Sunday, October 31, 2010

A work in progress: Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale by Nancy Hinchliff

Exerpt from my new memoir:

Demanding operatic divas, naked Irishmen walking in their sleep, and honeymooners leaving remnants of an unforgettable wedding night are all part of the flamboyant and interesting guests who came in and out of my life as an Innkeeper; each bringing his or her own unique personality and quirkiness to the table. Although the percentage of high-maintenance, demanding guests we had was pretty low, there were several who really stood out in my memory.

One of the most memorable was an eccentric opera singer who wore the more flamboyant and outlanddish costumes I have ever seen. She must have thought she was still on stage because, in addition to her colorful costumes, her daily entrances into the dining room were breath taking.

I remember the day she arrived to stay for an entire week. I opened the door to a barrage of people, having no idea who they could be, since I had only one more check-in that evening, a single lady.

"I am Madame Rosalina Capriani!" the woman announced "and these are my suitcases".

 I scanned the four men accompanying her and, sure enough, each one was carrying a suitcase. She stood still while one of the men walked around her, through the front door, and planted a suitcase at the foot of the stairs. He turned toward Madame Caprini and beckoned her inside. She reached out a long, well rounded arm, covered in a silky, flowing, red, purple and green cape encircled in Majenta fringe. I stood there, in awe, as she flamboyantly glided through the doorway.

"Excuse me a moment" , I said. "Let me get my housekeeper to help you to your room"

I hurried to the kitchen, anxiety reeking havoc in my stomach. I knew I couldn't handle this on my own. I thanked God that Eric, my house-keeper, was there  that day to help me. I had a suspicion that this was going to be a "high maintenance" situation, as we say in the business. Eric had been working for me for several years. He was great with the guests and, if it looked like they were going to be "high maintenance', I would turn them over to him.

Madam Capriani's four henchmen left her over-sized suitcases for Eric to carry up to the guestroom and retreated. I never found out who they were, nor did I ever see them again. As she and Eric climbed the long staircase together, she was giving him a litany of instructions concerning what she would need during her stay at my Inn. The requests were so over the top that I decided to let Eric be the one to break the news to her that this was indeed not the New York Hilton hotel. This was a simple little bed and breakfast in Kentucky with no room service and no concierge.

Now I love opera. I had been a vocal music student myself in college. But Madam Capriani was little too much drama even for me. Every negative thing I knew or had ever heard about artistic personalities and divas applied in her case. First of all, she was almost totally helpless. She couldn't figure how to work the TV, the DVD, the VCR, the telephone or the spigot in the shower.

She demanded a hot pot of tea be delivered to her room every few hours or so, and she wanted breakfast in bed. I tried to tell her we didn't offer room service. But she would have no part of it. Eric stepped in and offered to take care of her needs. Mind you, Eric is gay, so she would have to go elsewhere if she expected more from him than help with complicated electronics and bathroom fixtures.

As the days went by, I retreated further into my own little world and let Eric take care of the diva. He brought her tea, fixed her TV and cleaned her room every day. A couple of times I heard her practicing Musetta's Waltz from La Traviata, but for the most part, she was pretty quiet. As it turned out, I came more and more to depend on Eric whenever there was a guest who was a little difficult for me to handle.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Romeo Must Not Die– Why Barack Obama Is Still the Man for the Job

Guest post by jenne andrews

I would go back to bed to try to deal with my wearying insomnia and grab an hour or two before dawn, but we are at an ungodly hour in this country. With the pernicious abandonment of a prairie fire, the Obstructionists and disillusionists we once knew as the GOP are criss-crossing the country making things up, aided and abetted by Sarah Palin and the cluster Fox. They want everyone to believe that we made a huge and irremediable mistake in electing Barack Obama in '08.

I'm asking myself what I know, at this hour, without looking anything up or organizing this post into a series of links to Wikipedia et al.

When he became the Dem nominee, Obama went abroad to connect with those who had come to mistrust us-- as a matter of principle and vision. For that he was later to receive the Nobel Prize.

Faced with the near collapse of the economy, he commandeered the bail out and the stimulus packages. It's my impression that there were few alternatives and that this was the only way to keep the country from falling apart.

Then came health care reform. Obama aggressively reached across the aisle, including last winter's breakfasts on Capitol Hill where his efforts at dialogue were repudiated by snide posturing GOP boors framing questions as accusations and blame. He stood in front of the country and alluded to numerous concessons to Republicans written into the Bill, and yet on every network is the word "Obamacare", cast as everything scarey and wrong and nothing good and right to the American people. Right wing pundits would have you believe that he didn't listen to them or try to work with them-- but remember when they called him a liar to his face?

After that, he came back and rallied the Democrats to pass an immensely important and historic measure--something like Health Care Reform-- most assuredly a boon and a victory that no one else has been able to effect.

He was wrestled to the ground by his Joint Chiefs and would not otherwise have sent more troops to Afghanistan. This was surely far more than an olive branch to the conservatives. Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars reveals a troubled President left high and dry by the Joint Chiefs, who refused to give him alternative scenarios or give him a staged withdrawal plan. He drew it up himself sweating bullets.

In the wake of the Deep Water Horizon crisis he sat BP execs down and wrested a commitment of 2 billion from them-- as real money deposited in real banks then and there, to help the beleagured.

Most recently Obama reinstituted peace talks between the Israelies and the Palestinians-- a huge accomplishment.

He has conducted himself like a true statesman, traveling to and holding summits on pressing issues. He has responded to the bashing he has taken including the absurd claims made about his religion and his citizenship with far more equanimity and dignity than most of us can even fathom.

In short, Barack Obama hit the ground running and he hasn't stopped even though, time and perspective will demonstrate, the price of being the first African American president is to be the victim of racism as it routinely spews forth from the mouths of the Right. We would not have done to Hillary Clinton what we have done to this man, crucifying him daily.

Presidents don't become presidents without politics and becoming politicians themselves. We didn't elect God to the presidency; we elected a mere mortal, with feet of clay. But many of us demand perfection, and are immensely unforgiving-- especially white middle-aged men who project their own self-hate and moral failings on Obama.

George W. Bush sat around in the Oval Office for eight years doing nothing, because he didn't know how. We elected an oilman puppet to lead us, whose puppeteers were Karl Rove and Dick Cheney-- the two hidden presidents and master blacksmiths of their era with their ability to turn the hot metal of the truth into horseshoes. Running the country was their game.

If the GOP gets Congress back, they say they'll repeal "Obamacare," and the right to health care, those things like doing away with preexisting conditions clauses and kids being on their parents' policies until they're twenty-six and other measures in the bill to insure the uninsured, when the insurance companies underpinning the capitalist system, in collusion with Wall Street, refused to step up.

If you see an ad contending that "Obamacare" entitles convicted rapists to free Viagra, research that. See if it's really true.

Before anyone buys into the spew of rhetoric coming out of the mouths of the Republicans and their first cousins the Tea Party, he should do exactly what I've done here-- see if he can come up with anything Barack Obama has done for America.

You might have to put up a blog, get up at three a.m. foaming at the mouth, a silly headline dancing in your head.

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