“… Life was Better in The Old Days…”

June 22, 2013

Orson Welles answered: “they REALLY were…” this in an article in the current New Yorker…taken from a tape that the director Henry Jaglom did of Orson at a lunch in 1989 they had at LA’s Ma Maison…..

back then Ma Maison was THE place to lunch….by the movie crowd….I did not have the means at the time when it was in its Prime in the 70’s..and then in the 80’s had my shop on Sunset Plaza and could not afford such a frivolous lunch…..it was the first restaurant that Wolfgang Puck worked at in LA and owned part interest in..(look at him now)…..

On the tape Orson says: “I don’t like Wolfgang. He’s a little shit. I think he’s a terrible little man”

This all makes me think back to how my grands use to say how wonderful the “Old Days Were”….and when they said it, all I can think of now, was their 3 channel Black and White TV with rabbit ears…that as the dusk settled …my grandmother …in the darkened (my grandfather refused to spend money on electric lights…and from him I got the habit of turning on EVERY light I could find as I grew older)….. 2nd drawing room and I sat in at 825 Farimont Avenue in St Paul…..

as my grandfather would sit in the dark 1st drawing room and all one could see was the ember from the cigar he smoked……. she and I would watch Lawrence Welk, soap bubbles floating up and the music I hated…

they had one of the first Caddies with electric roll down windows…that caddie with the big fins…and you pushed a button in one of the fins to make it pop up so you could put gas in your car……their garage was in the back of the property on an alley …where as child I remember the horse drawn cart of the produce man appearing weekly…..the door was wood and heavy…..

my grandfather was a man of VERY few words…never admitted to anyone that he only had an 8th grade education…always said he graduated from NYU…..but he went on to become the Treasurer/Secretary of the Great Northern Railroad and knew JJ Hill who founded it….the biggest railroad at the time….that spanned the US…..(so many questions I have for him now that Never will be answered..like HOW were the laborers really treated….)

I REALLY do not think things were better in the old days…if I changed anything though I would have not allowed social media to be so pervasive…it has its good points ….like the Arab Spring….I guess….and the current unrest in Brazil…which I TOTALLY agree with….as WHY spend soo soo much money on the World Cup building stadiums etc without first taking care of the more pressing matters of education, health care, and transportation…..but I really do not want it to know EVERYTHING about me…

Gyspy Rose Lee…the first notorious stripper excited men back then just by taking off her opera length gloves……

but the thing about wanting the good old days back is that when you were back there in the good old days…you did not FULLY appreciate them as you took it for granted that this is the way life would always be….

like our looks we never appreciated….until we now look in the mirror and sigh…..

I remember staying in the Binger’s (Jujamcyn Theatres) suite (Minnesota Mining….and gosh I NEVER back then thought of myself entitled)….at the Sherry Netherlands overlooking Central Park in NYC….and it was a VAST suite with full kitchen, dining room and probably 4 bedrooms and baths plus having full access to the Hotel’s chef….

..we were late to dinner as we were going on to see the show “Rent”…in 1996….I have mentioned this before but Mom (I called her Mother when I was pissed at her)….was on a cane…and as she was dressing asked me to collect her taupe hose…from the dresser in her room….well I gave her what I thought was “taupe”…she said NO this is NOT taupe…whereupon I dragged the whole drawer out and dumped all of the hose on her lap…whereupon she said “Ah here they are …” infuriating me more……(I had a love hate relationship with her and she knew it but never mentioned it just to make me madder)

but getting back to the way we look…she took FOREVER it seemed this night to get her make up on (very simple a touch of eye make up and her lip stick)….I am ashamed to admit…as I watched her many times .. looking at herself in the large bath mirror……(and this is cruel looking back..but really the way I felt at the moment)…..putting on her makeup…I can see her now…and she would purse her lips..with Elizabeth Arden’s “Raspberry”…(I have her last one still)…

..looking into the fading mirror……..touch her hair…as if she were 25 again physically….back when she did the Black Bottom and Charleston…with a simple strand of pearls ..dazzingly fringe skirt …..in the Fitzgerald Wild era of flappers…… I would simmeringly say to myself…well you are so wrinkled you look like an old shrunken apple doll….no make up is going to help (yes I was cruel)…..

but in all honesty it was Mom’s electric energy that really illuminated her..that made her a beauty…….(as long as she was awake)…the times she would doze off over her iced coffee (she had given up wine ..before my Dad died)……. at the Dakota Bar & Grill in St Paul….as some bass player was performing his solo…..(she HATED the bass)…..well I would elbow her…thinking if I have to suffer through this…you DO TOO!!!!

she wouldn’t jolt awake like I wanted…but would look up from under one of those wonderful hats she had designed for herself and was known for…..and then elegantly reach for her glass of iced coffee…to sip through its straw and subtlely wink at me……

but Rent was a TOTAL knock out….Mom knew one of the Producers…who had been and I think still was the Director of the Ordway Theater in St Paul (which her friend …the lush…(and that is another story)…..Polly Ordway (or was it her sister (another lush – Sally Irvine ?) gave to the city…with the stipulation that they put in twice as many toilets in the ladies as the gents….

and of course Mother charged back stage with her cane…dragging me in tow…to meet the cast…I had been smitten by Daphne Rubin-Vega’s performance…he played Mimi…the seamstress with tuberculosis who dies……he gave me an autographed picture which one of my lovers jealously destroyed……….

Everyone LOVED Mom….or Mother….

I guess if I had to turn the clock back it would be to that period I travelled a lot with her…the 10 years she lived after Dad died…….will never forget the night we went to Ronnie Scott’s (jazz club)…. in London….she would just charge ahead (embarrassingly for me)….. stepping on everyones’ shoes…to get to where she wanted to sit…

that night we left around 3 AM …there were NO cabs to be found (the black cabs stopped at a certain hour..whereupon bandit cabs took over…Mom elbowed me and said Come ON….we are not sleeping here…lets walk back….I said MOTHER do you realize how far it is..(like 4 miles)….she said so what….you are not barefoot ….

when we got to Piccadilly Circle (about half way)…I got kind of nervous as all these teenage skin heads were there ….we had to stop to wait for the light to change…and a skin head as a joke for his mates …. tried to push her into the oncoming traffic…she somehow without turning around was able to smack him in the balls with her cane…whereupon the skin heads dispersed….

now that I think of it someone should make a musical about Mom….

It is NOT the “Good Old Days” that I long for….it is the Good Old People with their polished electric wisdom…that I miss……(sigh!!!)

4 Responses to ““… Life was Better in The Old Days…””

  1. Rob this is so wonderful- I love hearing these bits and pieces about the family, described so exactly – like fragments of a novel. Hopefully I can figure out how to post this :-)) xx d

  2. adelaidedonnelley said

    whoopie! I did it xx

    • Rob said

      thank you dear Daidie…I have made changes though since you read it..so go back and peruse again….Now that I think of it YOUR Life …would be a FABULOUS Musical…you and David motorscooting through London…his proposal…was it on those Railroad tracks…as you pumped a car around the grounds of his parents……

  3. Richard Steele said

    Wonderful story, and it was in fact “the gold old folks” that made it interesting. Love your writing. Robert and Richarfd

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