With Christmas in view I’m reminded of a time with Rachel, eons ago, when I was in Los Angeles. I was renting a bedroom in a mansion halfway up one of the Hollywood canyons. These canyons are a place to run into movie stars as well as hustlers. My roommate, a hustler, was gone on some sort of all-expenses-paid ho vacation with a B-list actor.
That first night was eerily quiet in the big house and I spent most of it on the phone with Rachel. Rachel and I were in our early twenties and neither of us had anywhere to be. “Pick me up at LAX!” she commanded and sure enough the next day she flew in from New York City and I fetched her from the airport in the roommate’s navy blue automobile.
Rachel is an orphan and ‘family’ is a complicated concept for her. It would be years before she discovered her birthmother was Cuban. But it sure makes sense, if you think of Cubans as good looking, charming, smart and wily.
No one is better at crime than Rachel. She is ‘Unflappable’, to the strains of Nat King Cole. She once managed to impersonate the owner of a box at the Ballet. Rachel attended every night of the season, with guests!
We lounged around the marvelous spread, petting the doggies and watching TV. But we had no cash and we were getting hungry. “Prepare the car, Jeeves! I have an idea!” Rachel suddenly said. Off we rumbled to a fancy food store where Rachel’s boss had a house account. We were both ravenous and we picked out many yummy items, including Christmas dinners with all the trimmings. Two overflowing carts later, stuffed with champagne and a feast for a king, we were at the front of the checkout line. “What’s the drill?” I asked, my appetite tempered by terror. “My name is Leona!” Rachel whispered. That was the start of the end of me. I began to jitter and sweat and mumble, “Rachel!” I said. “What’s your name again?” The cashier began eye-balling us with curiosity. This made me weak at the knees. Realizing my level of liability Rachel shooed me off, dispatching me to the car. “Get it ready!”
Still shaking, I could barely steer the borrowed car. I lit two cigarettes at once and lowered the windows and waited right outside the front doors.
Soon Rachel burst out, rushing for the car…but with no packages. “Abort!” she was yelling and laughing, as she grabbed at the passenger door and sprung in. “Drive!”
“What happened?’ I asked, lurching into traffic.
“You happened!” she laughed, “You’re never coming on a mission with me again!”
It was instances like this where I learned I have no aptitude for crime. While we had no Christmas dinner, we had each other and we made the most of it.
In this case while Rachel didn’t deliver to her credit she didn’t get arrested. Cuba Libre!