The Cocktail Bar

NOTE: This conversation runs backwards! For the benefit of regular readers the newest comments are put at the top.

Miranda to Olyvya

Oh. Olyvya. Goodness knows that I am all askew and that I just don't know how to pull myself together like all of you grownups might and that my seams are all wrong and my eyebrows quite off the mark, but, really, I just can't step into the powder room with you to straighten things out for, look, my Brunette Mummie is here, pulling me away. I always thought that I had only imagined having a Brunette Mummie, but here she is, right here in the cocktail bar, but not for long, I fear. Wish me well, friend I've just met, and please think of me kindly when you remember me in the future.

Music Playing: Darlene Kalinsie singing "East Side, West Side"

Trudy, our Pette Correspondent in Kadoria spends Sunday in Gotham

So today, which was Sunday, Rosie and I drove into Gotham, but the entire island was shrouded in brilliant white mist until we got halfway over the broad-hipped Triboro Bridge (which runs parallel to the huge four-track steel arch of the New York Central Railroad known as the Hell Gate Bridge, which crosses the Hell Gate portion of the East River, just south of the Spuyten Duyvil, both treacherous tidal stretches of river until modern times, when the channels were dynamited clear of dangerous rocks).

But midway across the Triboro Bridge, the moment we drove through the veil of brilliant white mist, it became a crystalline Kadorian day -- Gotham lay to the west like a faceted jewel, casting off beams of reflected March sunshine, the whole island scintillating from the Battery to Ft. Tryon Park, with the concrete towers of Wall Street to the left, the Woolworth Building just a little bit north, then just middling high office buildings and four-story brownstones and tenements until around 34th street, where the (monkeyless) Empire State Building rose like a perpendicular Excalibur thrust hilt-down into the schist of Manhattan. And a little bit north stood the proud but now slightly disconsolate Chrysler Building, (no longer the world's tallest) with its huge, eagle-head hood-ornament and radiator-cap details at the corner set-backs, topped by its pointed and layered stainless-steel helmet.

We suddenly found we were driving a sleek long black 1938 Packard with a twelve cylinder engine. So we motored down the East River Drive, turned west on 96th. Street and started across town, where all the streets are two-way and the traffic signals are simply dual, just red or green, I mean, very delicately designed traffic lights encased in bronze castings, lush curlicues embossed on all surfaces save where the lenses were fixed. And white-gloved policemen with whistles were directing traffic at particularly busy intersections, wading into snarls, berating impatient cabbies, all of whom leaned on their horns.

When we got to Fifth Avenue we noted how windy it was, because all the elegant pettes walking their poodles were having a rather difficult time controlling hats and skirts while holding on to their leashes. We were treated to several forbidden glimpses of dark welts and even garters at the tops of a few stockings, and some rather amusing vignettes of chaps chasing rolling fedoras; we motored on west through Frederick Law Olmstead's magnificent park, then turned uptown on Amsterdam Avenue, left on 107th. Street, and because all the local inhabitants were out motoring on the Sunday, there was plenty of parking. So we parked the sleek long black 1938 Packard and went up to Rosie's sister Jennifer's apartment at 245 West 107th., but no one was home, they had all gone down to Canal Street to go shopping, or so said the doorman. So Rosie and I decided to have our own day in Gotham, decided to take the Broadway-Seventh Avenue I. R. T. subway down to the Strand bookstore at Broadway and 12th.

On the way down to the 103rd Street subway station, we passed Lorette's Intimate Secrets, a dolly lingerie shop where there are no inside displays nor dressing-rooms (a pette needs to know just what she wants): it was closed, but there were a number of rather riskay, um, outfits on display in the windows which might embarrass a girl if she were asked to describe them. But I am far too modest to undertake such a description, of course (at least not in the Cocktail Bar).

So we walked down the steps to the station, put our five cents in the turnstiles to get onto the downtown local platform, but the platform was crowded with people, and three or four uptown locals went by, but nothing in our direction at all. So I inquired of a sweet-looking blue-eyed pette leaning against one of the pillars how long she had been there and she replied (in an Irish lilt), "Forty minutes or so, dear." So I asked her where she was going, and she said, "Twenty-eighth Street." So by then people were beginning to abandon the station, even though they had already invested their nickels, because something was clearly wrong with the trains. So I said to the blue-eyed pette, "We are going to go up out of the station to Broadway and take a taxicab down to 12th Street, would you like to come along?" and she was quite agreeable to the proposition as she was already late for an engagement.

