Katz! The Musical!

 

My mother and I were rehearsing our tap dance routine for “Katz! The Musical!” on the makeshift stage for the first time. As we were “Shufflin’ Off to Buffalo,” Richard’s mother, Harriet, was running over to say hello. 

Harriet told us she was on the Dinner Party Committee for the benefit and was looking forward to watching us perform in the show in a few weeks. Harriet said she’d tell Richard she saw me and tell him to come see us in the show. She also said she’d tell him to call me.

He didn’t.

I hadn’t seen Harriet since Richard and I dated in high school four years earlier. Even though Richard was the nicest guy I’d ever met, I broke up with him before we left for college. We were going to different schools, and I thought I wanted to dip my toe in what turned out to be more of a cesspool than a dating pool.

Well, that was stupid. As it turned out, Richard really was the nicest guy I’d ever met.

I had been thinking about Richard for months, ever since I’d transferred from Indiana University to Lake Forest College to finish my Creative Writing degree.  Since I was living at home, I wanted to get in touch with him but didn’t know where he was living or what he was doing. 

I was also a freelance reporter for “The Singles Spirit,” a newspaper for singles (duh) published by my brother-in-law Sam. Part of my job was doing interviews about people, places, and things, you know, basically nouns.

I started to think I’d run into Harriet for a reason. Maybe it was Divine Intervention at the Temple, which, by the way, would make an excellent name for a band.

I ran into Harriet again two weeks later at Burlington Coat Factory. How could that be explained? It had to be Divine Intervention at the discount coat store, which, by the way, would not make an excellent name for a band.

Harriet told me Richard had graduated from Miami University with a degree in Theater. He was living at home and working at Steppenwolf.* She asked me if Richard had called. I told her he hadn’t. She rolled her eyes and again said she would tell him to call me.

He didn’t.

All my life I’ve been told I have an over-overachieving imagination so it was perfectly normal for me to think that Richard hadn’t called because he hated me for breaking up with him before we left for college.

I hated me for breaking up with him, too.

But, since I’d run into Harriet twice in two weeks, I knew I had been given whatever the Divine equivalent is of a thumbs up to find Richard.

The only longish-term boyfriend I had in college was Jeff. I’d ended our relationship when I realized he wasn’t that great of a boyfriend; just ask all the other girls he was dating behind my back while we were going out.

I should have known our relationship was doomed; Jeff threw up on our first date.

I’ve been told I make things much harder than they need to be. I could have just called Richard, but that would have been too normal.

And what would I say if I called? “Hi! It’s me! The girl who broke up with you! Want to go on a date?”

I needed to find a way to accidentally bump into Richard on purpose so he could just start falling in love with me all over again. 

But how? I knew I’d need help, and I knew just who to call.

Laura Wool has always been my partner in misdemeanors. When we put our heads together anything was possible. She was the beauty and the brains. I was there, too.

I called Woolie and said, “Here’s the 411. I have an Alfa, Beta, Foxtrot, Richard, and I’m bringing bagels.”  Woolie said, “Roger that, Chester! I got your 6. Be here at 14:00 on Saturday. I’ve got lox and cream cheese. We’ll think of something.”

And, we did. We decided I needed to stalk him.

Since Harriet told me Richard graduated with a degree in theater and worked at Steppenwolf, I assumed he was an actor.

All I had to do was call Steppenwolf and set up a time to interview the actor Richard Korengold for “The Singles Spirit.”

I just needed a nom de plume and a phone number he wouldn’t recognize.

Laura got to know Richard when he and I dated in high school, but he didn’t know her phone number. So, Laura said we should use her phone number to leave as a call back number at Steppenwolf.

But, what if Richard actually called?

Laura came up with fake names for both of us. If Richard called my fake number which was Laura’s real number to reach the fake me, the fake her would take a message faking that she worked for the newspaper, too.

Simple enough.

During the next week I called Steppenwolf several times and left messages for Richard. He didn’t call back which almost always makes doing an interview so much harder.

