad them as friends. Tell them I sent you.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

We Don't Need No Education

Nando and I were sitting in the lounge, watching the National Geographic Channel. That's one thing I like about Nando, he likes watching documentaries. I had put the program on. It was a show about an apeman of Sumartra, or something like that. M1 and the Exotic Flower arrive home, with a little bit of shopping from the supermarket. They are always complaining about not having money, but they continually buy ready meals and convenience foods, which are more expensive. While M1 heats ribs up in the oven (ribs that came in a cardboard box--surely ribs aren't supposed to come in cardboard boxes, unless they are cooked already), the Flower struts into the lounge. She takes a look at the screen and asks what we are watching, as if she's seen something disturbing. "A documentary," I inform her.
As Nando is occupying her usual seat, the Flower takes up position on the end settee, closest to the TV. After a couple of minutes, she says, "you're not seriously interested in this, are you?"
"Of course we are," I reply. "Nando and I like documentaries." She makes a face. Unable to resist further conversation on the matter, I add, "there are two pages of documentary channels on the menu, don't you ever watch any of them?"
"I never watch documentaries," she responds. "Why would anyone want to watch that stuff?"
"To learn stuff." Even the Black Queen liked documentaries.
"I learn stuff in my classes at college. That's enough," the flower says.
"You can continue to learn things, even after you finish school," I explain.
"I don't go to school, I go to college," the Flower pronounces, from the safety of an intellectual vacuum. "There is a difference."
I should have said, "explain the difference," but as I feel ill, I was not up for a debate as much as I usually am. Instead, I look at Nando and he's just chuckling to himself, at what she has said, as is his habit. M1 comes in and joins us, bringing their crappy meal on plates I have washed. "Nando likes history and so do I," I say.
Turning to Nando, she asks, "what kind of history do you like?"
"There is only one history," Nando announces.
"But some people like the history of wars," the Flower continues. "Other people like history of the monarchy."
"The first thing I like is history of the Romans," Nando says. That's a bit of an understatement. Almost 2000 years after the fact, Nando is still claiming credit for the Romans, simply because he is from Italy. He's not even from Rome.
"The only history I like is the Titanic," explains the Flower, "and not because of the movie."
"The Titanic isn't history," Nando replies, "it's just six guys driving a boat who crash into an iceberg."
"Just the other night, Nando and I watched a documentary on the Titanic," I interject, hoping to catch the Flower's interest. " 'Seconds From Disaster,' the series I did a couple of shows for...they did a show on the Titanic. Was it last night, or the night before we watched that?" Nando shakes his head as he can't remember.
The flower asks, "how long is this on for?" She has sampled one of the ribs. I can't tell if the look of dissatisfaction on her face is due to the food, or to what's on the tele. I suspect it's both. When she starts asking questions about what's on and how long it's on for, that means there is something she would like to watch, or she just hates what we have on. So many times when she is here, we have bowed to what she wants to watch. One of her girly-girly programs, or some reality show about singing, or dancing. This evening, it's manly TV.
"It's an hour long program and it ends at five," I take great pleasure in telling her, "in ten minutes. Then the Arsenal game is on."
Her big, babydoll eyes snap up sharply at this. "You're watching football?" From the way she asks, I can tell the prospect isn't much more appealing to her than documentaries. Nando nods yes, in response to her question as does M1. M1 is an Arsenal supporter, so he will be in favor of watching the game. As the Flower digests this latest bit of news, I am amused at her discomfort. I don't care that much if we watch the game, I just enjoy seeing her not get her way for once. While she and M1 are eating, she suddenly says to him, "should we be eating now? We're supposed to go out for fish and chips with my brother, at seven. It's free food." Her brother works at some fish and chip shop, I think. "If I eat this now, I won't be hungry later," she adds. These two could have saved even more money if they waited to have the free dinner with the Flower's brother. Nando would say they're two idiots.
"Are you going to be going to university?" I ask the Flower. She nods in the affirmative. "What will you be studying?"
"I'm doing a degree in midwifery," she replies.
I press on with my line of questioning, "won't you have to study biology for that?"
"It's all in the program," she says with only minor interest.
"When do you start university?"
"Next October."
I think for a minute, then ask, "have you started applying yet?"
"Yes," she confirms, while licking her fingers. She says that she has used some service which distributes the applicants information to a number of universities, but that her first choice one requires a separate application, which is harder than the others. Unsurprisingly, she hasn't completed that one yet.
"What made you decide you wanted to be a midwife?" I ask.
"A lot of my friends have had babies," she explains, "and they all said that their midwives were crap. I looked at what my parents do and they both do jobs they don't like." So do a lot of people. Welcome to the real world, sweetheart. "I wanted to do something rewarding and if I progress to become a consultant midwife, they make a lot of money."
"Why don't you become a doctor? Surely they make more."
She looks at me like she is alarmed. "I don't want to deal with lots of different things, I just want to deliver babies." I guess delivering them is better than having them as a teenager. As the Arsenal game starts, the Flower gets on her mobile and calls her mother. She tries to persuade her mother to join M1 and her, later, to go to the movies. They're short of money, but they have money to go to the movies. It seems that none of their friends want to go and she and M1 would rather not go by themselves. Her mother refuses and they never think to invite me.

Feed a Cold

I can never remember if it's "feed a cold and starve a fever," or "feed a fever and starve a cold." Let's just say when I have a cold, I eat. A few days ago, Nando and the Exotic Flower, both said they were ill. How did they both get sick around the same time? Were they snogging behind my back? Then, M1 was sick, coughing and sneezing. Despite the Flower being ill, M1 and her continued playing tonsil hockey. I warned them not to give it to me. Nando was sneezing his germs all over the place and not covering his mouth. Sure enough, this morning I woke up with a scratchy throat. I have gone such a long time without a cold, it's been over a year and I can't remember the last time I was sick. I go back to work on Tuesday. If I was going to be sick, I would have preferred it to be earlier in the week, so I could be better by Tuesday. I also have very little cold medicine in the house. I think I will have a steak for dinner.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Whistle Lost Its Magic

On Wednesday night, M1 and the Exotic Flower came home late. Nando had already gone to bed and I had fallen asleep in front of the TV. The nap did me good, because I was able to rouse myself to spend some time with the Flower. As she had given M1 a new DVD player for Christmas, he's given his old one to "the house." I got Nando to connect it to the TV in the lounge and we had tried to watch "The Da Vinci Code," earlier, but I fell asleep. Nando has seen it before and as he was feeling ill, he went to bed.
M1 and the Flower prepared a meal for themselves. They had bought some microwavable stuff and a cooked chicken. The Flower offered me the wings, because they don't eat them. I'm not one to turn down free food. She gave me some Brussels sprouts as she didn't want them. I also ended up with a couple of pieces of roast potato, as M1 didn't want them. I swear they weren't fully cooked, although the two microwave chefs swore they were. As they sat down to eat, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to show "them" the short film I was in, over the summer. The original title was "The Magic Whistle," but the filmmakers shortened it to "The Whistle" by the final edit. It was an entry into the 48 Hour Film Challenge and came in sixth. When I say, "them," it was really the Flower who I wanted to see it. I couldn't give a monkey's if M1 saw it, or not. I hoped she would be impressed to see me on the screen. I have lines and a credit, as well. It's the first film I wasn't just an extra in.
While they were preparing the food, I had nipped upstairs and got my DVD of "The Whistle." As they started munching their food, I put it on. "This is the short film I was in," I said. M1 started talking to the Flower about some nonsense, so I warned her, "I'm in the first scene." The first glimpse of me is in the background of a shot.
"Is that you?" she asked. No, it's George Bush. Of course it's me. Then my big moment comes on, with my two lines. M1 laughs at the one I improvised. That's okay, it's supposed to be humorous. After my scene, their attention drifts back to the roast chicken, potatoes, and sprouts.
As the rest of the films plays, M1 shouts out, "this is crap," a couple of times. I could do without that. As the credits roll, he is perplexed. He doesn't get it. Well, maybe if he'd paid more attention, he could have figured the story out. To stop his moaning, I explain it to them. My name is the third one in the credits of the cast. The Flower's reaction is a bit flat. What does it take to impress this chick? A load of hair gel, like he wears?You won't ever see your simpleton of a boyfriend in a film. They want to know what's on Sky. I put on "Spanglish," with Adam Sandler, for them. I eat the rest of my meal while they watch the beginning of "Spanglish." They enjoy this film. The savages are easily entertained.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Coming to America: the Michelle Story Part 2

