Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Interruption to the Love Story

I just found a quarter of a moldy, rotting cheeseburger. And I did not find it in the refrigerator, where it should have been. But where I found it is far less interesting than why I found it. So let me interrupt myself interrupting myself and ask you something: have you heard of Fanny Mendelssohn? No? I hadn't either.

Last Thursday, I spent an evening at Cornelia St Cafe listening to her 19th-century piano compositions. This might interest few of you, until you understand who Fanny was, and why Fanny wasn't. The sister of the uber-famous Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny was arguably as gifted as her brother, but nobody knew this until it was too late. That is, until she was dead.

As a young woman, Fanny displayed a lot of talent for writing music. However, where Dad supported brother Felix, he told sister Fanny that, for her, publishing music was a man's game, and that for her, music was to be nothing but an "ornament" in her social calendar. Without her father's support, and without even her husband's, Fanny had to rely on playing music for houseguests. How dull. Anyway, one particular night, while she was performing for her guests, Fanny got a hand cramp, and died suddenly. She was 41, and her musical publishing career was over before it had begun.

But what does this have to do with finding a rotting cheeseburger?

While at author Robin Hirsch's Cornelia St Cafe, listening to Victoria Sirota explain the life of Fanny, and Joanne Polk perform Fanny's dizzying finger-fluttering compositions, my fire re-ignited itself. The same fire to which I referred last week, the temporarily extinguished one that has all but eluded me for the past month.

Suddenly, everything seemed worth writing about - dinner, the wine I paired with it, and any number of otherwise-pointless thoughts I had between bites. Of course, my apartment's hygiene suffered terribly, as did my cuticles. Both were a mess: I wrote until my cuticles bled, and ate only to sustain myself, leaving pizza boxes, soda containers, coffee cups, and even a quarter of a moldy cheeseburger...anywhere I dropped any of them. With dragon-claw toenails (come on, don't act like it hasn't happened to you), I wrote until I finished, and then I drank one glass of the finest Spanish red I could get my bleeding-cuticle paws on.

As they say, 'There's something about Fanny,' and whatever it was in her musical recipes, she struck a chord. Whether she's struck for me the direction of destiny, or the destiny of direction, I don't know. But I'm happy to be on fire.

Sidebar: If anyone wants to know where I found this glass of wine, and what it was, let me know. It's a showstopper of its own.

(Updates coming soon to the rest of the Boy Meets Girl; Girl Meets Boy story)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Girl Meets Boy

Previously, Boy Met Girl

Beer pitcher in hand, Jesse moves to greet you. As soon as he does, he flings his empty into the crowd. Now and again, so does everyone else, creating the effect of heavy, thudding confetti. But unfortunately for Jesse, his pitcher crosses a Hong Kong cop's path.

"Sah! Sah!" the cop screams at him. "Sah! You come here now!"

Dutifully, because the man in charge is toting a gun, Jesse obeys. Trotting off, he turns around to take what might be one last look at you. After all, those arrested are not allowed to return to the stadium. Tickets confiscated, armbands removed, they're banned for the duration of the Hong Kong 7's. Worse still, it's rumored that they're relieved of their passports, too, while they spend a night in a Hong Kong prison.

"You can't take him unless you take me, too!" you scream at the cop, suddenly indignant. Couldn't he see that you and Jesse were busy meeting each other for the unlikely second time?

Of course, he couldn't. And if he could, he wouldn't, and didn't.

As Jesse is carted off, you turn to one of his friends. "We have to do something!" you implore, as if the most important moment of your life was being undone.

"Don't worry," he says with the mischievous smile of unsympathetic confidence. "If anyone can talk his way out of something, Jesse can."

And so about an hour later, Jesse returns. That he returns is of no surprise to his friends. How he returns is a surprise to everyone.

After his arrest, Jesse was marched off for questioning. It didn't last long, and didn't live up to the rumors of jail time and confiscated passports. But his arrest does live up to its expectation of being deported from the stadium - for good. Released from police custody, Jesse was ticketless and turned away, ordered to return to his hotel, or face the consequences.

'But what about the girl?' he'll later tell you he wondered then.

Standing outside the stadium, unsure what to do next, an unbelievable thing happens.

"Mister?" says a small boy, holding out a ticket. "Do you want my ticket?" The boy is with his father, who nods in agreement, saying, "Go ahead; take it."

Although Jesse tries to pay them, the father refuses, insisting that he accept the ticket as their gift. It's almost, almost, as if the father knows something Jesse doesn't know. Later, you'll both tell the story that way, too: that the boy with the ticket was some sort of uncanny divine intervention, like he and his father were party to some cupidinous inside joke that you both would understand only much later.

However, ticket in hand, Jesse still needs to get back into the South Stand. And just as his friends promised you he could, he talks his way right back in.

Suddenly, you see him, and it seems like time is moving very slowly. 'He's back,' you say quietly to yourself, before joining in the standing ovation Jesse receives from the crowd for his sneaky re-entry. As he picks his way through the Smurfs and sheiks, arms raised victoriously, he's looking at you and only you, smiling the guilty smile of ill-gotten, odds-beating luck.

