Friday, September 23, 2011

... first be a person who needs people.

This morning I couldn't get Lydia Hodson off my mind. Lydia was an idol of mine when I was a kid. It seemed that she was the star of ALL the plays at Lexington Children's Theatre. This was back in the 60's when the plays at LCT were all performed by local youngsters. When I got my first role, which was simply a walk across the stage following Jeannie Ross and a poodle, Lydia was the star of that show, too. It was a melodrama called Rags to Riches. I can't remember the name of Lydia's character but Jack Pattie played the hero, Ragged Dick. Esquire. What I remember of Lydia from that show was that she was not only beautiful and talented and important, but she was nice to me and I was nuthin'.

My last memory of actual interaction with Lydia was when she was no longer performing in shows, but was president of the LCT Veteran's Society. It was our last meeting, as the Living Arts and Science Center had taken over the running of LCT and the Veteran's Society funds had been absorbed and the group disbanded. I must have been 11 or 12, but I stood up in the meeting and raged about the unfairness of that. At that moment, I believed that Lydia loved me as much as I loved her, for she beamed at me and nodded and said "Oh, you're gonna be a rebel." Such a feeling must soldiers of old have had when knighted by their illustrious queen. I have remembered and savored that moment my whole life, and any time I have been righteously outraged, I have had Lydia's sanction in the back of my mind when I gave voice to it.

After that Lydia became Kentucky's, and then America's Junior Miss. She was in magazines and she was assoiciated with products like Kodak and Breck shampoo. If you had seen her hair, you would understand the shampoo thing. After that she cohosted a TV show called PM Magazine and while that was going on she married a composer named Phil Copeland. I mused then, and still do, whether he could be related to Aaron Copeland. They're both composers, right?

Sometime she got sick. Lydia beat Hodgkins Lymphoma for awhile, but died at the age of 37 in 1991. When I first encountered her I could not wrap my eight year old lips around "Hodson" and had called her "Lydia Hodgkins". Just one of those memories that makes you feel a little weird.

Because I could not get her off my mind, I cruised the internet a bit this morning, looking for articles. Just to see her and hold her in my mind awhile longer. This is a woman I never spoke to after I was a preteen and was only once in the same building with after that when I heard her sing in Gratz Park. Lydia made such an impression on me as a child that she has haunted me ever since. In the very best way. She has been a standard of poise, class, kindness and courage that I have longed to live up to. And maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that yesterday was her birthday, but I don't think so. The web just told me.

Death has been on my mind a lot. It's become the trendy thing to do amongst a lot of people I've loved. I have attacked the subject with all the adjectives but fail to conquer. But one thing I believe I know (just because... I believe. I know.) is that there is something else after that. And I believe there are little windows to the something else that might be looked through from either side, under the right circumstances. And I like to think that Lydia being relentlessly in my thoughts the day after her birthday might be her tapping on the window. I must have been just another one of the little kids to her in life, but maybe it's how important she has been to me that makes the difference.

Her talent song for Junior Miss was People. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Happy Birthday, Lydia. You charmed and inspired wherever you went. I needed you and still need your memory and example. Guess I'm the luckiest.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lookatmelookatme 2: The saga continues.

Once upon a time I was choring away at the costume warehouse, wrapping up a few things while waiting for my beloved friend Patti to arrive so we could run off to do some fun thing or other. I bent over to pick up a fallen costume and raised up into a waterfall fixture and clocked my forehead with some force. It hurt like the devil and there was a scrape with just a little blood. Not nearly enough to prompt the outpouring of sympathy I felt I deserved. So I sat on the floor a little longer than I needed to clear my head, hoping Patti would come in while I was sitting there and realize the extent of my suffering. Patti is a champion oh-you-poor-thinger and it is wonderful to get that blast of warm sympathy and then bravely say "Oh… it's nothing. What movie are we seeing?" She was late and I got bored and washed my forehead, but I told her when she arrived how I had posed for her on the floor and she missed it. Her laughter is as uplifting as her compassion. Good trade.