Well, I never heard back from Richard, and, as far as I know, he didn’t come to see mom and me in “Katz! The Musical!” but I wasn’t going to let a few minor details like that get in my way.

I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. I was not going to give up. And, if I found him, I was going to marry him anyway. 

 

 

*Richard was not an actor at Steppenwolf. He worked in the box office. I’d been leaving messages for him with the business office instead of the theatre, and no one ever told him I’d called. Somehow, the Managing Director of Steppenwolf Theatre intercepted my messages and asked Richard if he had been telling people he was an actor in The Company.

Also, Richard’s actual degree is a B.S. in Business Administration with a Minor in Theater Arts Management. He had acted in plays at Miami University, but was always cast as the bartender whose only appearance was in the final scene.

 

This post is another chapter of my book-in-progress I Married him Anyway.

These related posts can be found at lesliejochase.com/blog/

Harriet’s Symphonette

Do You Shave?

Halloween 1984

There he Stood in the Doorway

The 2018 All About Richard Calendar

Where Suggestions go to Die

Mercury is Retrograde and so is Uranus

I had never heard of Mercury retrograde until my friend Sharon Rosenzweig enlightened me. While sipping tea at her house one day a few years ago, I mentioned that everything in my life seemed to be going awry and askew and I couldn’t figure out why.

Sharon said, “Well, Mercury is in retrograde.”

I said, “Well, that’s nice, but what does that have to do with anything?”

Ever so patient Sharon explained that people tend to misunderstand each other, transportation can get messed up, and lots of other things can easily go wonky when Mercury is in that cycle. She also told me that the periods before and after retrograde can get messed up, too.

“That’s like my sister Beth,” I said. “She goes wonky before, during and after her cycle. In fact, she doesn’t have PMS; she has AMS!” 

I’m sure I gnaw away at Sharon’s patience, but she never shows it. 

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, “The planet Mercury rules communication, travel, contracts, and automobiles… So, when Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow extra time for travel, and avoid signing contracts…” 

Actually, Mercury retrograde is an illusion that happens several times each year. When Mercury is in retrograde it appears to move backwards. But, “Mercury is just moving slower than Earth, causing the illusion that it’s moving in retrograde,” according to “Mother Nature Network.” 

While most astrologers and just plain regular folk believe that Mercury retrograde can mess things up in life, most scientists think the whole thing is just plain hooey.

In his blog “Bad Astronomy” Phil Plait wrote an entry titled “Astrology in retrograde” in the October 3rd, 2008 issue of “Discover” magazine. He wrote, “I was called by MSNBC reporter Helen Popkin yesterday because she was doing an article on astrology. And she stumped me with a simple question: “Have you heard,” she asked “about the idea that electronics tend to fail when Mercury is in retrograde?”

Uh. What?

I hadn’t heard of this little piece of nonsense, but according to Ms. Popkin, sure enough, some astrologers say that technology tends to fail more when Mercury is in retrograde… Since, astrologically, Mercury controls communication and technology, when it’s in retrograde things get screwed up. That’s why Hubble is malfunctioning, and why the LHC (I had to look this up: Large Hadron Collider) is having woes.

Yeeeeeeah. Oooooookay.

So for the next half hour we chatted technology, we chatted Mercury, we chatted astrology. You can guess how I feel about all this astrology stuff.”

He went on to say that Ms. Popkin had written “a fluffy humor piece, not really meant to sway people either way. I smiled a lot while reading it, even though astrologers make me want to stick my head in the microwave.”

Well, this is my fluffy humor piece! I am not of science or astrology, but I believe! So, go ahead and stick your head in the microwave, Mr. Plait.

I ask you, “How do you explain this?”

And, if scientific proof is needed, let’s go back in time two weeks to Thanksgiving weekend when winter storm “Bruce” caused, among other things, nearly 3,000 flight cancellations.

Was Mercury in retrograde then? As a matter of fact it was! 