"What would it take to get a beautiful girl out to dinner in New York?" he blurts, and you misunderstand, allowing an obvious pick-up opener to sail right over your (appropriately) blonde head.

'Is this guy kidding me?' you say to yourself, wondering why he'd have come all this way to ask you about taking another girl on a date.

"Alain Ducasse," you smirk, and wait for his reaction. Annoyed that you think you've misjudged his interest in you, you recommend one of New York's most expensive restaurants as a ploy to get this 'other' girl out for dinner.

"Okay," he says, unaware of his unintentional misstep. "Because I would like to take you out to dinner one night."

"But you live in London?" you think but don't say, trying very hard to push away the suddenly overpowering feeling that this story might be your Story.

To Be Continued - And I very much appreciate those of you who've read, forwarded, and followed. Please continue to do so, as it will help me with the coming "Live from Mongolia!" book's publicity.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Odds Were...Terrible

Subtitled: Finding love when you weren't looking for it

For a moment, pretend you're Hugh Hefner. Put on that crushed red velvet robe, untie it at your midsection so your hairy chest is showing, and put a pipe in your mouth. Now strut. Because you're at one of the biggest parties in the world, and you and eight of your friends are all dressed alike, and you're looking good. Just like Hugh Hefner, all eight of you.

"Right or left?" one of your identically-dressed friends asks you as you both survey the stadium crowd of 40,000. At the annual Hong Kong 7's rugby tournament, you've both flown a long way from London to be here, and you want to make sure to see it all.

"Left," you respond, and your life will forever change because of it.

Into the crowd you turn left, a mayhem of grown men and women dressed as Smurfs, dinosaurs, Popeye, Gumby, life-sized beer cans, inmates, sheiks, karate kids, and clowns. You're in the notorious "South Stand", the part of the stadium that makes a college frat party look like a preschool scrimmage. It's Halloween on the grandest scale, if not the most drunken.

And then you see her.

Waddling toward you is one obese Snow White, red vinyl bow crowning her jet black wig pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck. All yellows and blacks and stripes, and those big puffy sleeves, she smiles at you from across the chaos.

"What are you?" she calls out, still grinning in a beguiling way that suggests she isn't aware how ridiculous she looks.

"Drunk!" you respond honestly, because this is a true story about how two people meet - about what they actually said rather than what they should have said.

Snow White marches over to you and your matching friend, and introduces herself. Later, you'll tell her there was something about her eyes that made you want to know her. Later, she'll tell you that there was something about your smile that made her want to know you. But right then, this was still 'then', when you were both seasoned commitment phobes, and you lived an ocean apart from each other.

"I'm a runner, really I am," she announces as unceremoniously as you just did in telling her you were drunk. Lifting up the hem of her nylon yellow princess skirt, she shows you that, yes, she probably does run. The costume shop owner in Hong Kong had only one costume left, she explains, and it was an extra-extra large.

Whether you're relieved or amused, she can't tell, but you eventually part ways. Much as you enjoyed each other's company, you both know the odds of reality - that you're at a rugby event with 39,998 other people, you're in costume, and you don't even know each other's last names.

With her friends, all dressed identically as Marilyn Monroe, Snow White scampers off into the dense crowd. You don't expect to see her again; she doesn't expect to see you again. At a party so disorderly that confetti flies in the air alongside flung beer pitchers, no one really expects to see each other again.

The next morning, Snow White and Marilyn Monroe wake up to the throb of yesterday's Too Much Fun. Nursing their pain, they make a vow they won't keep, to stay away from the infamous South Stand, and head somewhere more civilized. One look at their costumes firms their resolve - Marilyn's white costume is no longer white, and Snow White's costume is stained brown in all the places it used to be yellow. In tidy civilian clothing, the girls head back to the stadium, strong caffeinated antidotes in hand.

"What if..." Marilyn and Snow White say in unison to each other as soon as they arrive at the stadium. "Just five minutes?" they justify, rationalizing that since Snow White has flown all the way from New York, it would be a real pity to not see and do everything on offer. Besides, neither of them wants to miss out on, well, anything. Marilyn makes a phone call and manages to arrange two of the stadium's very last seats for herself and Snow White.

As it happens - actually, it usually doesn't - those two seats happen to be right next to yours, the Hugh Hefner that met Snow White just yesterday.

"Jesse?" Snow White says as soon as she sees you, butterflies in her stomach, unable to believe her luck that the handsome man she'd met the day earlier was sharing a row of seats with her today.

"Yes?" you say politely, but blankly. It's obvious to her that you don't recognize her yet.

"It's me, Snow White!" Although she's not in costume, and her hair has gone from Snow White's black to her (semi) natural blonde, you suddenly see the resemblance. And that's when everything really changes. But not before you get arrested.

To Be Continued - And let's make a deal, okay? You become a follower of this blog and I'll keep writing. Better, you forward this blog to somebody else who will read it, and ask them to forward it, and I'll really keep writing. Come on! Help a writer out! Thanks to everyone who's been reading since 2006.

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