This is just a glimpse into the workings of my inner mind to suggest to you, dear readers, how much I have enjoyed the attention I have received since the robbery. I am functioning just fine, though I admit it is on my mind almost constantly. I expect my boss thought I had an unnatural fear of corporate visits when I jerked as he told us to expect "Rob". Several folks have suggested that I might fall apart later. So far I have chewed a hole in my lip during the night and burst out crying at Alberta's 6th grade picture even before I read the caption. But just look at how dear that picture is. I might have done that anyway. Further, I have been congratulated for and encouraged to keep writing about it, making me feel all brave and such for courageously revealing my trembling guts.

Truthiness? The second I saw the gun (and I now can remember it in his hand, but only when he is approaching the door) my inner wordsmith was whispering "oh… you can get some mileage out of this." and I was already composing before the police got there. The good parts of the saga are I didn't get hurt, it didn't last long, he didn't get much, he will get caught and I have a great story to tell. And I loooove having a story to tell. What's a little peace of mind compared to that? Good trade.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I still can't see the gun.

Even though I just watched the surveillance tape and could clearly see it in his left hand, I cannot picture the man standing in front of me with a gun pointed my direction. I told the police officers he had a sock on his hand with something hard in it. Or his hand was in his pocket. I told them I definitely did not see a gun. Watching the video it is clear that is impossible. Somehow my mind has photoshopped that selected area with the "grainy" filter. I simply cannot call up the image.
My turn. I knew it was coming. I have been too lucky. The night started out all wrong. When I got to work I realized I had forgotten my cell phone. It plays a key role in my escape plan and getting all flummoxed over that made me park in the wrong place. On third shift I always leave my car at one of the pumps, hoping a would be robber might think I have a customer. However, I was so distracted I parked in my second shift spot and was already counting in when I noticed. Oh well.
It was a dark and stormy night. Okay. It was drizzly and there weren't many customers. There was plenty of time to notice the guy who came in a little after one. He bought a Pepsi with a debit card and wouldn't speak to or look at me. However, he was looking hard around behind the counter and directly at the empty open till on the other cash register and at the safe. I knew right then I was going to be robbed. I made a copy of the receipt and wrote everything I could remember about him on the back. That way the police would be able to see him on the film easily, I figured, because the receipt would show the exact time.
Right after the incident, I was ridiculously grateful that he let me finish mopping and didn't track up the floor. I don't know if it was the same guy, and the clothes were different so it is hard to tell about the build, but he was the same height. His face was all covered up. Reviewing the tape I realized why I kept saying to the police officers that he had socks on his hands and face. (I thought he had a sweat sock over his mouth.) The way he was done up he looked like a sock monkey. Since my mind was refusing to acknowledge his weapon, it substituted an available theme.
He didn't get much and he was rather disappointed.
"Is that all? Are you sure???"
"Do you want the rolled change?"
"No. I just want more money."
At this point I tried to say "That's all there is.", but I think it came out as "Meow."
He ran. I dialled 911. The cops were there in about 2 minutes.
When other people get robbed, you fantasize about how you would react. I had told my old boss at Shell that if I ever got robbed at gunpoint, he could consider that my immediate notice. I thought I would come unglued and have to at least go directly home. Preferably with some good friend whose company I would sorely crave for solace driving poor hysterical me. But when our new manager got there, I finished up the chores while she went about figuring out how much was taken. We reopened and I stayed until the end of my shift. There was no one I wanted to call. Maybe if it hadn't been such an unseemly hour. Besides I didn't have my cell phone and I don't know anyone's number any more. When I got home I was nonetheless happy to find I had left the bedroom light on and the silhouette of Pete the Cat was obvious in the upstairs window, and very gratified that I have a weird cat who likes to meet me at the front door. When she spoke I knew that she understood everything.
You said it, Pete.

Monday, January 24, 2011

3rd Shift Lessons in Stereotype- O'Really?

In July, I will financially be able to quit the Shell station where I work part time because that silly thing I have been paying off will be gone. I don't know if I will be able to part with it, though. Not only do I love our weird little family, but the adventures and the opportunities for learning just never quit.

For instance, tonight I learned that in certain circles, one must be very careful in how one expresses a desire for certain vegetables. Specifically green beans. It may be safest to indicate "non pharmaceutical". Without the School of Third Shift Convenience Mart Fringe Learning Program I could have wound up with a plate full of Percoset someday.

