Friday, August 11, 2006

England Travelogue - 5

The rest of the trip seemed to go by quickly. I took many hikes. Up a tarn in Grasmere.

Around Grasmere Lake.

Through Yewbarrow Wood. And along what is referred to as the Estuary Footpath along Morecambe Bay. Much of that route is a paved promenade that is reminiscent of the Victorian Era. There are grass tennis courts and lawn bowling and a tea shop and flower gardens.

Morecambe Bay is a strange, beautiful and deadly place. The guidebooks are filled with stories of women losing their lovers and husbands on Morecambe Bay. The reason is that, when the tide is out it doesn't look like a bay at all but rather an inviting, grassy marshland.

But do not be deceived! Much of that grassland is actually quicksand. And when the tide comes in, it comes at a killing pace. Too fast to outrun. So unless you are prepared to swim four miles, you drown. Which evidently people do almost every year. There are big signs. You can walk across it if you contact a Mr. Cedric Robinson, who is listed as The Queen's Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay. I didn't take the guided walk. I knew I could hande the eight miles, but not without a bathroom. But if you are a birdwatcher, they say it is not to be missed.

I went to Cartmel where there is a priory dating to the 12th Century, which is just after my father's family got to England from Normandy, if you believe the folklore. The priory has a graveyard and I expected to see very old graves, but the oldest were from the 1800's. There were some remnants of headstones leaning against the wall. It looks like gravestones don't last more than 200 or 300 years. The monks were tortured and burned at various times - as happens when you are a monk in the middle ages. Cartmel was lovely - like all the towns in the Lake District.

The monks also gave Grange-Over-Sands its name. They had a granary there, which is graunge in French and eventually became Grange.

And then we had to pack up Sky and head to London. We had tea one more time at the fabulous Hazelmere Cafe in Grange-Over-Sands. I was sad but I hate goodbye's so we got in the car and headed back down the M6. Another 7 hour endurance test. We got lost over and over in London trying to get to our hotel on Grosvenor Square. Cheryl was magnificent. I can't imagine a more stressful driving situation and she never flinched. As I pored over the map, getting more and more carsick, she would say "I think it's this way". And she'd be right. It was pure intuition, but it worked better than all my left-brained reasoning. She works for a company that is a partner to Marriott and so we got a room in a very luxurious hotel right in downtown London for about $59 a night. We didn't have long - we got there Friday night and left Sunday morning. London felt just like New York to me, except older architecture. And more international somehow. New York you hear a lot of accented English on the streets. Perhaps peppered with Spanish or Yiddish. But in London, every conversation you pass is a different language. Every language in the world, it seems. I had the same sense of excitement and energy there that I have in New York.

And then it was home again, home again, jiggety jig. I went to Trader Joe's yesterday. I moved to Baltimore in May and have been there numerous times but I still can't figure out how to get to the adjacent parking lot. The Trader Joe's is in the 'Towson Town Center' - a huge mall built over the downtown area of Townson Maryland. There is free parking - acres of it all enclosed in a multi-level parking garage. I know there is a way to get through that garage to the parking lot at Trader Joe's but I've spent hours at this point and still end up walking a long way with heavy grocery bags. I couldn't help but notice the difference from the experience of buying groceries in Grange-Over-Sands and I felt sad and angry. How much we have lost in this country - does anyone realize it? Well, at least I've seen where life is managed with grace and beauty. The question is, can I now be content with less?

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

William Shakespeare - King Richard II. Act ii. Sc. 1.

Monday, August 07, 2006

England Travelogue - 4

I hiked up the Hampsfell Scar. It was the place I came to England to see, although I did not know it until I was there. It was the place that fulfilled every Jane Austin fantasy I had about England. I'm not sure what a 'scar' is. We wondered about all the quaint names for things and I wished I had a Middle or Old English reference to look them up. Cheryl asked a native and learned that a 'fell' is a valley and a 'tarn' is a small mountain or big hill. I think a 'beck' is a small stream or spring. There were lots of words like that - they all seemed vaguely familiar and pleasant as if I'd known them at some point and merely forgotten.

The Hampsfell Scar is a hill - not sure if it is high enough to be a tarn - with meadows and rock outcroppings and ancient stone walls. I hiked through some woods and climbed over a very old stile set into the wall. Then it opened out into this:

At the highest point was an old stone structure called a hospice. It was basically a shelter for walkers. It had a stone hearth inside and Roman writing over the entrance. It looked a bit forbidding as I approached it. There was a man inside, writing in a journal. I wasn't scared. I climbed a very narrow set of stone stairs to the roof. It was a warm and blustery day, my hair whipped about my face. There was a signpost pointing the direction to various towns and landmarks, near and far:

There were 360-degree views. Out over Morecambe Bay to the west:

To England in the east:

I sat up there for a long time, the wind from Morecambe Bay in my face, my heart aching for something lost I could not name.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

England Travelogue - 3

We went to see where Wordsworth lived. He lived in a town called Grasmere. He lived in 2 different houses. The first is called Dove Cottage. He lived there with his wife, maiden sister and 3 children. The roof didn't completely cover all the rooms, so the sister and the children got rained on. After he got famous, they sometimes had as many as 17 guests. Coleridge was one of his best friends and stayed a lot. According to the guide, Wordsworth and his sister were orphaned as children and raised by relatives who resented being burdened with their care. They dreamed and imagined one day they'd live together in a little cottage and have their own garden. Which is exactly what they did. His sister, Dorothy, wrote prolifically in a journal which wasn't published until long after her death. Cheryl found a copy of the book in the St. Mary's Thrift Store in Grange-Over-Sands. Dorothy was a gifted writer in her own right. Wordsworth married her best friend. It sounds like a happy arrangement for all, but I have to say that Dove Cottage was the meanest, low-ceilinged, damp-smelling, cold little dump I've about ever seen. They finally moved when their 4th child was due. I'm imagining the wife, Mary, putting her FOOT DOWN, since it was probably she who had to feed all those guests and take care of her children in a leaky barn! The guide said she served 3 hot meals a day to everyone, and 2 of them were porridge! Here's the view from the garden, which was the best part. They don't let you take pictures inside.

