Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1936

Oh, good morning to you all, my darlings! I have been away too long. I really have no idea what I've been doing that has kept me from you; I subsist in a thick fog of ennui. Too dreadful.... But it is snowing here in this silly Portland - Oregon - and I do believe that this meteorological abnormality has lightened my mood a trifle bit. It is pretty, and as I have nothing whatsoever to do, of course, I'm just looking out the window and lolling about, feet up, on a pink damask-covered duchesse brisée, all cozy and warm, a satin eiderdown 'round my knees - can you picture it? Alyssia has brought me my tea, and I thought that this might be a good time to write to you all. You wouldn't mind, would you? Haha!

Hmmm, what to tell? Well, slightly more than a week ago the two of us - my dear Penny is visiting - were invited on a little trip, just for the day, up to Seattle. That's another city you've probably never heard of. It is in the American state directly north of this one. Seattle is quite nearly as dreary as the city in which I languish, but it is larger and, I am told, a bit more "cosmopolitan". Haha! Can you imagine? On the west coast of America? That is so very frantically humorous, I could surely weep! Oh, dear. Oh, dear....

Now, what was I saying? Oh, yes. I'm still a little vague on just who invited us. But I believe I told you, a few years ago, about a very confusing wedding that Penny and I attended? The setting and all just loaded with Chinoiserie? And we never saw the bride? Do you remember? Well, at any rate, it was those people, I'm quite sure, since we met again many of the same guests. They had hired out a full train car to accommodate us. Nearly forty, we were. The appointments were very nice; I do believe the seats were only leatherette, but still. And as all of us were to varying degrees acquainted, it was quite the party atmosphere. Quite jolly, really.

Now, of course, I couldn't completely blend, shall we say, into the crowd. When one is as celebrated as I, there must always be a certain reserve. An understanding, really, on both sides, to not become too familiar. It really doesn't do to let oneself get so "chummy" with strangers that one allows the appalling possibility of frankly inappropriate people ringing one up on the telephone and all. Thankfully, I've learnt to be quite skillful at keeping those not entirely desirable at an arm's length, whilst appearing quite convincingly natural and warm. It seems a beastly deception, but it really must be done.

Oh, goodness, I've forgotten my regular journal des modes! I must apologize that there is nothing but dreariness to impart. The weather - typically - was frightful, so Penny and I wore nothing at all that could be described as appealing. Penny had on a poor little brown tweed suit, nearly flat shoes, and a depressingly discrete hat that she could only have bought in that awful California. No fur at all; you know how she is, so sensitive. As if the poor furriers were making coats out of kittens! Really! A pair of chartreuse suede gloves were the only spectre of modishness in her entire toilette. I wore a grey wool suit that Patou sent out last year. (You see how it is? I'm wearing last years clothes....) And over that a very plain grey Persian karakul dolman-sleeved coat, with matching toque and muff. Sensible Schiaparelli grey suede bootees. Claret-colored velvet gloves. So you see, we were a very shabby pair. And the other ladies? - oh, well, it's really not worth mentioning.

As at the aforementioned nuptials, there were two fellows who seemed to be at the heart of the festivities. (I think that there may have been a birthday as causation for our little jaunt.) Again, I searched and searched for that elusive bride, one or another who might be our hostess, but came up short. There were several attractive women in our party but, it must be said, many of them could scarcely be described as "bride material", comme on dit? One doesn't think of a Mercedes de Acosta or a Radclyffe Hall as a bride, does one? Yes, I believe that they were ladies of that ilk, if you will understand my innuendo. I know I shouldn't say so, but it's true. Of course I am most tolerant and quite forgiving of people's personal bizarrerie, but that gets us no closer to discovering a bride. Or a hostess for our party. Oh, la!

Hmmm?

Oh, yes. We had a lovely time on the train up, playing all sorts of silly American games and such. I did notice really the strangest thing, though: Nearly all the gentlemen wore beards. Which is most peculiar in this day and age, and really quite unfashionable. What could be the cause of this phenomenon? Are they members of some sort of club? I really couldn't fathom it, but there seemed no polite way to inquire after this collective perversity. Of course the weather was the extreme of uncongenial, otherwise I could easily imagine them garbed in sandals and drooping cotton garments. So perhaps they are Vegetarians.