So the three of us wasted our nickels and went up to Broadway and finally flagged down a cab -- but we had walked down to 96th. Street before we finally found one -- one of those big roomy DeSotos with two jump seats and enough room for girl's steamer trunk (or two), should she need to hop a cab down the West Side at the Hudson to board, say, the Normandie at Pier 39 for a voyage to the Continent via Le Havre, I mean Le Harve. And I caught my heel in a subway grating just as I got into the cab, but it pulled out O.K. without breaking.

So cruising down Broadway on a Sunday in a grand yellow DeSoto taxi with a fat band of green-and-black checkers round the doors and the fenders, the hood and the trunk, we learned our new traveling companion was named Julie Q. and she came from north of Belfast, had lived in London, England for eight years and was now a photographic editor in Gotham employed by an agency with twenty million photographs, and her job was to cull the unmarketable ones. So we had a good femmey chat with Julie and let her off at 28th. Street and she quite politely offered to pay part of the fare, but we demurred, saying we were taking the cab ourselves in any event and her company had been far more valuable than any portion of cabfare.

So the cabbie, named Michael J. Sweeny, who spoke just like Bugs Bunny (and addressed each of us as "lady" or "sister"), let Rosie and me off at the Strand bookstore, which proclaimed, in typical understated Gotham fashion, to be the largest used bookstore on earth. "Eight Miles of Books!," "Over Two Million Volumes!" And on top of the building was a huge green-bound volume of Moby Dick, (Melville lived in Gotham, you know), set in 24,000 point monotype Bembo with a special fan-like device to turn each of the pages just one at a time. And the book was opened to the page where Queequeg is showing off his harpooner's prowess to the Captain Bildad, one the Pequod's owners, while it was taking on crew in Nantucket, the part where he points out a floating tar spot near the quay, and he points to the spot then hurls his harpoon, splitting the tar spot, and proclaims, "Spos-ee him whale-e eye; why, dat whale dead." But the icy north wind blowing down out of Yonkers flipped the page before I could finish reading the whole passage. Such is life in gargantuan Gotham. New Yorkers when speaking sometimes neglect to finish a sentence before going on to the next one.

So the Strand bookstore really had mostly out-of-date books, review copies and so forth, so I was unable to find a fifth edition of the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. But I did find a two-volume one called The Shorter Oxford Dictionary,, third edition (1944), sixth printing (1959), 2252 pages in all, so I bought it and had it shipped back to the coast.

So after we explored most of the Eight Miles of Books, we got rather hungry, so we looked round for someplace to eat, and found a little Spanish joint called Pepe's where Rosie had Sopa de mariscos and I had arroz con pollo and the check came to only four dollars, so we left four bits for a tip. So by then it was rather late, so we walked up to 14th. Street at Union Square, leaning into the wind all the way and holding onto our skirts and our hats, (by the way, any Gotham pette in the know doesn't walk her own poodle, of course, except in the finest of weather -- she has the doorman do it on windy days, you see, then she can deal with her skirt and her hat), took the B.M.T. to Times Square and changed for the 7th Avenue-Broadway uptown local to 103rd. Street. And all the stations were finished in lovely, sparkling Art-Neo mosaics, each car had colorful advertisements for nailpolish, lipstick, five-cent cigars, men's hats, tonic water, doublemint gum, toothpaste, whiskey, and Gilette Blue safety razor blades (with a swell little parrot in straw hat and holding a cane).

So I left Rosie of at Number 245 West 107th (she had the key to the flat), picked up the '38 Packard and retraced my tracks back over the Triboro Bridge, through the shimmering wall of dazzling white mist, and emerged back into the Pit, where the sidewalks were suddenly crowded with hideous young people, slack-jawed, nominally of both sexes (though one couldn't be sure) wearing pins through their nostrils, lips, ears and even their eyebrows and chins, with garish hairdos like rooster-combs, but fluorescent orange or purple (not even plain, old, racinated rooster-red), sporting oversized hexagonal green sunglasses, fake military jackets, black tights, khaki puttees and bright blue running shoes studded with upholstery nails. Had I some magic to somehow transmogrify them back into racinated humans, I certainly would have done it in a heartbeat, but such magic exists only in our imagination, such as this dolly little story. And the lovely Packard was now just a tin Pit-japanese box on four tiny wheels with a whining four-cylinder engine, and it had started to snow dull grey early-March snow.

