News From Home 11, Part II
11/17/2003 (updated 2/8/2004)

Took Mr. A to see the interminable and mawkish ‘Seabiscuit’, an equine biopic of the worst order, but of course he loved it, and rattled on for hours afterwards about racehorses he had known and loved…I personally thought the horse was a bad actor, and looked nothing like a winner – for much as I am indifferent to the four-legged world, my grandfather was a serious punter in his dotage, and would point out good breeding and race-winning clues – to the extent that, on seeing a horse outside a pub in London one day in the seventies (it was rented for an opening ceremony), I remarked to my friend that it was the finest piece of horseflesh I had ever seen, and could only be one horse – Red Rum – and indeed it was. When I told this story to Mr. A, hoping it would shut him up, his eyes took on a new glow, he said he always knew deep down I was one of the ‘brethren’, and now we could go to some serious horsy events together. He droned on for another hour on the same subject while I made the Yoruba Mate tea, and then I thought he had nodded off. I was about to creep out of the room when he said, “Now I tell you, boyo, about Mrs. Wasserman.” I was back to my chair faster than Sheba to her throne, and he continued; it seems Herb Wasserman (brother of Hollywood Svengali Lew) got Mr. A his first big studio job, and so he was indebted – they became friends in a rather master-servant way, Mr. A doing odd jobs around the Wasserman spread, even chaperoning Mrs. W to the odd Spade Cooley show when needed. The trouble was, he fairly fell for her, and she was not indifferent to him, but he knew he’d be in trouble if he got any closer to her, what with Herb’s mob connections and all. So then Herb, getting a faint scent of this, did a mean thing – he hired Mr. A’s nephew to work at the studio, Mr. A’s only nephew, him not having children, the apple of his eye – and Herb says one day, very casually, Alphonso, I’d hate anything to happen to young Jorge, your nephew, he’s a bright boy, so I look out for him, just the way you look out for Felicity (the wife), I’d hate anything to happen to her too. You get my meaning? – so Mr. A gets the meaning, and has to keep it platonic with Mrs. W; and even after the death of Herb, Mr. A is still looking over his shoulder for the mob coming after his nephew, who works to this day as a Key Grip at the studio. “ I know she was loose woman”, says Mr. A, “what you call in England – a slapper? Still, to me she was beautiful, I remember her as she was when I first saw her – with the stately bosoms.” Tears well up in Mr. A’s eyes at this point, and he goes very quiet, so I tiptoe out.

Back home, I distractedly sort through the mail, and find a few wrongly delivered items that should go next door. I suddenly realize that Mr. Alphonso has another name. It comes as something of a shock to read an envelope addressed to Alphonso Contepomi. I suppose he had to have another name, everyone does – I just assumed Alphonso was the last name, and everyone called him that out of respect. I also never realized that, like us, Mr. A had given his house a name as well as a street number, but it was hard to imagine anything looking less like ‘The Old Ranch House’ than the Deco pile next door, especially in its new livery of grey/green – ‘The Old Submarine Pen’ might be closer to the look. I guess we are all entitled to our dreams…at least, at the Trellises, there is some trellis.