Lucky Chris – Barcelona or Why you shouldn’t sleep with strippers from Essex

 

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This cautionary tale, if you take away nothing else, should be instructive to not sleep with strangers.

Chris called at 5:00pm on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. This was the first sign that something major had happened. Chris was in Barcelona, Spain, a time difference of 8 or 9 hours ahead of us in Los Angeles.

I was spending the afternoon running up and down to the copier in my office building and had left my cell phone on the desk in my office. It was also on stun, because I had silenced it the previous night at dinner.

Not only had I missed Jimmie’s two calls, but I barely heard the third when my phone rattled on top of my desk.

“I’ve been trying to reach you for the past half hour,”

Jimmie was uncharacteristically frantic sounding.

“Chris is in the hospital in Barcelona. He’s been hit on the head by a bottle and is getting stitches.”

Jimmie drove to work to pick me up. When I got home and ran upstairs to call Chris back, it was nearly 6pm PST, 3AM in Barcelona.

A young woman picked up the phone.

Me: Hi, is Chris there?

She: He’s in the treatment room. This is Caroline.

Me: Hello, Caroline, I’m Els, Chris’ mom. Tell me what happened.

Caroline: We were at a party at the beach. A girl hit Chris over the head with a vase.
Me: Was there water in the vase?
Caroline: Yes, and some stones.

Holy Moly.

Me: How much would you say the vase weighed?
Caroline: 10-15 lbs.

My heart went cold. I knew from my lecturing in the props lecture about break away bottles that you should never hit someone over the head with one that was full of water, because the physics of the action generated about 600 pounds of weight – like hitting someone with a sledge hammer. This object weighed about 20 times the weight of a water-filled breakaway bottle.

Me: Does he have a concussion?
Caroline: No. He’s getting stitches in his left arm near his elbow, and a few under his right eye.

Me: I don’t understand how that happened? Did she hit him from the front?
Caroline: No, from behind.

Me: Why did she do it?

Caroline: She was jealous of Chris’ talking to another girl.

Me: You have Chris’s dad’s credit card number to pay for the hospital, right?

Caroline: Yes, we gave it to the doctors.

Me: Please have Chris call me when he can. Thank you, Caroline, for being with him through this.

Caroline: All the girls were screaming and crying and I just stayed calm and went with Chris to the hospital.

Me: I can’t thank you enough, Caroline. Were the police involved?

Caroline: Yes the police came. There were girls crying and upset. They asked Chris for his passport information.  They asked him what hostel or hotel are you staying in?  We told them we were “staying on Las Ramblas” which is the biggest street in Barcelona where there are a lot of hotels. They took Chris’ drivers’ license number and his cell phone number.

I talked later that night with Chris after he’d been stitched up.

He had a cut on the inside of his left arm – the broken glass had “nicked” a small artery which required a small surgery. He had a cut under his right eye requiring 3 stitches and another one needing 2 stitches on the top of his head.

Miraculously, he had no concussion. There had been an English speaking doctor who translated for Chris and he received excellent medical attention, according to Chris.

In the coming days, the following information was provided by Chris The assailant’s name –(name withheld here to protect my son) was English, 21 from Essex. She was working as a stripper in London but by his bad luck, was vacationing in Spain. We shall call her the Essex Stripper (E.S.)  from here on out.

She had gone on the trip to Ibiza the weekend before. She and Chris had had a one night encounter there, which, by Chris’ account, was casual and consensual. Obviously, she did not consider it casual.

Chris had been barbecuing for this beach party in Barcelona (they had all returned from Ibiza the day before). He said the shuttle bus to take them back to town was due to come in 10 minutes.

Caroline and Chris both said that E.S., whose face had been professionally painted to look like a cheetah, had been running around the bar all night telling people that Chris was her boyfriend and “look what he’s doing right in front of me.” Cheetah. Cheetah.

Chris was talking with another girl, who he knew from Barcelona.

