Friday, May 29, 2009

Fairfield, Connecticut 5.6.92: Urban Decay and Mythic Village Greens

In Fairfield, Connecticut. Drove here yesterday from Boston. Today beastly—coldish, and rain all day, and I with beginnings of a sore throat, itching in my left ear (which stays more or less stopped up), sneezing, congestion.

The last day in Boston we spent with Chuck, going to lunch in Chinatown, then desultory and unsuccessful shopping for a night shirt at Filene’s and Marshall Field’s, then to Harvard Square. It was a nice day, and a nice evening. Chuck took us to a restaurant in Boston’s South End, where I had a really wonderful grilled halibut, baby eggplant, and sundried tomatoes.

Chuck, who’s a marvelous mimic, told a very amusing story of his days as a gigolo. When he was at BC, he went to see John M. to discuss his homosexuality. John M. introduced Chuck to Tim, a marathon swimmer.

Tim lived in a building in which the daughter of Mrs. S. lived. One evening, Daughter came into Tim’s apartment as Chuck and Tim were rolling on the floor. Rather, they had time to compose themselves, barely.

Tim was taking Mrs. S., an elderly, mostly blind, millionaire from Minnesota married to Mr. S., a wealthy Cuban, to dinner at the Ritz Carlton once a week. For this he was paid $50.00 and the meal.

Daughter liked Chuck—“a nice young man”—and asked if he could replace Tim in this duty, since Tim was moving. So, at least weekly, Chuck would pick Mrs. S. up at a home smelling of urine and dominated by gibbering elderly people in wheelchairs. She would be in sunglasses (at night) and a wheelchair herself. From week to week, she forgot who Chuck was, but had a wily way of ignoring questions that would betray her lapses of memory, till she had heard information to clue her in.

Chuck would then escort her to the Ritz. When he arrived, “Yes, Mrs. S., of course, Mrs. S.” doormen would meet the little Honda among the Rolls Royces, and she would be shown to her accustomed place, where she would be brought french fries, asparagus, and several bottles of wine. The food she would overlook; not the wine. Chuck would coax her to eat, to which she would respond, “Oh, have they brought my asparagus?”

What conversation there was would be punctuated by her signature laugh, “Ah ha!” with a rising inflection on the second syllable, or by an “Oh, really?” with the second syllable strongly, emphatically stressed.

On the way home, Chuck would note Fenway Park as they passed, and would engage Mrs. S. in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Park,” deleting words to get her to join in in a wine-stuporous croak. On one return drive, she commented on the ugly large teeth of the first lady. This was fifty years after FDR’s presidency.

One evening, Mrs. S. became angry at all the loud chatter around her and began to shout, “Shut up!” as she insisted it had never been this way in the past. An accomplice, Mrs. B., who came up to the table each evening, vowed to bring a whistle and blow it if the talk continued to be clamorous. And did so a few evenings later. At which Mrs. S. lifted her glass of wine and cried out, “That a girl!”

I wish I could tell the story with half the inflections and wittiness of Chuck.

Fairfield: not much. The old part of town is pretty, and the beach, but food uniformly abominable, and a sense of cultural tightness and dog-eat-dog money interests everywhere. We drove to an arts and crafts festival on the town green in Milford, nearby, but the rain had more or less closed the event. Then we returned on the old post road via Stratford and Bridgeport, where the urban decay and poverty were quite frightening, a stark antithesis to the mythic village greens with their pretty, stately New England houses.

Then in Fairfield, we went to the town historical society’s museum, which was unprepossessing.

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