Archives for posts with tag: Buick

The (Interim) End Of The Longest Cocktail Party

Haresh Shah

stork3

The night before the sailing, I have checked  into Hotel du Louvre in Cherbourg, France, right across the street from Gare Maritime – the port from where I would sail away on board the celebrated Queen Elizabeth II. Am I excited? Nah! It’s been hard, having to leave Europe. I would have liked to stick around a little longer, but my residence permit is to expire tomorrow and just the idea of having to deal with the German bureaucracy is painful enough to dissuade me even to attempt an extension. Might as well, because I have accomplished writing an entire book containing of 455 A4 size typewritten pages. It still needs to be edited and revised, something best done after a certain time lapse. Geographical distance wouldn’t hurt either. As for my charmed life at Playboy, to be honest, I am not sure how much longer I would have been able to take it. As abruptly as it has ended, it did on the right note and at the right time before I burned myself out.

Helga (Heilmeier), someone I dated for some months had often commented, du bist immer müde. And she was right, because the kind of traveling I did and the whirlwind existence I lead in a continuous loop was already beginning to take its toll.

It feels good to be free, looking out of the window of my hotel room and idly watch life happening around the harbor. Something about the waterfront I find soothing, just the way I do listening to the falling rain and the comforting feeling it brings after a long and scorching hot summer. Feeling nostalgic, I see the window opening up through which the events of the last few nights flicker pass.

It was ten days ago that I receive a phone call from Krystine. I haven’t spoken to her in months. Sometime I just feel like throwing myself into someone’s arms and say, save me. Exasperated, she cries out.  Our affair was short and intense and circumstantially doomed from the very beginning. You have come into my life at the worst possible time. I neither have time, nor energy to see her before I leave Munich. I resign to the fact that I won’t see her for a long time – if ever. And yet her tall frame, floating blonde hair and the pretty angular face still lingers in my memory.

The flickering image changes to the night I would sleep for the last time in my Johannclanzestrasse apartment. Gary (Wake) and Michelle (Davis) and I stand huddled together, our arms wrapped around each other and our bodies swaying sideways in unison in the subdued L shaped hallway. Michelle is dressed in black, her wrinkled tramp hat crowning her shiny long blonde hair. Gary looks as unkempt as ever, his shoulder length hair all tangled up in knots. I feel drained and we all are sad. Our shadows move with us. The flickering candles from the living room light our path to the door. We survey and take in each of the three rooms. The stark reality dawns on us that within hours of tomorrow morning, all the walls will be stripped bare, the floors deserted, the sound of my Quadrophonic system silenced!

There are twelve of them to see me off three days later, on the morning of my departure.

‘Let’s go for one last beer.’ I say, and we walk to La Torre and have one last glass of Löwenbräu. As I drive away, I am glad that Coja (Rost) is going with me to Paris. She is Marianne’s (Miller) best friend and is going through a rough patch with her boyfriend Jochen (Wanz). Marianne thinks it might do Coja good to be away from Munich and spend a few days playing tourist with me in the City of Light. I have been to Paris dozens of times before, but now that I see it at a leisurely pace, this is what I write in my journal – perhaps bit of a reflection of my own mood.

Fear of big city. Burdened humanity. Different kind of people. Singing, playing, begging in the underground. A hooker hiding her face. The café world it is: small round tables. Sweating, smelling people. Oily looks.

As much as I reveled in my longest cocktail parry and loved the people and the friends that made it happen, I feel content in being alone face to face with myself. You are a loner, aren’t you? Visiting Karen (Abbott) had said a couple of weeks earlier. Something my mom always said about me. A bit of contradiction in my personality trait, because I am the one who also had her always rolling dozens of rotlis for so many of my friends, as if rolling them for the eight of us siblings weren’t enough. True, I do like my own company. There are times when I just want to be by myself. I don’t have to be surrounded by people all the time. So it is right now. I watch the evening fall on the gleaming water and the swaying private boats anchored along the piers. I take a deep breath and empty my mind of all intrusions. Put myself in a meditative trance and center all my energy within.