The Kadorian Light Orchestra playing "Moonlight Serenade" 

Olyvya Answers Miranda

What a precious, precocious, perfectly innocent, sweet pette you are, Miranda! You almost fooled me (I took you for at least seventeen-and-a-half). As a blonde -- an Elektraspace blonde, at that -- I have neither the power nor the privilege of setting lines, assigning detentions nor even discussing more, um, advanced discipliny measures (such as the deliberate, repeated, rhythmic application of the flat side of a twenty-one inch ruler -- or worse -- to a girl's tenderer parts). But, Oh dear! there I am discussing it anyway!

So listen, sweet little one, quickly-quickly, before the bartendress takes down the Bar Strap from its peg right there next to that jeraboam of Cliquot over there and has an, um, well, an intimate discussion of sorts with both of us blondes, you need to know that your seams are, well, just a teensy bit twisted and your eyebrow pencil just the slightest bit unevenly applied (your right one extends just a smidge too far towards the temple, my dear). And we blondes must get you into our little corner to discuss the finer points of, um, enhancing yourself to avoid even the slightest suggestion of, how shall I put it?, well, the slightest suggestion of less than perfect smoothness, fullness, roundness or symmetry. Mature compound curves are not the easiest thing to construct when nature is a bit en retard in delivering its full feminine quotient, but we blondes can surely give you some pointers, if you know what I mean.

And, listen, sweet little Miranda, cream soda is not quite the proper hue for a Manhattan (unless the light is rather low), and, proper hue or not, a pette really should not drink her Manhattan through two straws (or even one). And is she insists on a straw, then she might consider minimizing the slurping if only a trifle. And as for cherries, sweetie pette, a Manhattan is not quite their proper place, either. You must be thinking of quite another libation.

Now before anyone notices us, let a slightly older blonde -- me -- take you to the powder room and show you the proper way to get those seams perfectly straight. It's just a matter of technique and practice, but first you must have the technique properly demonstrated. You may trust me -- I'm a hopelessly innocent Blonde blonde myself.

Music playing: The Quirinelles singing "Sweet Talking Girl"

A Newlywed Returns

How very long it has been since I've visited the Cocktail Bar. My, has it really been since before I married my sweet Blonde wife, before we purchased our first home, in the west of Quirinelle, before the children arrived, before diapers, and ...well, quite enough about that. I can see that the decor hasn't changed a bit. Everything as spotless as before. Even in a dark place, cleanliness is important, don't you agree? And, much to my relief the managerette is just as welcoming, just as lovely. I'm sure sweet Blondie back home will not mind if I stop in for just a quick grasshopper -- (I know it's a Blonde's drink, but I must confess a love for it). After such a long day at the office, it is so nice to indulge a bit in a frothy drink and some pleasant conversation with the ladies. Speaking of which, that one over there, in the shadows, seems a bit young to be here. Come out of the shadows, Miss, and show your face. Do your Mummies know you are here? MIRANDA! I cannot believe that it is you. I am sure that Blonde Mummie did not give you permission to visit here, as she told me just this afternoon that you were at the neighbor's house doing homework with Betsy. Miranda, come here right now. We are going home this instant. Here, Barmaid, is payment for the drink. Send it to whomever you find worthy. I have business to attend to.

Violetta Gingerly Crosses the Threshold

This is a strange and wonderful place indeed! Perhaps I am somewhat out of place here, or at least out of context. My 18th century ball gown (white, with delicate rosettes pinned to luminous satin flounces) does brush up against the tables rather embarrassingly. I nervously run a hand over my hair, restoring each swept-up curl, each pearl hairpin, to its place. As I move towards the bar I draw my palest-grey silk shawl close around my shoulders. I do not know what to order - it has been so long since I have tasted anything truly pleasurable. Perhaps a glass of Chardonnay? What was that you said? Oh - yes, I am THE Violetta of "La Traviata" fame. But don't worry - I am no longer dying; I have cast off my bonds to the Alfredos of this world, and it has poured new strength into me. My lungs no longer constrict in pain, my body is no longer frail and wracked with choking. I am in thrall to no man, I am free to create my own coloratura, to explore the farthest reaches of musical and sensual possibility.