My second day in London started off more relaxed. My hotel provided "bed and breakfast," so I ate there in the morning. Being a Sunday, it was quieter in London than it had been the day before. In the afternoon, I found a telephone box and dialed the number Michelle had given me, the night before. Maybe we could get together before I left on Monday afternoon. After the phone rang several times, I got a recorded message, saying no one was a man's voice. The voice sounded too young to be her father. It seemed she was living with a guy. I felt a flush of disappointment rush through my body. I hesitated for a moment, about to hang up, then, for some reason, I left a message saying that I had called for Michelle. Let her explain that to her boyfriend. I hung up, never expecting to speak to her again.
I made my way to Royal Albert Hall for the Prince's Trust Concert. Outside, a crowd was gathering. There was a booth offering the Pepsi challenge. The challenge involves giving people a cup of Pepsi and a cup of Coke, with no indications which is which. The person taking the challenge is supposed to indicate which sample he or she likes best. Then the identity of the samples is revealed. Supposedly, all and sundry are to be astonished that the taster picks Pepsi. Being a life long Coke man, not only have I always picked the Coke every time I had taken the challenge, but I can tell which sample is which, by taste. How anyone couldn't tell the difference is beyond me. Two attractive women were manning the booth. If that wasn't lure enough, the prospect of getting a free drink proved too much for me to resist. I sauntered over, took the challenge, and picked the Coke...again.
Newly refreshed, I walked toward the entrance of Royal Albert Hall. As I was crossing a driveway alongside the Hall, a car came speeding toward me. It didn't slow down, nor alter course at all. It only narrowly missed me as I stepped out of the way. I felt the breeze of its passage ruffle the light jacket I was wearing. That's a difference I had noted between America and London. Back in the states, a pedestrian can be confident that if a driver sees you, he won't hit you. In London, it seemed like drivers would run you over as soon as look at you. Maybe the difference is that in America, if you hit a pedestrian, it's generally an automatic loser in court and the odds of being sued are practically 100 percent. In the UK, civil law is a bit different. Here, if you sue someone and lose, you are liable to pay the defendant's court costs, including the fees of his solicitors. The result is that there are a lot less lawsuits, here.
I managed to make it inside Royal Albert Hall in one piece...just. Royal Albert Hall is an old building. It was built in 1871. That's another difference one notices about Britain. There are lots of old buildings. As Britain goes, Royal Albert Hall isn't that old. It's common to find buildings which are several hundred years old and still in use. As I was waiting for the concert to begin, I scanned the audience, looking for Howard Stern's group. I figured the best way to find them, amongst the crowd, was to look for Howard, himself. At six feet, five inches tall, with long hair, he should stand out a bit. The concert had a number of acts appearing. Among these were T'Pau, the Bee Gees, Phil Collins, Genesis, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, and Rick Astley. At some point, during one of the breaks, I managed to spot Howard. When the concert ends, I watched to see which direction Howard's group starts to go, then I made my way in that direction. Howard has always been very guarded about encountering listeners. Back in New York, it's almost impossible to get to speak to him in person. However, in London, 3500 miles from home and across an ocean, his guard is down. As his radio show isn't broadcast in the UK, he was probably not expecting a member of the public to recognize him. Because of how defensive Howard is, a direct approach to him would most likely be immediately rebuffed. Robin Quivers is different. She started out reading the news on Howard's show, then evolved into a full member of his cast of characters. She has one of the loveliest laughs I have ever heard, which is perfect for radio. I spot Howard, Robin, and Gary standing in a junction of walkways, just outside the auditorium. I walk up to them, ignoring Howard and say hello to Robin. Gary, who's met me once, before, in 1986, says, "what are you doing here?" I guess I should be flattered that he remembers me. Before Robin, Gary, and I can engage in much conversation, Howard announces that they need to be going and rushes them off. Howard and I would cross paths again, in 1994, with more productive results.
I still have another card to play. Howard is much too secretive to reveal which hotel he's staying at. However, back in New York, it was mentioned, on air, which hotel the listeners who are on the trip with him are staying in. As it's their last night in London, they might be celebrating. There's a chance that Howard's hotel isn't far from where the listeners are staying, since he needs to get together with them for each broadcast. I head to the hotel. Sure enough, I bump into a couple listeners in the lobby. Unfortunately, they don't know where Howard and Robin are, but we have a couple of drinks together.
The next day is supposed to be my last in London. As it's a Monday, London is alive with the hustle and bustle of a typical weekday. After checking out of my hotel, I check my bags at Victoria Station's left luggage service. This way I can do some last minute sightseeing without lugging my luggage around. I have to catch the Gatwick Express from Victoria anyway, so it seemed like a good plan. I bought some souvenirs, trying to use up as much of my British money as possible, so as not to have to exchange much back into dollars. I saw a sign advertising tickets to a Sade concert, in London, later in the month. I don't know why I did it, but I bought two tickets to see Sade. I had been having such a great time on my trip, perhaps the idea of returning to London appealed to me. In any case, I love Sade's music and the idea of seeing her live was exciting. I decided it was time to start heading for the airport.
One thing I hadn't counted on was how bad London traffic is. It makes New York traffic seem light, in comparison. I was on a bus to Victoria Station, to collect my luggage and catch the train to Gatwick. The bus seemed afloat in a sea of cars, lorries, buses, and pedestrians. Progress was agonizingly slow. By the time I got to Victoria, I had less than two hours till my flight left. The Gatwick Express goes non-stop to Gatwick Airport, but the journey takes about thirty-five minutes. By the time I got to the check-in counter for my flight, it was only fifteen minutes before the scheduled departure time. In America, back in the 1980s, if you arrived at check-in before the flight departed, you usually got on. This was Britain. When I hand my ticket to the woman at check-in, she informed me that I had missed my flight. How can that be? It's not scheduled to depart for another fifteen minutes yet. She insisted that it would take me more than fifteen minutes to get to the gate and the flight can't wait for me. I suggest letting me try to make it, but, no matter how much I pleaded, she refused. In all fairness to Virgin Atlantic, they were so small back then that they contracted out their check-in work to another firm, Gatwick Handling. This woman wasn't a Virgin employee. All she offered me was a seat on the flight the next day. With no recourse, I accepted. What would I tell my boss, Neal? When I spoke to him last, he said to be at work Tuesday morning and not to be late, or not to come back at all. I called my mother, reversing the charges. I asked her to call Neal and explain to him that I had missed my flight and the only way I could make it back in time would be to take Concorde. Unless he was willing to pay for a Concorde ticket for me, I would seem him on Wednesday morning.
I now had twenty-two hours to kill. I had spent so much of my cash, that I didn't have enough left to pay for another night in a hotel. I thought about staying in the airport departure hall all night, but looking over what cash I had left, I noted that I had just enough for a roundtrip ticket on the Gatwick Express and a cheap meal. I decided to head back into London's West End and spend the night hanging around Leicester Square. That evening, I ended up talking to another bouncer at the door of a club, on a side street, off Leicester Square. He was built like a heavyweight boxer and had dark brown skin. The club was closing for the evening and a couple of women joined us in conversation. The bouncer knew one of them and they decided to go for tea. They invited me along. As my social calendar was a bit open at that point, I accepted.
The others led me to some late night cafe that was still serving. The bouncer concentrated on the one he knew, leaving me to chat with the other gal. Her name was Pam Jones. This was not the Pam Lyn Jones who was my girlfriend, twelve years earlier (see my blog article, "Pam 1"). The similarity in names was just a coincidence. This Pam had a similar, light tanned complexion as Pam 1, but with darker brown, longer hair. Her hair had reddish highlights. This Pam was from Zimbabwae and had an accent to match. I told her how I had missed my flight and couldn't afford a hotel. Then she did something for which I will always be grateful. She said that if I didn't mind sleeping on the floor, I could come with her back to her flat, for the night. I agreed, readily. I had seen enough of Leicester Square for one evening. We said goodnight to the others and headed to Pam's flat. Pam paid for a cab to take us to her home at such a late hour. Unlike New York's Subway system, London's Underground doesn't run all night. Pam lived in Crouch End, a community in the northwest part of London. When we got to her flat, she put a couple of large pillows on the floor and gave me a blanket. Tired, I quickly fell asleep.
In the morning, I awoke to Pam making breakfast. She introduced me to her daughter and young son. The girl had blond hair and was very fair. Her son had dark, curly hair and a Mediterranean look. I think they had different fathers. Pam told me she worked in a shop at Finsbury Park Train Station. She would take me there, with her, and I could catch a Tube train from there to Victoria Station. We rode a bus from Crouch End to Finsbury Park. I walked Pam to her shop and said farewell. I couldn't imagine a woman in New York welcoming a strange man, from a foreign country, into her home in the way that Pam did. This was the start of a friendship which lasted over ten years. After expressing my gratitude, I made my way to Victoria Station and on to Gatwick.
Not wanting a repeat of the previous day's disaster, I arrived in plenty of time for the flight. Just to see, I timed myself from check-in to the gate. It took me thirteen minutes, slightly less than the fifteen I had the day before. I probably could have made it the day before, but I would have missed out on meeting Pam. The Virgin Atlantic flight pushed back off the gate on time. We taxied to the active runway and after receiving clearance to take off, the throttles advanced with a roar. The 747 accelerated down the runway and rotated into the sunny, June sky over England. My Great Aunt used to work building the wings for 747s. Now one of these massive planes was carrying me back across the Atlantic, to America and home.
When I arrived at work, the next morning, Neal wasn't angry I had come back a day late. My mother had called him and he had just one question. Was that really my mother, or had I gotten some woman to pretend to be her? I assured him he had actually spoken to my mother. The receptionist had several messages for me. "Some girl keeps calling you...from Britain," she informed me.
My heart raced. It was Michelle. As far as she knew, I was meant to be back at work the day before, so she had used the number on my business card to call me. Because of missing my flight, I hadn't been there. I asked Neal if I could call her back, but he said there was no way I was going to call Britain on the office phone. I hoped she didn't think I was trying to avoid her and urged the receptionist to put her through immediately, if she called again. Fortunately, Michelle had a stubborn streak and she did call again. After a brief conversation, I told her I would call her from home, after work.
Once home that evening, I called her back and we talked for a long time. She had gotten my message. The guy on the answer service was a friend. She had given me his number, rather than her parent's number, as a safety precaution. During the conversation, she told me she had something to tell me. She said she was 18, not 23 as she had told me outside Shaftsbury's. When I asked her why she had lied about her age, she said she had to, because she was standing next to the bouncer. Shaftsbury's had an age limit and at 18, she would not have been let in. I wasn't bothered about this and we continued talking. Later, she told me she had another thing to tell me. What now? She said she wasn't 18, she was actually 16. I was very surprised. Michelle was a tall girl and looked quite sophisticated for her age. She had obviously fooled me and the bouncer on the previous Saturday, as neither of us doubted her when she claimed to be 23. She asked if I minded and I reassured her that I didn't. By then, I had become enraptured by this charming girl, with the posh British accent. These deceptions just made her seem more gutsy and enchanting. She probably could have told me she was Satan and it wouldn't have put me off. By the end of the conversation, she asked if my offer to put her up, if she came to New York, was still open. It sure was. We agreed to talk again, the following day.
Our next conversation occurred as agreed, the next day, which was Thursday. Michelle told me she had looked into things and had made herself a reservation to fly to New York on Friday, the very next day. She wasn't coming with her girlfriend, the blond who was with her when we met, but was coming alone. She gave me her flight information and I promised to pick her up at the airport. I asked her if her parents were alright with her coming and she assured me they were. She was flying Virgin Atlantic, the same airline I had flown. She asked me what I wanted her to wear on the flight. After consulting together on her outfit, she told me she would be wearing a short, dark blue miniskirt, with a blue and white striped top, and white, high heeled pumps. She was taking a bus from Wales, where she lived, to Gatwick Airport. I told her that if anything went wrong, to call me. We said goodnight to each other. The next time we would speak would be face to face.
On Friday, I was a bundle of nerves at work. I kept checking with the airline on the flight's progress. I was supposed to be making cold calls to prospective clients, but my mind wasn't on work. The Assistant Manager started hassling me about not working. I blew up at him and told him to leave me alone. I was worried about this girl, flying across the Atlantic to see me. Couldn't he cut me some slack just this one day? In response to my angry outburst, he said I was fired. Again. I had only been back three days. I packed up my stuff and left the office. I drove straight to Newark Airport, to wait for Michelle.
I got to the airport early, so I had a long wait. Finally, the Virgin flight from London landed. I told Michelle I would be waiting for her, outside the Customs hall. I watched the monitor which indicated the status of the arriving flights. When it indicated that the Virgin Flight was in customs, I started looking for her. I didn't have a very clear memory of what she looked like. I had only seen her once, at night. I remember she had brown hair, about shoulder length, and was tall. I was relying on her planned outfit to help me recognize her. I checked the luggage tags of the people exiting the customs hall and started seeing Virgin Atlantic ones. I scrutinized each female, comparing her to my mental picture of Michelle. Would she recognize me? Time dragged on and still she hadn't come out. Twenty minutes...thirty minutes...forty minutes and still she hadn't appeared. I started worrying that something had gone wrong. Maybe she had missed her flight. Maybe she had changed her mind and decided not to come. The flow of people from the customs hall had slowed to a trickle, then become intermittent. The Virgin Atlantic crew had come out and other people waiting had all met up with their arriving friends or relatives. Still, I stood there. Inside, I had resigned myself to the fact that she wasn't coming. The exit to the customs hall had two swinging doors. As soon as someone came out, the doors swung closed and you couldn't see what was going on inside, from where I was standing. Then, at forty-five minutes after the first Virgin passengers had come out, the doors banged open one more time. Out walked a vision of loveliness, pushing a luggage trolley. She was tall, with medium brown hair. She wore a blue and white striped top, and a dark blue miniskirt, which revealed legs that seemed to go on for days. Each of those luscious legs was covered by a white, sheer stocking, the foot of which was encased in a white high heeled pump. On her face, beneath a light covering of makeup, I could discern gentle freckles. Her lips glistened with a fresh coat of lipstick. Two grey-green eyes sparkled as she looked right at me. She seemed to walk toward me in slow motion, like a scene from a film. The vision didn't quite look like I remembered from that night in London, but looked better. She walked directly to me. It was Michelle.
Michelle threw her arms around me and gave me a hug. I felt like I was in shock. It was hard to accept that this gorgeous young woman was there to see me, just six days after we had met on the other side of an ocean. We walked out into the June warmth. I led her to my car and put her luggage in the trunk. I drove a black, 1986, Mazda 626 GT Turbo and as I drove along Route 1/9 towards the Holland Tunnel, Michelle commented that she was glad I drove a fast car. I glanced over at her in the passenger seat and she was adjusting her stockings I tried not to crash as I watched her pulling each one up, revealing the white lace tops. Michelle was amused at the effect her actions were having on me. I managed to hold it together and get us to Long Island in one piece. I stopped at the Burger King drive through, a few blocks from my house, to get us something to eat. Then we went home and watched "Miami Vice," while eating our delicious, fast food meal. Michelle had arrived and was about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting nation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shopping With Nando

