Street learns what the Battle of Tibet is, the hard way. He walks away from a multi-million dollar potential marriage and meets the devil at his work place.
A FOX ON ICE SKATES
THE BATTLES OF TIBET
THE RUSSIAN COUNTESS, A WITCH, A DRUG BARONESS AND A DWARF
THE BATTLE OF TIBET THE EXPLANATION
The parameters for the Battle Of Tibet were laid out when Street Norris asked Dr. William D. O’Connor why there was so much friction between a couple of long standing attending a small Sunday afternoon brunch. O’Connor shrugged, then announced in an a unmistakably bored tone, “They must be fighting theBattle Of Tibet.” Street recognized this to be a line from a very bad World War II movie. It represented the cynical attitude a certain army unit assumed. It had been fighting continuously for two years on two continents. To them it was only a matter of time before they had to fight in Tibet, which in 1944 was the most remote, isolated nation on this earth. Tibet was where this seemingly endless war would be decided.
“Males always make Tibet a disaster by offering any defense. There ain’t no defense,
Norris,”O’Connor sighed. “I call it Tibet because it’s usually dark and you’re in bed with your long term relationship, be she lover, or wife. You’ve both got your legs bent, so the sheet forms a miniature snow covered mountain range. Maybe one or both of you are smoking. It’s just after you’ve returned from some disappointing social obligation. So, the smoke rises like a campfire in the Arctic wilderness, and she asks something like, “You seem so distant, so detached lately. What’s changed? Is there something wrong?”
“You’re just another male asshole, so you try to fend this off by telling her you don’t see anything different.You can’t retreat. Not just because you really are and asshole, but this is Tibet! You’re on top of a 15,000 foot mountain and there’s no way out but down.
“In your brain’s semi-blackness, a small tip of light appears and gradually becomes a huge flare exposing your fragileness. Your defense is nonexistent.She’s positive she’s not the one to blame. Her feelings for you have not changed ...Well until now.
“Most women entering into a relationship with a man know they’re always the one to take the first step igniting the passion. They also know it takes both to put love into orbit. Passion can grind along on a dirt road only so long until it runs out ofgas.Women just know that love has to remain aloft. Worst of all, they’re absolutely correct that only the male can keep it there and it’s our sole duty to do so. That’s when passion and lust must make room for intimacy and trust! Those two states are even more terrifying to us apes than E. D.! So if things have changed, it’s not her fault. It’s yours!As soon as she’s aware of this, she has definition. God help you! God help us one and all! A woman with definition is without bonds or chains or inhibitions!
“Once a woman has definition the only path she has open until she breaks off the relationship, is to defend all her counterpart’s faults and flaws. Before Tibet she could ignore them because she was positive the attackers were really screwed up. Once Tibet is fought, they’re defending us because they’re so embarrassed to be so stupid not to see what we really are.”
“What are we, Bill?”
“Street, unless a man knows who he is and where he is or where he is going, we’re all just common scum when it comes to sex.” O’Connor smiled and added a shrug before he continued.
“Now about the end of the battle… Being basic male scum, you argue on and on, dredging up past slights, reviving long suppressed resentments until you run out of alibis and cigarettes. So as the Hindu Kush slowly collapses and dawn crawls across the snow field which once was your sheets and now is the remnants of your relationship, at last there is silence, so you are deluded into believing we have won. After all, you have the most extensive vocabulary; have bullied her into silence at least nine other times.And it’s certainly you who presented the most literary and historical illustrations to prove there has been no change.You can’t see that the battle has already been lost! That this is just the mopping up process, which could take one or two life times. But in the end you’re going to have to face the triumphant commanding officer.” His grin got wider and wider.
Then he placed a hand on Street’s shoulder and offered, “Try this image. She’s standing in front of you with both her hands behind her back as she tells you it’s time for her terms of surrender. Actually she’s just asking you how you want to die. Well, naturally, you ask what are your choices and why she’s got her hands like that? That’s when she tells you she thinks the relationship is down the tube. Then you really ask for it by claiming that if it is, it’s all her fault! That’s when she tells you she’s got an ice pick in one hand and a battle ax in the other and which one do you want her to use?Since there’s no choice there’s only one thing we scum can do. We can’t prevent our executions but we can stall them.It’s simple but it’s not easy and hardly acceptable, but we can forestall our demise. We just have to learn how to shrug our shoulders in an infinite number of ways.” When Street’s expression of total befuddlement finally solidified, O’Connor jumped up and began pantomiming some variations on shrugs, and Chad Andersen never forgot the peals of insane laughter which accompanied O’ Connor’s shoulder antics.