The first thing I do the next morning is drop off my car to be prepped for it’s journey on the Queen. I come back to my room and watch the Buick lifted up not much below the height of my room on the fourth floor window. Held up by ropes slung around the wheels, it conjures up the image of an immaculately conceived baby on its way to be delivered to the waiting mother, wrapped in a sling dangling down from the long beak of a stork.  I see a man dressed in shiny rubber overalls hosing down the bottom of the car, a forceful jet stream of water pointed upward. To make sure it doesn’t carry with it infested European soil and contaminate the sterilized soil of America.

●●●

I am onboard and we have already began our westward journey of five nights and four days. The sea is calm and friendly. Gentle waves slushing several decks down below lapping the edges of the ship. Mild breeze caress my skin. I have walked all the way up to the observation deck. I am leaning against the rail, my eyes fixed on the darkened horizon which looks close enough to touch. A mirage in reverse. I take a deep breath and fill up my lungs with the fresh oceanic air. I jump up and down, walk to and fro from forward and aft of the ship. Finally, I sit down on top of the stairs.

I have left Elayne sitting all alone in the bar. One of the very few young and attractive women onboard. We dance for a while. The feel of her pointed braless large breasts on her slender frame keep reminding of Jutta (Kossberger). I buy her a drink and after the initial icebreaking ritual, neither of us have anything to say to the other. I excuse myself as politely as I could and escape.

As I sit up the stairs and let all the tenseness peel out of my body and soul, I try to think of an angle that would make for an interesting travel piece I am assigned to write by Playboy Germany’s service editor, Nikolas (Frank).  On the heels of the short fiction I have already sold, Nikolas is quite impressed at my ability to write and has asked me to contribute to the front-of-the-book short pieces about America. The magazine pays handsomely and sustains me for the early months of my not being gainfully employed. A major piece on QE II could open up an entire new frontier for me. The piece obviously has to conform to Playboy’s core philosophy of hedonism, romance and the pursuit of pleasure.

Judging from the first few hours of being onboard, I shouldn’t have much of a problem observing and describing and perhaps even experiencing the excitement and the multiple pleasures of crossing the Atlantic on one of the floating Shangri-La. There is no dearth of things you can do onboard. Being up until wee hours in the morning, eating, drinking and dancing. I don’t remember having made it even once in time for breakfast. You’re served hand and foot and spoiled rotten, even if you reside at the bottom deck.

Regular but staggered mealtimes allow you to play table tennis, swim, linger in the Double Room and ogle pretty service staff or just cavort with fellow passengers. Jog around the deck. Learn to dance and Yoga. Go to the movies or read that brick thick classic off the library shelf. It even has a radio station of its own, WQE2. The multiple bars and lounges featuring live bands and loud discos to keep you twisting and shouting. You can switch from one venue to another and not ever go to sleep, if you so choose.

The only problem is: I have never seen such a vast sea of grey hair roofing the leathery wrinkled faces. They are mostly rich and retired Americans. Heavily made up women wearing mask like faces, dressed in their double knit pantsuits clinging their flabby flesh. The men in their loud striped and checkered pants, also double knit, wide white belts tightened around their protruding waists, white shoes worn under their floods. Even I too had worn similar rags years earlier. But I am totally Europeanized. I am 35 years old and don’t see how to fit in with the majority of them. I would have as hard a time even now at 74!

There are some young people on board – most of them kids. But the lounges, the bars, the bands and the music they play are all oriented to American night club music, Lawrence Welk, Frank Sinatra – the kind basically patronized by the middle aged expense account executives. Not a pleasure or swinging stuff here for young and horny – sorry Nikolas!