I went downstairs for a late brunch, this afternoon and discovered the Exotic Flower sitting in the lounge, talking on her mobile. There was no sign of M1, much to my pleasure. Going into the kitchen and preparing my meal, it soon became evident to me that the person she was talking to was most likely her mother. I overheard the Flower saying that she was suffering from a sore throat. Awwww...poor little Flower. It didn't take long for me to microwave two thin hot dogs. When I have the thin ones, I put two in one hot dog bun. For my usual brunch, I had cole slaw and potato salad to go with my hot dog.
Taking my food into the lounge, I sat on the settee farthest from the TV, where I usually sit. The Flower was in her usual position, on the middle settee. If she wanted privacy, she'd have to go somewhere else. Still, she didn't seem bothered about me listening to her on the phone, while I ate. When I first came downstairs she had the Sky TV on menu, but while I was cooking (if you can call a minute in the microwave cooking), she had selected a program she likes, "So You Think You Can Dance." She and M1 had spent the night over her parents, on Christmas. They didn't come home until very late, yesterday, so I had gone a couple of days without watching TV with the exotic beauty. Suddenly, she terminated the conversation with her mother, in a huff. She had mentioned that the after Christmas sales were on at the shops. A friend of hers works at some store in Camberley, a nearby town. After reminding her mother that Camberley had a better selection of shops than Bracknell, her mother said she and the Flower's aunt were going to go shopping in Camberley. The Flower wanted to go along, but her mother wanted to leave immediately. The Flower had just gotten up and thought she needed time to get ready. Such are the trials and tribulations of being a young, unemployed beauty.
Nando was off today and he was the next one downstairs. He still looked half asleep, with what little hair he still has on the top of his head all tussled. The Flower likes Nando, not realizing that he finds her annoying. As Nando rummaged in the kitchen, making himself a bacon sandwich, M1 finally came downstairs. He could have stayed upstairs, for all I care. The Flower started complaining to M1 that it wasn't fair that her mother and aunt were going shopping in Camberley, without her, when it was the Flower's idea. "If it wasn't for me reminding my Mum, they wouldn't be going," she said with exasperation. M1 seemed less than sympathetic and complained that he didn't have any petrol in his car. Then they started bickering over some money. M1 claimed the Flower owned him £10 from the night before, while she refuted this. Their dispute was interrupted by her mother calling back. The Flower whined that she wanted to go shopping in Camberley with her mother. I tuned out much of the ruckus, savoring my hot dog. In the end, the Flower's mother agreed to wait while the Flower got ready. They would all go shopping together. I missed out on the opportunity to offer to drive with her.
In a little while, M1 and the Flower went out, leaving me and Nando at home. I continued watching "So You Think You Can Dance," even after the Flower had gone. "Why you still watching this crap?" Nando inquired.
"It's great," I exaggerated. I couldn't get Nando interested in the program. After he ate, he went upstairs for a bit. Soon, he came back down the stairs and it sounded like he was dressed to go out. I could hear what sounded like keys jingling. "Are you going out?" I asked. Nando told me he was going to Sainsbury's and asked me if I wanted anything. I was running low on hot dog buns and considered asking him to get me some. "Do you mind if I go with you?" I figured if I went with him, I might find some bargains and it would save me starting my own car. Nando agreed that I could join him. I hurriedly put on socks and shoes. I combed my hair and brushed my teeth. It would be good to get out of the house, as I hadn't been out since Friday.
As we walked into Sainsbury's, Nando went to get a trolley. "are you going to do that much shopping?" I questioned him.
"I can't be bothered with a basket," he replied. I preferred a hand basket, the sign of the bachelor. As we walked into the store, he walked straight ahead, into the organic vegetable section. He wasn't buying organic vegetables, he was just cutting through to the refridgerated section, behind fruit and vegetables. I told him I would catch up with him and veered off to the right to check the reduced to clear section in the fruit and veg department. I picked up a few bargains there. Some button mushrooms, carrots, and salad that were all marked down because they had reached their sell by date. Nando and I kept coming across each other, as we each followed our own shopping agenda. At one point, as he was passing me at the canned goods reduced to clear section, I pointed out to him that canned, chopped tomatoes, of a brand he likes, were marked down. He picked up two cans. Then I lost sight of him. I don't think he has the knack for finding bargains that I do. When I finished, I looked for him.
Eventually, I spotted Nando pushing his trolley toward me. I had completed my sweep of the store before he did. I walked with him as he picked up a few more items, then we went to the checkout aisles. Nando went for the first one, manned by and elderly man. I considered whether to follow Nando, or go to another aisle, with a female cashier. All the other aisles had longer lines and I decided that the quickest would be to go behind Nando. I had been waited on by this old man, before, but not for a long time. I engaged him in conversation and he was off, telling me stories. He was a retired engineer and working at Sainsbury's part-time. Nando wasn't interested and merely packed his carrier bags, loading them into his trolley. Nando went on ahead after he paid, to buy some cigarettes at the tobacco counter. A tall, slim, attractive blond woman, with short hair, came up to the checkout aisle, while the old man was telling me a joke. I totally lost track of what he was saying, as I looked at this woman. She took absolutely no notice of me. Politely, I waited for the old guy to finish what he was saying, then bade him farewell and went off looking for Nando.
Nando wasn't in the line for the tobacco counter, so I went outside. I hoped I hadn't kept him waiting for me. Darkness had fallen, while we were shopping. I struggled to remember where he'd parked. All of a sudden, I heard a familiar voice call out, "Joseph!" It was Nando, packing his bags, from his trolley into his car.
As I walked up to the car, I said, "I couldn't remember where you had parked."
"I couldn't remember either," he said. "I looked for you."
"You parked in a different area to where I usually park," I told him. "I want to get home before the girl (the Flower) get's home," I added.
"Why you want to do that?"
"I don't want to miss out on watching TV with her," I explained. "Plus, if I get home first, then I control the remote." Nando laughed at me and drove us home.
When we got back to the house, M1 and the Flower still weren't back. As we put our shopping away, Nando asked me if I like lasagne. "Everybody likes lasagne," I replied. Nando said he was in the mood for lasagne and offered to share it with me, if I wanted. A free dinner? Sure, I was up for that. I think it was easier for him to make enough for two, than to try to scale down for one. Nando and I rarely go shopping together and he rarely cooks for me. Tonight, we had both.