When we arrived, the two gentlemen - bearded, comme les autres - led us out of the old station and down the street. Like a gaggle of ducklings! Haha! (Oh, dear, do ducks gaggle? I fear that's a goose's formation. What do ducks do, then? Oh, Nature is so very trying....) I must say it was very unusual to find myself walking on sidewalks and crossing at the intersections of the streets. I expect the logistics of carting about so many people at one time may have been daunting. But you'd think they would have made an effort to send 'round a car for me. (And Penny, too, of course; I didn't mean to slight her.) But perhaps our hosts felt it would bring out a bad feeling in the others if I were singled out for my accustomed and appropriate conveyance. I hardly think that would be a reasonable reaction, but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to "ruffle any feathers", as they say. I'm nothing if not accommodating and a good sport.

At any rate, we very soon arrived at a Chinese restaurant - toujours la chinoiserie! (Do you use chopsticks when you dine in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, pets? I never do. I feel that, as I am the product of centuries of Western cultivation, my natural implement is a fork. Let les Orientales scoop and scrape with their charming little sticks, I must align with my heritage.) My nearest luncheon companions were two lovely ladies. Our cuisine was charming - in an Oriental manner, of course - but one lady found her food of insufficient heat, whilst the other found hers overpowering. I must admit I found it rather amusing. The first kept ladling on various fearsome looking reddish condiments, whilst the second spent considerable time daintily pulling red and green bits from her food, trying her best to pacify the chaleur. Even still, the accumulating heat began to take its toll, her upper lip damp with perspiration and her bosom rising and falling to a degree and frequency bordering on the unseemly. For a moment we thought she just might faint, poor thing, but she was brought a cold beverage and disaster was averted. Fortunate, that, since swooning ladies will most certainly mar the charm of a festive luncheon.

At the end of the meal, one of the two conspicuous gentleman - one of our hosts, I must presume - was brought 'round a large cake, and I was enlisted to lead the throng in that very familiar, tepid little birthday song. (It's very silly - and a bit presumptuous, really - to always be expected, at any old gathering, to lead off the singing; I'm not some parson's daughter-y choir mistress, am I?) I did my duty, sang out strong and clear and the others were mercifully in tune. Rather a miracle, that. Nice cake and such and, all told, a lovely luncheon.

We were to catch the return train after an hour or so but, as we had nothing really to do and because, honestly, I was afraid I might be too much recognized walking about the streets, Penny and I sat in a coffee shop - imagine that! - and drank coffee like good little folk. Quite the odd little interlude.

The trip back was quite as nice as the first. More little games and jollity. But I'm afraid the gentle swaying of the train carriage had a most lulling effect on this particular lady, your correspondent. At one point I had more than a bit of a struggle remaining awake. I barely averted a misstep, there. I hate to keep hammering away about how much of a burden my celebrity can ofttimes be, but one's appearance and behavior in public can be fraught with risk for someone like myself. Journalists lurk everywhere and one can never tell who might be waiting, camera in hand, for an unguarded, unflattering moment. What a disaster it would be, some morning, to open a newspaper only to find some wretched photo of myself drowsing on a train, gone slack all over, my mouth agape. Perhaps you may begin to understand a little of the many pitfalls with which my station has encircled me....

I'm happy to say that, when first we arrived back in Portland, the car was awaiting us. (I do believe I'll be quite happy with the new driver - what is his name? He's tall and looks divine in his uniform; as smooth and polished as a seal.) We gave the other guests the briefest possible farewells. I do hope we gave an impression of sincerity; we did rush through it all. I know it tells the truth of my character that, as Penny and I were whisked away toward home, I didn't even bother to look 'round to see if the others were safely off to wherever it is that they came from. And I really didn't care a fig that we were ahead of them all and out of the station first - their ruffling "feathers" be damned! Aren't I naughty! Oh, la!

Dear me, I have gone on, haven't I? And now I must rouse myself, finally. Miss Daphne, the great brute, is here for my massage. Will I survive it? Only time will tell the tale! Haha!

Until we meet again, mes enfants!