“Bruce” dumped so much snow it was as if the heavy-duty laxatives it had been taking all month finally kicked in.

Many people say that when Mercury is in retrograde we should slow down, as Mercury appears to, and take time to reflect upon ourselves without placing blame.

So, during this time of reflection, I’d like to apologize to Mr. Plait. After watching a video of Taylor Swift explaining the ways in which Mercury in retrograde destroys our lives, I, too, would like nothing more than to stick my head in the microwave.

In the November, 16, 2018 article on vlox.com called “Mercury retrograde, explained without astrologythere’s an embedded video of Swift who says that when Mercury is in retrograde, “You can’t blame yourself. You just have to blame Mercury ‘cause it’s just hella in retrograde.” Oy.

If I really wanted to, I could find out when Mercury will be in retrograde in the future, but I’m afraid that if I know I’ll just sit in the dark worrying and waiting.

Conversely, if I know when Mercury will be out of retrograde, I’ll have no excuses during that time for being lazy, unproductive, and disorganized. 

I prefer the element of surprise, so I simply ask Google, “Is Mercury in retrograde?” Usually, I get this response:

I’m always surprised when I ask and get this response:

But, in case you’re wondering, Mercury will return to its regularly scheduled orbit on November 7th, 2018 and won’t be in retrograde again until March 5, 2019.

It might interest you to know that ALL planets go into retrograde at some point; Mercury just gets the worst rap because of its ability to throw shade on so many important things in life.

You can do the astrological math to find out which planet rules your sign and how it might affect you when it goes into retrograde. But, to make it more fun, why not use that idea as a pick-up line at your company’s holiday party? “Hi! Which planet rules your astrological sign, when does it go into retrograde, and how does this phenomenon affect you?” I didn’t say it was a great line, but it’s something to think about.

I’d like to end with this: I feel it is my duty to inform you that the gassy planet Uranus has entered Aries and just won’t leave until January 7, 2019. My birthday is January 7th, so Mom, I can’t go out to dinner that night because I need to sit here and wait for the gas to pass.

 

P.S. I am still working on my book I Married him Anyway; I just wanted to write about Mercury while it’s still retrograding. 

 

Harriet’s Symphonette

Richard and Uncle D brought my father-in-law, Howard Leslie Korengold, aka Papa Howie, back home from Florida. He’s in good health (poo, poo, poo a million times) and is living in an apartment in a retirement community nearby.

Did you catch that his middle name is “Leslie?” But wait! There’s more! My mother-in-law (may she rest in peace) was Harriet, which is my mother’s middle name. My nephew is Joseph Maurice; Richard’s grandfather was Maurice Joseph. It’s all very Lincoln/Kennedy, but I digress.

Papa Howie has been mailing me his hand-written memoirs for years, and refers to me as his “Literary Agent.” I am honored that he trusts me, the most disorganized person in the world, with the only copy of his stories.

Howard is a creative and brilliant man. For instance, after Richard and I became engaged, Howard said, “If Richard hadn’t proposed, I would have.” See what I mean? He’s brilliant!

To celebrate his return home, I’d like to share a book he wrote and illustrated many years ago called “Harriet’s Symphonette.”

 

Halloween 1984

Richard was greeted at my parents’ front door by the sounds of moaning ghosts, chains being dragged across a wood floor, and door hinges in desperate need of WD-40. 

Earlier that evening I’d hidden a tape recorder underneath bushes I’d covered with nylon spider webs. I’d left only one dim outside light on so Richard could safely make his way to the front door where I had posted a sign that read, “Enter if you Dare!” Just before he was due to arrive, I ran outside and hit “play” on the tape recorder. I could barely contain my excitement about all the fun things I’d planned for the evening.

