The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) -

May 6, 2013

My friend Lana phones me most days between eleven and noon. Our phone calls last anywhere from twenty minutes to two days, and they’re never boring. Mostly it’s Lana who talks. You see, she’s a member of the trapped generation…a female caught somewhere between “Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe” and “I am Woman”. You know the statistics: forty-ish, children just grown and ready to leave, successful husband. She’s full of energy, talent, and humor, and not quite sure where to put it all or how to use it. I never quite had to face up to all that, because I never stopped pursuing my career, or at least throwing it an occasional fish. The other day I got a serious job, which involved getting out of the house early to rehearse. This threw Lana for a loop, as they say. She was losing one of the warmest and sweetest unpaid ears in New York. I suggested that she write down her daily discourse and send it to me. I didn’t think her attention span, which seemed to average a minute and a half, would allow for that, but it was the only thing I could think of for the moment. Two days later, I got this in the mail:

Dear Lamb Chop,

It’s a Monday morning like any other Monday morning. My Sony Digital Dream Machine Clock-Radio woke me at the crack of 10:30 to the strains of “Le Freak, C’est Chic”. I did my minute of feline stretches recommended by Doris Day as told to A.E. Hotchner, water-pikked my mouth till it sang Dixie, brewed a cup of Ginseng tea, read my horoscope in the paper, checked to see who Merv Griffin’s guests would be, and let out a blood curdling primal scream…just another East-Side matron boogying through life.

But never mind, never you just mind my sweet potato…I’ve got oodles and oodles of good stuff to do. D’Abord, Premier, first I’ve got to throw up my breakfast. No it’s not sick, there’s an article all about it here in the New York Review of Books…about how those ballet dancers stay thin…models too. If they overindulge, they just turn around and WHOOPS…isn’t it Heaven? Well, it’s infinitely more interesting and classier than that “Scarsdale” stuff…I mean, I did 11 straight days of protein, toast, and grapefruit…and all the fruit salad you can draw…big deal…oh it worked alright. Now I look like a slightly overweight lady…but from Scarsdale. I swear when I grow up, I’m going to look just like Anne Bancroft in the “Turning Point”. Skinny…awful…but skinny…don’t you love it?

Listen, Lulu, I’ve got to fly now…I finally wrangled a consultation with the amazing Doctor Cutgood…The Jean Pierre Rampal of plastic surgeons and I’m all a tingle. You see Mon Ange, in the past ten days I’ve had ten polite but devastating turndowns for jobs. I wore my Faye Dunaway look-alike wardrobe…slicked my frizz back, put on glasses, and exuded a business-like air that would make Margaret Mead seem flighty…but no luck. True my skills are a wee bit rusty but I used to be a hot shot worker, I could’ve been a contender.

I guess the fact that my resume stops with a thud in 1965, except for a few weeks majoring in crepe paper at the kids’ school fairs, doesn’t add to my luster…but really…bleak city…I think it’s beastly of them not to count shopping as a skill. Have they ever matched wits with a nineteen year old skinny French sales girl at Bendels???...Jamais…Jamais. Maybe those adorable little blue sacs under my eyes and the enchanting rings around my neck are putting off all of my employers and their eleven year old secretaries. You know I got a smidgen desperate there for a minute and asked the old hubs if he wouldn’t call some of his business cronies who’ve been lapping up my Courvoisier all these years. The darling did…and do you want to know what humiliation is? I’ll tell you…it’s standing in front of an old ex-friend in his office after his three martini lunch, and having him tell you how lucky you are that you don’t have to be on the streets competing with all the young college graduates for limited jobs…and why don’t you take up painting…or recover the wing chair or something. Next time he comes to our house I’ll poison his Bellini.

Oh my little angel, how I’m rattling on…I do so miss the sound of your silent ear…I wouldn’t mind being left on hold while you order the groceries if you’d just come back. Yesterday I told my story to Henny Youngman on Dial-A-Joke. It’s very quiet here. What if the plastic surgeon says yes. I’m scared. Maybe I should have my mouth done. Love you. What a dump!

Your friend,
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