There is a museum there that had a John Constable exhibit, along with some paintings and drawings of the Wordsworth family and other comtemporaries of his. Byron was sort of beautiful in a rather feminine way, but Tennyson was a babe. The most amazing thing about the whole experience was that they said it looks very much like it did in their time. Many of the views of scenery in the Constable exhibit can still be seen today much as they were when he painted them. That is such a stunning accomplishment for the British to have pulled that off. Despite huge increases in population - mostly due to immigration. But they value beauty as much as we value private property. It makes me so happy for them and so sad for us. The whole drive up the country on the M6 - a major highway like I-95 in the East or 101 in California - was mostly undeveloped land. There is no sprawl. There are, however, American fast food restaurants at every rest stop. But they've had to dispense with the golden arches, thankfully. The only ugly spot I saw was Birmingham, which appears to be the Elizabeth, New Jersey of England. I guess they have to put that stuff somewhere.

Then the Wordsworths moved to a much nicer place called Rydal Mount. They had a bigger garden too. Here is a picture of Rydal Mount:

The part I liked best was a hike you could take between the two houses along the loveliest path. It was called the 'coffin path' because there was no church near Dove Cottage so people who lived in that area - or I should say - died in that area had to be carried on the coffin path to a distant church to be buried in hallowed ground. It took me almost an hour to hike it and in those days they had lead coffins. Here's what it looked like:

That about did it for me as far as going to tourist attractions. After that, all I wanted to do was hike. One other note, the cows and sheep seem really happy. Not that they told me or anything but you could kind of tell. There was no melancholy about them like there is sometimes around domesticated animals. The sheep are so cute. They hang out, grazing, on a hillside in a loose group. Sometimes one will get a little farther away from the group than the others because he's been focusing on eating. When he looks up, he sees he's not part of the group and he starts baa-ing like crazy. The other sheep keep eating, but they answer the separated one until he gets back to the group. It's quite a symphony. Different sheep have different voices. I think it might have to do with their age. Some have really high-pitched baas. Others - I'm picturing it's the elders of the group - have deep, resonant baas. While I was on the coffin path I saw a little sheep walking along the top of a wall carefully - one hoof in front of the other. I watched him for a while. He seemed to have figured out he could eat the low-hanging tree branches that way. Not sure how he got down though. Here he is:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

England Travelogue - 2

Speaking of wildflowers, they are just incredible in England. I took this walking from Tugwood to Grange-Over-Sands, but on every roadside they are prolific and gorgeous. I bought a bunch of seed packets and snuck them through customs. It turned out they weren't contraband after all, so I won't be going to Sing Sing for Harebells and Cowslips.

Our first day, we sort of laid low due to fatigue from the 24-hour slog-through-hell that it took to get there. We went food shopping in Grange-Over-Sands in our little rental car, which we dubbed 'Sky' because of the color. They drive the cutest little cars over there. You can go for an hour on a major highway and you'll see maybe one SUV and it'll be a RAV4 or a CRV - I never saw a big SUV. Not once. And I drove the entire length of the country. This car was some kind of Nissan that you can't get here. It looked a little like a Volkswagon Beetle but was much roomier and more comfortable inside. Tiny turning radius - that Sky got us out of the tightest spots effortlessly. And the back seat folded down to give almost as much cargo space as my RAV4. I saw a car with three wheels. It only had one in the front. It looked like a go-cart. I loved their teeny cars and would happily buy one for my next vehicle, but you can't get them here. Doesn't that sound like some kind of conspiracy? The Carlyle Group strikes again?

The British seem very conservation-conscious in their home design as well. If you want hot water to take a shower, you turn on this electric gadget that is a sort of coil that resides inconspicously against the wall. The water flows through the coil and is heated on the spot. So they never have to keep a 50-gallon tank of water hot all the time. There were lot's of things like that, yet I was always comfortable and never felt inconvenienced. Moreso than here, actually. Everything felt soft and organic and pleasant. The air, the light and the houses.

Grange-Over-Sands is a little Victorian resort town located on Morecambe Bay. It is on the outskirts of the Lake District and we appeared to be the only tourists there, which was exactly why we chose it. Everyone was so kind and so civilized, even though I think we stuck out like sore thumbs, and the newspapers were full of Bush-Bashing. Cheryl said she caught some scandalized glances at her flip-flops in the tea shop. And I heard someone whistling "I Want To Be In America' from West Side Story as I was walking along one of the lanes. Maybe it was a coincidence. Here is the main street in Grange-Over-Sands:

The level of civility in England is so much higher than here. I kept a list in my diary of all the things in England that are more gracious and pleasant than in America - some of them are natural, but many are cultural:

  • There are no radios or loud music. Very few headphones, even. People just walk and talk to each other.

  • There are no skateboards or bikes allowed on the public walkways - only pedestrians and dogs.

  • The dogs were all really sweet. I'm scared of dogs here but there I never felt threatened.

  • No poop (the fine is 1000 pounds).

  • No litter.

  • No SPIT. This is a biggie for me. No one spits publicly and there are no gobs to step in.

  • I don't sunburn. Really. I mean, I used sunscreen but I do here and I still burn a little. There I could be out all day, sweating, and all I got were a few freckles.

  • I had no allergies. I could stand in a field of grass and I never sneezed once and my nose never itched and I could breath. Sadly, Cheryl did not have the same experience. But she's Irish :)

  • No one honked at me even though I drove like a total moron. They were so polite that if I noticed someone behind me, I pulled over to let them pass. They do drive like demons possessed on those tiny roads, though. And apparently kill one another with wild abandon.

  • The children have very pink cheeks and are SO CUTE. Little redheads and towheads and freckles and chubby white knees. I wanted pictures but didn't want anyone to think I was weird. They seemed a bit plump but the adults were not obese so it all works out.

  • No cellphones! No kidding. They all have them and they are sold everywhere. But they don't yak on them in public. I saw someone on a cellphone twice while I was in the Lake District and one of them was a German tourist. London was different but still much less than here.

Not that they're all saints, mind you. If they have a pithy message, they definitely get it across. But I always found their manners so quaint and charming that I never felt irritated even if I was being scolded:

Monday, July 31, 2006

England Travelogue

Okay, rather than bore everyone one at a time, I've decided to take the broader approach and tell about my trip via the blog. This way the slideshow of my summer vacation is optional!

We packed for wet weather but they are having their own Global Warming woes in England and it has been a very hot, dry summer there. It never rained once and we spent a week in the Lake District where they get 120 inches of rain a year. Here is a picture of Hyde Park. I've never been there before, but I think this field is usually green. A lot of the trees appear to be dying as well. My traveling pal, Cheryl, said she heard that they don't believe in watering gardens in England. They consider it a waste of water and feel it should be left up to God whether the plants make it. Very sensible.

