Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What a Time We Had

Few can stretch out a birthday like I can. And when it's not mine, I can assist.

The last couple nights have been devoted to helping Pru celebrate her birthday because what are friends for?

Her actual birthday was Monday, but she'd inadvertently made plans with a neighborhood friend that night. It was just as well since Beau is out of town and wasn't here to squire her to a proper birthday dinner anyway. But given his devotion to her, he did the next best thing, enlisting me to pick up dinner and report to the manse to share it with Pru and the Queen.

Dinamo supplied the feast: beet and fennel salad, crostini with chicken livers, fish soup and four pizzas, two white, two red. If it sounds like a lot for three women, remember, it was a birthday celebration and don't judge.

To further the festivities, that also meant Moet et Chandon Imperial "Golden Diamond Suit" Champagne because a birthday rates a bottle of bubbly in a fancy zip-up sweater. The Queen of Soul provided the soundtrack, beginning, appropriately enough, with "Respect."

With nothing but us girls, we settled in with plates piled high, flutes filled with bubbles and prolonged conversation. Pru had informed me that she was looking for news from me and I'd have to say I delivered in spades. That's not to say I didn't take a fair amount of admonishment for my slower-than-necessary pace, but, let's face it, I'm a bit out of practice when it comes to matters of the heart.

These days, everyone's so ridiculously excited for me and still, no one's happiness can begin to approach mine. And I'm not even the birthday girl.

Pru and I continued the celebration tonight at the Byrd to see "The African Queen," a 1951 gem I saw so long ago I barely remembered it.

We were tearing into our large popcorn, discussing how some people pour their chocolate into the popcorn tub when the man seated next to me nudged me and said, "I already did that." Sure enough, his peanut M & Ms were dotted on top of his popcorn, a rookie mistake. Sir, you have to eat the popcorn down a few inches and then insert the candy, as we demonstrated.

No offense, but who didn't learn this lesson as a child?

From the opening shots, the film was so gloriously Technicolor as to look like a '50s picture postcard, unbelievably vivid and strikingly colorful. All that post-war optimism, I guess.

Next I got a history lesson when the credit told us we were in "German East Africa," a colony I hadn't known existed. Belgians in the Congo I knew about, but Methodists in the African Great Lakes? Nope, not a clue.

My faint memories of the movie ensured that I had no recollection how quickly Rosie Sayer and Charlie Allnut became allies and then enamored of each other. In my admittedly hazy memory, they fought almost until the end. Not so.

Before the film began, Byrd manager Todd had told us Bogie had won his only Oscar for this role and  it wasn't hard to see why. Instead of playing suave and urbane, here he was a man who worked with his hands, respected his betters and was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish their mission.

Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

That he recognized a good woman when he saw one (even one who poured out all his gin) moved him from character actor (calling her "a skinny old maid") to charming leading man (It's great to have a lady aboard with clean habits), at least in this woman's eyes.

Dear? Dear? What is your first name?

Todd had also mentioned that the leeches used were real leeches, meaning that when Bogie emerged from the water covered in them, there was no way I could look at the screen as they were removed. If nothing else, the man deserved an Oscar for enduring that for the sake of a role. Tell me what current actor would allow such a thing. Go on, I'll wait.

And, of course, being a 1950s Technicolor Hollywood movie (albeit one mostly filmed on location, a rarity for the time), there was a fair amount of disbelief to be suspended when the usual implausible things happened.

Who do you think you are ordering me about?

When the African Queen gets stuck in the reeds before dusk and they wake up to find that it's rained so hard that the boat has moved back into the river, there is zero water in the boat. It's practically a Methodist miracle.

I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating.

Or once they decide to torpedo the German boat, Rosie raises the Union Jack, except where did that perfect flag come from? Surely she hadn't packed a flag along with her umbrella and Bible, right?

And don't get me started on the endless supply of tea and sugar on that rickety old boat. Just more reasons why I adore seeing these old movies on the big screen. Besides the obvious, that is.

Have you heard the news? I'm a sucker for a love story, even when it's dressed in adventure clothing.

Fancy me a heroine.


  1. What a lovely celebration... give me African Queen any day.

    I enjoy listening to you smile.

  2. It is. And thank you for the assist. ;-)

  3. Really, it is?

    Happy to help - assisting is what I do!