An assignment for Shedheads, plus my weekly shareables: how to make a setlist, different worlds in Georgia, and so many beagles
The elevator doors opened and a man got on. We nodded to each other, not speaking, because that's what men do, besides why would you have a conversation on the elevator, that's just awkward. Suddenly the quiet whoosh of the elevator's descent was broken by loud music. Startled, Phil reached into his pocket & pulled out the phone, immediately realizing he'd mistakenly picked up his wife's phone that morning. 'Damn,' he thought, '..bet this guy thinks I'm a jerk'. The only thing to do was get off the elevator and try and act somewhat nonchalant. Keep 'em guessing.
Even before the car hit the ground floor, I’d pushed the #1 button. I just had to know. I was in that building to visit my publicist. I have a new book coming out. We reviewed the praise blurbs. That’s when well-known authors read advance copies and write a blurb for the dust jacket. I was stoked. Ann Patchett had already sent her blurb back. Ann loves all dogs and was happy to recommend my book, DOGLAND. Ann’s recommendation would sell books.
When the elevator doors opened, I peeked right and left. I didn’t want to be caught by the retired banker snooping around. I went left. The first office was Carnegie Private Wealth Group. Undoubtedly, he would be here. But the waiting room’s glass doors showed no Mr. Banker. The next office was an upscale spa. I smirked. Surely a massage? This door was frosted so I was forced to open it and say, “Sorry, wrong office.” No Mr. Banker sitting there either. There were other offices, but the glass doors exposed nothing but darkness.
At the end of the hall, I could hear guitars and a drummer tuning up. I stood outside for a while. When the music started, it took me back to the Tremont Music Hall. I saw Little Village there in the 90’s. Behind the door, I could catch Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Nick Low on vocals with Jim Keltner on drums. WOW, they were smokin’. As they broke into the chorus, my hand pushed on the door, and I slowly walked in. The banker was on guitar with a hat. He smiled and nodded. They kept on singing. They were almost laughing out loud at the line “Now she might run cold for you. She runs hot for me.” I laughed for them. When it ended, I did a slow golf clap and asked,
“Who ARE you?”
The banker replied,” The Blackbirds, catch us at Zee’s Tavern on the 26th.”
I chuckled, “Yeah man, I sure will, I thought you were a retired banker.”
“I am. Tim Farney. Nice to meet you.” he said.
Tommy, what kind of building was it? How I would finish the story may have to do with whether this was a residential building, hotel, medical facility, university, etc. can you tell us that much?
He entered the elevator with a jaunty step for the first time in 3 years. His doctor had just given him a clean bill of health, his ex-wife had finally remarried, and he had recently met an attractive woman who quite enthusiastically believed in seizing the day! He shared the elevator with a man who wore a contented look, as if the problems of betrayal and lost love had never crushed the life out of him. Richard’s phone rang loudly with the song, Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” He didn’t need to take the call, he knew what it meant. The elevator opened and he bounded out, turned and looked at his fellow traveler, flashed that quirky eyebrow thing that Groucho Marx made famous, and headed off in a new direction.
Banker-man's wife is on a girls trip or girls outing, and he's on call. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is the ringtone to let him know she's home; they're at the airport; they're ready for their pick-up; or meet them for drinks and dinner. It's obviously code, so no need to answer, but the Groucho brows are for you alone, because wouldn't you wanna know.
I exited the elevator with a smile on my face. It had been one of those fun encounters with a stranger where there had been a little connection. A moment of levity and yes intrigue, that stays with you.
Making my way across the expansive lobby, I skirted the fringe of the seating area serviced by a coffee bar that had taken over one corner of the space several years ago. I spied an old fraternity brother, Lumpy, backing away from the bar with a coffee cup in hand. I had forgotten he worked in the building now.
After a handshake that turned into a brief hug, I just had to tell my old friend what had occurred on the elevator. Lumpy listened to my vignette and broke out laughing.
“So, did this guy actually look like Groucho Marx, too.”
“Come to think of it, yeah. He was an older version, with the same hair and bushy eyebrows. But not the moustache.”
“Yeah, that’s, Walter. He works for Capital Trust Partners on the second floor. Good guy. Belongs to my tennis club. Katherine and I have gotten to know him and his wife, Stacy, playing mixed doubles. We’ve had dinner with them a bunch of times. They are both very funny, especially together. Stacy plays his straight man perfectly. The two of them got Katherine going at dinner one night. She was laughing so hard she peed in her pants. Which made all of us laugh even harder.”
“Ha! I can see that. His cool reaction to the phone ringing, and his little schtick when he exited the elevator, I could tell he had a big sense of humor.”
“Apparently, his fraternity brothers at Creighton actually called him Groucho. His close friends still do. He hated the moniker at first, but when he saw how much the girls liked it, he embraced it. Learned how to do the eyebrow thing. Even grew the requisite mustache for a while.”
“But the ringtone. That caught me by surprise.”
“If I had to guess, I’ll bet his kid did that. He and Stacy got married late. She’s ten years his junior. And they had a Chrissy late in life, which has its own hilarious story. She’s a senior in high school now. I was with Walter one time when his phone started playing The Who’s “Tommy.” Walter told me how Chrissy likes to steal his phone on occasion and change his ringtone to something funny. Usually to something that sends a subtle message: an inside joke. She knows it will take him weeks to figure out how to change it back to a more dignified ring.”
So that explained it. I’m glad I ran into Lumpy. His insight made the brief encounter even more special to me. A bit of familial high jinks played out in public. You have to love life’s moments like that.
So I wasn't the only one with huge crush on Maria McKee then?