We flew into London/Heathrow and immediately headed up the M6 to the cottage we rented near a tiny resort town in the Lake District called Grange-Over-Sands. Cheryl is a goddess at driving on the left. I trembled in fear everytime I had to do it. They told us it would take 4 hours but it took 7. The traffic on the M6 was bumper-to-bumper the whole way. We were so tired from flying all night - it was a long day. But as soon as we got to the cottage all that melted away. It was so charming and so old. Made out of stone - at least 19th Century and probably older. But all fixed up and pretty and so comfy. Here is our street:

Here I am in front of our little home-away, called Tugwood Cottage:

Tugwood was set into a rocky hillside called Bell Hill. The houses on the street were all sort of carved into the rocks in steps, so you could look over the rooftops of the house in front of you to the gorgeous views. Here is the view from our garden:

But my favorite feature had to be the skylight. Because of how Tugwood was set into the hillside, I could look straight up through the skylight and see sky plus the wildflowers clinging to the cliff edge above us:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


If you are new to this blog, I recommend reading the 'New York Minutes' in chronological order. You can do so with the links on the right, starting with Chapter 1, or you can just page down to the bottom and read up. Happy Reading and thanks for visiting my blog!

Friday, January 13, 2006

My New York Minutes - Chapter 7

The Final Chapter

This is my last chapter of 'New York Minutes'. And it's a loooong one. I can't thank everyone enough for reading any of this stuff and for posting such supportive comments! It is the final chapter because I seem to be running out of steam for writing. And because I left New York for Los Angeles at the end of 1979. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I gave up my little apartment on 83rd Street and First Avenue and moved into the Weinstein Center for Student Living on 8th Street just off of Washington Square. It felt so good to be in a situation that was more typical of my age, which was 19. I had traveled so much, seen so much, done so much and loved it all. But the whole time I had to be more grown-up than I really felt. So it was with a sense of relief that I moved into a dorm room and took up typical college life.

Brenda and I drifted apart. She went back to Japan the following summer. Her parents encouraged this because they adored Charlie and were hoping Brenda would come around to value him as the good guy he was. I have a letter from her dated July 17, 1978:

Dearest Becky,

Your cute letter really brightened up this hot, muggy Tokyo day. My mother has been here for almost 3 weeks and plans to leave in a couple of days. I have two roommates (Boy I wish you were one of them). Cindy - a nice Jewish girl who is more of a Shiksa than you, at least you know the laws of Kosher and Shabbos! And Sue, a girl of nineteen who has a 4-year old boy back in New York. Right now, she's upset and is brooding over Valium and plum wine to the tune of blasting rock-n-roll emanating from your old room. Why? Because I finally reported to the agency that I simply couldn't take it anymore as she was eating me out of house and home. She ate up my whole kosher salami, a few packages of cheese, coffee (which costs $15 for a jar here), cookies, crackers, cigarettes, etc. Each night as I slept she feasted on my unobtainable-in-Tokyo kosher supplies, knowing they were mine, kosher, and that I could not replace them!

I was given the name and # of a religious guy studying Japanese history here in Tokyo so I called him when I first arrived, to see if he had supplies to furnish my dwindling stock of kosher cheese nips (Sue ate them). I have been going out with him (and my mother) ever since. He's funny and intelligent and we really like each other! He feels bad 'cause he says my Mom is being tempted by the S.
[Charlie's last name] treatment - Rolls Royce - country club - dinner at Maxim's scene, while all he can offer me is Sushi!

Mr. S. loves me, we danced at Castels while my Mom and Chuck
[Charlie] eyed us enviously. Chuck and Ray [Charlie's brother] are fine - same except they both shaved off their moustaches and look 10 times better.

I'm glad you're seeing Bruce and I think you'll make a fine Jewish bride. I don't like your living situation, though and as your Rabbi I must ask you to discontinue it immediately!

Write! You know how much it means here. Jungko, Mrs. Tanaka and Tak are all dijaboo
[fine]. My Japanese is getting pretty decent, they say. Take care.


I barely recall who Bruce was. A guy I went out with about twice I think. Brenda didn't like my living situation because by that time - summer of 1978 - I had moved out of the dorm for the summer and was sharing an apartment on Bank Street in the West Village with a fellow student, my friend Brad. She didn't approve of living with a man, even if he was gay. Under the influence of my NYU classmates, I seemed to have abandoned the laws of 'Kosher and Shabbos'. She came home from Japan and was soon engaged to Charlie. During the course of her stay there, she had fallen in love with him. I was in their wedding. I hadn't seen Brenda in a while by that time and she was much changed. Her little sister - the one with the talking Barbie - died of a sudden and unexpected brain hemorrhage at the age of ten. Brenda seemed more grown-up and quite connected to Charlie. Any girlish reservations about his looks were gone. She moved to Japan after that and I lost touch with her. Here is a wedding photo - the last time I saw her. She was - and still is in my memory - a dazzling girl.

The drama department at New York University has partner agreements with several of the well-known acting studios around New York. Each student takes acting classes at the studio and their academic classes at NYU. I was assigned to the Lee Strasberg Institute, where we were taught the Stanislavski Method, otherwise known as 'Method Acting'. In Method Acting, you are taught to emote by calling up memories - the more traumatic the better - from your past. If you find this difficult because you can't remember much of your childhood or your childhood wasn't traumatic, the instructors will help you by either traumatizing you themselves via abusive 'critiques' or convincing you that you truly do have deep-seated issues and if you can't remember them then you are in total denial and will never be Marlon Brando. We were taught various physical techniques to achieve a state of sobbing distress. On any given day, the class could be observed bellowing, howling, writhing and/or twitching. Sometimes the residents of the neighboring buildings would do some bellowing of their own. I met a fellow student in the library at NYU, where I had a part-time job, who described very nearly dying of an appendicitis on the floor of the women's restroom at the Strasburg Institute. Feeling terribly sick, she went up to the bathroom where she fainted. Not able to stand due to the pain in her stomach, she lay on the floor in a semi-conscious state, alternately moaning and writhing. At one point a janitor came in to clean and told her, "Oh I'll be out of your way in a minute" and proceeded to sweep the floor around where she lay. Ultimately a friend who knew she was feeling ill came to find her and recognized that she was not simply having a 'full exercise'.