According to Caroline, E.S.  then picked up a glass vase from the bar which was filled with little white stones and crossed an expanse of 10-15 feet, calling out “Look what he’s doing right in front of me!” and bashed Chris on the top of the head (he was looking up at the time, having heard something). This probably saved his life.

E.S.  ran out of the bar saying “I think I killed Hollywood (Chris’ nickname) and I’m getting out of here.”

She skipped town that night as a cheetah. No one knew where she went.

The following morning, after having been presented with a 7,000Euro bill at the hospital, Chris called E.S.’ cell phone number and had the following conversation with her.

Chris: You know, this accident has caused a lot of financial problems for me and my family. I’d like to handle this between us and not take it to the police.

E.S.: Go f..k yourself.

Chris – well, then you give me no other option but to go to the police. If I were you, I’d turn myself in. Where are you?
E.S.: I don’t know where I am – some town that starts with an M.

After speaking with E.S. by cell phone, Chris went to the Police station and filed a police report about the accident. Due to the fact that E.S. had been on the trip to Ibiza, the tour group office had her passport number, which Chris was able to supply to the police. He was informed that she would not be able to leave the country.

Chris later spoke with a mutual friend, who told Chris that E.S. had called him the night of the attack and said, “I think I killed Hollywood and I’m going to kill myself.”

Later in the day, E.S. contacted Chris and told him that she had contacted a lawyer and that the lawyer had told her that Chris was attempting to blackmail her by offering to settle financially.

I told Chris under no circumstances was he to speak with her by phone again. I began researching attorneys in Spain. This quickly led me to realize that the expense of tracking this psychotic woman down would have more far-reaching consequences than the act itself.

On Wednesday,  the morning after the attack, I checked our bank account online and there was a $1,307.00 charge from the hospital del Mar in Barcelona that was in the process of processing.

To date, this was the extent of the hospital charges.

Chris went on to Zarauts, Spain, to prepare for the Running of the Bulls camp that his tour group was setting up. He was told by his boss at the travel group that E.S. called to ask for her job back (she passed out fliers on Las Ramblas). She was apparently in San Sebastien,  a different police jurisdiction than Barcelona where the crime took place, so to our knowledge, she was never arrested for her crime.

Chris returned home on August 8 or 9.  He has now taken up the safer practice of commercial fishing.

 

 

 

 

Lucky Chris – Part 4

Sometimes our kids make us so proud of them. It is not logical. We have little, if anything to do with our grown children’s successes, and yet, we find ourselves claiming their triumphs when they happen.

Chris, our son, now 24, soon to be 25, works as a commercial fisherman in San Francisco. This summer has been especially trying for him – the catch is slow, and the fleet has moved up the coast to Ft. Bragg, in northern California, where, as he put it in our recent text exchange:

C: One boat caught 60 today though
M: That’s promising
M: How many boats are up there trying to fish?
C:A lot
It’s the place to be
Some refer to it as “the killer whales better half.”
The promised land
Which some argue is an old california gold rush saying, meaning we are all f….ed.

Then there were three days of no cell reception. I have to say that this is the hardest part about being the mother/sister/father of a fisherman. They go “off the grid” for days sometimes, leaving their loved ones at the edge of a precipice of worry.

Warning: Do not under any circumstances watch “The Perfect Storm” if you are affiliated in any way with the fishing industry, especially if you are related to a fisherman. I know, George Clooney is in the film – so what. It will not make up for the endless sleepless nights you have when your child/brother goes silent in the middle of an ongoing text message.

Witness:

M: How’s it going today? (Wed. 6:02PM)

M: Or today? Must be out of range (Thurs. 9:33AM)

M: Hello? (Thurs. 7:01 PM)

M: Ok. Combination Fort Bragg and radio silence for three days =worried Mama. #just sayin’ (Fri. 8:40AM)

C: I M fine. Just been out of cell reception (Fri 9:51PM)

(Cut to Mother panting with relief on the couch at home)

The next texts were more promising:

C: We caught over 200!

