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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