Yesterday I did a singing telegram for a girl in Walden, NY. It had been a week where the Crazy Fairy came to town because everyone was nuts. Actually everything was nuts. Monday I got a request for a Bumble Bee telegram. While the costume was in my possession, I had only performed the anthophila and that was several years ago. Then I had a request for a Playboy Bunny. I only get that a few times a year. Still, both were at the bottom of my closet which meant ripping up my room. And I had just cleaned. Jesus doesn’t want me to have a clean room. Or maybe it’s the devil. Cleanliness is next to Godliness apparently.
Oh and there were protests in NYC and several of my friends got arrested. Then I saw a trash can fire because someone was upset with the verdict. The goal for this week became one simple thing, live.
So Friday after a series of successful deliveries, I got a call from my boss’s assistant Delta. She asked if I wanted to do a chicken in Walden, NY. Where the frickedy frack was Walden? I said sure. It was early morning. Jeanie and her amazing belting voice are sleeping and doesn’t awaken until noon at least, and we know not to call her before then. Jacqueline Dallas is probably asleep as well, because told me once she was not a morning person-Vegas does that to a woman. Lavare is probably dog walking or asleep, and destinations in the middle of no where mean being timely and that is not quite his thing sometimes. Delta is happily married for the third time and living near the Hamptons with her new man so that wasn’t happening. Donny doesn’t travel as much these days. And Akaya the new girl is in Jersey City so that would have been a hike for her. There is a nutty lady who owns a car, Evette, but is a problem child Bruce only uses in the case of emergencies.
So it was only me.
I mapquested the place when I got home after taking the gig. One thing about that part of New York is that it is out of the city. The state of New York is city, and then middle of no where towns or villages. Getting to point A was easy, however point B was going to be challenging. There was an airport shuttle to a minor place that had three flights I could take, but that was going to be 5 hours. I googled the cab, it was 42 minutes. WOW! And that was going to be EXPENSIVE. I called Bruce. This was a panic moment in the life of a telegrammer.
Bruce told me he would call the client and explain our situation. Well Bruce called me back. The client told me that there was a train station called Campbell Hall that cabs ran to frequently that was much closer. The drama was over, right? WRONG!
I googled Campbell Hall and didn’t find much. There were no trains going there from Grand Central, yet the station still existed. Then I figured out the problem. Campbell Hall was part of the Port Jervis Line. Yes, the Port Jervis Line. To give you an idea, the Port Jervis Line is sort of a ghost line in the MTA train system. Despite going to upstate NY and being part of the Metro North, it leaves from Penn Station and not Grand Central. And while going on the Metro North Route, it is part of the New Jersey Transit system. Only a handful of trains come on this line, and they do not run frequently. While one might come, it might be hours before you get another one. And if you go to a stop on the route hope for a nice day and bring a good book because you will be stranded there for hours. Googling the station and trip planner the first train for the day at the beginning of my hour delivery window and got me there at the end. Bruce called the client. They changed the time.
Okay, nothing was easy but whatever. I would use my emergency $60 I always carry and take a cab to Seacaucus or Hoboken after the conclusion of the telegram. While I would be sick and dizzy afterwards, I wouldn’t be stranded. This telegram was going to kill me.
Then I got another part of the order. I was to sing “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. I know the song well, and heard it played on the radio to death. Here’s the thing, when I sing I don’t have a big vocal range like Jeanie, Jacqueline, or Delta. Instead, I am contralto. Translated, my voice can sound pleasing to the ear and can even sell records. However, I am not even attempting the impressive vocal gymnastics and don’t have a legit pop voice. I am respectful of music and the way it is written because of my cousin Rob, who was a music prodigy as a kid and now tours the country as a trumpet player with a jazz/rock outfit. I know how much time it took Alicia Keys to write the song, and I didn’t want to butcher it.
Just as I was agonizing over this latest piece of the telegram, Bruce called me back. His beginning words were, “So you know, I have been trying to go to bed, too.” Translated, he wanted me to know this telegram was going to kill not just me but the both of us. Which one of us would die first because the million dollar question. So Bruce then informed me the client changed the train stop back to the original one, but now her sister was going to be at the hair salon at 11 AM. And the destination was 10 minutes via cab instead of 42 minutes. This I could handle.