The most exciting thing that happens on board is a harp recital by Mary Ann Sherman– an oval faced plane Jane with thick tortoise shell glasses, the teenager traveling with her parents. She is dressed up in conservative below the knee length navy blue velour dress, while her mother sits next to her in her black floral frock, assisting her with the score. Something probably arranged by her parents to show off their talented offspring. But the daughter doesn’t seem much into it and you can see how nervous she is. Good thing is; she has a built in appreciative audience in her co-voyagers. Sort of solidarity of the onboard community. In all fairness, what she plays is pleasant – especially in the backdrop of a spacious cocktail lounge. She is appropriately applauded.

But I am enjoying the trip. It’s stress free and relaxing. The ship isn’t full, though there are enough people onboard, whenever I feel like running upstairs. But I seem to prefer spending most of my time down in my cabin. Reading, writing or just doing nothing.

On the second night I join the group of young set. After initial exuberance and animated conversations, most of them drift away, leaving behind Elayne – the woman I had a drink with the night before. Tonight, she looks fresher and in her long cocktail dress quite appealing. To her tall and slender framed glamorous blonde, the brunette Amy is more down to earth. Both in their early to late twenties are the center of our attentions. That is, the remaining four of us males hovering around the two pretty females of the species. Trying to outsmart each other. To impress them. The girls seem to be enjoying our attentions.

The scene takes me back to my earlier days in Chicago. We are buzzing over the girls like moths over the flames, just to be zapped and fall. Or more like four dogs in heat. One of us just may get lucky! Trying to get them drunk and then make a move. Two of the guys are from the upper deck, angling for the tasty morsels to take back to their cabins, which they must feel they are more entitled. I find the  tableau all too familiar and sickening. Disgusted, I abruptly leave the lounge wishing them all good night! As I am climbing down the stairs to my cabin, I can’t help but think: Why don’t they just fuck and have good time instead of the same old bullshit?

The last night onboard, we dance and drink until four in the morning. I try to go to sleep, but while I am still tossing and turning, the night steward knocks on my door. We’re already in New York, U.S.A.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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http://www.downdivision.com

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As you already know, this is my 75th Playboy story. Do you believe it? When I first started this blog in November of 2012, I thought I had in me maybe about twenty five good stories to tell. I have done three times as many with a couple of shorter breaks. As much fun as I am having writing and publishing them, I suddenly feel that a little longer break might do me good. Give me bit of a breathing space and for a while do nothing or focus on other things I have already written or want to write. This is not by any means a good bye. Just a so long… an auf wiedersehen if you may. I don’t want to commit to an exact date, but I hope to be back with more Playboy stories in a couple of months – probably in the early fall. In the meanwhile, I want to thank  you all for staying with me for now almost two years. I am extremely appreciative and touched! Please don’t go too far, I will be back before you know it.

Have a great summer.

Haresh  

HUGH GRANT IN MY SHOES

Prowling The Streets Of Beverly Hills

Haresh Shah

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The media had field days following Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill star, Hugh Grant’s tryst with Divine Brown, on the night of June 27, 1995. And it wasn’t only the tabloid press but also mainstream media and the network talk shows like Late Night With Jay Leno and Larry King Live couldn’t well ignore their LAPD mug shots splattered all over the printed pages and on the television screens. On his Late Night Show, Jay Leno came right out and asked: what the hell were you thinking?Grant’s answer: I think, you know, in life what’s a good thing to do and what’s a bad thing, and I did a bad thing…and there you have it. His whole body twisting and turning this way and that, the boyish Grant squirmed in his hot seat as if run over by an eighteen wheeler. But he kept his sense of humor and got the roaring applause of approval from Leno’s enthusiastic audience.

On Larry King Live, he elaborated: I could accept some of the things that people have explained, ‘stress,’ ‘pressure,’ ‘loneliness’ — that that was the reason. But that would be false. Psychoanalysis is more of an American syndrome. In the end you have to come clean and say ‘I did something dishonorable, shabby and goatish.

Fair enough. I couldn’t help but admire his candidness instead of hiding behind some psychological mumbo jumbo. Especially also because he had so much to lose. His budding career. His stunningly beautiful model/actress girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley. He faced up to the fact that he had picked up a prostitute off the street in Beverly Hills and was caught by a Los Angeles police receiving oral sex in his BMW. And I couldn’t help but think that nineteen years earlier, it could have been me in my Buick also in Beverly Hills. Uncaught.

