While I am busy writing my next story “PAIR OF DEUCES,” I offer up my very first post, written 3 years ago. In fact, you can find it if you scroll all the way to the bottom. I’m not sure if many readers do, so here it is. It’s an amusing story about my Dad and some business he needed to conduct at Shop Rite one day in the 1980s. I never saw this coming. Not in a million years. Hope you enjoy it!
No matter the routine, things could get crazy. Fast.
Lunch with Bernard Olcott at Olcott International in 1983 followed a familiar routine. At around maybe 11:45 AM, after a few hunger pangs had already hit me pretty hard, I would head up to the top floor, the level that actually connected to the street, and ask if he was ready to grab some lunch. He would typically wave me off for another 10 to 15 minutes while he finished up some correspondence. Finally, he would call me back upstairs. We would then spend another 10 to 15 minutes looking for a pack-of-cards sized contraption holding perhaps 50 keys for the car, the house, the office, the boat, and God knew what else. Oddly they were never in the same place twice. And if not retrieved, well, that would have been the end of the world, as we knew it.
The next part of the routine would be to drive over to the Shop Rite supermarket on JFK Boulevard in Union City, New Jersey. This was located in a bustling area with a huge parking lot in front. However, it was only sensibly approachable from the southbound lane. This presented an engineering problem to Dad, the kind he loved to solve.
In April 1992, I had one foot in two worlds.
One foot was planted in the familiar lush flagship Polo Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, a marvel of seductive, dazzling, stylish, and pricey eye-candy. The other was a run-down office precariously hugging a cliff on the anus-side¹ of the Lincoln Tunnel, overlooking the double helix resounding with the roar of vehicular traffic. I dubbed that sound in my post “THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS,” as the ‘soul grinder.’
The first was glamorous, but offered me little future career growth. The second was pretty much its antithesis on both counts (except, sometimes, for the travel).
To aspire to my greatest future potential, I had to risk the crushing of my essence.
In 1983, Rosemary Egan was a nimble 32 year old brunette who worked the rigging (or the galley) as a crewmember of a 282 foot Windjammer sailing vessel that plied the aqua waters of the Bahamian outer banks. This was not just any sailing vessel, but a real barkantine, a three-masted ship, square-rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft-rigged on the other masts. Up to 30 guests paid for the privilege of waking up in cabins to the sound of sea birds, feasting on lobster, hammocking in the rigging, cannonballing into the ocean and participating in the sailing.
When not hoisting a jib, Rosemary could be found singing and dancing in off-off-Broadway productions. Show tunes were a specialty of hers. And if not sailing, singing, or dancing, she had a steady part-time gig as a Medical Assistant. It’s good to have multiple options.
You could say that she fit a certain profile.
One day after completing a cruise, she was waiting in line to check her luggage at Nassau International Airport for a return flight to Newark, New Jersey. Born in New York City, she had moved with her folks to Plainview, New Jersey as a youngster during the exodus out of the city proper in the 1960s and 1970s. Please see my posts “THE END OF AN ERA” and “WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY.”
As she struggled to move her luggage towards the check-in, a handsome stranger who resembled Jack Lord of Hawaii 5-O stepped in to help. He was awfully chatty and his eyes lit up when he learned that she was part of the crew for Windjammer cruises. He lifted her bag onto the check-in scale with utmost care and she watched her bag carted away into oblivion as it was promptly lost by the airline for days. It was an omen of things to come.
“The Lost Weekend,” as previously noted in my post of the same name, was the Academy Award best picture of 1945. It not only reveals Gotham of yesterday by way of moving images, like the main actor stumbling haggardly under the Third Avenue El in search of a drink, but also by way of the language and the accents of the era. Unlike the 1960 classic “Butterfield 8,” the personalities in “The Lost Weekend” engage with each other directly, with a minimum of game playing or social charades. It was the 1940s way.
Significantly, as it relates to The Bernard Olcott Story, it’s about a writer! There’s even a reference to my distant cousin James Thurber (on my mother’s side) in the first few minutes.
What can you say about the film noir world of the 1940s, the formative decade for my Dad? Well, for one thing, there were a HELL of a lot of barber shops. Everywhere!
However, the first thing I noticed were the strong New York accents, most notably as spoken by the bartender Nat. He routinely addresses the main character, Don Birnham, as “Mr. Boy-nam.” This brings me back to working at Olcott International in Weehawken in the late 1970s and afterwards, please see my post “GOODBYE 212, HELLO 201?”