M: That’s great! You must be tired

Chris with the catch

Chris with the catch

And there  it is, your child with a big broad beautiful smile on his face holding the literal fruits of his labors. Sorry, but it just doesn’t get any better than that. Even George Clooney can’t top that.

 

 

Powerful friends

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My friend Susan came to town last Friday and spent about 4 days with us. A testament to her power is the list of things we got done while she was here:

1) Two hikes at Lake Hollywood Reservoir

2) Four baseball games watched on TV – we laughed, we cried

3) Talked with our good college friend Bob and his family via Skype, confirming that my camera in my computer isn’t working and its been way too long since we saw them.

4) Took the computer in to be repaired.

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5) Repaired the broken vertical blinds in my guest bedroom which had been broken for months.

6) Talked about important life issues while looking at the butterflies in the butterfly pavilion at the Natural History Museum

7) Made a steak dinner.

8) Made a pesto pasta dinner.

9) Went out to Faith and Flower and had a delicious dinner.

10) Went to the gym.

11) Researched and purchased the camera we will take with us on our cruise and got it in time to take some pictures of Susan with it.

Isn’t it nice to have such good friends who can empower you to do great things?

Happy Father’s Day!

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My Dad will be celebrating Father’s day a mere 2300 miles away from me tomorrow.  We will of course, talk in the morning and in less than a month, we will be on vacation with him, another of his generous reachings-out to each of his children. This time, he has invited us to join him and his wife, Sally, on a cruise to Alaska. It is a west coast venture, with my middle brother Larry and his wife, Barbara, and my husband and me.

For the past four summers, he and Sally have joined us on Cape Cod, in the comfortable rental we have stayed in in Chatham, where my husband’s sister, Kate lives. For anyone who’s travel plans include the Cape, you know that it is not easy to get there – fly to Boston, and then  drive a punishing 2-4 hours out onto the Cape with all the other visitors, in a winding line of traffic that is enough to gray the last of your hairs. But he and Sally have made the trip, and we have had lovely visits there.

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Our few day visits always include a AAA ballgame in the center of Chatham, a drive to Provincetown, and perhaps a whale watch replete with a nap inside the vessel.

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My father has always been there for us, financially, emotionally, and with a great sense of humor. There’s nothing I like more than seeing my dad get the giggles. It’s something I have inherited from him, and he from his mother, who had a well-articulated funny bone as well as an extremely strong sense of the dangers in the world, the combination which can be dangerously funny.

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This photo, taken in 2006 when we had a mini reunion up at Larry’s wife Barbara’s family cabin near Yosemite is typical of what one of his moments of merriment looks like.

Dad likes to keep us all amused, and sends us funny things he finds on the internet, some of which are amusing, and some of which I’ve had to ask him not to send me ever again, but either way, usually worth a chuckle. We don’t always see eye to eye politically, but I value his opinions about important issues in the world, just as he values mine. Or at least pretends to in the interest of a good discussion.

He loves to travel, and loves to help people. His trips in the past 20 years or so have been epic. There are very few countries he hasn’t visited. Their itineraries are exhausting. When Jimmie and I receive one, we look at each other and ask “How does he have the stamina?” His avocation is family planning, and he and Sally’s travels have taken them  to India, Vietnam, Chile, and many other countries. I have accompanied him on several trips as well. We visited Vietnam in 1993, a trip which was truly life-changing for him and extremely enlightening for me. His help extends also to his immediate family members. His generosity and his ability to pick you up when you are feeling down are both gifts that I cherish. And he sure knows how to feed us well when we are together.

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And so, though I am 2300 miles away, you see, he always makes me feel that I am close by and treasured. So, have a great day tomorrow, Dad! Counting the days until we giggle with you and Sally in Alaska!

