Saturday, April 11, 2015

Meet Troy and Bernard

If I hadn't gone to Annapolis. I wouldn't have seen my first Troy Donahue film.

One of the pleasures of going to visit my Annapolis friend is the train ride up. It's three hours of reading in the quiet car (where cellphone usage and talking above a whisper are forbidden), a most civilized way to go.

And what you don't want on the train are delays. My train was 35 minutes late arriving and it only got worse from there.

At one point, the train stopped entirely and we were told that we were waiting for a couple of trains to pass on either side so we could back up and get on a another track.

I don't know about you, but the idea of waiting like a sitting duck for other trains to whiz by and then hitting reverse seems a bit worrisome to me.

Later, crossing the Potomac, I got a lovely view of the cherry blossoms in bloom, no doubt enjoying a longer display than usual given all the rain lately.

I was surprised at how much colder it was in Maryland than Richmond, so much so that when it got to be time to head out for fun, I declined walking, a rarity. My hostess had decided on Davis's Pub for dinner, wanting someplace livelier than the wine bar on the next block.

And even though it was only my second visit to Davis's, even I know it's always packed and noisy. Arriving in a mist made worse by the place being just across the street from the river, a guy walking up the sidewalk greeted me, led us to the front door, walked us in and seated us.

What he was doing outside in the first place, I have no idea.

We started with a special of black bean, cabbage and pulled chicken tostadas while I eavesdropped on the four guys at the table right behind us. Late 30s, early 40s, they were discussing the hardships of dating in a most unappealing way ("Was she fat?" "Did she end up staying over?") and commiserating with each other about the vagaries of the middle-aged dating world.

Meanwhile my friend was bringing me up to date on her love life, thinking out loud and looking for input about finding the right relationship balance after five years together. Blowing off steam like girlfriends do sometimes.

I read somewhere that as our lives have accelerated, so has the seven year itch, which apparently now arrives somewhere around the fifth year. I thought it best not to share that finding with her.

Usually when I visit her, we go to Cantler's Riverside Inn to crack crabs, so in a nod to that tradition, I ordered a crab cake sandwich, appealingly served on Saltines (that's old school Maryland style to those of you who didn't grow up in the free state) with slaw and shoestring fries. Cazadores washed it all down.

After a while, our server would just walk by and cock an eyebrow to ascertain if more beverages, water or ice were required and we'd send out the signal in answer.

When we got home, we saw that her Newfoundland - whom she claims is fond of watching the boob tube -was watching "Rome Adventure," part of a Troy Donahue festival on TCM.

You know me, I've got no use for television even with her gigantic screen TV. Had the tequila softened me toward Troy on TV? No, what sucked me in was I thought we'd walked in on a travelogue on Italy.

Exquisitely shot scene after scene of churches, sculpture, piazzas sucked me in and planted my butt on her cushy couch and I didn't move until the whole corny thing ended. Best of all, before it did, there were scenes in Florence, Verona, Pisa and Orvieto, albeit with far fewer people than my memories of being in Italy.

And then there was Troy: tall, lean hipped, blond and pretty attractive if that's your type (it's not). I vacillated between adoring his campy woodenness and thinking he wasn't half bad in some scenes. Mostly I marveled that I'd never seen one of his movies and he'd apparently been in more than 50!

Set in 1962, the film dealt was set squarely in the pre-sexual revolution '60s. My friend, who'd been born that year, was aghast to learn that a young unmarried American librarian was considered behaving brazenly by taking a holiday with an architect she met in Rome (separate beds, natch).

All I can say is, I thank my lucky stars I wasn't born into that world. Women's roles were just too tightly prescribed for me.

Today dawned just as wet and gray as yesterday, although it made for a beautifully silvery landscape on the Severn River as we drove downtown to the docks. That's an area where I spent a lot of time in college with friends hanging out, but it's a pale shadow of its old quirky self.

Real estate's just too valuable so the ratty old stores have been replaced with visitor magnets and national chains and the requisite ye olde tourist shoppes (get your fudge and postcards right here!). But if I close my eyes, it still smells mostly the same.

Before I caught the train back, we stopped at one of her favorite bars, a place she warned me didn't open until 4:00. except that when we arrived at 3:50, we walked in to find a half dozen tables already occupied.

I guess 4:00 is just a suggestion.

We took seats at the bar, the first of the night, and within 10 minutes, a stool was being added to the bar and one guy was standing next to his date seatless.

Popular place. Luckily, the food was good, too, at least my tacos de cordero stuffed with roasted lamb, red onions, fresh grilled jalapenos and lime juice were. Everyone from the affable owner who greeted us to the lowliest dishwasher was Hispanic, always a good sign at a Spanish/Mexican place.

It was our last chance for a good blather, so we covered a lot of territory (and chili con queso and housemade chips) while the bartender ladled up glass after glass of Sangria with a smile.

By the time we left there, we just barely made it to the station in time for me to catch my train.

Standing on the platform as the train whooshed up, I high-tailed it toward the quiet car. A handsome conductor stepped off the train just as I reached my car and smiled at me.

He looked knowledgeable, so I asked if this was the quiet car.

"Are you Karen?" he asked. Er, yes. "Come on, we were looking for you!' he said enthusiastically.

Whoa, who, whoa, mister. I put my hand on his arm and explained that no one get to know my name unless I get to know theirs.

"Bernard. Don't freak out. I checked the passenger list and you were the only one getting on, so I wanted to greet you personally. " With that, he grabbed one of my bags and led me to a seat.

I could get used to this kind of train ride.

During our half an hour stopover in Washington to change from an electric to a diesel engine, I met some of the passengers who, like me, were traveling south. There was a tiny old woman who said she was going to Petersburg to visit her "church family." Didn't know a soul in Virginia.

Another was an Indian woman who said she prefers to travel earlier in the week and was going to visit her daughter in Alexandria.

Sweetest of all was a young Mexican woman who was taking her first trip on a train. She asked me a lot of questions about getting off the train, afraid she would miss her stop. She also noisily wrapped gifts in tissue paper and arranged them in a gift bag to present to the children she was visiting.

Nice women, all of them. We bonded over the peace of the quiet car.

But, you know, I'm not sure they had any more of an idea who Troy Donahue was than I did 24 hours ago.

Their time will come. Troy comes to those who wait.

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