Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Pleasures of Anglophilia

When I was in high school (several millenia ago), a cute exchange student appeared one fall. Her name was Penelope and she was English with blond straight hair, green eyes and a fantastic figure. She dressed modestly, unlike most of her classmates who were typical Harvard Square hooligans. I, for example, commonly wore black jeans, engineer boots, black turtleneck and a blue Oxford cloth button-down shirt. The engineer boots were my personal modification to the intellectual thug uniform.

At that time, Rindge Technical School was across a small park from Cambridge High and Latin. Sitting in the middle of the park was the Cambridge Public Library. Although the true thugs from Rindge (things are often black and white to teenagers) we CHLS students rarely ventured past the library into terra incognita.

One day I approached a small hormone addled mob of boys in this park. A horde of hesitantly hovering bees humming around the flower that was Penny. The difference between them and me was that I was meeting her there to take her for a walk. Desperately trying to look cool and unconcerned the boys chatted to each other about how they did in the swim meet, or the riot in the lunch room last week.

I stood back a little waiting and admiring how her yellow dress, which was far too frilly for the current styles, set off her hair and eyes. Penny noticed me just as one poor guy, in a desperate bid to attract attention through sympathy, started to complain about the unfair marking of the last history test. He got a response from Penny, but not what he was expecting. After listening to him moan and groan for a minute or two she said offhandedly,

"Oh for God's sake. Keep your pecker up."

The sudden silence was amazing, as was the rising blush on the faces of the other boys as they slithered off in disbelief.

"What did I say?" she asked me. An anglophile even then, I knew what that what shed said was "keep a stiff upper lip" or as some would say these days "man-up". I very diplomatically hinted at possible other interpretations. She laughed.

"What a bunch of wankers," she said.

I agreed, and we walked down to the Charles River to ... ummm ... discuss it in more detail.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Leather Nun

I was in Milwaukee working for the federal government from 1972-76. My salary was so low that my family would have qualified for food stamps except that, at the time, government employees were excluded. I also couldn't afford a good place to live. So I ended up in a cross between a tar paper shack and four unit apartment building on Pulaski St., with a hooker in the other second floor apartment a trash collector directly below us and a family of Gypsy women in the fourth unit.

My wife found this unwholesome, so I took out a loan and moved us out to West Allis to an apartment complex that looked like a cross between a minimum security prison and a strip mall. Suddenly, shortly after our second child was born, I came home to find her packing. She was moving back to the East coast with the kids. She was leaving immediately.

After terminating the lease, I moved to a tiny apartment (I hadn't known that Murphy beds still existed) a few blocks from my office on North Prospect Street near Lake Michigan. I moved in with a couple of stacks of books, a couple of changes of clothing, some discount willow pattern china, a wok and a rice pot.

I wasn't done with my marriage, and I've always been a little too honorable for my own good. So instead of searching for love, I just searched for companionship. I just needed some good company. One of the people I found was Franz. On the weekends I earned some extra spending money by doing tarot readings (I used the now out-of-print Hurley-Horler deck if you're interested) and Franz owned an occult book shop, where he let me ply my trade.

Franz also studied the art of saber fencing, and introduced me to live war-gaming with BB guns goggles and heavy clothing in the maze-like tunnels and passages under the two or three blocks surrounding the store. This may seem somewhat advanced for 1973 or 74, but remember this is the city that hosts The Safe House bar.

One day Franz introduced an attractive lady in her mid 20s. She was about 5'6" and slender with short curly blond hair and wore a white cotton shirt tucked into Levis and engineer boots. I couldn't help but notice that she wasn't wearing a bra ... probably because her shirt was unbuttoned halfway to her belt buckle.

"This is The Leather Nun," he informed me and laughed as my expression must have shown a bit of disbelief. "You'll figure it out," he chortled as he walked away.

"Did you want a reading?" I asked, confused.

"No, I need a date."

"I'm sorry, I'm a married man," I explained, somewhat ruefully. As I said, she was quite attractive.

"Unavailable," she said, "but without any current family duties."

