Tuesday, April 23, 2019


I was standing inside the front room of a narrow two-story house after a meeting of a community group and a taping of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I called my aunt, who had just moved to Montana, to tell her that a terrible snowstorm was on the way. I reached her secretary, who said that he had too many other things to do to relay the message. “Yes, but” — and we went in circles. I threw the handset into an enormous wastebasket.

Out on the front porch, I met up with our recently retired dentist. He wore a parka and a galero and walked down a long board that had been placed over the five or six steps from the porch to the sidewalk. It occurred to me that this board was a riskier proposition that the steps themselves. Our dentist was highly critical of some of the people at the meeting: they were there, he said, only to be seen.

And then I saw our old friend Margie King Barab. She was parked on the porch in an enormous sedan, the kind of car people once called a boat. I wondered how she had gotten the car up the steps. And how had she turned it around? How could there have been enough room? Margie now had to maneuver the car to drive it back down the steps. I started to push a large table toward the door of the house to free up room on the porch. As I did, a green and white sports car began to back out of the house, right toward the table. “Wait!” I yelled. “She has to get her car out.” “That’s gonna take a lot of time,” said the driver. He looked like Eric Campbell from the silents.

Later, Elaine and I saw the driver standing on the sidewalk. “Look,” I said. “He’s smoking a Gauloise and drinking espresso.” He corrected me: “Garnacha.”

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[Possible sources: On Sunday I was listening to the Left Banke compilation There’s Gonna Be a Storm. A friend begins a job today doing a little of everything. Alexander King, Margie’s first husband, was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show in its Jack Paar days. The word prow, from a little crossword I made for Elaine, might have something to do with the car. I saw a little BMW convertible yesterday. Elaine thinks the table could be from If Beale Street Could Talk.]

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