Meeting Michelle

The back stories of the wonderful women seem to be growing in popularity. Having done Kelly, Kelley, and Pam 1, I guess now's a good time to cover the next one, the Great Michelle.
In 1988, I was working as a stockbroker, back in America. I worked out of an office on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York. The firm promoted a new Sales Manager, Neal, who I liked. Unfortunately, I have a history of not getting along with managers. I am not one of those people who will just do as he's told. If I am told to do something that makes sense, there's no problem. However, if I am told to do something that makes no sense, I will resist doing it. Sometimes, I think of better ways to do things and I will vocalize such to management. A secure manager will be able to take my suggestions in stride. The problem Neal and I had, was that he was a bit insecure, as a newly promoted manager, so he was uncomfortable with me coming up with ideas that were better than his. After one such encounter, he actually told me I was fired.
Like many of his bad ideas, he came to have second thoughts about firing me, so he offered me my job back. I accepted, but decided that I might be happier in a different office. I asked to be transferred to the firm's Wall Street office, in Manhattan. My request was granted. Nothing screams "stock market," like Wall Street. I was excited to be working in the heart of it all. Okay, so the office was smaller and in an older building than the one on Long Island, but I was working on Wall Street, literally. There was only one problem: I didn't gel with the manager, there, at all. After about a week, he summarily announced that I was being transferred to the Midtown office.
I was out of Wall Street, but at least I was still in Manhattan. Little did I know at the time, but the manager of the Midtown office was good friends with the manager of the Wall Street one. It seemed that the guys in the Midtown office, possibly in collusion with the Wall Street office manager, had hatched a plot to drive my to quit. As soon as I started working at Midtown, the pranks started. Things went missing from my desk and shaving cream was put in my telephone handset. Someone rang the phone and I picked it up, only to get shaving cream on the side of my face. They underestimated my ability to endure stuff and my refusal to give up. I didn't quit. So, they escalated things. They swiped my briefcase. I had had enough. No, I didn't quit, I complained to the manager. At the time, I had a very expensive, Haliburton, Zero briefcase. It had cost me over $300 when I bought it. I marched into the manager's office and told him that I wanted him to get whomever had taken it to return it, by the end of the day. He tried to wiggle out of it, by asking me how I knew someone in the office had taken it. I wasn't having any of it. "Because the briefcase cost over $250, that's grand theft," I told him, authoritatively, "if the case isn't returned by the end of the day, I will call the police and let them handle it." I wasn't even sure that was true, but it sounded good. I went out to lunch and when I returned, the briefcase was on my desk.
It seems they decided to take a more direct course. On the Thursday of that week, the manager called me into his office and told me I was fired. The reason he gave was that, by being the victim of so many pranks, I was creating a "disturbance" in the office. Talk about blaming the victim. There I was on a Thursday, suddenly having a load of free time on my hands. I had been a regular listener to the Howard Stern radio show, in New York, since 1986. Every year, Howard used to take a group of listeners who won some contest to London, for a week, and broadcast live from there. It happened to be the week Howard was in London, that week. On the Sunday, Howard was attending the Prince's Trust Concert, at Albert Hall. I had this desire to meet Howard's newswoman, Robin Quivers. She was on the trip, as well, along with all of Howard's crew. Suddenly, I had this spontaneous idea. Why not fly to London for the rest of the week and attend the concert? Maybe I could meet Robin, there.
At that time, Virgin Atlantic Airways had started flying between New York and London. They were advertising some very low airfares for trips booked at the last minute They had a deal called a "Late Saver," for trips booked two days in advance, or less. I called Virgin and made a reservation for the next evening. At that time, Virgin was so small, they didn't have a ticket office anywhere near me. They told me I could go to any travel agent, pay there, and get them to print the ticket. I had traveled all over the USA and been to Canada a couple of times, but I had never been any further than that. Fortunately, I had acquired a passport three years earlier, "just in case." My domestic trips I had always purchased directly from the airlines, so I didn't have a relationship with a travel agency. I looked through the Yellow Pages and saw an ad for a travel agency not far from my home. It was Omega World Travel. They had a number of offices in the New York area, but the nearest was in Garden City, the next village over from where I was living, in Hempstead. I phoned them and verified that they handled Virgin Atlantic, then went to the office to get my tickets.
On Thursday evening, I was sat in the Omega World Travel office, waiting to be served. When it was my turn, I took a seat in front of an attractive woman and told her that I had a reservation with Virgin Atlantic, and had come to have it ticketed. She didn't seem pleased about this. Years later, I would learn that this is because it was a lot of work for a very small commission. She phoned Virgin Atlantic and "took over" the reservation. After a bit of paperwork, during which she seemed to be getting increasingly annoyed, the ticketing was done. Then she asked me if I needed anything else. "I don't know, I've never been to Britain before," I replied. She grew even more frustrated with me. For some reason, she asked me if I had accommodation arranged. No, I hadn't. When I traveled in America I either stayed with friends and relatives, or I just found a cheap motel when I got there. I hadn't given any thought to accommodation yet. I was making it up as I went along. She told me it was too late for her to book me accommodation anyway. Then why did she ask? I don't think this was true, but I suspect it was just that she was trying to get rid of me. Her attitude seemed to mellow and she told me that when I arrived at London Gatwick Airport, I could find a counter in the arrivals hall which would find me a hotel in London. I thanked her for this useful tip. I wasn't planning on renting a car, as I was just spending a long weekend in London. I planned on relying on public transportation. We parted amicably and I went home with my tickets in hand. This was the start of an ongoing relationship with Omega World Travel, which would last for years. I was going to London!
My flight was on the next evening, Friday. On Friday morning, I called Neal at my old office and told him what had happened to me in the Midtown office. Neal offered me my job back in the Long Island office. I thanked him, but there was one problem: I was going to London! I told him my tickets were non-refundable and that I was returning on Monday afternoon. Neal told me to be in the office on Tuesday and not to be late. So, things were working out. I had a job again and I was off to London. That night, I checked in for my Virgin flight to London. The flight departed from Newark Airport, in New Jersey, across the river from New York. Virgin only had two airplanes, back then. One flew between London and Miami, while the other flew between Newark and London. There was only one flight, each way, per day. The flights from America to London were overnight, leaving America in the evening and landing at Gatwick the following morning. I boarded the plane and saw the most beautiful flight attendants I had ever seen, dressed in sexy red uniforms, with white blouses sheer enough to see the lace of their bras through the material. What was also charming is that they were all British, so I was hearing the loveliest accents and getting a taste of Britain right from the start. We took off reasonably on time. It was my first time leaving the North American continent and somewhere over the Atlantic, after dinner, I fell asleep.
As we neared Britain, the next morning, I woke up to the smell of breakfast being heated. Landing cards were doled out and I managed to fill mine out. This was the first time I had used a passport. When I had visited Canada, American citizens hadn't needed a passport and Canada is enough like the US that it hardly seems like going to a foreign country. After landing, as the airplane taxied to the gate, at Gatwick, on a pleasant June morning, it suddenly hit me what I was doing. Here I was, in a foreign country, alone, knowing no one and I didn't even have a hotel reservation. After a brief panic, I stepped off the plane and smelled British air for the first time. That was one of the first things that struck smelled different to America. Things went smoothly. I calmed down and started enjoying the adventure. I was in Britain! I was in Europe for the first time. I found the counter that the travel agent had recommended and they sent me to a hotel within walking distance of Victoria Train Station, in London. I took the Gatwick Express into London and walked to my hotel. I was was given the smallest hotel room I had ever seen. There wasn't even a toilet. I had to share a toilet with other guests, down the hall, as well as the shower, European style. Oh well, all part of the adventure. After checking in, I started walking around Britain's capital, taking in the sights.
I spent all Saturday afternoon seeing the sights of London. I visited Hyde Park and Piccadilly Circus. I found a ticket broker and purchased a ticket to the Prince's Trust Concert, the next day. One of the things I wanted to do was visit a club in London. I enjoyed going clubbing in New York and wanted to try out London's fare. It was Saturday night and time to party. There was one problem: I had left my dress shoes back home, by mistake. If clubs in London were anything like the ones in New York, they wouldn't let me in with sneakers on, which was all I had to wear. I figured I would try my luck. I dressed as poshly as possible and hoped no one would notice my feet.
I went back to Piccadilly and started looking for a club. Wandering up Shaftsbury Avenue, I happened upon a club called, quite appropriately, "Shaftsbury's." There was a bouncer at the door, with a girl on either side of him. I walked up to him, and sought entry. He stopped me and said I couldn't come in with "trainers" on. I learned that in Britain, they call sneakers "trainers." I thought I would try honesty and throw myself on his mercy. I explained that I had traveled all the way from New York, having just arrived that morning, but I accidentally left my dress shoes at home. I wanted to see a London club and wouldn't cause any trouble. He was very nice and apologized, but said that his boss was inside and he couldn't make an exception. I ended up standing there, talking with him and the two girls. I found that many of the people I encountered on my trip were fascinated by the fact that I was from New York. At times, it was like being a celebrity. The girl on his left was blond, while the one on his right had brown hair. They were both good looking, but I found the one with brown hair to be the most beautiful. She was very tall, which I like in a woman. The bouncer had an arm around each girl. He introduced the brown haired one as his "wife," pulling her in close as he said this, but I noticed that she pulled away from him and got a slightly disgusted look on her face. I suspected that she wasn't his, after all. She seemed more interested in talking to me than the other one was, so I chatted with her. She told me she was 23 and a small time model, from Wales. She was visiting London to attend some sort of modeling expo, hoping to get big time modeling work. Her name was Michelle.
Michelle told me that she and her friend would love to visit New York. I told her that if she decided to come visit New York, I would put her up. She was with a group of wannabe models and it was eventually time for her to go catch her bus back to Wales. I walked her to her bus. I gave her my stockbroker business card and invited her to look me up, if she came to New York. She gave me her phone number, as well. At the door to her bus, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and we parted company. I made my way back to my hotel, having given up on going to a club. My first night in Britain and I had a model's phone number. Not bad for a boy from Hempstead.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A James Brown Christmas

