Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 135: reunion

We now raise the curtain on the final act of Larry Winchester’s beloved epic, presented here for the first time in all its uncut glory...

(Click here for our previous chapter, or here for the beginning of this Woolworth's Literary Award©-winning masterpiece. “This book never leaves my bathroom.” -- Harold Bloom.)

Paris, August, 1988

After checking out our rooms we were heading out the front door when who should we practically bump into on the sidewalk but, hardly the worse for wear, Dick and Daphne Ridpath.

They walked right past us and they looked older of course and they were wearing sunglasses, but I knew it was them all right. Neither of them quite caught that it was me, and after all I was wearing my shades too, but, fuck, let’s face it, I’m just not all that striking-looking. But they did both glance back. And I said, “Dick? Daphne?” And they stopped. I took off my sunglasses. And Daphne goes, “Good God. Soldier boy.”

And then she comes over and puts her hands on my arms and kisses me on the mouth.

“Harvey darling.”

She looks at Heather.

“And please don’t tell me this is your girlfriend.”

“This is my daughter, believe it or not.”

And I did the introductions.

I was amazed but come to think of it not surprised at how well they looked. Dick’s hair had gone grey but as opposed to me the fucker still had most of his hair, and he was even slimmer than I remembered him being back in ’69. Daphne had some lines at the corners of her eyes but she still had that body, a little bit more filled out but still firm looking. The pixie haircut was gone and her hair was long and lustrous, a little reddish now, and piled up on top of her head with little tendrils curling down the sides of her face. Her lipstick was a deep brownish red. And both she and Dick had very white teeth that even looked real.

Back in the old days they looked just like a pair of movie stars, and fuck them now if they still didn’t. Just older.

We all retired to an outside table at a café nearby on the rue Mouffetard called Le Bateau Ivre. This had been one of my hangouts when I spent six or seven months in Paris back in ’71, or was it ’72, whatever, it was the year Jim Morrison died, whenever the fuck that was.

Daphne told us how beautiful Heather was.

“You look just like your mother, darling.”

Heather for her part was obviously enthralled with these two, and I could tell I’d risen a notch or two in her estimation.

I hadn’t seen the Ridpaths since that September back in 1969. We had said we’d stay in touch, but that hadn’t worked out too well. I moved around a lot in the seventies, and Dick and Daphne never seemed to stay in one place longer than a month, so after a few years the correspondence dwindled away to not-quite yearly Christmas cards; and then, for the past six or seven years, nothing.

Daphne asked me what we were doing in Paris, and I told her we were on vacation.

“What about you guys?” I asked.

“We live here now,” said Daphne. “We’ve finally taken a form of root someplace. You see we wanted Rafael to have some stability and a decent secondary education.”

Rafael -- pronounced the Spanish way -- was Dick’s son by Hope, Daphne’s adopted son.

“Um, I should know this,” I said, “but, uh, did you guys ever have any other --”

“I can’t,” said Daphne. “I had a couple of miscarriages, and one almost killed me, and I had to have an awful operation where they removed half of my insides, and -- well --”

“Oh my God --”

“Oh, it’s all right now, supposedly. But it was very boring there for a while, and the upshot was I couldn’t have kids.”

“Shit, I’m sorry --”

“On the positive side it all scared me enough to get healthy. I gave up smoking, and, you’re not going to believe this, I gave up red meat.”

“Get out.”

“No, seriously. Also I practice chi kung on a daily basis, this tedious Chinese discipline that I used to make fun of Dick about. I’m absurdly healthy now. Except I do drink wine. There are limits.”

So we had lunch, and we caught up a bit. I told them a little about my show-biz career, but I didn’t want to bore Heather, so I just kept to the broad outlines, and then turned the conversation back to Dick and Daphne. They had an apartment right up the street on Claude Bernard. And amazingly, they both had day jobs now, taking American and Canadian tourists on bus tours through Paris and its environs…

But something was happening, and it had only happened to me once or twice before, this thing where you’re with someone you haven’t seen in a very long time and yet it feels like you’ve just seen them last week. Almost nineteen years and a lot of shit and here we all were again, and it felt right. A little weird, true. But weird felt normal.

(To be continued. Tickets now available for the Olney Film Society’s annual Larry Winchester Film Festival at the Fern Rock Theatre, featuring a 48-hour marathon of Larry’s masterworks, including the first showing in over fifty years of Too Late The Wiseguy {1953, Dane Clark and Martha Vickers} in a brand new 35mm print restored from the original negative, in Dolby mono sound.)

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