Sunday, July 26, 2020

LE TEXAN 2







Monaco, January 1989


Ma Kelly laid into Jaws right after Christmas, told him to stay the hell out of her saloon.



Ma Kelly's Wedding Day

Forty years earlier this feisty lady was Grace Kelly's roommate at New York's Barbizon, where acting students were roomed alphabetically. 





They became close friends and both wound up in Monaco, Grace, as princess, and Kelly, as wife to the conductor of Monaco's symphony orchestra. 

Now Ma Kelly, Miss Katie's mom, is matriarch at Le Texan.




Kelly's cadre of chums includes the Dick Sisters, a pair of jet-set gays who breeze into the Principality for a spot of high society shit-stirring, then steal off to Switzerland until the heat dies down. 

The duo's senior, Dickie, was trained as a court jester and says things like, “I knew Gucci when he used to repair my shoes,” and “I'm the one who taught Robert Carrier how to cook.” 

His notoriety along the Riviera stems from the time he spiked a birthday cake with LSD at a high society bash. Lady Somebody-or-other almost killed herself driving home to Cap Ferrat... in reverse.

John J. McMillard III was conspicuous in his absence from the Alamo Bar. All Tony would say about the incident was, “Man he's a weeird dude.” 

But I found out what happened.

McMillard, convinced Cupid had discharged an arrow on New Year's Eve, could no longer contain his lust for Miss Katie. He hugged her tight, wouldn't let go, and Tony had to pry him loose.         

Without Jaws and McMillard, Le Texan is a little less like the bar in Star Wars, but not much, especially with Bob Beckman around.

When Randy Newman wrote Small People, he was thinking of Bob Beckman. 




Walking with him one night toward Le Texan, this smug little guy sneezed and inadvertently blew a fart so enormous, it propelled him six-feet forward.




Beckman likes expensive ornaments. 

He sports a top-of-the-line gold and diamond-studded Rolex, carries a crocodile attache case and chain-smokes with a classic gold Dunhill lighter. 

Throw in his bouffant hair-do, shi-shi cigarette holder and effeminate gestures, and you've got the know-it-all caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

Beckman  and I get round to discussing the meaning of life over several bottles of Heineken at Le Texan's Alamo Bar.

“It all comes down to one thing,” says Beckman. “Getting laid.”

And I gather this on his mind since he isn't.

“Procreation,” he continues. “That's the bottom line.”

“Maybe,” I offer, “it's because when you die, your spirit joins your offspring whose physical composition is genetically derived from you?” 

I'm nudging. Beckman has no children, wants none, and has been estranged from his parents for a decade.

“I don't buy it,” says Beckman with typical finality. “When you die, you're done.”

The smoke from his burning cigarette curls up into my nostrils and mouth, and I stand there choking, coughing, spluttering, as he lights another.

Miss Katie overhears our metaphysical mumblings and contributes an interest in psychic healers and spiritual guides, saying that she visits a tarot card reader and runs Le Texan on positive energy, trying to juggle overbooked reservations with positive vibes. 

It's down to Tony, a natural skeptic, to keep everything in perspective with a well-placed “don't give me that shit.” 

The chemistry between them works better than Huntley-Brinkley.

Roberto Lire saunters in, hands on his hips, smiling and looking around the joint. 

Squat, olive-skinned Roberto, from Milano, dresses in blue denim from neck to ankle and wears face cream in his curly black ringlets to give them luster.

His nightly circuit in pursuit of verge du jour (virgin of the day) takes him to Cafe de Paris, the piano bar at Loews Hotel, Le Texan and finally to Jimmy'z  nightclub. 

He stalks American teenage girls, offering to be their guide around Monaco “no strings attached.” 

But near the end of a late supper, he croons, “Are we going to bed?” 

If the answer is no, he argues the point; if it's still no, he gets up without a word and disappears, leaving her with the tab.

Roberto hangs out with Lorenzo; sometimes they do the circuit together. Lorenzo struts the floor at Le Texan looking like Mussolini, scowling at the men and checking out the women. If their looks don't please him, he marches out.

Often, Roberto operates as Lorenzo's advance man, looking for talent and, if found, keeps them charmed till Lorenzo arrives for an inspection.

On this evening, Roberto grinds to a halt near four young American girls standing at the Alamo Bar, margaritas lined up in front of them. 