 

Urban Raccoons

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Twice in the past week I have ascended from the parking garage to be greeted by the curious face of a small raccoon in the interior garden of my condo building. The first night it happened, I practically squealed with excitement and fumbled in my purse, spilling water from my water bottle on myself as I dove  to retrieve my cell phone.

Honestly, you would think we were Pavlovian dogs the way we all have to record the interesting things we encounter in our daily lives and regurgitate the images onto our facebook feeds for our friends to witness. What ever happened to picking up the phone and calling a friend and saying, “Hey, Jim, you know, I saw the most beautiful sunset on the way home tonight, with a sherbet colored cloud nestling around the flaming orb as it dipped down to the horizon! Gee, I wish you could have seen it. I felt positively serene looking at it and I thought how much I would love to share it with you.” No, now we have to snapchat it or tweet it or Instagram it. Silly.

So anyway, I recovered my phone and the raccoon still stood there looking at me in disbelief, and I got the video going and took it, only to realize afterwards that the conditions were too dark to capture him except for his little glistening eyes. And the clip is so short that if I watch it, it looks like a meme of a demented cat.

Speaking of demented cats, I was taking the garbage down the hall last night to the chute, and when I returned to the apartment, I noticed that our neighbor-at-the-far-end-of-the-hall’s cat was out. This cat is big, and black, with a white tuxedo chest, and two white booties in the front. He frequently sits out in the hall just near their door, but last night, he was about halfway down the hall, and something about his proximity made me want to try to see if he would come any closer. So I bent over and started clucking, and rubbing my fingers along the carpet to make a scratching sound that used to work like a charm to call our cats.
Sure enough, the cat looked intrigued, and slowly started down the hall toward me, his tail moving in sinuous rhythm above his head, his eyes fixed on mine. Now he was only about 10 feet away, and I dropped into a crouch so as to appear less threatening.
I don’t really know what my goal was, but I guess because we have been petless for a few years, I thought it would be fun to scratch his little head, and have him look up at me adoringly like our cats used to do. Then I would return home and report to Jimmie that I had made a little friend out in the hall and we would go and visit him and so have a grandcat experience- you know, the kind of visit grandparents have with their grandchildren- sweet and doting and short- then the kids leave. With a cat, this would be even more ideal- a little purr, no kitty litter to change- you get the picture.
So here comes the cat, and he is now about five feet away, and I lean my right hand out into the chasm between us and smile, meanwhile, scratching my left hand on the floor. He stops, and, this should have been the first sign that my kitty fantasy was to be short lived, his chin went down, his hackles went up, and he bared his little teeth in an open sneer sort of like the leaf blower dog video that I saw yesterday on FB. You know the one?

Anyway, I clucked and said, “come on, kitty, let’s be friends”. Yes, I actually said that, out loud, in the hallway, as I crouched next to the hallway wall.  And I kept my hand outstretched toward the cat. He lowered his body, and came closer to me, until his nose was just about three inches from my outstretched knuckle.  How cute he was! His eyes looked steadily and mesmerizingly up into mine. I opened my hand and pushed it out into the air just a bit more to try to touch his head, when he made that sound, gutteral and breathy, and swatted his paw out into the space between us, clawing my hand.

Little kitty drew blood don’t you know.

At this turn of events, I said, “Well, that wasn’t very friendly,” and I started to get up from the floor. Then, the psycho cat meowed, gently, as if to say, “I’m sorry, new friend, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Come back and stay with me.”

And as I crouched down again, up went his hackles, and out went his paw again to scratch me a second time.

Now I’d had enough, and I stood and turned to go back to my apartment, looking over my right shoulder expecting to see him walking in the other direction.

But now he is in a full crouch, and he is moving steadily down the hall toward my door and I am now moving fast to get to the door and open it, get inside, and close it before this little demented cat can come inside and scratch me and my entire family to death. I feel a cold sweat breaking out and with my back against the door, I find I am breathing heavily.

