Thursday, December 24, 2009

Expect the First When the Bell Tolls One...

But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me? - Ebenezer Scrooge

Indeed, there's little doubt as to which color Mr. Scrooge's state of residence would be had he been born an American 150 years later. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men. And smart bombs for the rest of you.

But it was thoughts of Christmas shopping that kept me going through the bitter December wind that had driven most other living things indoors. Did I get a gift for so-and-so? Should I buy a gift for what's-his-name? And would I have enough left over to anoint myself with sacramental booze? Such was the occupation of my mind as I started out, harbor-bound, over the Light Street skywalk.

It was the hair that first caught my attention. There, from the far end of the skywalk (and closing) came the form of a woman toting several large shopping bags and the strangest coif I'd ever seen, wrapping over the top of her head from jaw line to jaw line to form a hairy gray ellipse.

The hair – yes, it was the hair. And the distinction of being the only other soul within eyeshot. A fellow soldier of the faith, sallying forth and cold be damned.

But things took a sobering turn as she rounded the bend on the skywalk, and the closing distance revealed to my wondering eyes that she was not really a she at all. Nor was the hair one giant 'do, as it had first appeared, but rather a great salty patch supported by a pair of monstrously bushy mutton chops, each at its widest point equaling no less than half the width of the face it ensconced.

Indeed, I was in a holiday-shopping showdown with another man – and a bizarrely-coiffed one at that – in the December-frozen heart of downtown Baltimore.

Like any red-blooded American male I fixed my gaze on an indeterminate point ahead and marched onward, closing the distance between us ever-further, until we were on the verge of passing. At this point curiosity got the better of me, and I shot a quick port-side glance, first at the passing hair, then the face...

It took several steps after I had passed him for it to register.

It was Richard Chamberlain.

I froze on the spot as he toted his finds in the direction of the Hyatt, and then it hit me. I remembered seeing mention on television the night before of the opening of a production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Hippodrome Theater only a few blocks away, with the mutton-chopped lead of Scrooge played by none other than TV's Dr. Kildare.

I stood there for a moment, processing the scene, with all previous thoughts exorcised from the mind. What should I do? I wondered. What could I do? And did anything, in fact, need to be done at all?

Fuck it, I thought. After all, it's not every day one has a brush with fame on the windswept skywalk over Light Street.

"Mr. Chamberlain!" I yelled, running to catch up. "Mr. Chamberlain!"

He stopped on the spot and turned to face me, his great bushy whiskers knitting an expression of confusion across his face that suggested I had interrupted the unwritten holiday shopping list in his mind.

"Yes?" he said.

I introduced myself and shook his hand, then immediately drew a blank. Beautiful – I had his attention, but now what? What could I say? To make matters worse, my mind suddenly drew a blank when it came to anything I'd seen him in. Slowly, I began to speak.

"So," I said, “you're starring in that new production of A Christmas Carol."


"Ah. And that's over at the Hippodrome?"


"They just renovated it last year. Nice place."

"Yes, it is."

"Well, enjoy your stay in Baltimore. It was nice to meet you."

"Yes. Thank you."

And with that we went about our separate ways – to finish the job, as it were – as the frozen Christmas wind blessed the empty streets of the Baltimore waterfront.

Copyright © 2004 by William P. Tandy

1 comment:

  1. good story.
    i went celebrity-simple
    when i met john gardner
    (the greater; _nickel_mountain_
    etcetera not the james bond guy)
    in pretty much the same way:
    went up to him... and had
    nothing to say.
    g-d bless us every one.