After an animated dinner with Levi (Raimund le Viseur) and the two photographers accompanying him – Steve and Ron and drinks before and after the dinner at Beverly Wilshire’s Blvd Lounge, feeling mellow, we decide to call it a day. Levi offers to walk me back to my car and see again my Buick Skylark – what they all called my lastwagen – a truck, in Munich. I still have a hundred mile long drive back home to Santa Barbara. Leaving him with Steve and Ron in the passage between the two wings of the hotel, I run over to men’s room before starting my journey. When I return, I see them surrounding a good looking young woman.

‘Well, would you like me to call up a couple of my girlfriends and we have a party?’ I heard the girl saying. The guys hustle for a while and then chickened out, decided to return to their rooms. It still hasn’t occurred to me that she could be anything else but a hooker. Attractive with a petite figure she looks just like an ordinary girl. Sweet and somewhat confused at Steve and Ron disappearing. I would have liked to talk to her some more, but Levi still lingers little distance away, waiting to walk me to my car.

‘I will be right back.’ I don’t know what makes me say to her as I walk toward Levi to bid him good night. Instead I let him walk me to my car, making a smart comment about the girl being eine nutte – a hooker.

Klarafall‘ of course, he hastens. I am parked close by on a side street. We talk some more before I get into the car. Levi waits until I turn around and then starts walking back to the hotel. I see the girl still waiting on the steps of the back plaza and then begin walking towards my car. Levi and her cross paths half way. I stop and pull up closer to the curb. Levi sees me getting out of the car, breaks his stride a bit and then slowly returns to the hotel.

‘What’s your name?’ I ask.

‘Sharon, and yours?’

‘Haresh.’

‘Harish? That’s a neat name.’

‘Thanks.’ She has mispronounced it like everybody else, but has come pretty close the first time.

‘Whatever happened to your friends. I thought they wanted to party?’

‘Well, I thought so too. But all of us are sort of tired, I guess!’

‘Would you like to have one all by yourself?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘You know?’

She doesn’t quite finish the sentence. In spite of my comment to Levi about her being a whore, this is the first time it occurs to me that she really was one, and I didn’t know for a moment what to say or do.

‘I’ll buy a drink.’

‘Alright.’ She slips her hand into the loop of my right arm and we start walking back to the hotel. She hesitates a bit in front of the revolving door and turns sideway to look at me.

‘Don’t you just want to go home and party instead?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t think I can afford you.’

‘Yes, you can!’

‘Not everyone coming out of Beverly Wilshire is rich. I am just a student.’

‘So am I.’

‘Where do you go to school?’

‘UCLA, and you?’

‘I go to UCSB in Santa Barbara.’ I bluff. And I can tell she did too.

‘How much can you afford?’ She changes the subject abruptly.

‘Not much.’

‘Do you have a girlfriend?’

‘No, I don’t.’ I would have liked to say ‘yes,’ but lies don’t come easy to me.

After a stretch of beautiful relationships, I am going through a very dry period in my life. It’s almost been a year since Debbie broke up with me, and since then I haven’t had a woman in my life I could hold close to. I am deep in my novel and it doesn’t bother me quite as much. Writing a chapter a day usually exhausts me by the time the sun goes down beyond the Devreaux Point in the western horizon. And the few good friends that I have, keep me afloat during this period of me having been de-womanized.

But standing in front of Sharon has thrown off my inner chemical balance. I have never in my life been with a whore, and neither do I aspire to be with one now. I am basically a romantic type, needing gentle intimacy and closeness. Time to look into each other’s eyes, lean over her face and experience tender touching and caressing, create that mellow span – and above all have a feeling of the two people’s mutual need to be together – even if it’s for one single night.