I could swear I felt the rap rap rap of his paw paw paw on the door as I walked away. I have a new found respect for urban raccoons both interior and exterior.

Now, isn’t that better than a snapchat?

Instant Gratification

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I live near the UPS distribution warehouse of UPS in downtown Los Angeles. On the occasion when I venture out in my car to drive westward at 9 AM it is likely that I will find myself in the midst of a phalanx of big brown trucks. They pour from the UPS plant, down Blaine St. and empty onto Olympic heading west like the chocolate fountain I encountered recently at a friend’s baby shower.  On both sides of me in these large brown box trucks, packages wend their way toward expectant customers all over Los Angeles.

Who are these customers who await the men and women in brown shorts?

1) The stay-at-home mom who ordered the cute die-cut mermaids for her Sea World scrapbook? Perhaps she stands at her sink rinsing out the remains of her second cup of morning coffee and pleasantly anticipating their arrival.

2) The slightly chubby 28-year-old single woman seeking someone? She sits on the sofa in her gym clothes, flipping through a fashion magazine and waiting for her diet supplement to arrive.

3) And me, at my desk at USC, awaiting the delivery of the three copies of each of the plays we will produce next fall?

I am constantly struck with the American obsession with efficiency and time saving. Yesterday, as I ordered some more scripts on Amazon, the screen said, helpfully, “Would you like this item in the next hour?” Stunned, I gazed at the screen in disbelief.

Two things: I couldn’t imagine what object I could need in one hour where I would have turned to the internet to find it. Two, would I have been so derelict in my planning to have not ordered it prior to an hour before needing it? Planning is what I do for a living. I can at least anticipate by two Amazon prime shipping days that which I will need. Get it together people!

And, so, as the herd of trucks winnows to three, peeling off to the left or right, a sole truck remains, leading me to my destination, and guiding all of us consumers to nearly instant gratification.

 

Summer Days

I know it is summer because when I get dressed in the morning, I reach for  the linen pants and the striped shirts, accessorizing with turquoise and glass beads. My sandals are getting worn out from over use, and I’ve stumbled into a regular routine of mani/pedis at Nails on Ninth, the downtown nail salon at Ninth and Broadway. It is still light out when I get home, and I am greeted by the sounds of baseball on the TV when I open the door to the apartment. Tonight I was able to fill the feeders for the hummingbirds before Jimmie and I sat down to dinner. Hey, just the fact that I’m home for dinner 5 nights a week is really the news.

But I guess it won’t really feel like summer until that morning when after going to spin, I come home and put on my bathing suit and head down to the pool to kick back. Right now, the mornings are a flurry of manic energy.  45 minutes of spinning like a fiend, followed by 30 minutes quick into the shower, breakfast and then bolting out the door with my lunch in my hand and Jimmie’s in the fridge waiting for him.

There seems to be so much to get done in these weeks to prepare for the fall semester. A dozen plays to read, rehearsal room schedules and production meeting schedules to devise, assignments to make. And it feels good to have some time to do some big picture thinking, instead of merely knocking out tasks.

We have some summer fun coming soon – friends visiting, and a week-long cruise to Alaska with my Dad and his wife, my brother Larry and his wife, too and my dear husband. We are extremely excited about that.

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So, for now, I will just try to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone, and knock out the work so that in the next few weeks, I can play and enjoy what this summer will become.  You can be sure that I will take you along on our Alaska adventure!

 

6 Shows in 6 Days – LA is a Theatre Town

As I sat out on the balcony tonight, sipping my post prandial decaf, and watching the hummingbirds tear madly back and forth across the airspace just outside the railing, I was filled with an inner peace.