His expression says he cannot believe his luck, and I watch as he searches for the right angle, the right position, eyes alert, never departing his prey. He elbows a space, wedges in next to them, dips into their basket of tortilla chips, and munches, awaiting an opportunity to deliver his favorite opener: 

“I can see deep into your eyes. You are a lonely woman. And I am a lonely man. Let's spend some time together.”





You could tell he wanted to dash to a telephone (“come quick, Lorenzo, two for you, two for me!”) but he dares not leave this spot for even a second because he has already observed Shorty dining at a table nearby. 

And he knows it's just a matter of time before Shorty sneaks over to ask the girls if they want to meet Prince Albert.






Saturday, July 25, 2020

HOME SWEET HOME






One thing is clear: no finer place to sit out Covid than the American Riviera.

(Cities are toast.)



Photo: Van Stein



Friday, July 24, 2020

KEEPIN' PORTLAND MELLOW








DOWNTOWN PORTLAND: OPEN-AIR ART MUSEUM




Louis, Louis










Almost all of this art is painted on wooden boards protecting windows.

Hence, there is minuscule damage to property.

Hopefully, when eventually removed, these colorful, expressive murals will be preserved.






The upside: Freedom of expression.

The down: Most businesses within a six-block area choose not to open for business.






The protesters, who appear not to be seeking conflict with federal enforcement officers, have been avoiding federal property, such as the courthouse.

If protestors desired to aggravate and escalate tension between (democratic) city/state and (republican) federal factions, they would intentionally seek out federal property to vandalize.

This is not happening.

I have some thoughts about how Portland today compares with "weekend berserk" in Reykjavik, Iceland, and may reflect upon this phenomenon in a future post.





SWEET SLUMBER







Even with all this racket going on around the corner, I didn't woke.

Except to this notion:  

Human thought, throughout history, has been manipulated through drumbeat repetition and chanting.




Thursday, July 23, 2020

TEACH ME WHAT?







Aren't people supposed to grow up before they become teachers?



CALM, COASTAL OREGON



Astoria, as seen from... 





The Astoria-Megler Bridge


The quaint town of Seaside

End of the Trail, Lewis & Clark


Still standing. 

For now.

(Not sure what Lewis & Clark did wrong but someone will think of something.)


Oregon: 50 Shades of Green



APOCALYPTIC PORTLAND






By night, an anarchist's paradise.



No mo' good will





By day, an apocalyptic ghost town.






Most hotels (and restaurants) like The Nines (above) are shuttered up, locked down and deserted.



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

PORTLAND: (BATTLE) GROUND ZERO





Just getting started.





Helicopters whirling overhead.

Fireworks exploding.

People screaming.

And the raging has hardly begun as midnight approaches.






AIR TRAVEL IN THE TIME OF COVID





I will be the sole passenger in first class.

Twenty-eight flying economy.






Is it essential?

Essential is in the eye of the beholder.

Essentially, I need to complete some research for a road novel.

Also essential for my happiness and sanity.



Sunday, July 19, 2020

LE TEXAN 1



Painting and sketches: Papa Duke




Monaco, Autumn 1988


There is zero pretension at Le Texan, on a Condamine backstreet in the earthy quarter of Monaco.

Stepping inside, you're greeted by the piquant aroma of ham hock stewing in a crock of beans, and this Tex-Mex saloon is immediately as comfortable as your favorite pair of blue jeans.




For a couple bucks you can linger over a bottle of Heineken, corn chips and salsa at the long Alamo Bar and watch the diverse cliques of Monaco mix it up:





Young international professionals here to transform the principality from an upper-crust retirement community into the financial center of Europe; the Monegasque establishment; royalty; the neighborhood eccentrics, spies and celebrities. 

You seem them all.  

Standing at the long Alamo Bar, I have a long, enjoyable chat with the actor James Coburn and tell him how, as a kid, I saw his movie, Our Man Flint, about 20 times, summer of '66, at Loews' theater on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills (part of their free summertime gift to local kids).




I watch an elegant madam hang her $20,000 mink coat on a hat-and-coat stand near the door and disappear to a table around the back.

And then, as a corpulent, fruity American expounds at length about the absence of crime in Monaco, the stand, laden with Italian furs and leathers, topples over and mugs him.