The next morning I woke up ready to deliver the telegram. I got to the train station, and there were two rookie cops patrolling the place. A baby faced rookie kept shouting to two homeless men, “Santa’s Watching.” Grand Central is not notorious for it’s homeless the way Penn Station is. Then the same rookie cop said to me, “Santa’s Watching.” Was that a pick up line, Sir? I took a deep breath. Today was going to be interesting. I also wanted to tell the cops as of late some of his comrades weren’t acting so hot so maybe see HR if that bipolar psychotic bully streak was acting up.
I got on the train and sat across from this couple who looked to be in their middle to later 20s. The girl looked like she crawled off of the series Girls, and she had a guy of sorts with her who was difficult to peg as her gay friend or boyfriend. I didn’t know by the way he dressed or acted. After a few minutes, it appeared he was her boyfriend. Granted, he seemed too pretty to stand up for anyone in a fight but whatever. This girl kept sprouting nonsense. She talked about how she planned to marry and never really work. And bragged that in this stage of her life her parents paid all of her bills, rent included. Then her boyfriend pulled out a computer and said, “I am going to watch a movie.”
“You’re supposed to talk to me!” The brat whined in a high pitched voice indicating someone who clearly believed the world revolved around her average looking being that she believed to be on par with Jennifer Lawrence. Being gay isn’t a choice, but the guy glanced at me like he wanted to be mercifully shot in the head. After being with that as a pretty dude, I might start dating dudes. They are less trouble and know when to shut up. Sheesh.
She continued with her inane blabber and I switched seats to look out the window. We came upon Ossining. As I looked out the window I saw barbed wire and a control tower. The place looked like a prison. Then I realized, “Holy shit, this is a prison! This is Sing Sing!” It’s awkward to look at a place where you know many of the people living there currently have killed at least one person. Yes, the control tower, they meant business. They were doing this prison thing for real. The Man wasn’t fucking around in this instance. If you were in, the guards were on your ass. Don’t drop the soap as they say.
Then I remembered my dearly departed friend Chacho had done time at Sing Sing for a drug offense. Of his 18 month bid he said, “Prison was not a very happy time in my life.” Looking at Sing Sing I understood why. Then again, prison isn’t designed to be happy. If you are happy in prison you should probably be given an automatic life sentence for being an anti-social asshole instead of being released to reoffend. Either way, you are taking government dollars.
From what people said on the train, this was the part of the state where a lot of the prisons were. It made sense, they were in the middle of no where and escape was hard. I knew a guy who walked out of a minimum security prison once. He was a handy man in my neighborhood. Greg was on the lamb for 6 months and then was caught committing more burglaries. Sigh, perhaps Sing Sing housed it’s share of dumbasses because the thing is, you only go to jail if you get caught, ha ha.
Still, it was like, okay. As we furthered along I began to see lakes and other pretty scenery, which would completely suck to miss out on if one was a guest of the state. When we got further up the train line, I saw a bunch of mountains.
There was one in particular, Break Neck Ridge. Apparently, it is popular with a lot of hikers. I saw the clouds envelop the mountain. It reminded me of climbing Jay Peak the weekend of Wendell’s wedding. I had never climbed a mountain before, and at the time did not have the correct gear. However, as I got to the top I remembered the air thinning and how it suddenly made sense why people who climbed K2 and all had oxygen tanks. The closer you get to the sky, the more scarce oxygen becomes. However, there was something about being near the clouds. It made me feel like I was close to another world, close to giants. Maybe I could rescue a magic harp.
I had also remember hiker etiquette. Since there was no cell phone service when we climbed, my Uncle Rob had to come down from the mountain because of an old back injury he had gotten while working as a union carpet layer and thus couldn’t finish the climb. He told us he needed to rest and would join us up the trail, but it had begun to rain. Uncle Rob gave the message to another hiker who saw us and asked, “Do you know a guy named Rob…..” Then I wanted to climb Break Neck Ridge. Who wants to go with me?
