it’s late, like 3:30 in the morning – goodbye blue monday’s gone to sleep. i haven’t.
there’s a movie on turner classic movies entitled “Portrait of Jenny”. it’s a late-40′s black and white film about art, love, loss and time travel.
yes, i said time travel. i won’t tell you anything more except that a portion of the final 15 minutes of the film are done in a strange and wonderous “color” process. if you’re a film student, you might want to see this one.
but this is not why i was compelled to write this.
this is about me and ginger.
in the moments before the start of “portrait of jenny,” there was a montage of what turner classic movies describes as “the essentials”; films that, like “portrait of jenny,” transcend time and remain forever fresh and current. in this montage was about 0.5 seconds of fred astaire and ginger rogers dancing.
that got me thinking.
it took me to the early 1980s and the subway. i was taking the escalator at the 5th Avenue “R”-train stop, the one that lets you out on Central Park South at the side of the Plaza.
until that moment, i never knew there was an escalator there so i decided to take it. i imagined that the short-distanced, narrow escalator was constructed for the sake of the edifice of money and power that was built above it.
the swells had the limos and cabs.
the bellboys and chambermaids had the subway and escalator.
now, in 1983, it was still old-guard and filthy-rich.
you never said the word “hotel” in connection to this place.
it was simply “the Plaza.”
as my eyes approached street-level, i saw groceries hit the ground and bounce weakly. they were bags of things that fell from bigger bags. by the time i stood at street level, even the bigger bags were falling to the ground. i moved a few steps forward and i saw an elderly woman staring down, obviously flustered, preparing to take that deep breath that precedes the labor of picking up a mess.
before this happened i was before her, bending down quickly and scooping up her packages and putting the smaller bags back into the bigger bags saying, “it’s OK ma’am. i got it. just relax.”
after filling the first bigger-bag, i stood up and handed it to her saying, the very second our eyes met, “holy moses, you’re ginger rogers!” she smiled brightly and said,”yes…yes, i am ginger rogers,” pleased, no doubt, that a young person such as myself would recognize her so quickly.
stooping down, i picked up the remaining packages and stood before her – an icon from the goldenest age of hollywood.
she was probably in her early 70′s. her eyes were brilliant.
in measured words i stated, “miss rogers, i have to say that i’ve been in love with you and your work all my life. please do me the honor of allowing me to carry your groceries wherever you need to take them.” …to which she replied, “why thank you! you’re so kind. thank you for your wonderful words.” i signaled her to put the bag she was holding into my waiting right arm. we walked toward the corner,…”my friends won’t believe it,….” i joked.
i remember asking her what she was doing walking around with bags of groceries.
“a girl’s gotta eat,” she replied.
yep. that’s the truth.
i followed her as she turned and headed up toward the entrance of the Plaza. i wondered what kind of picture this was.
i wished there was a way of documenting this moment.
we walked into the Plaza’s lobby and up to the desk. i placed the bags on the counter. she thanked me very graciously. i thanked her for the opportunity.
i told her i would never forget her eyes.
she smiled again, even more brightly. i hoped that i made her day.
we may have even shaken hands, i don’t remember.
i was no longer there…..i was…somewhere.
i wish i could add more to this story. i wish i could say that her eyes glimmered a seduction across time, to her youth, and that these few moments told me about the things that connected us out here in the little land of the big math. i like to believe that, for a second, we shared a dance step on the cosmic stage.
this is the stuff i live for.