No matter how bad your Christmas was, if you are reading this, it was better than James Brown's. The hardest working man in show business died yesterday, at 1:45AM, local time, in Atlanta, Georgia. He probably didn't even get to open any presents. He was only 73. He only performed in London, a few weeks ago. Ironically, my favorite song by him is, "Doin' It to Death." The most fascinating thing I learned about him is that he grew up in a brothel. My distant "cousin," Brenda, looked like him. So much so, she could have been his sister, except he didn't have a sister. He was an only child, like me. He also had the same initials as I do. Will the people who bought him gifts for Christmas take them back to the store for a refund? Imagine turning up at the refund counter and the stroppy person manning it asks you what is the reason you are returning it. "The person I bought it for died." I wonder if the song, "James Brown is Dead," by L.A. Style, be played at his funeral?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas, a Time For Lies

Once again, Christmas is upon us and millions of parents are lying to their children. You know, the whole Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas, in the UK) hoax. What is the fascination so many parents have with hoodwinking their own kids?
When I got married to the Black Queen, we had a massive debate over this. At the time, I was committed to not telling any lies. Up till then, she had been lying to her children. She'd been telling them the usual Father Christmas crap. I wanted to tell them the truth, while she wanted to maintain the lie. To me, it's just as wonderful, if not more so, to tell the children that Mummy and Daddy give them their presents, rather than attribute it to some hoax in a red suit. In the end, they figure it out, eventually, anyway. When they do, haven't they just learned that lying is okay? Don't they learn that their parents can't be trusted? If parents will lie about that, what else will they lie about? The Tooth Fairy? The Easter Bunny? That it's good to get an education? That you should eat vegetables? That taking drugs is bad?
Ironically, the Black Queen's biggest complaint about her first husband was that he lied so much. Yet, here she was defending lying. In the end, the agreement we worked out was that I wouldn't tell the children that Father Christmas is a myth, but I wouldn't say anything to promote the hoax, either. In the end, I was the only one not conning someone. The Black Queen pretended to be someone she wasn't. The kids, the Black Prince and Princess, pretended to love me. And I was the one taken in by it all. It's sort of like musical chairs. Everything's okay, so long as the music keeps playing. When the music stops, if you're the one left standing, without a chair, you're out.
What of the Christians? The Ten Commandments say "thou shalt not bear false witness," but Jesus wasn't born on the 25th of December. Not the Mexican gardener, I mean the Jesus in the New Testament. How do Christians balance the prohibition against lying, in the Ten Commandments, with perpetrating the Santa Claus scam on their children? What happened to "the truth shall set you free?" When the Puritans were in charge, in England, they banned Christmas. Did they have a point? Of course I'm opposed to banning things. Besides, religion is one of the biggest scams of all. Some people complain that Christmas is becoming a secular holiday, devoid of religious significance. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's better to return Christmas to a celebration of the Winter Solstice. Make it a time for friends and family to get together and enjoy hedonistic experiences. So, who have you lied to today? Yourself? Merry Christmas to all and to all a good con. I'm going to go eat my Christmas dinner.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Artist of the Week: Leona Lewis

I held off posting my Artist of the Week, this week, to find out the results of the UK Singles Chart. As expected, Lenoa Lewis has achieved the coveted Christmas number one single. I am pleased to select her as my Artist of the Week. Last Saturday, she won "The X Factor" (UK), the first woman to do so. I was so impressed with her since I started seeing her on "The X Factor," that I voted for her in the final. This is the first time I have ever voted in any reality TV competition. Her single, "A Moment Like This," was downloaded 50,000 times within the first thirty minutes of being available, online. She has been compared, favorably, to the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. I think she is better looking than Mariah
Born in Islington, London, the 21-year-old beauty lives in Hackney. Prior to entering the "X Factor" competition, she worked as a receptionist and a waitress. Sadly, whomever is running her Myspace page doesn't have her single available to sample on her song player. Instead, they have a separate player with the video for it. As I play songs by my Artists of the Week on my profile, not videos, I had to select from what is there. I chose her live covering of "Could This Be Magic," which she performed on "the X Factor." I like the song and like her rendition of it. You can see the music video of "A Moment Like This" at her Myspace: . Add her as a friend and tell her I sent you. She has a great voice and I expect great things from this young lady, in the future. People in America need to get behind her, as well, so she will be successful in that market. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Twas the Night Before, the Night Before, the Night Before Christmas