Behind my cowhide-covered barstool, an English couple, the owners of an interior design shop in Monte Carlo, engage in a loud, profane spat.

When these expat Brits over-indulge in tequila, the posh Oxbridge accent mysteriously disintegrates into a provincial, distinctly middle-class dialect, liberally sprinkled with fook yous, piss orfs and arsehole.

As they heap drunken abuse upon one another, Jaws strides in.



This is a large, bull-necked longshoreman type, the Brutus in Popeye cartoons, who everyone calls Jaws because his only teeth are sharp canines, used for gnawing at nachos.

Jaws sits at the bar and gulps pastis, a strong, cheap, aniseed-flavored liquor, and smacks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, sounding like a squirrel in heat.

He sometimes follows pretty waitresses into the communal washroom for an attempted grope, then washes his face and returns to his barstool, water dripping from his moist mug.

One night, Jaws brings in a nudie magazine and, sans reservation, plops himself down at a table near the door so that anyone coming or going can catch its bawdy cover full in the face.

"That dirty ol' Jaws," says Tony, scratching his head and making notes in the reservation book. "He's screwing' up mah floor plan again."



Everyone in the principality comes equipped with a story, and Tony's story is as good as any.

A man of color from North Carolina, Tony hasn't been "home" since 1964 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and got deployed to Germany.

Set free after a two-year stint, he roamed Europe, savored its fruit, picked up three languages doing nightclub work in Germany, Holland, and France before settling in Rocquebrune, a stone's throw from Monaco.

He hasn't seen his mother or seven siblings in 25 years; won't ever see his daddy again, ten years gone.

Tony almost went back twice, once after a sister was murdered. ("It's a good thing," he tells me. "I would-a killed a man.")

Another time, bags packed, ticket in hand at the airport, Tony couldn't bring himself to board the plane.  A little voice kept nagging him, You can't go home, Tony, you can't go home.

Now Tony works at Le Texan. And this is where he was always meant to be.

"Who's that funny guy you's with the other night?" Tony asks me.

"You mean Bob Beckman?"

"Who he? What's he do?"



"Hot-shot investment guru," I say.  "Gives expensive advice. Especially expensive to those who follow it. Why do you ask?"

"He was in here last night acting peculiar. I just wondered who he is, that's all."

"Tony, this place if full of peculiar people. What did Beckman do?"




"Well, it was weird. One minute he's sittin' inside, next, he's out on the terrace, sittin' by hisself in the cold. Then he's in again, out again, all the time with a real strange look in his eye. And he did this till closing' time, about 1:30 in the mornin'."

"Beckman has an overblown ego," I explain.  "And it got nailed a couple weeks ago when his wife, Penny, walked out on him. You know how it is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

Jaws has finished his nachos and begins to pace until he looms heavily over Miss Katie, growling, again, about a date.





Miss Katie is Le Texan.

A golden-haired, blue-eyed cactus flower garbed in beat-up denim and cowboy boots, Miss Katie runs the joint, and the quirky character cabaret, with a finesse unseen since Amanda Blake and her Long Branch Saloon graced our TV screens in Gunsmoke.

Next evening, Le Texan is buzzing with gossip about Bob Beckman's beloved Lamborghini, totaled early that morning when Penny, Beckman's newly-estranged wife, drove into brick wall.

Miraculously, Penny suffered only a broken thigh. 

But Beckman lost his prized automobile and his pride when he rushed to her bedside, hopeful for reconciliation.

When Penny regained consciousness, she looked Beckman square in the face and said, "I think you're repulsive."




This episode is related to me at the Alamo Bar by a tall, slim, 60-ish balding American expat named John J. McMillard III.

When you ask McMillard what he does, he looks both ways, locks his eyeballs into yours, and whispers "Problem-solver."

It is, for him, an intense moment.



You pry a tad further, mostly out of amusement, and he turns quiet and secretive, murmuring something about the State Department a few years back.

"Oh, the foreign service?" you ask.

He nods quickly, looks right, left, into his glass of red wine, then back into your eyes. 

"Security, Eastern Europe," he erupts in one quick burst.

Jaws and McMillard are both in love with Miss Katie, along with a dozen other Alamo Bar fixtures.

And charismatic Kate knows how to treat each one as if they were Marshal Matt Dillon.