As a copywriter for the Sears Catalog I had friends in strange places who could procure just about any prop ever needed. A mannequin head and hand? No problem. You just had to know who to ask for the body part required.                                                                                                                                                                 

As I opened the door to let Richard in, I could’t help but notice the look of irritation and annoyance on his face from the scary sounds and poorly lit walkway. That should have been my first clue that my plan to enchant him that evening was not going to work, but it didn’t stop me. I closed the door and turned around to face him. Just as he was about to give me a “hello” kiss, I smiled, revealing bloody, wax vampire fangs. He was not amused, and I did not receive a kiss. At least the fangs were cherry-flavored.

Subtlety has never been one of Richard’s gifts. By the time I had bared my wax vampire teeth, he had shown facial expressions of disdain, displeasure, and disgust. I knew the rest of the evening I had been so eager to plan was going to be arduous for him, and a total disappointment for me.

I led my very unhappy, exasperated guest/victim into the kitchen where I had set the table for the two of us, as I had many times before. There were no visible tricks or treats which elicited a sigh of relief from Richard as he sat down at the table.

For the first course, I served pasta with extremely red marinara sauce. In an effort to create bloody looking spaghetti, I had added red food coloring and then squished whole tomatoes into the sauce with my sterilized, sanitized, and squeaky clean hands. Since Richard’s head was already spinning, the worst surprise would have been to give him food poisoning. 

As soon as I had set the pasta on the table, I said, “Oops! I forgot the garlic bread!” I had covered the basket of bread with a kitchen towel “to keep it warm.” When he removed the towel, a perfectly manicured mannequin hand was holding a piece of garlic bread, as if offering it to Richard. 

Who wouldn’t think that was a clever way to serve the bread? I’ll give you one guess.

I began to lose hope and started to panic just a tad. My brain started screaming, “It’s not too late! Go to Barnaby’s! Order Dominos! For Satan’s sake, go to Burger King! Whatever you do, turn back now! Grab your purse and Richard and get out while you still can!”

But I didn’t do that. I had gone to great lengths to plan this dinner as a way to show him how playful and creative I could be. I’d decided If he didn’t appreciate that side of me, I could still have fun, couldn’t I? Or was I leading myself into a den of humiliation and torture? I was leading myself into a den of humiliation and torture.

Knowing the next course could be the end of our relationship, I just had to hope for the best. I donned oven mitts and pulled a large black covered roasting pan out of the oven and set it on a trivet on the table. It wasn’t hot, but I wanted to provide the illusion that it was. Most people would remove the top part of the roaster to reveal a delicious-looking turkey or ham. I removed the top to reveal an upside down mannequin head full of salsa surrounded by tortilla chips.

Richard had told me many times that he didn’t like surprises, but I didn’t think serving a scary Halloween dinner met that criterion. As his girlfriend, I thought any clever, creative ideas I had up my Norma Kamali shoulder-padded sleeves would be seen as a way of creating a fun and memorable evening. I thought it was fun; he thought it was memorable, but not in a good way.

I don’t remember much more about what I served that night because the evening turned out not to be much of a “treat” for either one of us. 

Richard, always a gentleman, thanked me for dinner and then sprinted out to his red 1974 Plymouth Duster. I heard his tires squeal as he made his escape.

The only good thing about the evening was that there wasn’t much for me to clean. All I had to do was put a few dishes in the dishwasher, and wash and dry the mannequin parts so I could return them to their owners at work the following day.

In December of that year Richard invited me to his parents’ house for a special dinner he’d prepared just for the two of us. The photo below kind of sums up how different we are; the trick is to make it work which we have for 32 years and counting.

Richard and me through the years:

Michael Jackson and Lord Vader
Blake and Alexis Carrington from "Dynasty"
Blake and Alexis Carrington from “Dynasty”
Luke and Leia (with real Cinnabons in my hair!)
Happy Halloween!

Last year: I was Bruce Jenner and Richard was Caitlyn. Our friends Steve and Juliet were Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. We were at Michael and Sara’s who have a year-round haunted house in their basement that I’ve been told is the scariest haunted house ever. I’ve never had the guts to go through it, but I’ve heard the screams.