My bad. I didn't post a new blog article, yesterday. Sorry. I really, really, really, really (ever notice how children, who have limited vocabularies, will concatenate an increasing number of "really" together to indicate ever increasing levels of seriousness?), really, really, REALLY wanted to post one, but I was out last night, had a few drinks, and was way too tired, by the time I got home. I missed "Eastenders," as well. I will try to catch up on the omnibus show, on Sunday. I hadn't planned on going out, last night. I was lured into it.
On Thursday, the Sous Chef, at the restaurant where I work between acting gigs, invited me to go to a pub for drinks, after work on Friday. No, "invite" is too strong a word. He shouted, "are you going to the pub with us?" I gave an ambiguous response and asked him where it was. "Just down the road," he explained, without indicating which road he was talking about. I had no idea where this pub was, after he explained. Okay, I had a little idea...somewhere in England. He suggested that I bring a change of clothes. He said that if I went, it would mean spending money. That's the type of detail to really put me off. Perhaps he didn't really want me to go, after all.
I always seem to end up struggling with an internal debate over these kind of things. I am invited to go somewhere and I struggle with the decision. On the one hand, I would like to go out and have a good time. On the other hand, there's the "I can't be bothered" factor, plus the expense. Last year, I was working at another restaurant and I was invited to attend their staff Christmas Party. It was free and I ended up going, but I only had a marginally good time. I left feeling like I might have gotten better value staying home. This going to the pub after work is the closest thing to a Christmas party I could experience, this year. Then, a new drawback arose, which threatened to tip the balance against going.
It doesn't take much to tip the balance. Sometimes things are so close that the proverbial butterfly flapping it's wings in a Brazilian rainforest can change the outcome. My handler at the temp agency asked to speak to me, Thursday afternoon. The Restaurant Manager had asked for an additional temp for Friday, as one of his permanent staff was taking the day off. My handler was on the phone and wanted me to agree to drive the second temp to work with me, on Friday. As usual, I agreed. Because I was busy at the time, it didn't occur to me then, but at home, on Thursday night, I suddenly realized that if I drove this fellow, he probably wouldn't want to attend and would be relying on me to drive him home. He also wouldn't know to bring a change of clothes and I didn't have his phone number. He could be my excuse not to go.
On Friday morning, I considered bringing a change of clothes, just in case, but as I was running behind schedule, I decided not to bother. It would have slowed me down and made me late. After waiting at the rendezvous point for fifteen minutes, without seeing the fellow I was supposed to be driving, I called the temp office. My handler said he'd check on the guy and call me back. In a couple of minutes, he called back and informed me that the fellow wasn't coming. I was directed to proceed on my own and they would get someone else to the restaurant, later. I ended up driving on my own. Now, I had no excuse, but I also had no change of clothes. Could that be my excuse?
On Friday morning at the restaurant, the Manager called me into his office. He always has this deadpan way of doing so, that leads me to worry that I am in some sort of trouble, but it never turns out to be so. This time was the same. When I got in his office, it turned out that he only wanted to give me a jacket. For years, I have been wearing a black, leather jacket, that my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, had bought me. It's seen better days. It's got a massive tear in the left front, as if someone had tried to stab me in the heart, but got caught up in the leather. There's also a hole worn in the collar. For weeks, the Manager had been saying that he was going to give me one of his old jackets, because he felt sorry for me having only the tattered, old leather to wear. When it didn't happen, I just figured it was a load of talk. Perhaps because it was the last workday before Christmas, he felt motivated to make good on his promise. He presented me with a black, woolen jacket, that was in pristine condition. Surprisingly, it fit me even better than the leather one had. The Head Chef came into the Manager's office and asked me what size shoes I wore. When I told him a size 12, he said he had a pair of shoes for me. He'd taken a pair of work shoes from another restaurant he worked at, but they were one size too big for him. They were perfect for me. Slightly used, they were an improvement over my work boots, which had started coming apart at the seams. Christmas had come to the restaurant. Daddy's got a new pair of shoes. This shows that if you look pathetic enough, people will give you stuff.
The Sous Chef asked me, again, if I was coming to the pub after work. This time, I managed to extract clearer directions out of him. The pub turned out to be in the opposite direction to what I had thought. I still gave him an ambiguous response. I often make up my mind at the last minute and would see how I felt at the end of the workday. The Head Chef assigned me to run the plate wash room for the day, which was another treat for me. It's easy work, as there is a big, automated washing machine, with a conveyor belt. You just load the plates, cutlery, and glasses into racks and put them on the conveyor, then take off the clean stuff at the other end and put it away. Also, as the plate wash room is on the opposite side of the restaurant from the kitchen, it's peaceful and I am sort of "out of sight-out of mind," so the chefs don't end up asking me to do stuff. I also get to pick off left-over food that comes in on serving plates, to be put down the waste disposal.
The restaurant closed a little early, so staff could head off to the pub. Because the restaurant is closed until Tuesday, the chefs had no prep to do. The two of us in the plate wash still had all the serving bowls and plates to wash and put away. Everyone else was ready to go and the Manager strolled into the plate wash room, asking me if I had my timesheet for him to sign. "It's in my locker," I explained, which was at the other end of the restaurant, behind the kitchen. He looked disappointed, then asked me if I was coming to the pub. Decision time. "Yes," I said. He told me to bring my timesheet and he'd sign it there. He also promised to buy me a pint of beer. Bingo! Now I would be able to have at least one drink, without spending money. I was going! Everyone else headed off, leaving me and Pritam, one of the Nepalese, to finish in the plate wash.
I caught up with the crew, at the pub, by 3:30PM. As promised, the Manager bought me a pint. He signed my timesheet while we waited at the bar. Business done, I sat down with the rest of the people from work. The Manager's girlfriend was there, who managed another restaurant run by the same catering company. I was the only one dressed in my work clothes and I was still wearing my ID card around my neck. The Sous Chef suggested I take it off, but I felt it was safer there. The one flaw in my new jacket is that it doesn't have pockets that zip up. My old leather did. I was worried that I might lose my ID, if I put it in my pocket. As the various management and chefs took turns buying rounds of drinks, I ended up having several drinks bought for me, until I reached my comfort level. Then I stated turning them down. Some of the revellers left after a couple of hours. Two more joined us, the Sous Chef's girlfriend and the Head Chef's wife. The latter being the last to arrive, as she got lost on the way to the pub. We ended up being a party of seven, three couples and me. The Sous Chef started asking me if I was joining them for the rest of the night. I was my old, ambiguous self. I kept checking the time, wary of "Eastenders" starting at 8PM. I mentioned my concern for seeing "Eastenders" and the Sous Chef suggested I catch the repeat broadcast at 10PM. I lost track of time and the next time I asked, it was 8:05. I had missed the first showing of "Eastenders." I was also starting to feel hungry, so I was tempted by the itinerary, which included an all you can eat Chinese restaurant. The negative factor was that I would have to pay for myself at the restaurant, which would cost me £20. I love Chinese food and £20 for a night out isn't too bad. I was in!
The pub we were at was on the outskirts of Fleet, so the first move was to another pub in the town centre. The other six piled into a cab, while I drove myself, following them. At the next pub, the Oaksheef, I turned down all drinks, except a small glass of champagne. Although they had a dinner reservation at the Chinese restaurant, the Sous Chef suggested that they skip it and stay at this pub. After a discussion amongst the women, they put their feet down and insisted that we go to the restaurant. I sided with them, as I had enough of drinking and wanted food. We walked to the restaurant, which was only across the street.
It's called Water Sky Chinese Restaurant and if you ever find yourself in Fleet, Hampshire, it's good quality Chinese, although it's not cheap. While many Chinese all you can eats are buffets and cheap buffets tend to be of marginal quality, Water Sky cooks the food to order and provides full waiter service, which is one reason the cost is higher than a lot of Chinese all you can eats. It was £17.95 per person, plus drinks and I think there's a service charge for parties of six or more. You can call Water Sky at 01252 615034, for directions or reservations. Tell them I sent you. Maybe they'll give me a discount someday.
Water Sky was packed when we entered. After we were seated, I eyed up the numerous, cute Chinese waitresses. They reminded me of my evil ex-wife, the Black Queen, who's mother is Chinese. While most of the others had beer and wine, I stuck to water. The waitress put the food on a turntable in the center of the table, so we could turn it around and provide everyone with access to every dish. I may have been the only one of us still sober. The Sous Chef seemed to be holding it together and the Head Chef's wife, who'd had less than everyone else, having arrived late seemed to have her shit together. The rest were at the stage where they were becoming rowdy. It can be quite amusing to be out with drunk people, in a nice restaurant, when you aren't bothered about what people think. I don't know if it's age, or that I have been through so many tough times in life, but I generally don't give a shit what people think of me when I'm out. It seemed to kick off when the Manager's girlfriend, who was a manager in her own right, disappeared from her chair. She'd crawled under the table, for some reason. Suddenly, her head appeared from under the table, at the opposite side to where she'd been sitting, peeping out between the Sous Chef and his girlfriend. After the first course, the table looked like a bomb had hit it. There were spots of spilled sauce and bits of Chinese food all over. Drunk English people may not be entirely skilled at eating with chopsticks. The Manager started swaying in his chair and looked like he might fall over. At one point, I looked around and the Manager's girlfriend was climbing over him, positioning herself, straddled across him. She wins the "Most Animated" award for the meal. The Sous Chef's girlfriend spilled her drink all over her section of the table. The Head chef threw his napkin across the table and out into the restaurant. The Manager lost one of his chopsticks. I found the entire scene amusing to watch. I didn't feel the least bit embarrassed to be seen with them. I felt sorry for the waiting staff, though, but they seemed to put up with it all rather calmly, with stereotypical Chinese discretion. Perhaps they were used to it, being located across from a popular pub.
Just before the first of the main course dishes arrived, the Manager's girlfriend started saying she wanted to go back to the hotel room they had booked. She started to leave and take a cab back, alone, but we persuaded her to stay. She ended up falling asleep in her chair. At least that stopped her from crawling around the floor. Soon, it was all over. The Manager's girlfriend tried to talk the waiter into giving us a discount, as we worked in the restaurant business ourselves. The shrewd waiter wasn't having any of it. I hurried to finish as much of the food as I could, trying to get my £20's worth. The restaurant's staff had ordered taxis for the others. I drove home alone, stuffed. A good night was had by all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Flower Moves In For a Week

Last night, the Exotic Flower stayed over, again. She and M1 rolled in just past 11PM, again. I had just turned off the TV and gone upstairs to listen to Opal Bonfante on the radio, when I heard M1's boy-racerized car pull up, outside. You can't miss it, as his exhaust is the loudest on our street. I looked out the window, to see if he had the Flower with him, and he did. After they went into his room, I quickly raced back downstairs and put the TV back on. If there was going to be another session of late TV watching, I wanted to be there for it and to control the remote.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, I heard the sound of the Flower's feet on the stairs. I had put on music video channels, which are a good enticement to get her to watch. She came into the lounge, alone, leaving M1 upstairs, where I like him. Sitting in her usual spot, on the middle settee, just to my left, she asked if "Girls of the Playboy Mansion" was on, again. It's one of her favorite programs. I searched through the menu and was grateful to see that "Girls" wasn't on. I went back to cycling through the music video channels. The Flower told me that she still hadn't seen the entire Leona Lewis video. I hoped it would come on while she was sitting with me. Suddenly, she said she wanted to make sure M1 had gone to bed and she went upstairs, returning after a minute or so.
Having verified that M1 had, indeed, gone to bed for the night, the Flower relaxed and we settled in for another session of late-night TV viewing. I told her that I had been thinking about her, while I was at work that day. She asked in what way. I proceeded to tell her how I might be getting to do a radio show, on a new, local station, that's supposed to be starting sometime after the beginning of the new year. When I had pitched my idea for a radio show to the Program Manager of another station, two years ago, I had envisioned having a female sidekick. I have lost touch with the girl I had in mind, back then, and had been wondering if the Flower would be interested in doing it. The Flower studies dance and is interested in all aspects of show business. She asked me to discribe what her role would be, so I gave her as clear an explanation as I could. I have this other pet name for the Flower, which I use with her, in person. No, I'm not telling you lot, it's private. She told me that M1 had started copying me and calling her by it. I had mixed feelings about this. It's nice that my pet name for her is catching on, but I didn't like the idea of his grubby hands all over it.
Then the Flower started talking about how her friends come to her for advice about sex. She wanted to know if I would have people calling up for advice, on my radio show. Ironically, I had considered doing that, two years ago, when I was trying to get a late night time slot, between 10PM and 2AM. After telling her that, I explained that now, I was hoping for an earlier time. While I might give relationship advice, I think the kind of sex talk she seemed to be thinking about would be better left to late-night. Still, it was nice to have her discussing sex. To give me an example of how her friends turn to her for sex advice, she told me the story of one occasion, when a friend called her. This friend of her's had been experimenting with pouring liquid chocolate over parts of the friend's body, while in the company of her boyfriend. It seems that the chocolate had cooled and hardened. The friend wanted to know how to get the hardened chocolate from her nether regions. Meanwhile, the Flower was sharing a bed with her mother. She explained that when her mother and father have a fight, her mother comes and stays in the Flower's room with her. The friend is on the phone, asking about chocolate and nether regions, while the Flower is inhibited about discussing this in front of her mother. This was all starting to sound so wrong, but fascinating all the same. Flower's mother grabs the phone and tells friend to just have her boyfriend lick the chocolate off. My mother never gave me advice like that. On second thought, that's probably a good thing. Too bad the Flower's mother is married, she sounds like an interesting woman.
After about an hour of watching music videos, the Flower says she is tired and goes to bed. I go to my own room to listen to the rest of Opal Bonfante's show, on the Big L 1395 AM (Sky Channel 0190 or via the net at: ) and give Opal a call. Opal is an avid reader of this blog and likes it when I mention her. This evening, I was upstairs when M1 came home. He'd brought the Flower with him and I overheard her speaking to Nando, downstairs. I heard something muffled that sounded like she said she was moving in. Quickly, I went out of my room. Standing at the top of the stairs, I encountered the Exotic Flower carrying some bags upstairs. She informed me that she was moving in...for a week. So many of her relatives had come over her parents house for the holidays, that her bedroom was being used for some of them to sleep in. She was temporarily taking up residence in M1's tiny bedroom. I guess having the Flower around for the holidays is my Christmas present. After tomorrow, I will be off for all next week, through New Year's. Perhaps I will get to spend some quality time with the little, exotic beauty. I went downstairs and saw Nando watching TV. Knowing that the Flower bothers him, as she's too girly-girly for him, I say to Nando, "so, you're little mate is moving in for the week." Nando gives me a less than happy expression. I laughed out loud and leave him to contemplate his fate.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nando's Concern For Starving Children

