My Wild GM Pony

My 1970 Hugger Orange Camaro designed for me by my friend Don Yenko
Today’s news flash worth blogging. This well-over fifty woman has just gotten a review that means more to her than a Tony or Academy Award. This Nana has just gotten a leg up on “awesome” in the eyes of her 18 year old grandson.

The other day, while browsing the internet for a new/old mustang to replace the wheels he bought last year the (“grandma chevy”- his words not mine), I casually mentioned that I had owned a Chevy Camaro when I was on Romper Room.

“Really?”

“Yes, my friend Don said it was on the cover of Car and Driver that year.”

Marshell immediately Googled and there it was, the cover I had never seen in all these years, my hugger orange beauty right there on the cover of the magazine.

In 2001, I came as close as I was to seeing my old flame. While I was leisurely reading the New York Times and getting ready to hand the Automotive Section (which I never read) over to my husband, my heart flipped when my eyes scanned the first section page.
An old love of mine that I hadn’t seen in years was staring me in the face. The aristocratic and sporty nose; the classic look that has aged so well. There in beautiful Hugger Orange was a picture of my old 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. According to The Times, that year Chevrolet built a short run of Camaros with aluminum-block 427 engines. Only 69 were built and I just happened to have the one designed and fitted with special spoiler by my friend, Don Yenko, the famous NASCAR driver.

Don’s father owned a Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and when I saw this Hugger Orange beauty in his showroom, I had to have it. My husband had a fit, but I bought the car, anyway.

In retrospect, I wish I had put that old beau up on cinderblocks and well-covered. But I didn’t. I sold it to one of my daughters friends who, within a week wrapped it around a tree. No injuries, but the death of my old love was hard to take.

If I had kept that Camero, I hate to think of what it would be worth today, but I know when my son, Emerson, got to be of driving age I would have given it to him anyway. So evaporate those dreams of having a car worth six figures. It never was to be.
©Sandra Hart 2012

Empty Rooms

“How is the house?” I asked my caretaker over the phone.

“Lonley.” he said.

I hung up feeling quite sad because I knew he was right. Houses have souls. Empty houses are lonely.

Each time I am away for a long period of time, opening the door I don't see the home I left. It looks a bit older, sad and not the place I remembered when I locked the door behind me.

A house becomes just a house when empty. It takes the noise, running about, chattering, fighting, loving and living to make a house a home. Without life inside its walls, a house dies. Truly.

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Waiting For The Vultures

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In Greta Alfero’s dramatic film rendering that I recently watched, the hearty gourmands in Dutch seventeenth century renderings usually featured are not a ruddy faced group of raucous Dutch or Flemish burghers, but a gluttonous swarm of vultures. Watching the vultures devour with gluttony took me back to a visit I made to Mumbai, India.

(This may not be my most popular post, but it is a reminder of what past memory I didn’t want to capture.)

March, 2006……….

Our guide in Mumbai (old Bombay) with his fair hair and English schoolboy-scrubbed-complexion was a dichotomy to me as soon as he spoke. His speech was that of a born East Indian. Had I closed my eyes, Mahatma Gandhi could have been standing before me. He had a distinct and strong Hindi dialect.

“My father was a classical musician born in Bombay and my mother was an opera singer from England,” he said when I remarked about his fair complexion. So, I thought, there is my answer. Riddle solved.

We hopped into his car and began our first day of touring in this colorful and very populated city of old Bombay. Our first stop was to be The Hanging Gardens. Slowly we made our way through the oppressive heat and crowded streets, past oxen drawn carts, bicycles and tut-tuts carrying tourists. Soon we began to wind around up a long hill to areas with more greenery than we had seen before.

The Hanging Gardens, in Mumbai, also known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens, are terraced gardens perched at the top of Malabar Hill, on its western side, just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park. We found them to be the greenest place we had seen in our Mumbai travels yet. They provided sunset views over the Arabian Sea and featured numerous hedges carved into the shapes of animals – green and beautiful. The park was laid out in 1881 by Ulhas Ghapokar over Bombay’s main reservoir, some say to cover the water from the potentially contaminating activity of the nearby Tower of Silence, to be our second destination. The Tower is a circular, raised structure used by Parsi for exposure of the dead, particularly to scavenging birds.

As we ascended to the top of the hill beyond the gardens we had just left, I could see large birds, vultures, I assumed, circling above the treetops. Gliding smoothly around, riding, cutting clean swaths high over our heads, again and again. I knew why they were there. I had done my homework. Sustenance was nearby. Our driver was a member of the sect, Parsi, and therefore allowed, at least partially, in that restricted area near the gardens that is closed to non-Parsees.

We knew the Parsi have an unusual method of disposal of the dead. The Parsi corpse is exposed to the rays of the sun, and the corpse is consumed or devoured by birds of prey — crows vultures, or kites.