I thought back on the week just ended. I had been to the theatre every night except Monday.  Here was what I saw this past week:

Tuesday – Pairi Daiza by Nahal Navidar – McClintock Theatre

Wednesday – Henry and the Hippocampus by Brian James Polak – McClintock Theatre

Thursday – The End Times by Jesse Mu-En Shao – McClintock Theatre

Friday – different words for the same thing by Kimber Lee – Kirk Douglas Theatre

Saturday – Giving Up Is Hard To Do by Annie Abbott – Santa Monica Playhouse

Sunday – Les Miserables, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and music by Claude-Michel Schonberg. Original text by  Alain Boublil – La Mirada Theatre

Now, here it was Monday again, and I can just relax and watch the changing light as dusk settled in, and anticipate the mere two shows scheduled this week:

Wednesday – Death of the Author by Steven Drukman – Geffen Playhouse

Friday – A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee – Odyssey Theatre

Who says LA isn’t a theatre town?

 

“Giving Up Is Hard To Do”

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Annie Abbott’s “Giving Up Is Hard To Do” at the Santa Monica Playhouse is a play about taking intimacy risks.

Now that I think about it, attending a play at the Santa Monica Playhouse always feels a little risky. The lobby is jammed with dusty props left over from other shows- books stacked on a shelf high above the box office window seem perilously close to falling. Glasses on another high shelf seem ready to cascade off.  A gilded violin lies on it’s back at the bottom of the stairs like a stranded beetle with legs- oh no, those are artificial flowers splayed around its body. A dress form with a red T-shirt, adorned in pearls, it’s neck topped with a discarded crown, jauntily greets us as we enter. Two tiny crystal chandeliers adorn the ceiling. The lobby is a veritable cornucopia of discarded theatrical props.

Once inside, the theatre is surprisingly intimate- only about 8 rows of 10-12 seats, with two side sections of seats that look woefully divorced from the main house. It is crowned with the most derelict of lighting equipment.  Safety chains  are unnecessary because the yokes of the antique fresnels and lekos are bolted right into the tracks, their white cords and white plugs plugged into the ceiling. Here and there are 25 foot long extension cords snaking their way amidst the lights. The picture below I took just as the pre-show announcement excoriated the audience to not  record or photograph any thing.

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Surely my illicit photo does nothing to threaten the intellectual property of the lighting designer; the inventory of any other theatre has so eclipsed this one that an equivalent design would be impossible.

“Giving it Up” begins with Annie Abbott, the writer and solo performer, entering from the back of the auditorium as though she were the next speaker for a self-help meeting geared to nonagenarians, a clever device as she refers to the previous speaker whose topic I will not spoil for you.

Her energy high, her cadence quick, she blurts out a rush of personal observations, describing the prospect of online dating for the over 70 set. She is funny, truthful, unflinching throughout. She switches easily to her recent attendance at friends’ wedding, a couple who met online and have included in their ceremony’s notes their original postings that led them to each other. Annie is stunned by the candor of the woman’s post, her frank description of her sexual and sensual preferences. Her attitude seems to be  “I have felt these things as well but didn’t know it was okay to say it.”

And therein lies the success and universality of Ms. Abbott’s material.

For the hour and ten minute performance she candidly discusses her marriage and children. She challenges the privacy usually afforded breast cancer  with humor and wades through the pathos of the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband. My husband and I had known Annie’s husband, Ron,  with whom she had shared an eventful and rich life, and whose loss left a chasm in hers and her children’s lives.  The evening feels a bit longer than its 70 minutes. Occasionally, Annie could stand to project a tad more strenuously. A few patrons were overheard to say “What did she say?”

 In spite of these insignificant shortcomings, this solo performance is obviously just one of the ways Annie Abbott has found to fill the chasm and to resume her life. Her journey includes the formative voices of both her grandmother and her grandchildren; we can see her grandmother’s spirit in Annie, as well as Annie’s spirit in her daughter’s children. She provides us all a service here, through her generosity and depth, her wit and candid intimacy and by showing us the path that led her to this quirky venue.