Tibet Without The Battle
Mary ... Almost A Goddess
“There’s at least fifty Greek fathers who’d gladly kill that trumpet player,” a tall, very well dressed, extremely distinguished male offered. Before the shorter one could identify this was his younger brother, Arthur Pampas added, “Actually none of them would really kill the kid, but every one of them would stand up and cheer if he had a fatal car accident.” He gave a wry smile before finishing, “That’s normal when a non-Greek, really wild looking guy to boot, is running around with probably the richest Greek girl east of the Mississippi.”
Phillip Norris decided not to out his brother he did agree with the wild looking label. This gave cause for Phillip to center his thoughts on the tall, rather well constructed trumpeter. Street was a chess board of paradoxes. He sported a crew cut, cropped at about an inch and a radiant red Van Dyke beard, neatly trimmed but at least four inches long. Besides, Phillip added silently, no one in 1950 wears a beard before they’re 65. Street’s fawn brown double breasted suit had trouser pegged almost ankle tight. Its waist band reached half-way up his chest, and his coat extended at least three inches below his knees.
Street was barely sixteen when he ran off and enlisted in the Marines.He became an air crewman and saw extensive action in the Central Pacific. By the time their father located him, he’d turned 18, so there was no means of withdrawing him from combat. After the war Street spent over a year in occupied Japan.He later claimed he met and lived with a 27 year old Russian woman.
“I was drunk and it was raining.We were throwing rich Japs out of their homes so the admirals and generals could move in when I saw her walk by an open window. Two things were really alien. There weren’t too many of them, and even fewer long haired blondes.I went over, kicked the rice paper door in, walked up the steps and told her she’d picked the losing side.She smiledsaid she wanted to be with winners. Of course when you’re the conquerors, everything is yours for the asking. We had the most food and all the money.
“W hen I left I willed her to a Captain in my Group. I would’ve married her, but she laughed, and said I was too young to think about marrying. I’m really glad she was intelligent as she was beautiful,” was his normal thumb nail sketch when asked how Japan had been.’
Phillip still thought that because his mother and two maiden aunts were part of the audience, it was improper.Then again, when had Street ever fallen from that category? However, there was one point about the family Black Sheep which could not be denied; he really an excellent trumpet player. Of course he couldn’t sight read music, Phillip smirked silently, as the sextet ended their set with a Gershwin tune.Street played four choruses so brilliantly, most of the hundred or so dancers only swayed back and forth, then gave him loud enthusiastic applause as he took a seat.
“I’ve got to mingle,” Pampas announced.With that he was off into the crowd and Phillip started to follow. But when he noticed the future millionaire rose as his brother closed in on her, the older Norris decided it was time to go home and tell Suzanne, his wife, the possibility of moving up in class if his goofy brother played his cards correctly.
This was the third week of Street’s relationship with this utterly charmingly, fresh young thing. There was no doubt in his mind that Mary Constantine was not a groupie band slut.Mary was so unique, he often wondered why she had walked up to him four Saturdays ago in this very same Greek Center, and said, “I think you play better than Harry James.’
He didn’t bother telling her he never thought Harry was anything more than a great tone with no soul. He was just as sure that she had never heard of Miles Davis, Chet Baker or any of the other jazz trumpet players trying to destroy the previous Swing Era with flatted fifth notes, fiery chromatic runs and tempos which made dancing impossible.
He couldn’t even claim it was her body or her face that intrigued him, because she always wore white blouses with a fringed flap which concealed her breasts.Her skirts never failed to reach almost to her ankles and the shoes were totally unadorned black low heel Buster Browns. As he thanked her, he tried to remember the last time he’d spoken to a woman devoid of all make-up, including lipstick. “Probably fourteen, maybe younger.”
The Voot Jammers began their second set at The 406 Club with Street’s interest fixed on a very sexy looking red head. She sat at the bar, directly below him, smiled and nodded her head as he took five choruses of Deep In A Dream. When the set ended, she beckoned him to join her,ordered him a gin and tonic then asked, “What was the name of the tune?”
He gave a smirk and offered, “It’s called Go Screw Yourself in A Flat You Dumb Broad.” He paid for his drink and her three after she slid off the stool and vanished. As he shook his head for being such a fool, there was a slight touch on his shoulder. He turned expecting a slap in the face, but was surprised when it was the little blonde from last week.