I made friends quickly. My fellow drama students were such a lively bunch and I immediately bonded with a few students in my Strasberg classes. The first was a woman with the most amazing head of red curls. Her name, appropriately, was Aurora and she was called Aurora Borealis by all the instructors at the Institute. Aurora grew up over a beauty parlor in Cincinnati, Ohio. My other close friend was Brad, who was a self-described anti-semitic nice Jewish boy. He changed his last name so no one would know he was Jewish. Brad and Aurora and I hung out a lot together. We were a trio. Also, my freshman roommate, Tina, an English major who was studying Chaucer and could speak in fluent Middle English. It didn't sound like English, it sounded more like Swedish. We used to have 'Smash Night', which involved all of us getting high and watching 'M.A.S.H.' on television in someone's dorm room. I had never smoked pot when I got to NYU and I was scared, but Aurora' boyfriend, Ian, helped me to overcome this by using an enormous water-bong which made the smoke much less harsh. 'Smash Night' was fun but I never really took to the pot like I did to French wine. One night, we got the munchies and I had some Gouda cheese in the little fridge that Tina and I kept in our room. In a famished frenzy we tore into the cheese, making many sounds of enjoyment. I still remember watching the faces around me change from bliss to confusion as we tried to chew this strangely tough cheese. We had neglected to take the wax off. Here is a picture of Aurora and I dressed up as grapes for Halloween:

For the first time, I had friends to introduce me to all the delights of New York City. I ate in little Italy and drank at a real speakasy called Chumley's. You had to know someone to find Chumley's - there was no sign. You went into a nondescript brownstone and out the back door to a courtyard. Then across the courtyard and in through an unmarked door, where you found a whole group of people laughing and drinking. Chumley's appears to still exist and is a fun place to visit if you are ever in New York. I loved Greenwich Village. Certain moments stand out. Once I was coming home late with Aurora and Ian. We were walking home from the subway through Cooper Square where there is a sculpture of an enormous square in an island in the middle of the street. More accurately, it's a cube and it's mounted on a post so you can turn it. There was an empty shopping cart in the street. Ian told me to get in so I did. Then he and Aurora pushed me, running, through the ice-cold night. Past the big cube, which I grabbed and turned as I flew past. Wheels rattling we ran through the deserted streets in the middle of the night. I squealed with joy as the artic cold blew my hair behind me.

One strange note: Many people hated the twin towers. They thought they were ugly and too modern. They were completed only a few years before I got to New York. I continued to go on go-sees and used the occasional modeling money to help defray my expenses. During that first year at NYU, I left Stewart's for the more prestigious Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. My primary reason was that Wilhelmina had a talent division that represented actors. They sent me on many auditions during that time. Really, I think I auditioned for every major movie that was released in the late 70's that had parts for teenagers. I always played younger than my true age. I would see famous actresses at these auditions, mostly several years younger than I, such as Diane Lane. Once my agent called me after an audition where I had gotten called back several times. She sounded excited. She said that they had narrowed the list down to 5 and I was one of them. I didn't get the part. But I kept getting so close that in hindsight I feel it was a huge mistake to leave New York. Whatever chance I had, I left it there at the end of 1979. But many things happened before that.

My first acting job was for a television commercial. I played a teenage girl from the 1950's in a poodle skirt and ponytail. The commercial was one of those cheap ones you see on local stations advertising a release of the greatest hits of Al Alberts and the Four Aces. What I mainly remember is that we shot it on Roosevelt Island at night. The skyline of New York took my breath away. Everyone else was a seasoned New Yorker and barely seemed to notice. I stood transfixed by the swoop and points of a million-starred wonder. No one who professed to dislike the World Trade Center could have been unmoved by the grace of that skyline - a living sculpture perhaps unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Ultimately I did several TV commercials, for Datsun, for Taco Bell and some pizza chain in Arizona. They make you eat the food over and over and they paint it with grease from a bucket to make it look fresh.

I had dates, but not many. People thought that I had lots of dates because I was a model but it wasn't true, I had very few. I hadn't had any really serious relationship and I didn't until I was 20. It was my sophomore year and I met him working at the library. His name was Enrique. I ignored him at first. He looked to be from the wrong side of the tracks. He won me over, coming to talk to me while I worked shelving books and later in the front office. It turned out his mother was from Colombia and his father was Italian-American and a minor mafioso, according to Enrique. His dad was the super of an apartment building in Pelham Park and so Enrique had a tiny apartment in the basement for free. He was going to NYU on some sort of scholarship program for people from the wrong side of the tracks. He was some kind of literature major and read the weightiest tomes, even for a college student. He had scars on his back like Kunta Kinte, horrible ropes of scar tissue covering most of his back, which he steadfastly refused to discuss. He had a motorcycle. I used to take the subway to Pelham Park and Enrique would meet me and take me riding on his motorcycle. Once we stopped at a corner store under an elevated section of subway tracks. As we came out with our sodas, a train went by and a sneaker suddenly fell on the sidewalk in front of us. I didn't have time to react or even think. Enrique started the bike in a hurry and said 'Come on', insistently. I jumped on and off we went. I never found out what he saw, if anything.

We were doomed, Enrique and I, because we were from such different tribes and we both knew it. I met someone else. Billy. I moved to California with him. He was a film major and he had this group of friends he called 'The Gang'. It was from the old Archie comics. I think Billy was the one that was sort of bad - what was his name? Reggie. He always wooed Veronica. I was probably Betty but they all called me 'The American Girl' because Billy had seen this picture from the cover of American Girl magazine and thought it very apropos. Some of the gang later became enormously successful in the movie industry - really titans of Hollywood. And I think Billy has done well too - I hear his name now and then. They were a fabulously talented bunch. I dropped out of NYU to go with Billy to Hollywood and seek our fortune. I wish I could say that fortune is what I found, but it was not to be. I ended up working for 2 years in a Mexican Cantina on Sunset and La Brea called "La Villa Taxco". It's not there anymore. I had to wear a peasant wench costume. Then I went back to college at Cal State Northridge and majored in Business. I was just so desperate to get out of that cantina. So I graduated in 1984, moved back East, crawled into a cubicle and died. For twenty years. Now I'm crawling out.


It is because of Enrique that I wrote the 'New York Minutes'. Because one day recently I was listening to Bruce Springsteen's song, 'New York City Serenade' about all the characters, Vibes Man and Fish Lady and Billy with the cleats on his boots and the Mad Dog Promenade. And I thought of all this, all the characters, the people of New York - this city that felt so hard but gave me the best years of my life. And of one night coming home from Pelham Park. It was 4:00 in the morning and Enrique rode with me even though he then had to turn around and ride all the way home. We rode in on the #6 and changed to the Times Square Shuttle. In the Times Square station, Enrique suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled me off the train and towards the exit.

"Wait", I protested, thinking only that we'd have to pay again.

