Wednesday, March 5, 2008
LUNCH WITH VELMA (PART THREE)
When I stepped off the C train at Cathderal Parkway the wind was whipping down Amsterdam Avenue. My face was already tingling and my fingertips where raw. This was going to be a challenge. I was never one to mind the cold, but to sit out in a park and eat lunch was a bit much. I had decided on the walk up Amsterdam that Velma Graydon was a woman of extremes.
When I came to the fountain I saw Velma sitting down with a skinny dark-haired gentleman of about 24 or 25, and Courtney next to them clutching a cup of coffee. All where wrapped up in scarves and hats. Velma had a large thermos and the gentlemen, whom I figured was Nick had a bottle of water which was in the process of changing states.
"Courtney said you'd be late," Velma yelped out.
"It is only 1:04," I said, struggling to find the watch under my glove and coat sleeve.
"That's the worst kinda late," she said. "If you're gonna do it, be courteous enough to take a full hour," she then jumped up and bear-hugged me. "I'm just pullin' your chain. Glad you made it, sweetheart."
"So am I." Thinking about making it out of the cold.
"Justin, this is my assistant, Nick Fish. I believe you've met."
Nick stood up to shake my hand. He was shorter than I thought. "A pleasure to finally put a face to the name."
"A face to the fingers," I said. "They're the real stars of the show," I laughed. He didn't. "Nice to meet you too."
"Ok so sit," Velma commanded. "Business first. Nick?" Nick turned around and handed her a green satchel. She pulled out four white packages tied with brown string. "Lunch."
"Ewww tunafish, yummy," Courtney said. She put down her sketch pad to take the sandwich.
"I brought some coffee, but Courtney beat me to the punch," Velma said taking white styrofoam cups out of the satchel.
"Well, I haven't and I could use a cup," I said grinning at the thought of holding something warm.
"I'm fine," Nick said.
"Nick doesn't drink coffee," Velma said. "How can you trust a guy who doesn't drink coffee?" She started pouring.
"My thoughts exactly," I said
"I made it light and sweet, I hope you don't mind.... Yeah he only drinks water. It's why he's so thin. Courtney, sweatheart do you need more in that cup."
"Please," she held out her bodega cup.
"Velma can I ask you something?" I said eying the worn satchel. "Is that the bag you used back in '31?"
"Good eye. Haven't used anything else. I hate change."
I looked at the satchel in awe; a virtual time capsule that held my tuna sandwich. To think what that satchel has carried over the past 75 years made me giddy.
"Velma, our friend Jenny is from Saratoga," Courtney offered.
"Oh really. Does she still live there?"
"No she moved by us in Brooklyn."
"Smart move. Saratoga was a great place to grow up, but it got too small, too fast for me."
"She works for Yaddo," Courtney said.
"Fascinating. Good for her. Beautiful campus." She sipped her coffee. "I haven't been up there in 15 years. To bury Henry."
"So, Justin," Nick cut in, "Velma and I were talking about your progress with the blog."
"Uh huh," I said munching on my sandwich.
"We've done you a great service," he said. "We've compiled a list of dates from 1932 to 1942 which are the highlights, so to speak, of her journals."
"What does that mean?" I asked nursing my iced coffee.
"That means we're gonna cut to the chase a little. Cut out some of the bull that you're readers don't need to know," Velma said. "I mean, I'm bored with some of it."
"That's because you lived it. We haven't. I find it all fascinating."
"That's because you're a nerd sweatheart. I'm gonna trust your readership is not as fascinated by all this as you are."
"She's right. You are a nerd," Courtney said.
"Shhh, you're not helping," I said to Courtney.
"Honestly, it's not that much of a cut. Just enough to keep things moving. I'd say we axed about thirty or so entries. Wouldn't you say that, Nicky?"
"More like forty or fifty, but still that's nothing compared to what lies ahead of you. Of course, I volunteered to help in the process, but Velma said no."
I continued munching on my sandwich, a little vexed at the turn of events.
"Sweatheart, honestly it's chump change stuff," Velma said kindly.
"You see Justin," started Nick. I could imagine my eyes rolling to the back of my head, but my pupils were frozen in place. "You're job is to edit. An editor would pick and choose pertitinent entries. Not include everything. Can we talk about typos yet?" He looked at Velma but she made a head-slicing motion with her gloved hand. I assume she saw my face turning purple.
"I guess you're right, Nicky, I can't thank you enough for bringing that to my attention," I said smiling.
Courtney had picked up her pad and pencil and begun sketching again. I noticed Velma had taken her hat off and was primping her gray bob. "Courtney assured me she hadn't gotten to my hair yet. I've become so vain in my old age. Ha!"
"Pretty much there," Courtney said. "It won't be too long. I also have to draw you in," Courtney said to me.
"No you don't." I barbed back. "Just do Velma and Nick." I gobbled down the remains of the sandwich with a frown. I knew Courtney was drawing me into the sketch.