I was just sitting with Nando, watching "Friends." Nando loves "Friends." During a commercial break, there was an ad asking people to sponsor a child in the Third World. So I asked Nando, "have you ever considered sponsoring a child?"
"Why should I be interested in that?" Try to imagine Nando replying with a heavy Italian accent.
"I just thought you might have thought about it," I continued. Now, that's a bit of a white lie. If you asked me to bet hard earned money on it, I would say that no way would Nando ever sponsor a poor child overseas. I am just asking him in case it prompts him to say something amusing. When you are poor, this is one way you can entertain yourself, by asking your housemate questions you think might precipitate an amusing response. It's cheaper than an X Box 360.
"If I thought all the money goes to the child, that's one thing," Nando said, "but out of £10, only £2 goes to the child."
"How do you know that?" I am good at egging Nando on. More gold might be coming.
"Let's say you donate £10 per month to the charity," Nando explained." "They say, 'oh, I'll keep £2 for, whatever.' Then they send £8 worth of stuff to the airport to be loaded on the plane. The man who drives it to the airport, he takes a little. The man who load it on the plane, he take a little. The man who flies the plane, he takes a little and don't even get me started on what happens when the plane it get to the other side."
"You expect the guy who flies the plane to work for free?" Hey, I used to work as a pilot. Pilot's gotta eat, too.
"No, I don't expect him to work for nothing," Nando concedes. "He must be paid by...someone. But all the people take a bit for themselves. By the time the food arrives in Africa, maybe the child gets only a packet of crisps" (i.e, potato chips, for Norte Americanos).
"What if you knew all the money would go to the child?" I ask, keeping this going.
"For thirty years I can remember these people asking for money for children in Africa," Nando responds, "still, they are asking. Nothing is solved. What's wrong with these people? They are idiots!"
I sense a big payoff. "Why do you say that?"
"Because, they say these people walk thirty miles a day to get to water. Why walk thirty miles every day to the water? Move to where the fucking water is," Nando reasons. He's laughing and I'm laughing.
I can barely contain myself and I say, semi-hysterical, "maybe...maybe they can't move to where the water is," pausing for breath between laughing and talking, "maybe they have to stay where they are, because the food is there." I am now seriously laughing out loud.
"You need water for drinking, bath, cooking," Nando is self-propelled by now. "Why go every day thirty miles? Move near to the water and...let's say you eat some apples. Walk thirty miles to the apples and pick enough to last for several days. Then you don't have to walk everyday," Nando said. "In Europe and America, every city is either on the coast, or on the river," Nando gets geographical. "That's because you need water. These idiots stay thirty miles from the water. Move, you idiots!" Nando posed a question for me, then. "What would you do if there was a fly on your arm?"
Where is he going with this? "I guess I would kill it," the compassionate side of me answers.
"You would smack your arm," Nando demonstrates as he says this. "These people have thirty flies on their face and they don't move." Probably, the director told them not to move," I explain. Nando pauses, then continues, "and don't get me stated on these 'Afro -Americans.' They should be glad their great-great-great grandparents were slaves and brought to America. Now they have the chance to do something. If they were still in Africa, they be the ones walk thirty miles for the water and have thirty flies on their faces." Nando manages to have everything balance out at thirty.
"I know a woman who said that very thing," I inform Nando. "In America, this woman said she she was grateful her ancestors were brought to America, from Africa." I don't bother to inform Nando that this woman was my own grandmother. Who needs a Nintendo Wii, when you have a wind-up racist at home, to entertain?
"I like the English say,' charity begins at home,' " Nando offers.
"They say that in America," I point out.
"Oh well, I heard it after I move here," explains my Italian housemate. "If there was a person living next door, who was starving," Nando continued, "probably I would give some food or something." Nando shows his compassionate side.
"You like to give your charity face to face," I suggest. Nando nods his head yes. We'd spent enough time laughing at starving people in Third World countries, for one night. Nando would help the old woman next door. She's German.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Watching Girls of the Playboy Mansion With the Flower

I had a special treat, tonight. I hadn't seen the Exotic Flower for about ten days. Last weekend, my youngest housemate, M1, took the Flower away for the weekend, to visit his mother, in Wales. Because of that, the Flower didn't spend the weekend at our house. Nando was pleased about that, because he finds her girly-girliness annoying. I think I like women more than Nando does and I find her sweet and adorable. Out of all the guys in the house, I have the most compatible taste to hers, in music and TV.
Nando and I had planned on watching the Arsenal v Liverpool, football match, tonight. First we watched "Eastenders," as usual, then we tuned into Sky Sports. No game! Or should I say, some other game. We discovered that the Arsenal/Liverpool match had been postponed, due to fog. I quickly suggested we watch a film. We put on the beginning of "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," but Nando didn't like it. At 9PM, "Hostage," starring Bruce Willis, was beginning. Nando opted to watch this, instead. I have seen it before and dozed off. When I awoke again, the film had ended and Nando had put on "Air Crash Investigations." By this time, Nando was feeling tired, so he went upstairs, to bed. I was trying to wake myself up enough to do the same, when I heard a sound at the front door. In walked M1 and the Exotic Flower.
The sudden, unexpected arrival of the Exotic Flower woke me up a bit. They went up to M1's room, but after a short time, the Flower came back downstairs. Then she went back up, again. Then she came back down. Then she went up, again. Finally, she came back down, once again and plopped down on the middle settee. She announced that M1 had hidden her shoe. Knowing that spared me the effort of putting on the BBC News. She lit a cigarette. "I want to go home, but he's hidden my shoe," she embellished. They were bickering again. If she asked me to drive her home, would I be willing to get up, get dressed,a and go out into the cold December night, with little prospect of reward? Probably. I like the idea of coming to her rescue.
Fortunately for me, she didn't ask. She started watching "Air Crash Investigations," with me. At the first commercial break after she parked herself in my company, suspecting that she really wasn't into this documentary program, I asked her if she would like to watch something else. "Is there anything else on?" she inquired.
Never one to miss out on making fun, I responded by saying, "of course there's something else on, there are like 1000 channels." I started displaying the menu. Page down, page down and no reaction from the Flower. Page down and suddenly she exclaimed, "Girls of the Playboy Mansion!" I had been subjected to this show before, but in the company of Nando and M1. In the mood to please, I indulged the Flower's desire and selected "Girls" from the menu.
If you've never seen it, "Girls of the Playboy Mansion" gives us a fly-on-the-wall peek into the inside of the Playboy Mansion and Hugh Hefner's day to day adventures with his three, twenty-something girlfriends. Hef's 80. I know this, because this particular episode featured the build-up to Hefner's 80th Birthday Party. While I can see how Hefner might appreciate the girls' physical attributes, their air-headedness would put me off. Maybe when you're 80, you don't care anymore. One of the girls was scheduled to pop out of a cake and do a striptease for Hef. Her parents had come to the Mansion, for a visit. Because they wouldn't be available to attend the party, this girl decided to perform the striptease for her parents, ahead of time. As we were watching, I said to the Flower, "there's something a bit weird about a girl doing a striptease in front of her father."
"Definitely," the Flower agreed.
This was fun. Just me and the Flower, watching TV...alone. It almost makes up for being subjected to brain-dead TV. Ironically, a gal I know, who's 24, has started dating a guy who's 76. "Would you date a guy who's 80?" I asked the Flower.
"No," she said. I wonder what is the maximum age the Flower would go for? 47, perhaps?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Now That Leona Has Won