"Come on", Enrique insisted.

We climbed the stairs and stepped out into Times Square. Most of the lights were out. Only a few windows in offices were lit, the silhouettes of the buildings looming against the pre-dawn sky. I cannot explain it. This sleeping Leviathon was like nothing I'd ever seen.

"Wow", I said.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Enrique asked.

Beautiful was not a word that a girl from Delaware would ever have used to describe that desolate and empty and quiet lunar landscape. But I wasn't that girl anymore.

"Yes", I breathed, "It's beautiful".

The End

Friday, December 09, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 6

Being a Fashion Model is Terribly Exciting

We went to France. In typical style, Brenda breezily set the whole thing up. We were to be represented by a French agency owned by a friend of the current director of Stewart Models. We would leave in early June. I had a number of bookings during those interim months, including some for the magazines I had so religiously studied in my pink bedroom in Delaware. Here I am in Seventeen Magazine.

On a subsequent booking, I heard that I was to be on the cover. I told everyone. When the issue came out some months later I was not on the cover. Later I heard it was because I looked so young, no one would believe I was seventeen. I was nineteen.

Also around that time, I decided I should get some formal acting training and applied at NYU's School of the Arts for the following fall semester. After a rather squeaky rendition from 'Diary of Anne Frank', I was narrowly accepted. I was in the very lucky position of having a father who could pay the tuition.

Charlie came to New York and Brenda and I cooked him dinner in my little apartment. She brought a date for me. His name was Jimmy and he was a magician. He spent the evening pulling things out of my ear. We went out after dinner for drinks. It was the first time I'd finished an entire glass of wine. We came out on the street late in the evening. The men hailed a cab for us. I squeezed Brenda's arm. I felt wonderful. Like a real person who could do things like normal people - have company for dinner and go out to a bar. It was beyond imagination. Brenda had a little sister, Caroline, who had a talking Barbie that said in a clipped British accent, "Being a fashion model is terribly exciting". Brenda would quip this line to me at various times - complete with flawless accent. She whispered it breathlessly in my ear now. I have to remind myself as I write this that she was all of 20 at the time.

We left for France the first week of June, 1977, narrowly missing the catastrophic blackout that ensued a few days later. I don't remember much about the flight - it seemed so easy and fast after flying to Tokyo. We had the name of a hotel that the French modeling agency had given us. We checked in. Even that first day, after flying all night, we had go-sees. I don't remember being scared. That first day, our main appointment was to go to the agency and meet everyone. We learned the Paris Metro. Everyone at the agency - named Catherine Harle after the owner - exclaimed over Brenda's French. We must have looked rather bedraggled. I recall we had to go back the next day and Catherine looked at me and said, "Oh MUCH better!".

Catherine was a 50-something beauty. Still luscious in a completely organic French way with a thick coil of hair worn in a chignon. She was a gourmet chef and had once owned a restaurant. She spoke perfect Bridget-Bardot English. She entertained often and we were frequently invited to parties. She offered us an apartment which she kept for visiting models. We had to pay the rent of course, but it was so much cheaper than staying in a hotel and we jumped at the chance. It was in a probably 18th century building in the 4th arrondissement near Place des Vosges and Victor Hugo's former home. 21 Rue de Turenne. It had one room, a tiny kitchen, a tiny bath with only a tub, and one bed, we discovered as soon as we put down our luggage. It was a fold-out couch. That night, as we pulled up the covers, Brenda slapped me on the ass and said something raunchy that I can't remember. We were both reading 'The Hite Report'. Two squealing virgins aghast at the sexual behavior of the average American woman. We slept not a wink. Everytime I dozed off, Brenda would turn over with an exaggerated sigh and a flounce which sent the bedsprings squeaking.

The next day we were exhausted - dragging ourselves to our go-sees. I got off the Metro around 5:00 in the evening and encounterd a weary Brenda on the stairs leaving the station. The walk home to Rue de Turenne took us past a row of small shops where later we picked up our dinner each night. Tonight we walked past these shops and there, on the sidewalk, was a bed. It was a small wooden twin bed. Perfect for our tiny apartment. I nudged Brenda. "We have to buy that", I said. Brenda asked the proprietor. It wasn't expensive but they couldn't deliver it tonight, he said. "We can carry it", I told Brenda. She agreed. Anything to avoid another night like the preceeding one. We had our modeling portfolios but we managed to put those over our shoulders and each pick up one end of the bed. We started to walk the 3 or 4 blocks to the apartment. The bed kept getting heavier.

"I have to stop", Brenda said. We rested. A small Frenchman in a beret came up to us and motioned for us to pick up the bed again. We did and he stood between us and grasped the middle part of the bed and the three of us proceeded wordlessly to Rue de Turenne. I made a big deal about thanking him with many merci's. "He made it worse", Brenda said. She was right. He was so much shorter than we were that he made us stoop to walk along with him and the bed.

Our apartment was on the first floor, but that was up a flight of about 8 stairs from the entrance at street level. The stairs went around a curve and ended on a small landing in front of our apartment door. Brenda eyed these stairs dubiously. "It'll never fit", she said.

It had to. We tried angling the bed in many directions but it was solid wood and it would not go around the curve. "Go up to the landing and I'll lift and you pull," I told her. So Brenda went up to the landing. I stood in the entrance and somehow managed to heft this bed lengthwise up to where she could grasp it. I can't remember ever trying that hard to lift something that heavy. I was convinced she wasn't lifting her end at all. "Are you pulling?", I gasped.

From up on the landing came a clipped British accent. "Being a fashion model is terribly exciting!"

Just as we had appeared Japanese in our pictures in Japan, we noticed we were looking a bit French in our Paris photos. The 1.69 is Brenda's metric height - not her price tag.

I worked a lot in Paris. There are 2 kinds of models, 'high-fashion' and 'junior'. I was junior, Brenda was high-fashion. Typically, the high-fashion models are the ones you hear about, the ones who get very successful. But the French photographers seemed to love my baby-face looks. One photographer, David Hamilton, tracked me down after seeing my photo somewhere. He was an American who took pictures of pubescent girls nude. I'm glad I didn't work for him. The agency would have made a lot of money but they left the decision up to me. I could tell Catherine was relieved when I promptly turned him down.

