Dental Work, Showers and Showtunes Linda Knight Seccaspina
Last week I had a terrible dental infection and had to wear a portable IV for most of the week. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but the worst part was trying to take a shower. When I was told not to get it wet I asked what I should do. One of the nurses joked and told me to just try and use one arm. Days later I found out they sell long plastic gloves at the pharmacy, but at that point in time I had no idea. Being resourceful I pulled out one of my pink vinyl fashionista gloves that go up to my armpits. Yes, I have something for every occasion.
It wasn’t easy washing my hair with a vinyl glove on and it’s taken days for that glove to dry out. But, as soon as I got into the shower I started singing the opening lyrics of Barry Manilow’s song about Lola the Showgirl. The more I washed my hair, the louder I sang and I was suddenly back in time at the Cocacabana carefully doing a showgirl routine. Today, I have to admit it was one of the most interesting showers I ever had, and it was fun acting like I was in a different time. Does time travel exist? It’s up to you to believe what is true or what is fiction. This is a true story of what happened to me a few years ago in San Francisco.
Last week as I sat down to enjoy a few minutes in the sunshine I met Billie. She was tall, had short cropped hair, and a white baseball cap on. Billie seemed to be the leader of the pack and also very high on something. It was almost like she felt no one else was there. She got up suddenly and started belting out the song “God Bless the Child.”
I knew it was a Billie Holiday song, and I was amazed at the performance she and her three back up girls were giving to the gathering crowd. She was Billie, no doubt about it. After the song, she sat down all out of breath and smiled at me as I gave her a dollar. I asked her how long she had been singing and she wiped her brow and simply said,
Suddenly she threw a bag at me and told me to look in it. I had no idea what might be in there, but I was intrigued. I used to collect and design clothes so I know vintage when I see it. Inside the bag was an incredible gold 1930’s evening dress. It was moth eaten and it could have used some Febreeze, but I was blown away. I asked her where she got it and she smiled. She told me she had worn it the previous night singing with Count Basie.
I saw a small thin silver cylinder her friend was trying to hide and I knew they were high on drugs. Sweet Billie was still talking plain as day like she had not consumed a thing. She told me she was a time traveller and that she was only here for the day. As I listened, she eased in and out of sentences about being in jail, and how she sang with Benny Goodman. I didn’t know much about Billie Holiday’s life but the words flowed with great sincerity.
I asked her how she time travelled and she smiled. She told me that when she feels time pulling her down she takes the subway train. Within the six minutes the train goes under the San Francisco Bay through the tunnel she is sucked into time by the volume of the noise. Being a huge fan of the late TV show Lost I never doubted her for one minute and I don’t know why. She took her cap off, smoothed her hair down and took my hand.
Billie asked me if I would come with her through time later on as she was going to open Carnegie Hall that week. She added she would not come back for a while because the police were looking for her and that is why she was wearing a baseball cap. I was told they would eventually catch up to her next year and would arrest her at the Mark Twain Hotel in San Francisco in Room #203.
I stayed at the Mark Twain Hotel in San Francisco almost 28 years ago. It was in a pretty shady part of town, but I remember that big red round Ottoman in the middle of the lobby like it was yesterday. I wondered what the Hotel had looked like in its heyday and who I would have been had I time travelled time like Billie.
“So you sure you aren’t coming?” she asked me.
I told her I was busy, but maybe some other time. With that she smiled and went back to the centre of the plaza and sang another tune with her girls. I saw the flower man and I immediately had an idea. I crossed the street and bought one of the dollar gardenias that were floating in a white plastic bucket. Billie had just finished her performance and I handed her the flower.
I smiled and told her,
“Billie, this for your Carnegie Hall Concert.”
She ripped her cap off and put it in her hair and said quietly,
“Thank you Mam, I will cherish it forever because I will always be the lady who sings the blues.”
And to me she always would be.
Have a great week and don’t forget to crank out some showtunes in the shower this week!