All of the incidents that happen in these sketches are true except for the one I think might have happened but didn’t: the throwing of the corn flakes. It’s true that the woman who wears two completely different outfits a day has a fight at every meal. It’s also true that she enter the dinning room singing O What a Beautiful Morning, from Oklahoma.
But she didn’t throw her dish of cereal.
Sometimes, even the one or two things that I have invented, might have happened.
For example, this Oklahoma Lady, who I found out more about – her name is Melinda – did once toss orange juice at someone at her table, and ever since then, she’s lost all her table mates.
It’s also true that she was a model 50 years ago, tho I still don’t know how her clothes are selected, or what era she is meant to fit in with.
You might know if I took a picture, but I’m trying to preserve their privacy, especially since they are not competent to agree to have their pictures taken.
Her own hair is always topped by a fake tight bun. She wears hats that could be from the Great Gatsby. White, often with a touch of glitter – oh – I know -she’s dressed for the Kentucky Derby. Or the Easter Parade.
Had she been in opera, she would’ve been the resident diva.
It’s difficult to figure her out, unless I become acquainted because she doesn’t talk to anyone but the hired help. And that is to complain.
More: whereas 90% of the residents use some walking device, she uses none! No cane. No Rollator. I’ve never seen her in PT. If she sits in the med-waiting-room there is an invisible forcefield around her so that the red chairs on either side of Melinda are vacant. And when she does leave the place she goes into Midtown. I like to think a Broadway matinee. But I really don’t have a clue.
So, right now, Melinda is the mysterious figure. I might just introduce myself to her soon, as I have done with just about everyone else I’ve met. But it’s usually been a natural introduction; something you have in common; stuck waiting for the elevator with someone; etc.
And I’ve been recording some conversations. My cell is in the top pocket of my denim jacket, with the mike side popping out, and I can turn it on before shoving it in that pocket. But it’s not really necessary. Most of the time I can remember dialogue pretty well.
When I was in college, and was working on becoming a writer, I would ride the Buffalo buses and take notes on how people talked, and try and make it real. Later, when I worked for six months at Brooklyn State Hospital or Kingsborough Psychiatric in Brownsville, I did the same thing – writing what people said and did.
I had some idea, probably from Hemingway, that a writer should experience everything. That it turns out is bad advice.
I found plenty of writers who never left their house and did great work.
And most of what I experienced, while looking to be experienced, was so scary and/or disgusting, that I could never bring myself to write about it.
Example: at Brooklyn State, there was an old crazy man, and every morning, it was my job to wash his feet. Sounds like the pope’s job. But he had sores on his ankles and feet and I had a warm bucket of soapy water, and I can never forget the visuals, or the feel of his ancient feet.
One day, not long ago, I was washing my own feet, and flashback, they felt just like the old man’s feet. I had to stop.
So that’s my interlude. The stories are true. The names are changed. The locations are changed sometimes. And I’m not going to take pictures of these people. You’ll have to be happy, and honestly it’s more enjoyable, for me to do word portraits.