I cease rhapsodizing and look about the room - perhaps I will need to purchase some new garments. I have always wanted to wear a dramatic hat, voluminous cape, and black satin Chinese-style gown. My long black hair would be elegantly drawn up into a tight bun; long earrings, perhaps black opal (my birthstone) would just graze the middle of my neck. I would enter the lobby of the opera house - all eyes turn to examine this glamorous, mysterious, imposing woman. Perhaps my hat has a bit of netting over the front, just enough to make my facial expressions enigmatic. I have a box all to myself, high-powered binoculars (plated with mother-of-pearl) on a pince-nez. Perhaps I am watching "Gotterdammerung", losing myself in the heavenly cries of the Rhinemaidens. In an ideal world, all bodies of water would be inhabited by nymphs and mermaids, forever combing their lustrous hair, forever luring travelers into their watery paradise. But I digress...I am still sitting in the cocktail bar, scanning the crowds. I see many blondes and brunettes here, but are there any redheads? There is no one so arrestingly gorgeous as a woman with flowing orange tresses, as one might see in a Waterhouse painting (how I would love to meet that model!). Lost in thought again, I gaze demurely down at my drink as strains of "Libiamo!" waft softly through my memories. VIOLETTA

Miss Barbara and the Real World

My. I had thought that my Cri de Coeur had frightened all the dear pettes away! But now, sweet young Miranda has answered and, once again, I am delighted to declare that I have taken your advice before you offered it. It does help to create Aristasia in your mind as a way of fending off the Pit. One way I've been taught is to watch real (pre-1960s) films with the knowledge that what you see in them -- automobiles, clothes, furniture -- is real and all else in the "real" world is quite false. This is a kind of magic, really, and if there is one thing about Aristasia that is true, it's that Aristasia is magic. Haven't you pettes also noticed that far too many "coincidences" occur here than could ever happen in a non-magic world? Ellhedrine taking my advice before I gave it; My taking both Olyvya's and Miranda's advice before hearing it; etc & etc. But of course this is magic working, for wouldn't an all feminine empire HAVE to be based on the intuitive, the magical, the spiritual, rather than the analytical, the logical, the mundane physical? Another thing that has helped is a visit to the Academy. And if any of you Cyber-pettes are interested in how the magic happens, and in why Aristasia is as lovely as it is, you should visit too.

But what of that fey Olyvya? that ever-Blonde Ariadne? that repentant Janet? that lovely Ursyla? that innocent Ellhedrine?

Where, oh where are you all?

Lovingly and Fondly,

Advice to Miss Barbara

Well hello to all of you grown ups here in this bar. I am new and if my Brunette Mummie knew I was here, what lines I might get! But my Brunette Mummie doesn't know, so please, don't tell her! I mean, I haven't even had my coming out party yet, so how in the world could I be so very "out" as I am here, in this gorgeous cocktail bar. I would feel a bit more shy, except that I am never shy and after all, I have been reading books about places like this one for years! So Barmaid, could I please have a soda from that soda fountain over there? I might be a bit naughty just by being here, but even I know better than to ask for a real cocktail, say, like a Manhattan (I read about those too!), I mean, you wouldn't actually give me a Manhattan, would you? And, perhaps with an extra cherry like that T he Cocktail Bar one over there? Now, I feel I just have to answer Miss Barbara's question about being stuck in the Pit, all the while having an Aristasian body and soul. And really, I can't believe it took little fourteen-year-old me to answer this question, and the question must have the simplest answer if such a blonde Blonde as yours truly can come up with it so easily. The answer is this: move to Aristasia! I mean, even if you can't really, you can in your head, don't you know? Miss Barbara, just go there when life is so terrible! I know I have, for, to be completely honest, I don't really have a Brunette Mummie or a Blonde Mummie for that matter, because I also am from the Pit, but in my head I have these Mummies and in my head all of the cars are round and beautiful and all of the clothes are completely up-to-date! In my head, you see. Just go there in your head and you'll see that what is in your head is real and what is in the "real" world is false. That's what magic is, and once you visit Aristasia, you understand that magic is so much more real than anything else. Of course, Olyvya is right, if you can meet with other real girls who think as you do, it can be so much easier, but even on your own this will work! For instance, today I lost an hour, simply misplaced it, and I was supposed to go somewhere at noon, and when I looked at the clock, it was 1:00, and I was so shocked! Well, where I really live everyone was so roll-their-eyes-at-me but in Aristasia, in my head, everyone simply said, as they patted me on my back, "Why, of course, dear, Blondes, especially very young Blondes and very Blonde Blondes, always misplace hours. Don't worry your sweet head about it." So much more sane, don't you think, Miss Barbara? Thank you, Barmaid, for the Manhattan, um, er, I mean the lovely cream soda. It's everything I always dreamed it would be. Thank you to all my new friends for listening to me go on and on and on.

Ta ta!
Blonde, or did I already say that?