Also, there was a surprise seminar in Stereotype Confirmation and Retention. My longtime friend Russell is the only person I have known to be brave enough to say "What we have to face is, they become stereotypes because they are so often true." Lesson 54.

Our little gas station in on the edge of Horsefarmland here in Lexington. Everyone from owners to grooms stop by. I had been told that the Irish were a big part of Kentucky's horse industry, and this idea is supported by the number of brogues I hear at the counter. I don't think there's one of these fellows that I have seen going to or coming from work, all lilting politeness and charm, that I have not also seen piss drunk. Even the genteel bespectacled Mr. R, who wears shirts that have to cost a hundred bucks each. Sweet Mr. R expressed in a besotted lament once, how deeply sorry (tears in his eyes) he was that I had missed a certain race because "… sheeshe sush a laaarvelly haaaaarse."

Tonight's guest instructor was a man of about my age that I know only as Pat. A yellow cab surprised me when it swung into the parking lot in a hurry and pulled to the door instead of the pumps. No one came in. I could see the driver was turned and talking to the passenger in the back seat. I have seen Pat in a number of taxi back seats, but not with a driver waving his arms around like that. When the cabby finally came in he turned out to be introducing the lesson as an expert stereotype himself… a taxi driver named Boris who spoke with a slovak accent. It seemed that Pat was so very inebriated that he not only could not produce any carfare, but could not even manage to tell Boris where he lives. Boris wanted to use the shelter of our Shell to call the police, leaving Pat outside in the cold cold cab. Which didn't last.

Weaving and staggering in precisely the exaggerated way that mimes indicate drunkenness, Pat opened the door by leaning against it until he fell in. Gratefully he did not fall all the way down. I could not understand anything he was saying between his brogue and the thickness of his tongue. Assuming he wanted the men's room, I told him it was in the back corner of the store but he was confused that I had brought it up. "It always is, isn't it?" He stumbled off that direction, but went into the beer cave instead of the toilet. He then managed to lumber over to the counter with a 24 pack of Keystone. Boris started to reinterview him about his ability to pay for the cab and his place of residence. Pat talked to me instead of Boris. I didn't get a lot of it, but I repeated what I thought I heard.

"There isn't any money any more?"

"Nooo. Not anymore. Not any money any more."

"That's not good news."

"Nooo. S'not goodues s'tall."

In spite of this confession, he still indicated that he wanted me to find some way for him to take the beer home. The police were not coming fast enough for Boris, so he fled outside to repeat his S.O.S., leaving me with Tullaghmore Dew's legacy.

"I can't sell it to you Pat."

Sadly. "Why not?"

"Because you're already drunk."

All charm. "Aaaaah. And I luuuv ya furrreva. A'right den."

The next few minutes were a confused mess of Boris not being able to decide if he should get away from Pat or be by his side constantly and Pat getting bored and going outside to wait and then coming in to demand that they leave for home… but not being able to say where that was… and the door just opening and shutting and them going in and out a lot and the snow blowing in and me getting really cold.

I don't know what Boris told the cops but two cars showed up at once and neither of them contained the usual Officer Friendlies who stop in. The biggest policeman I ever saw emerged from the car in front. Pat and Boris saw him at the same time. Strangely, Boris looked terrified and Pat just looked very very sad. He turned his usually twinkly eyes on me, beseeching.

"Hash the worrrrld gone mad? Z'ha worrrl hash gone ashuloosely mad."

But when Police Mountain speaks, Irishmen sober.

"Hey Buddy, where do you live?"

"I gush wan go home dash my cab der."


And the address came tumbling out. The other more regular sized policeman found Pat's wallet and ID in the back of the cab. Police Mountain seemed more annoyed with Boris than Pat. Stereptype 3- Big Policeman with a big sympathetic heart. Then suddenly I was alone and they were just three sets of tire tracks in fresh fallen snow.

So you can see why I am reluctant to tender my notice. If I were to leave this constantly edifying source of adventure and entertainment, I would prove Stereotype 4. Overworked Middle Aged White Woman- Ashuloosely Mad.