“I think you should name it:My Own Sweet Angry Bitch Against The Entire Non-Artistic World.”
Street grinned. “I’m flabbergasted!You cut right through to exactly what I was thinking up there.” That brought her first smile, and he instantly knew that although all of this fitted the lyrics to a very old and beloved standard, it really was the wrong time and so on. However, it was impossible to resist someone who sensed the artistic frustration he was experiencing.
Before he went back to work, she asked if he’d take her to her junior prom at Mount Catherine College. He said he was only too happy to. He rented a car, with driver, a conventional tux, and there was a soft sweet smile as he slipped the courage of mixed wild flowers about her slender right wrist. “You’re an old fashion lady,” he offered. That was when he noticed the huge diamond enshrined above four other fairly large companions. She was still bare of all make up except possibly a tiny brush of rouge on her cheeks. He couldn’t even be certain of that.
The lights were low, the band played only slow tunes. Norris asked, “What’s that perfume?”
“Taboo. It was my mother’s favorite.” As it crawled up his nostrils Street wondered why it also somehow dissuaded his thoughts of later seduction.
He drew her closer. Her gown was tightly cinched about her slender waist, and it had ahigh neck line, with another one of those flaps to cover her development. Her lower dimensions were concealed by the flare of the skirt. After a late dinner and a long drive through Druid Hill Park, he also decided there should be no good night kiss.
Grading this first encounter, he liked that she not only could pronounce Andre Guide’s name correctly, but had read everything by this very difficult French writer. The same went for Albert Camus. When she shyly added she liked them best in their native language, he was glad he had decided against seduction.
He stopped at the foot of her royally long front steps. When he leaned over, offering his hand, she took him off guard. She slipped her arms around his neck, pressed her very ample breasts to his open tux and gave him a very long and passionate kiss. There was no tongue.
After a couple of dates he discovered she especially loved the theater and she’d read everything he had and more.Their third-week end she treated him three plays in Washington, D.C.That happened to be his first live theater experience. After the last one, she gave him a brief sketch of her life as he drove her Caddy convertible through an almost empty down town.
“My grandmother owns over a hundred and fifty hardware stores along the east coast.She’s been my Mom since I was five. That was right after both my parents were killed in an airplane accident on their way to Florida for a winter vacation.” She glanced out the convertible’s side window as if their ghosts were ease dropping.
“Must have been tough.”
“Actually I can hardly remember them. Oh I’ve got zillions of photographs. But the simple truth is, my parents were always a Hollywood couple; with too many jewels and too good looking for their own good. All I really remember were the Nannies.”Street smiled. She had missed his point completely.
‘”Momika, my Grandmother, says they were wild and crazy. That they had too much money and not enough training how to handle that kind of wealth.”
“You think that?”
“Not really. Actually it doesn’t matter. I’m sure they weren’t responsible for an iota of my personality. That’s all Momika.”
“You’ve led a really sheltered life. Like you’ve been cloistered or something.”
“I’ve been, you goofy nut! Momika’s a star at warding off all the Greek mothers and fathers offering up their sons. She’s very old fashion even though she claims she was a wild thing when she was young.”
The Maryland spring was rapidly giving in to oppressive humidity that fourth week of their relationship. He had still hadn’t initiated the traditional good night kiss, and Mary was his own virginal entry into the world of wealth. He was shocked the first time she took him shopping spending over two thousand dollars on just shoes and sweaters.Not only because of the amount of money, but also because Mary asked his opinion on every item she bought. He never got use to having excellent seats for the theater, and the choice tables at restaurants were a totally foreign experience.
He never allowed her to pay for anything except surprise tickets and gasoline. Twice she wanted him to meet Momika and both times he backed out. The three story mansion with perfectly manicured lawns and gardens stopped the first.The second died when she told him it was a formal dinner. He was certain Momika would never approve of his band tux, or his zoot suit wardrobe.
This entire experience threw him off kilter. He often caught himself wanting to grab her face, and yell, Hey! Wake up! You ain’t getting any bargain here. I’ve got this string of faceless band sluts in my wake. I haven’t been home except for holidays since I got out of the Corps. I’m floating along, pretending I’m in graduate school becoming an economist.But all I’m doing is trying to find something I want go to happily every day! Mary, I’m nuts enough to believe that I can find a life where each day I tell it what I am going to do!Not the other way around.