I shot Franz a glance but he was feigning innocence and pretending to arrange the shelves.

"Well ... yes?"

"Then you'll be perfect," she said. "Mose Allison is at the Blue River Café tonight, my date stood me up and I don't feel like getting hit on by a bunch of middle-aged jazz nuts."

"So you're looking for a stand-in."

"Yes ... You do know who Mose Allison is?"

"Of course. So this isn't actually a date?"

"No."

I didn't get to be a good tarot reader by being obtuse.

"So I suppose your date doesn't like jazz, and she wanted to do something else."

She laughed. "Franz said you were fast."

I grinned back at her. "So the idea is, that we're two music lovers who pose no romantic threat to each other."

"That's it."

"I'm not sure that I'll be able to fulfill that role if you don't tuck that away." I nodded at the pretty pink nipple that was poking out.

"What this?" She hauled her breast out and examined it as if she'd never noticed it before. "Well if it bothers you ... " She tucked it back in and fastened up one or two buttons

"Well," I said, "as it happens, I've got stage-side seats for tonight, but apparently someone ... " I turned and smirked at Franz, "will have to go home after work."

Franz lumbered forward and grabbed us both in a bear hug.

"Good. I can't stand that weak-ass espresso at Blue River anyway. You kids play nice now."

That was the beginning. Tina (as I discovered her name to be) and I had similarly eclectic tastes in music and art, and we spent a lot of time together. I met her partner once, a darkly sulky Joan Baez type who dismissed me as her partner's "pet castrato". She claimed to be an ethnomusicologist and spent altogether too much time explaining why our tastes in music were degraded and how much more expressive the grunts of some obscure Amazon tribe were than any "composed" pop garbage. I forgot about Franz's odd introduction.

One weekend we were going to a performance by John Fahey and I suggested that we meet for dinner first at this decent Italian place on East Brady Street. She said that she'd meet me there. She asked me to try to get a seat by the window.

About five minutes after I had been seated. I was looking at the menu when the restaurant went quiet ... very, very quiet. I looked up and saw Tina pull back the chair across from me and sit down. I did mention that this was a VERY Italian place. Most of the patrons were speaking either Italian or heavily accented English. Italian grandmothers in black, Italian mammas with their bambini, Italian construction workers with biceps like fuckin eggplants.

Tina was wearing a nun's habit.

Let me be absolutely clear on this.

Tina was wearing a nun's habit.

She had added a leather under bust corset which she was wearing over the habit. The nun's habit was sheer and it was quite obvious that she wasn't wearing anything underneath.

She sat down, pushed the Chianti bottle candlestick to the side, leaned across the small table with its red and white checks and with great gusto gave me an unaccustomed, deep and sloppy kiss. then she sat back.

I looked around the room. Forks were frozen in midair, pasta of various shapes quivered on the tines dripping sauce on the tablecloths. One man was petrified and, as I watched, the cheese and tomato of the slice of pizza he held, slowly eased itself over the crust and dropped to his lap.

I looked back at Tina. She smiled at me sweetly. I had about 18 nano-seconds of pleasure before my instinct for self-preservation kicked in. I leapt to my feet, grabbed her by the arm, and rushed her to the door.

I could hear the room doing a collective dinosaur take as she reached back and gave my butt a squeeze. I heard chairs being pushed back and silverware hitting the floor as the door slammed shut behind us.

I rushed her around the corner and into a side street. As we waited for the shouting to die down, I slipped my jacket over her shoulders.

"A little underdressed tonight, Tina."

"I just needed some attention."

"Well you certainly got it."

We stifled our giggles and she kissed me again.

"Thanks," she said. "That was fun and you're a sweety for putting up with me."

"Just one thing, Tina," I said.

"What's that?"

"Please make sure that you never warn me when you are going to pull one of these stunts."

"I promise."

I took her home. She changed into a denim skirt and Indian print blouse (still sheer, but not as mind-numbingly so). Then we went to listen to John Fahey be rude to us as he broke strings and retuned them over and over.