There are too many stories to tell and this is too long already. We had such a good time. Brenda seemed to be quite knowledgeable about art and we went to all the museums. My favorite was the Jeu de Paume where I was completely undone by a small Delacroix and went back every week. We walked the Tuileries. I met a young Frenchman at a party at Catherine's. Pierre Henri. He was so cute with black hair and dark eyes. I told Brenda he was cute. Next thing I know he's asking me out in broken English. Brenda had arranged it in French without my knowing. We hung out with Pierre Henri and his roommates - 2 other Frenchman and one Englishman. They took us out to the country one day. We sped through a row of trees in Pierre Henri's Renault. I felt like I was zipping through a Manet painting. We had wine with lunch and dinner but I never remember feeling tired. Charlie came to Paris of course and took Brenda to Maxims every night. It was all aglow. That entire summer. Daylight lasts until 11:00 PM in the Parisian summer. Of course I had to keep the laws of Shabbos and Kosher but I didn't mind. Brenda didn't believe in sex before marriage. It was part of her commitment to traditonal Judaism. She had me convinced and I was waiting for The One. That seemed to drive the Frenchmen all the more crazy. We sat at the same table on the Champs Elysees. I was so happy. Once Brenda remarked to me, "I wish I could be like you, Becky." I was so flattered - no one like her had ever wanted to be like me.

I found myself understanding snippets of French. I felt like I belonged there. More than I had felt that way anywhere else in my life. More than Delaware, more than New York. "Why don't you stay?", Catherine asked me. I wanted to. But the tuition had already been paid at NYU. I had to go back. We flew home.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 5


1977 was the best year of my life.

So far. In January, I left for Japan. The flight from Kennedy Airport took 14 hours non-stop. The time difference was 12 hours, so day and night were completely switched. It took Brenda, Sharon and I two weeks before we slept through the night. There were (mostly) mild earthquakes almost daily, usually around 5 o'clock in the morning. There were vending machines on every corner in Tokyo, even in the residential neighborhoods. The company that brought us to Japan was owned by a man named Simon Tse (Simon Say). He put us in a nice Japanese-style apartment in a decent but ugly section of Tokyo. It was a high-rise building and we could look out at night to see the vending machines casting an eerie glow over the neighborhood of cement buildings. I loved the food in Japan. We would go on a day-long photo-shoot and our interpreter, Junko (joongko) would stop and buy us box lunches to take along. They would come in a balsa-wood box, fragrant and beautifully presented. A little fish, some vegetables, rice. So perfect. If eaten in a restuarant, a steaming washcloth with lemon or sandalwood scent would be presented before and after the meal.

The photo above was taken and then painted in some way to look like an illustration. I didn't know what it was for until I walked into a large department store on the Ginza, which is Japan's answer to 5th Avenue. There was this floor-to-ceiling poster in a dimension that would have done justice to Times Square. I never knew what Payday Service I was offering but was comforted by the image's scant likeness to myself. Brenda was with me and as soon as we walked in I said, "Oh my God, that's me". That happens a lot when you are a model.

The Japanese used mostly caucasian models, but they dressed us up to look vaguely Japanese.

The main thing I remember about Japan is Brenda. She was beautiful. She did a lot of work for Clairol. Here she is on a bottle of shampoo. Brenda was on the kind for oily hair. They always used a brunette for oily hair and a blonde for dry hair. The one for normal hair had Dorothy Hamill. Brenda's hair was not oily. Eventually I loved her, but at first I hated her.

She was interested in her Jewish roots and had decided to become Orthodox. This meant that she couldn't eat any shellfish and had to sit and do nothing on Saturday. She talked to her mother on the phone - from Tokyo to New Jersey - for hours. She complained that she had nothing to eat. Simon Tse was leaving for a business trip to America. Brenda's mother arranged to give him some food to bring back for Brenda. About a week later, pale and sweating, Simon staggered into our apartment with a large Tourister suitcase full of cans of Barney's Kosher Meatballs. It was so heavy, it cost him over $100 to take it on the plane - it exceeded the weight limit. In Japan, the custom is to remove your shoes when you go into a building. There will be some paper shoes at the door and you leave yours and put on the paper ones. Brenda wore Frye boots and wouldn't remove them. We went to a traditional inn in Kyoto where she stomped across the rice paper mats in the quiet lobby of the tiny inn. The Japanese never show their feelings but sometimes they show anyway. We had a driver named Tak. Tak was big by American standards, but by Japanese standards he was huge. He had a slow, sweet smile and spoke not a word of English. Brenda imitated him. Whenever he spoke she said the same thing in Tak's deep voice. She didn't speak Japanese but she was a gifted mimic. He didn't get it for a long time, either because of his language barrier or his generally friendly, open manner. Junko got it and I could see the distress in her face. I will not forget the look on Tak's face when he finally realized the beautiful American model was mocking him. Finally, one day in the limo on the way to a job, I turned to her and hissed, "You are such a bitch". She stopped after that.

One night, a man called the apartment. His name was Charlie. His family lived in Japan and owned a successful import/export business. His mother was French and his father was Israeli, but Charlie spoke English and had gone to college in America. He knew the phone number of our apartment and knew that models usually lived there so sometimes he'd call to get dates. He took us out. He loved Brenda. She let him spend money on her, but privately dismissed him because he was shorter than she was. He took her home to meet his parents who loved this conservative Jewish girl their son had managed to find in the middle of Japan. They spoke French in the home and Brenda was fluent - not even a trace of an accent, we were told.

We were there 3 months. I was glad that I got to see Japan and I was glad to go home. Home to my roachy apartment, and to loud and wonderful New York. But some images stayed. I climbed a mountain in Kyoto to see an ancient Buddhist temple, shrouded in mist and silent. Some giggling, uniformed schoolgirls asking to have their picture taken with me. Eating raw jellyfish with Junko in the beach town of Kamakura. It was widgy but not too bad.

It wasn't until I got home that Brenda and I became friends. She called me. "Do you want to work in France?" she said.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 4

More Angels and Sayonara

My friend Dorothy came to visit me from Delaware. I know her from nursery school, although we didn't actually become friends until first grade. In Delaware Preschool she was 'the girl with the hair'. I coveted her hair when I was four years old and grew mine long so I could look like her. We were in different grades. Then I got held back in first grade and we both ended up in Mrs. Conaway's first grade class at River Road Elementary School. Our dads both worked for Du Pont. Her mom taught piano lessons to my little sister. She lived a few blocks from me. I sort of stole her boyfriend. I still feel badly about it but she's never given me a moment's grief about it, which is more than I deserve. This is Dorothy after we'd already been friends for years. The picture doesn't do her hair justice.