Before he could accomplish this he was wakened from a sound asleep, when he felt a body slide into his bed , at his third floor, Charles Streetstudio apartment. This really wasn’t surprising.He was surprised when she spoke.
“I’ve been waiting for you to take the first step.” He started to sit erect but her next words nailed him to the slightly damp mattress. “I guess I got to tell you right out that I want you to be the first man who makes love to me” There was a very long silence while she slowly crept over him until most of her was draped over his nudity. All she had on was a very thin slip. Before she placed her lips to his, he turned aside and offered, “Mary this is gonna hurt you a lot.”
“I know. I’ve read about it and it’s . . . .”
“Yeah, well, that’s not what’s going to hurt.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Get up and put on your clothes. I’m taking you home while I can still think half way straight.” She fled through the door before he was half dressed.
When HE tried to explain to Jimmy Watson, the band’s pianist, Jimmy almost choked laughing.“Hey, you’re a real jerk, man!Marry this one and do what the hell you want for the rest of your life, man!”He hated that reminder, but then, Jimmy Watson was forever the pragmatist.
Mary called four days after he refused her maidenhead. He demanded to state his case over the phone. “Look, I’ve gotta do it this way,’ cause I couldn’t resist if you were close right now.” she muttered something he ignored.
“Mary I can be your best friend. If you want I can be your big brother.Even your body guard.But Mary, this just isn’t going to work. I live in a really screwed up world!I’m going to bed when folks are getting up and the reverse when they come home.” That sounded almost childishly inane. He tried a different tact.
“I’ve never met a male musician who could hold a marriage or even a serious relationship together.At least not once some babe comes out of the dark and somehow looks better than what they have. It happens all the time.”
He didn’t have the strength to tell her he thought she was just too sweet and too nice for him. Or he was positive he’d run rough shod over her. That sooner or later he’d start cheating. He did tell her, “You deserve something much better than a future with me.”
Mamika called less than fifteen minutes after Mary put the phone down agreeing to all his conditions.The call came so soon there were still echos of her sobbing and visions of her twisting her head and fighting back screaming. Mamika wanted him to come to dinner the next evening. When he told her he had a job, she said, “Very well, shall we make it lunch then?”
The dining room’s dimensions swallowed the table which seated two dozen. At least she had him sit beside her, in the middle. The servants came and disappeared through three sets of floor to ceiling doors; responding to the tinkle of a tiny silver bell.Lunch was fresh fruit, shrimp and scallops stuffed with crab meat, white wine, various vegetables and a choice of three desserts.
Conversation was a monologue as Momika told him how she had been a wild sort in her youth. “My beauty allowed me to play any role I wished, and in the end I married a gorgeous Greek gangster who made all his money dealing illegal drugs until I convinced him there were even greater profits in a legal business.” Her smile was part smirk and part nod.
“Mr. Norris, Mary will inherit around a hundred and fifty million dollars.” She did not allow him to recover from the size of that number. “I’ve been her mother since she was five. I’m now 83 so there’s little time left. I am determined she will marry her own.”
And I’ll bet you are just as determined you are going to do the initial selection, he thought. “Mrs. Constantine I have no intentions of marrying Mary. And,” he added, “I give you my word that I will never try to take any advantage either.”
“Yes. She told me that you said that the other day. She was surprised I wasn’t appalled.I can never thank you enough.” She added a nod and then continued. “I want you to know how much I admire a man with a high moral code.”There was a long pause as Street decided he really didn’t want any of the three desserts. He was hardly ready for the one she offered. “Mr. Norris I wish to show you my gratitude for your integrity. And please, do not consider what I am about to offer is anything but a reward for that.”
“Mrs. Constantine, I think . . .”
“I want to give you a gift of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.In return you will give me your promise you will not see Mary again.”
“So, she offered you a quarter of a million!Jesus, Street, you got to be living under some kind of halo,” Watson offered. “Hell, you took it right? I mean with that kind of loot you can do what the hell you want for as long as it takes to get the music bug out of your system. And you can also probably hook another rich broad.”
“I told her no.”
“Sure. Keep the old broad on the hook, but not for too long.”
“Jimmy, I told her no. I’m not going near Mary again.”
“Sure but . . .”A run of scales stopped further dialogue andJimmy left for Nashville that Friday still unable to accept Street’s decision.