As many of you are aware, Leona Lewis won the 2006 edition of "The X Factor" (UK), on Saturday, and I am glad. She was so talented, I have been behind her since the first time the Exotic Flower put the program on, this year. I voted for her, Saturday, and it's the first time I have ever voted in a reality show. (Now that she's won, do you think she will give me my 35p back?) She is the first woman to win "The X Factor." Over the weekend, I heard a disturbing rumor. I heard that Leona is going to get marry to her long-time boyfriend, Lou.
Noooooooo! Leona, 21, has been dating this geezer for four years and they have known each other since they were 10 years old. Don't marry least not yet. As a beautiful, young, female singer, she needs to maintain the illusion of "availability" for her male fans. As soon as Britney started this getting married nonsense, her career took a downturn. Now, she has to flash her fanny to try to jump-start her flagging popularity. If she's been dating this guy since she was 17, how does she know he's the best one for her? She needs to get out and sample what else is out there.
In any case, her life is now in the process of changing, dramatically. She will be meeting loads of new people. She doesn't need to make any premature commitments. I met some of the best women in my life after I was 27. No need to rush things. She might find that fame puts a strain on her relationship. This Lou probably wants to tie her down now, because he realizes he risks being left behind. It's such a shame that any woman has to settle for anything less than me. Leona has the same coloring as my Pam 1 did. Now that Leona has won, let's hope she doesn't blow it by getting married too soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pam 1

Some time ago, UK radio and TV presenter, Opal Bonfante, asked me to write the back stories of the wonderful women who have broken my heart. Reluctant at first, because of the effort required, I did the two Kellies, so far. Now, after a suitable rest, I feel up to doing the prequel story of Pam 1.
When I was 16, I was in my Senior year at the prestigious private school, Woodmere Academy. In the spring of 1976, during my final semester, a party was held at the school, one evening. I vaguely remember it being a Saturday, or something like that. I had been having a rough time in the girlfriend department, for a couple of years. I had a brief fling with a girl in my neighborhood, the summer of 1975, but other than that, I had been single. I had grown used to going to movies alone, or hanging out with my neighborhood friends. I turned up at this party alone.
While there, I noticed a girl I had never seen before. She didn't attend our school. When a song came on that I liked a lot, I plucked up the courage to ask her to dance. To my relief, she accepted. She was short, 5' 3" tall, with a light complexion and medium brown hair. She had a gentle face, with delicate lips, and brown eyes. She turned out to be the cousin of Alona, one of the girls who attended my school. Her name was Pamela Lyn Jones and she lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. We spent the rest of the evening together and before the party ended, I had gotten her phone number.
When I went home, I was on cloud nine. At some point, I called her. I used to feel very uncomfortable calling girls on the phone for the first time. "What if someone else in her family answered?" I would worry. I managed it, somehow and ended up making a date to come see her, one Saturday. Although I had my Junior Drivers License, at the time, I didn't own a car yet and New York State Junior Licenses weren't valid within the five counties of New York City. My Grandmother's sister, my Great Aunt, Ann, who lived in the same household as I did, agreed to drive me to Pam's house. The plan was that she would drop me at Pam's, then go visit one of her friends, who lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. When I was ready to go home, she would return and pick me up.
When I arrived at Pam's, on the day, I was informed that she could only spend a brief time with me, as she had made plans to go out. I was confused by this, because I had made plans with her. Why would she make other plans, when she was expecting me? She said that she was used to guys promising to get together, then not showing up, so she made plans, expecting that I might be like them and no-show. Pam's mother seemed thrilled with my red cheeks, much to my embarrassment. After a phone conversation with my Aunt, it turned out that she would be late picking me up. Someone had stolen the battery out of her car, while she was visiting her friend. Such was Bed-Stuy, in those days. Eventually, she came for me and I went home.
Talking to Alona, at school, she said that Pam wasn't used to "nice guys," like me. Alona thought that explained her odd behavior. Not easily put off, I started seeing her. My Aunt wasn't going to be able to drive me all the time, so I started going to see Pam via public transportation. From my house, it took two buses and two subway trains, to get there. It would take between three and four hours, each way. I remember one of our early dates, we went to see "Taxi Driver," at the Tilden Theater, in Brooklyn. After the film, Pam kept imitating the scene where Robert De Niro looks in the mirror and says, "you talkin' to me?" She kept saying this, over and over, then bursting into giggles. I loved her playfulness.
I don't remember when I first kissed her (hey, it was 31 years ago!), but I do remember our most memorable kiss. We had made plans to go see a big concert, at Yankee, or Shea Stadium, I can't remember which, now. A number of groups were on the bill, including the Jacksons. After traveling almost four hours to her house, when I arrived, she informed me that she was not going. The cost of two concert tickets was a lot for me, at 16. Especially given that I didn't have a job. Pam told me she was sick and couldn't go, but urged me to go on my own. I weighed my options, but didn't particularly fancy going on my own. Instead, I decided to spend the afternoon with her, at her house. She played Peter Frampton's album, "Frampton Comes Alive." She gave me some cheesecake to eat and, up till that point, I didn't like cheesecake. I couldn't bring myself to refuse it and ate it. It tasted pretty good and I have eaten cheesecake ever since. Whatever she was sick with, it didn't stop us from kissing. Her lips were gentle and soft, with the bottom lip cushiony and wet. They slightly clinged to mine as we separated. It was near to the beginning of July and people were starting to light off fireworks. I remember sitting on the couch with her, kissing her, that afternoon, and hearing the sound of fireworks exploding in the background. That memory has stuck with me ever since. I don't think I will ever forget it, unless I get Alzheimer's. It turned out that it was a good thing we didn't go to the concert as there was a riot there and many people were injured. When her parents got home, her father almost blew his stack. He didn't like the idea of me and her being alone, in the house, especially in her room. I think he was suspicious that we were shagging, but we hadn't been. He made some rule that, henceforth, we were only allowed in the living room, when no one else was home. Her mother just cooed something about my rosy red cheeks.
I soon realized that I was in love with Pam. She was the first girl I can say I was truly in love with. I asked her to be my date to my Senior Prom. The Prom was a big deal in a teenager's social life, in America. My Grandmother bought me a new, three piece suit, especially for the Prom. My mother had gotten a new car the year before. I asked my mother if I could borrow her car to drive to the Prom. She refused my request, saying I could drive my Grandmother's car. My grand's car was old, dented, and smelly. I didn't want to pick up my date on such a special night, in that. My Aunt came to my rescue and said I could use her car. It was newer and cleaner than my Grandmother's, but not as nice as my mother's. It would have to do, though.
When I arrived at Pam's, she wasn't ready. I waited for her for what seemed like ages. I had bought her a corsage, as was tradition. Eventually, she was ready. She looked lovely. She told me she had almost decided not to go, because she was arguing with her mother. How not going would get back at her mother, I never figured out. To me, it would just have hurt me. We arrived fashionably late. The Prom was held at the Inwood Country Club, in the Five Towns area of Nassau County, where the school was located. We ate a formal dinner and hit the dance floor. Later in the evening, we ended up sitting in the car, making out. We got into some pretty heavy "petting." Pam asked me if I wanted to have "intercourse." Of course I did. She said she did too, but she wanted us both to have "protection," first. I had a condom, but she wanted to be on the pill to, or something, so we went no further.
In the autumn, I went away to start school at Syracuse University. Pam was a year behind me in school, so she was starting her Senior year at Tilden High School, in Brooklyn. I didn't yet own a car and Syracuse was over 200 miles away from Brooklyn. I wrote her love letters and even wrote a poem for her. Pam invited me to go to Thanksgiving dinner with her family. This was a big deal, for me. Up till then, I had never not had Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I would either go with my Aunt and Grandmother, to her other sister's, house, or we would have dinner at our house. Now, I was being invited to spend this ultimate family holiday with a different family. I was in love, so I accepted. I went to Pam's house, in Brooklyn and from there, her father drove us, along with her mother, to her grandparent's, in the Bronx. I felt honored to be included in their family gathering and enjoyed the evening.
During a visit home, from university, Pam and I made plans to go see a concert, with her cousin, Alona, plus Renata, and Vivian, all of whom had been classmates of mine, at Woodmere Academy. We went to see Parliament/Funkadelic, along with Bootsy's Rubber Band, at the Nassau Coliseum and I drove. At first, one would think that being the only guy out with four women would be heavenly. Things aren't always that simple. Vivian knew some members of one of the bands and managed to shout to them at the side of the stage. They told her which hotel the bands were staying at and got us invited to go there, after the concert. We ended up at the bar of a moderate sized hotel, near the Coliseum. The bar was fairly quiet and the band and friends sort of took over the place. After a while, I observed Pam talking with one of the band members. Without saying anything to me, she went upstairs with him and stayed for ages. I was seething inside and assumed they were having sex. What was particularly galling was that I still hadn't had sex with her, myself. I sat at the table with the other girls, for what seemed like an extremely long time. I think the others were a bit embarrassed about the situation. Eventually, Pam came down again, by herself. She offered no explanation for where she'd been, or what she'd been doing. I drove everyone home and we didn't speak much, the rest of the night.
In the spring of 1977, about one year on from when I first met her,Pam broke up with me. I never did get to have sex with her. In the fall of 77, she started at the University of Pittsburgh. Years later, I ran into Alona at a high school reunion. I heard that Pam had gotten married and divorced, since I had seen her. Supposedly, she was back in New York. I went by her old family home and rang the bell. Her father answered the door, but he didn't remember me. I explained that I was an old boyfriend and asked him to tell her that I had asked about her. I never heard from her, after that and don't even know if he passed on my message. I am convinced that if her mother had answered, she would have remember me and my red cheeks. A number of years later, in the 1990s, I tried going by the house again. The person who answered this time said the Jones family had moved away. She didn't have a forwarding address. Next year will be thirty years since I have seen Pam. I called her Pam 1, years later, to differentiate her from subsequent Pams I have met. She was the first Pam in my life. I have never forgotten the girl who got me to eat cheesecake, who was my Prom date, and who caused me to hear fireworks, when I kissed her. The girl who helped me to discover love, for the first time.