She dated this guy when we were in High School. His name was Timmy and he looked a little like Ashton Kutcher. So cute. They broke up - well they both went off to different colleges so that was that. When Dorothy came to New York, we took the subway up to Columbia University and looked him up. But he wasn't there - he'd gone home for the weekend. We left my number.

Then we took a walk. We came to Morningside Park. I thought we could cut through the park to get back to the subway. Just as we were turning into the park a Frenchman in a beret who looked and sounded like Pepe Le Pue, jumped out of a cab in front of us.

"Non! Non!", he said, shaking a finger at us. "Don't go in there! Very dangereuse! Very bad! Tres mal!"

He blocked our path into the park. He was about a foot shorter than I was, but he was insistent.

"Okay" I said. I wasn't sure I should trust this kook. But I never had been in Morningside Park. Dorothy beamed at him. "Thank you" she smiled. He got back in his cab. Still smiling, she waved until he drove away.

Later, Timmy told me we never would have come out alive. Maybe Morningside Park has gotten better. New York has gotten better. In the 70's it was in bad shape, bankrupt and getting a bailout from Jimmy Carter. Sometimes the trash on 83rd street wasn't picked up for a week. Huge steaming piles of garbage. But for me, New York was getting better quickly. I felt more capable, more grown-up, as I zipped around New York on the subway. Some days, there were butterflies in my stomach just wondering what that day would bring. From all the go-sees, I knew New York like the back of my hand. I was starting to feel like I belonged, like it was my city.

Timmy called my number on Monday after Dorothy was back in Delaware. "I remember you" he said. We went out. We fell in love, briefly, in an 18-year-old kind of way. I hung out at his dorm at Columbia. Everyone there was so smart. He had a roommate, Dan, who sat under a corona of brown curls smoking from an elaborate hookah, expounding on existential philosophy like a young Allen Ginsburg. I'd like to think that now I'd ask my best friend if it was okay if I dated her former beau. But then, the very idea that there could be such a boy. Such a cute boy. That I could like him. And he could like me back. It was a miracle of inconceivable proportions. Thank you, Dorothy. You're the best.

After I'd been dating Timmy for a few months, Stewart Models told me I was going to Japan. It's one of the ways they got young models started in those days. Japan used all western models and agencies would send the new ones for a few months to gain experience and pictures for their portfolios. As usual, I was excited and scared. I got a passport and a visa. I met the two other models I would be living with, Brenda and Sharon. Sharon was from Wilmington Delaware like me and Brenda was from New Jersey. Sharon said I could ride with her and her boyfriend to the airport. So on the morning we were to leave, I stepped out on the sidewalk on First Avenue and tried to hail a cab. I'd never done this before. I had 2 huge suitcases without wheels that my parents had lent me for the trip. I could barely lift them. It was January and the wind as howling down First Avenue. I don't recall being that cold, ever. Before or since. No cabs would stop. I kept trying different blocks, dragging my suitcases, my hands frostbitten. After about half an hour, I was late. Still no cabs would stop. I sat down on one of my steamer trunks and started to sob. I wasn't going to make it on time and Stewart would send me back to Delaware. A tiny white-haired old woman came up to me. She wasn't wearing a hat or scarf but appeared unaffected by the cold. About the size of an 8-year-old, she peered into my red face. "What's the matter, dear?" she asked. I sobbed something about going to the airport and getting a cab and I was late and my ride would leave without me, etc, etc. "Oh" she said. She walked into the street and stood in front of a cab and held her hand out in a 'halt' command. She walked around the side of the cab. There was a protracted conversation with much gesturing on both parts. Finally, she came back to me smiling sweetly. "He'll take you" she said. "And if your friend has left, he'll just take you right to the airport".

"Oh thank you" I gushed, so relieved. I got in the cab and turned to wave to her, but the street was empty. I was off to Japan. Here's me and Brenda at McDonald's. The french fries were awful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 3

Angels and Goodbye

When you are an aspiring model, you first have to develop a portfolio. To do this, the agency sets up barter agreements between aspiring models and aspiring photographers. The young models pose for free for the young photographers in exchange for a print. They call this 'testing'. In those early weeks, most of my go-sees were for testing. At first, I was camera-shy despite all those years of practicing in front of the mirror in Delaware. But the photographer would tell me what to do and I quickly got used to looking into a camera lens.

My first booking was for a company that made sewing patterns. It was called 'Simplicity'. I worked for one day and made $600, which was enough to live on for a month in 1976. I was excited but scared too. All the other models seemed much prettier and taller than I was. That's me in the black and white checks.

We were really suffering in that 5th floor walk-up because of the heat. Well, I was suffering. It didn't seem to bother Sarah. She left everyday for the Art Students League happy and came home happy. I don't remember Sarah being that happy any other time. Her paintings were portraits. Each week they'd have a different model and they'd spend the week painting a portrait. At the end of the week, an instructor would come in and give a critique. Sarah said at first her paintings were terrible and she was embarrassed. Then, all at once, she said she 'got it'. She felt like she knew how to paint. I didn't see the early, terrible paintings, but the ones she brought home looked like a real artist had done them. Someone who had been painting for a long time. Not a 20-year-old hippie who'd been picking apples for the last year. I asked her what did the instructor say? She said that he looked at her painting and said, "What can I say?". He thought it was really good.

With my first modeling money, I went back to Mr. Claiborne and bought us a used air-conditioner. He came over and installed it. Mr. Claiborne was an older black man. He and a younger guy carried that air-conditioner up those 5 flights. He looked like he was going to pass out. After they installed it, I gave him $20 just for climbing those stairs. He didn't want to take it and I tucked it into his shirt pocket. He looked sort of mad and I wondered did I do the wrong thing? One day, I was walking down 83rd street to go jogging in the Carl Shurtz park and Mr. Claiborne was on the street talking to an old lady with white hair. He introduced us. The lady said to me, "He's the pillar of the community!". She grabbed Mr. Claiborne's arm when she said it. She said pillar like 'pillah'. I agreed. Some weeks later, Mr. Claiborne showed up with a small sofa. He carried that up to the 5th floor too - with his young helper. He had told the lady that Sarah and I didn't have any furniture. She had an extra sofa and it had a bed in it too. One day later that year, I decided to come home from the park on 84th street. There was a beautiful old apartment building with a red awning and a doorman in front. The awning said, "Claiborne House". I realized this building would be directly behind Mr. Claiborne's fix-it shop. I asked the doorman, "Is this building named after Mr. Claiborne who has the fix-it shop on 83rd Street?".

The doorman said, "Mr. Claiborne?. He owns half this block!".

