Thursday, September 17, 2015

Karla's World

Karla was from Kansas, but now she worked at NBC, attached to the newsroom. She loved going to Rockefeller City, and walking around the area on her lunch break, if the weather was nice. She was a good worker and everyone liked her. She knew all the famous newscasters and personalities, and they all knew her. She was even FaceBook friends with some of them. She was on a trajectory to become famous. It was just a matter of time. She already had acquired more than 300 FB friends without trying.

It was September, but summer clung to the air as if it would never let go. She had spent a dull summer. She did't even visit her parents back home. She never talked much about Kansas, but her favorite painting was Wyeth's Christina's World.  She finally saw the original in MOMA. She had seen the painting in an art book her parents owned. It was of a girl crawling and looking longingly across a flat plain at a house in the distance. Karla always assumed it was Kansas. In fact, it was Maine.

This misconception was indicative of an overall perceptive disconnect in Karla's life. Most of her assumptions about life and how to live were based on vague premises that never quite fit reality. She had come to New York to be discovered and become famous.

Karla decided she was an actress, so she hung out at a repertory theatre in the village that was run by a writer who thought he was Tennessee Williams. He would write long, rambling plays based on his growing up in the south. Wannabe actors would pay him to perform in his plays so they could get exposure and experience. Most of Karla's friends came from that crowd. She would get an occasional small role, and tried to speak with a southern accent.

She had a husky voice and great eyes, for which she used too much make-up. Being fresh from the plains, she had been in New York for about a year. She had a Tom Boyish quality, and some of her acquaintances thought she was gay. But Karla liked guys, and she was always on the prowl, except it was a life she kept entirely private.

When first in New York, she drove with her theatre friends to Maine to see a total eclipse. She had her first fresh lobster at a little restaurant on the bay. It arrived freshly boiled with a tiny fork in its claws and was propped up looking at Karla. She didn't know what to do so she started struggling at getting some meat from the lobster. She tried to hold it, but the buttered creature would slip out of her hands as though it was still alive. Finally in frustration she exclaimed, "I'd love to eat ya sweety, but your legs are crossed." Everyone in the restaurant burst into laughter.

Shortly after Karla started working at NBC a certain famous comedian and director was going through relationship problems. Some mutual friends who had met Karla at a party arranged for her to meet him on a blind date at a Chinese Restaurant on the upper west side. They thought she might make a great girl friend. She had a great sense of humor, and they knew she had seen him around the Rockefeller Building because the comedian had been writing for the Tonight Show.

His friends went with him to the restaurant. They arrived a few minutes early and decided to start ordering while they waited for Karla.

Time passed. They decided to go ahead and eat. Thirty minutes later, Karla walks in nonchalantly, without a care. She was dressed to kill, really made up like a doll. She and the comedian were introduced, and he was very sweet to her. He said, "Karla, you must be hungry. Sorry we started without you... here, let me help you catch up with us."

He took some tongs and started piling food on a plate. "You should try these noodles, and here are some dumplings, and chop suey..." He kept piling the food until he could barely hold the plate. "Sorry, we're all outa motzah balls!"

With that, he threw the plate down in front of Karla and stormed out of the restaurant, leaving her and his friends stunned and speechless.

Karla's life was like that. She had skirmishes and near hits with fame. She hung out in the center of New York across the street from Radio City Music Hall, but she was just a few inches too short to be a Rockette.

That was it. Although she often was in the vicinity, she was always falling short of fame, kind of like that girl Christina who was forever crawling across that prairie field toward the house in the distance, but never getting there.

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