It took over a year after his break up with Mary that his brother and Catherine had a chance to confront him, when he and Georgia Morgan came to Christmas dinner.
It was just before dessert when Street casually announced that he had asked Georgia to marry him as soon as he completed graduate school.“She tells me that she knows a good man when she sees one, and everyone tells me that I’m, getting the best of the deal. So, we’ve decided on a June wedding. This June. We’ve picked the fifteenth.”
Dessert was Mince Meat Pie and silence for all.Except, strangely enough, his father became almost animated and centered all his attention on Georgia.Well at least until the presents were opened in front of the huge live tree whose decorations had been brought from Germany when Phillip and Mom had joined his father in 1923.
This ritual required one person at a time open all their gifts, and the pecking order was from Father down. Street left an obvious bottle of whiskey for last. It was very expensive and difficult to get Scotch just then.It was from his father.
“Thanks, Father. This is really fine.” He turned to Phillip. “Georgia and I’d like to drop by and share a drink with you. Get to know each other. Okay?”
“You can drop by any time. Just call first,” Phillip responded, in a tome better suited for a funeral viewing than a celebration.
“You can stop by,” his sister-in-law added. “Let’s just leave it at you, shall we?”
“You mean Georgia isn’t invited, Catherine?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a snippy, snobby bitch?”Before anyone could come to Catherine’s rescue, he rose and faced his brother. “Phillip, make your wife apologize to Georgia right now.” The following silence stretched like a resting cat. “Okay,” Street’s deadly combat calm broke the silence.“If she’s not going to, and you haven’t got the balls to make her, you can both go fuck yourselves.”As he waited to see if there was going to be a physical response, a trio of memories was projected one by one on the large bay window.
The first was Phillip in his ROTC uniform, leading an ungainly group of marching cadets down the main street in Westminster, Maryland on Armistice Day in 1937. The second was his brother carefully placing toilet paper to cover the family toilet seat while Street sat on the edge of the bath tub . The last was him sitting on the piano bench listening intently to Phillip playing Chopin. He recalled how he memorized it much faster than the performer so he could turn the pages without looking at them. That way the magic could bore into him ever deeper and deeper.
When Phillip offered nothing but deeper silence, Street rose, pulled Georgia’s chair back so they could exit.
“Young man!” his father said in that tone he often used to tell his wife she had really made a terrible mistake.Street gave that no heed as he escorted Georgia into the reception hall.Waiting for her to come down from his former bedroom with their coats, he thought about how when he was very young, he hid at the top of these stairs on Christmas Eve. From there he could spy on the entire household rushing to decorate the tree, and erect a full Christmas garden which always includeda complete village, two sets of Lionel trains and a mountain which took up all eight feet along the back edges of the garden. So the first myth you dropped was Santa. Then Genesis and the Virgin Birth was a natural progression. . . . Sure it was.Then you dropped the gods, the goddesses, and finally. . .But there’s no need to go there right now is there?
First Battle Of Tibet... Home Front Campaign
Two years later Georgia Bowmen and Street were married. Phillip and Catherine did not attend. There had been no further communication after Street walked out. It took two years to complete his PhD in Economics. He taught Ninth Grade Mathematics while he earned it.Later he concluded those were the happiest three years of his academic life.Armed with his doctorate he joined General Motors Acceptance Corporation as a traveling auditor and now, five years later, he was promoted to supervisor. Reflecting on those years, Street now found it absolutely shocking, how easily he and Georgia climbed on Middle Class Expectations Train.
Marriage produced their first son in fifteen months. They began searching for an affordable house two years later, with their second one on the way. They celebrated moving into a house exactly like all the other houses in a romantically titled community.Enrolling their first born in kindergarten seemed like just a week-end’s effort, not five years.By then, like the daily alarm clock, the third child was on its way. Their doctor declared it would be the daughter Georgia wanted. There was a silent decision that three was enough.
It wasn’t a jolt when they realized that their sex became a Friday or Saturday night ritual. They were not concerned because their sexual tastes or desires never changed, even if they diminished. Street’s supervision promotion called for some long distance travel which often lasted the entire five day work week. This was accepted along with credit card debt. It was almost appalling how easily they slid into a weekly routine which promised little if any surprises. Street averaged three weeks a month traveling.Those three he usually got home late Friday evening and had to leave late Sunday afternoon.Both of them simply assumed this was all part of the process to The American Dream, until Street encountered the Devil.