At the end of the summer, it was time for Sarah to go. I was so sad. I couldn't think about her leaving. I tried to get her to stay but she had plans to go to Peterborough, New Hampshire and visit with friends and then go back to school to study Classics and Philosophy at an alternative school called Hebron. She packed her things and headed for the train. Alone in NYC, I could still hear her footsteps on the stairs. After she got to Peterborough, she wrote to me:

I had a really nice time in Peterborough. But lots of things happened before that and after leaving you. I had a burst of tears going down the steps - really a gush - but it only lasted a minute. My luggage was very heavy and I was exhausted when I got to the subway. A lady told me I was going to 'mess up my insides' and not to carry such heavy things. On the subway, there were no seats so I was bending over trying to arrange my stuff when the train started with a jolt and I landed belly first on top of my knapsack. A woman reached out her hand to help me and we both laughed. She squished everybody down on the bench to make room for me. How's that for cold New Yorkers?

A year later Sarah was married and ten years later she had three children and then a nervous breakdown and a divorce. Now she's 50 and lives 2 doors down from me and we are pretty happy. But I think about those paintings a lot. They were really good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 2

The Move

My brother-in-law, Don, asked why I wanted to be a model. My official answer at that time was that I really wanted to be an actress, but one could segue from modeling. Look at Susan Dey - who some claimed I looked like - she was on the cover of my American Girl magazine and then she was in The Partridge Family. But the deeper reason was two-fold. In the family, I was 'the pretty one' and didn't really think I was much good at anything else. At school I was teased for my looks - skinny and awkward. They used to say "Flatsie, Flatsie, she's flat and that's that" - which was the TV jingle for a doll. So I had something to prove.

I am a bit hazy on the exact chronology of what followed but my Mom and I drove up to New York and went to the Ford Modeling Agency. We took the New Jersey Turnpike and parked at the Vince Lombardi park-n-ride and rode the train into the city. I went in and my Mom waited in the waiting room. I spoke to a nice French woman named Monique. She said, "I want Eileen to meet you but she isn't here today. Can you come back?". I told her I could. I told my Mom. We had lunch in a restaurant and went home.

We did go back. I did meet Eileen. She said, "You have a wandering eye. Try Stewart's". And that was it. Five minutes later I was sobbing on the sidewalk. My Mom was quite magnificent. She said as long as we were there we might as well go to some other agencies. This was very brave for her. Especially since she wasn't that keen on the idea in the first place. And we were from Delaware and this was New York. I think maybe Monique got her hopes up too. I told her about the Stewart's comment. There was also an agency I'd read about in one of my magazines called Wilhelmina. We went to Bloomingdales and used the pay phones and the phone book. We decided to start with Stewart Modeling Agency. We told them we were only there for the day and they agreed to let me come in. There were pictures of Susan Dey and Cybill Shepard in the lobby. So they were with Stewart's too!! I talked to a woman named Donna. Right away, she said Yes. They'd take me. I told her I had to finish high school, then I'd move to New York and I could start. She said Great. Give me a call. I went back to my Mom. We walked outside. I was so happy. We walked down the street. A big black man stood in the sidewalk and sang to us " have a lovely daughter".

Back home I told all my friends and then I had to find an apartment. I was so scared. At the last minute, my big sister Sarah said she would spend the summer with me in New York. Sarah was two years older. She was a Hippie. She'd been traveling around making money by picking apples. I was so relieved not to have to go by myself. Our grandmother gave Sarah some money so she could study painting at The Art Student's League. We took the train up. We got The New York Times. There was one apartment we could afford ($185 per month). We went there and talked to the landlord. He said we could have the apartment. My Mom had given us a blank check for the deposit. It was 2 rooms - a 5th floor walk-up at 83rd Street and First Avenue. No one believes me when I tell them that I went to New York and got an apartment on the Upper East Side by answering one ad in The New York Times. But that's how it really happened.

Three days after my high school graduation, we packed some dishes, a small table, 2 folding chairs and 2 twin mattresses on top of our Plymouth Fury II and we were in. I couldn't talk to my Mom for about 2 months after that. I was too homesick, it was unbearable. I told her she couldn't call or write.

I had a bank check with all my savings ($3500) because we thought that would be like cash. But the bank told us it would take three weeks to clear. So we didn't have any money for three weeks. I cried but Sarah said it would be okay. Mom had given us some food. In the beginning I was sad and wanted my mother, but Sarah was really happy. We made curtains and slept next to each other on our mattresses on the floor. It was hot. The apartment had cockroaches and once I woke up at night and there was one crawling on my lips. We bought a used window fan from a man with a fix-it shop at 83rd Street named Mr. Claiborne. We walked in the Carl Shurtz Park. But we never went out at night. We thought New York was too dangerous. Even when our little brother came up and wanted to see the fireworks for the bicentennial. We took him to the Tall Ships but the fireworks were at night. He was heartbroken. When you are from Delaware, that's what you believe about New York. We learned how to use the subway. Sarah went to the Art Student's League and I started going on modeling interviews. Except they don't call them interviews, they call them 'go-sees'. You go, they see.

Friday, September 23, 2005

My New York Minutes - Chapter 1

The Preparation

In April 1976 I applied to the Ford Modeling Agency. I was eighteen and a senior at Mount Pleasant High School in Wilmington Delaware. To prepare for the interview, I spent approximately 6 years practicing the following:

  • Sucking in my cheeks

  • Pouting my lips

  • Squeezing my boobs into a loose, quite painful, and probably permanently deforming approximation of cleavage

  • Measuring my height against a mark on the wall(5'6" until the last minute - 5'7" was the minimum)

  • Trying on outfits

  • Trying on make-up

  • Trying on fake fingernails

  • Looking at my long hair down my back using a hand mirror

  • Doing the 'cat-walk' strut - in a 9x9 room - in 4" platform shoes

I'm sure there was more. In my defense I will say that I also found time to read almost everything in print, acquire quite an impressive collection of 45 rpm records (and not just The Monkees, although I was in love with Mickey Dolenz), prepare slides from jars of creek sludge stored on the windowsill and view the microscopic creatures in my Dad's microscope, have farting contests over the telphone with my friend and blood-sister, Betsy. And towards the end, hold down a 20-hour-per-week job in addition to school and being a twirler on the color guard.

I called Ford Modeling Agency and found out that they had open interviews on Wednesdays. I convinced my Mom to take me during my Easter break from school. I checked and Easter was on April 18th in 1976, so I'm thinking this would have been the Wednesday after Easter, or April 21, 1976.