As in Greta’s piece that took little over 10 minutes for the vultures to devour, it takes an hour or two at the Tower of Silence.

When we arrived at the entrance to the area, we chose not to go further. Just seeing the vultures above circling their prey, human flesh, was enough. Just the thought of what was happening beyond the gates was morbid to me.

In a way, in India, with little space alone for the living, I can see why cremation, or feeding dead human flesh to vultures would be practiced. Although, probably, the Parsi have a religious reason for such an ending, an ending after life is gone from the body that has nothing to do with available burial space, the sense of it all may be there somehow.

I know I am fortunate to have traveled the world many times, climbed the Great Wall of China, on my hands and knees practically crawled into the claustrophobic Great a Pyramid, endured the one hour trip by steps to the top of Masada in the Israeli desert, and up the 268 steps to the Tian Tan Buddha in Lantau. But, please believe me, just peaking through the fence into the Parsi burial grounds was more than I could handle. I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t ever want that memory stored anywhere.

As a result, turning the car around, our driver then followed our wishes and descended the hill toward the next stop, to something, to some place that would clean the air. A place where the sun and active human life are hard at work doing what they do. The remarkable open air laundries, Dhobi Ghat.

(Through my research I have since learned the Parsis are followers of one of the oldest, if not the oldest revealed religion in the world -Zoroastrianism. Globally, as a community, the Parsis number barely a hundred thousand. But it is not by numbers that this community can be judged, for no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi has recognized: “I am proud of my country, India, for having produced the splendid Zoroastrian stock, in numbers beneath contempt, but in charity and philanthropy, perhaps unequalled, certainly unsurpassed.”)

(And as another side note, there are far less vultures in number each year and the Parsi are concerned about the future and what that will bring to their burial ritual.)

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Hits and Misses

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The other day I went to see Woody Allen and John Turturro in “Fading Gigolo”. I have worked for both of these actor/directors, so in spite of the fact that Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 55% Green Tomatoes, I gave it a chance. And you know what? I liked it. I very rarely have allowed myself or my tastes to be dictated by the critics. If I like the actors, I always have been curious to see for myself. Fading Gigolo.

Well I have a story to tell about that if you are willing to read on. Proof that, sometimes, unfortunately, the critics are right.

Fall of 1996…………..

ILLUMINATA

I did a small scene while sitting in a fake loge in The Paramount Theater, a grand old abandoned movie theater in Newark, New Jersey that was built in 1895. Illuminata was a period piece so I was dressed in a long black corseted ball gown appropriate for theater going in the era. The problem was, since the loge was only for decoration there were no steps leading to it. I had to climb a high ladder to get to the space with the crew holding it steady and my underwear in full view. In any other circumstance I would have been mortified, but work is work, and the reality is, well, reality. And,of course, since it was a fake loge, there were no seats for my fellow actor and I. It was just a dark, dirty area that had never been used- ever- for anything except for architectural appeal. Naturally, on a movie set there is an answer for everything. The problem was solved quickly by wooden orange crates being hauled up and placed just far enough apart to look like seats and to keep the scene realistic.

Take one. Take two. Take three. In the space of an hour we were carefully descending the ladder to the safely of the theater floor. It was at that point after the adrenaline of working subsided that I felt a severe itching and burning on my back. Naturally would it be anything else but in a spot beyond my reach. I gave up trying to feel it with my hand and decided as uncomfortable as it was, it probably was a stave in the corset pinching my back. So with a ‘show must go on’ attitude, I took my place in the regular balcony seats as instructed by John, so that he could get a close up of my clapping hands to be used for a stage scene audience reaction with Susan Sarandon who was playing an actress.

Finishing and still in pain, I headed into the wardrobe area to be undressed by the wardrobe assistants. Underneath everything I removed, they discovered an inflamed area that looked like a spider bite. It was. The nurse on set gave me some antihistamine and ointment.

It took about three weeks for the bite to heal, but much longer for the movie to be released. Usually, movies come out a year after they have rapped. Not Illuminata. It was at least about two years before I saw a tiny ad in the movie section of the newspaper with Susan Sarandon’s name so small it was almost invisible. That alone should have hit me over the head as an omen of what was to come.

I excitedly, finally, was going to see the movie, see me, and enjoy the fruits of my hard work and spider bite. Well, the movie was so bad, for the first time in my life, I didn’t stay to see if my scenes were in the movie or not. It was such a disappointment. It was awful. To this day, I still haven’t revisited the film.

So, I guess the moral of or lesson in this experience, is that in life, none of us is immune to hits and misses. Even creative geniuses like John Tuturro.

(Actual review: Turturro tricks you into thinking there’s magic realism streaming through this ode to art and commited love – despite there being little magic and not a trace of reality to speak of.)

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