I look back at Sharon. I still can’t see anything about her that comes even in the slightest close to her being a whore. She practically has no makeup on her face, not even bit of mascara over her eye lids. Her skin is baby smooth, devoid of any blemishes. Her hair looks clean and smells freshly washed. Her blouse is modest and covers her breasts. She isn’t even wearing the customary knee high boots that is synonymous with ladies of the night around the world. The kind they would make Julia Roberts wear fifteen years later in her role in Pretty Woman. If not for her miniskirt, she doesn’t look any different than a beautiful girl next door that us men fantasize about.

As I am taking her in, I am transposed back to Chicago. My friend Sandra and I are sitting at the bar of Ricardo’s. We haven’t seen each other for a while and we have a lot to catch up. As usual, she tells me about her amorous encounters – which she has many. Sandy is such an incredible magnet to men all over – and she loves them like no other woman I know. She is always heart broken or is the breaker of the heart. I am glad, we’re just friends. During the course of the evening, out of nowhere she comes out and says:

‘You won’t believe this, but from this very spot on the bar, I picked up a john last night and let him take me home.’

‘You mean?’

‘Yeah. I had always wondered what it would feel like to turn a trick!’

Now I have known about Sandy’s many impulsive adventures and her having brought home all sorts of males of the species, but never before she had ever mentioned a john.

‘He was good looking,’ she says with an impish smile on her face, ‘and I needed the money.’ Then she goes on philosophizing about how every woman at one time or another in her life thinks of an option of doing just that. Most of my girlfriends have fantasized about it. I guess, it confirms something deeper inside us.

‘Don’t worry. I don’t think I would ever make a habit of it.’ She concludes as an after thought.

Could be that Sharon is telling the truth and she is really a student and in need of money? The thought crosses my mind.

‘Let’s walk.’ She says and takes me by the arm. She obviously doesn’t care to stand in front of the revolving door and looking conspicuous. Neither do I. I obediently follow her to the steps, and suddenly stop.

‘Listen, you tell me how much you cost and I’ll tell you if I can afford you.’ She ignores my question and gently pulls me behind her.

‘Let’s sit in your car and talk.’ So we do.

‘That’s a nice jacket.’ She compliments. ‘And a nice car too.’ I thank her for the compliments and wonder whether she believes me being a student wearing a $200.- velvet jacket and owning a shiny, almost new Buick Skylark.

‘I don’t think I can afford more than twenty dollars.’ I divulge. Thinking she would probably push me away and exit the car in a hurry.

‘Okay, let’s go and make beautiful love.’

I turn on the ignition.

‘Where do you live?’

‘In Santa Barbara.’

‘Oh yes, you said that earlier, didn’t you? In that case, go straight ahead and turn right at the light.’

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Haresh Shah

And The Tearing Of My Heart

buickII_b

Soon after her arrival in Munich, in order to make my beautiful Buick legit in her new habitat, I promptly present myself at the Kraftfahrzeugzulassungsstelle, (ugh! they are four words: krafts-fahrzeug-zulassungs-stelle – no  wonder Sanskrit is a dead language in India. But as the most expats and converts tend to do, German being one of the Indo-Germanic languages, still adheres to long and drawn out compound words, as do the Czechs, while the modern Indian languages have simplified the Sanskrit grammar and would have neatly broken them down into four distinct words) at TÜV, (equivalent to the Secretary of the State’s automobile registration center in the US,) on Eichstätter Strasse 5, in Munich. I have all ten required documents as listed on Hanlzettel, translated and properly notarized and attached to the application form and the fee of DM 30.- held firmly in the grip of my hand. I place them all on the counter and stand across from the clerk processing the registration. I am pleased at myself for being so ready and am imagining my Buick emblazoning the bold black and white letters on a square-ish license plates bearing the numbers along with the three designated letters, MüC to indicate that the vehicle is registered in Munich. I am also looking forward to slapping on the back of her, the standard oval shaped decal with the letters DE for Deutschland. But not so fast Haresh! I am being naïve to think that like back home in Chicago, the clerk would stamp a few things, write up a receipt for the payment and hand it to me along with a set of Munich license plates.

Wrong!

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