I finally got to my destination, and found a cab driven by a Central American dude who knew spotty English. In the cab were three other men who all spoke Spanish. This part of the adventure would scare anyone, but it had already been quite a morning. The first dude was a kitchen worker dropped off at some random fancy restaurant down a hill. And then it was me. The father and son were arguing about something. Although my Spanish is better understood than spoken, I could tell the kid was being a little brat. While he probably did need bapped upside the head, he was a welcome change from the whiny thing on the train.
When I got to the area, I got Manny the driver’s card. I noticed we were close to West Point. My high school friend Derek Judy had attended West Point. It’s a lot of crap to get in there. Granted, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s a lot of crap as I said. I remember he had to interview with the senator and then he was off to basic training after graduation from high school. So much for living it up one last time. I hadn’t seen him since until he popped up as a pleasant surprise at a show I did. It was cool to see him again after all that time. I keep up with him on facebook, but due to my volume of followers it gets hard (I sound like a bitch now). But I hope life’s being good to him, he’s a good dude.
I changed into my chicken costume and in I went. The place was a hair salon, and the people were cool. I belted out “Girl on Fire.” My decision was to stylize it and go for comedic effect rather than vocal perfection. The rendition was a hit. When I finished the girl I sang to was crying. I don’t know what it is but “Girl on Fire” makes me ball too. We ended the telegram in a hug, that is the only way to end it with “Girl on Fire.”
I got a cab back with Manny the Central American Driver. While his English was broken, it was not too broken to tell me about his recent divorce. Sure, he and his ex were friends but now he was seeing another woman. Manny liked her, but he just wanted to have fun. This other woman, he wasn’t sure. Manny liked the relationship on a superficial level, and liked having a bachelor pad. However, this woman wanted to move in and he didn’t know how to break it to her that he wasn’t ready for another serious relationship. Manny also confided in me that he had been on the outs with the ex wife for years, but they wanted to wait until the kids were older to divorce. I wanted to say, “You had me at hello.” Then again, my drivers always tell me everything. It’s just the way it goes. Note, all their home lives pretty much suck.
I got on the train back home, and this little boy who was three and a half going on thirty according to his mom told her that if she wasn’t careful she was going to spill her coffee. The little man sounded like a husband more than a son. Well the guy was right, she spilled her coffee. While she seemed like a nice lady, the kid had called it.
The ride home had another annoying woman whining. She had red hair and was rather unfortunate looking. The entire time she brayed about how she needed her nails done, and had to pick up another part time job to afford her salon habit. Then it was about health care, and how she could add her husband to her policy. Oh and then it was that she couldn’t have kids and it had to do with her menstrual cycle. So for a half hour it was all about her periods. I would have switched seats but this Vietnamese couple sat down next to me blocking me in.
Just then I thought this trip wasn’t going to kill me.
As she got more in depth about her menstrual flow, I pictured myself strangling this Fran Drescher without the comedic talent or any other redeeming qualities. Then he came to Sing Sing. I realized for as much as I wanted to take this horrible beast out of this world, she wasn’t worth a felony charge even if it was only in my mind. I wanted to climb Break Neck Ridge. Chacho would want me to climb Break Neck Ridge. Then I remembered his dream was to see Niagara Falls before he died and if I had kept going from Walden we would have been there in an hour or two. Then as we left Sing Sing it occurred to me that there were people in prison who probably strangled someone that everyone pretty much hated to begin with. The two cretins I met on the train were such people.
The Vietnamese people next to me began to chatter loudly about some nonsense. Then I realized that although I didn’t understand what they were saying, they were making fun of the lady who was talking about her cycle. I realized this as they both gave me a wide eyed look like they wanted to kill themselves too. At first I thought it was my imagination, but then when they spoke English upon going to Grand Central I knew I wasn’t imagining things.
I walked home wondering how my life doesn’t kill me. It would have killed anyone else a long time ago. Knowing my luck I will probably die as a result of something stupid like getting hit by a car or something mundane like a heart attack. Or maybe I will be 100 with all my stories.
Maybe I don’t have a belter voice, but my life is more exciting than most people who do. So we could safely say bring out the extinguishers because “This Girl is on Fire….”