Breakfast in Big Sur with 'Shirley MacLaine'
‘But of course, he has his deals. He’s duty bound to his customers. Fifteen minutes could mean fifty-thousand dollars. Does he want me to have him sacrifice fifty-thousand dollars?’
By Dell Franklin
We were sitting in a quaint cafe in Big Sur—eaves-dropping on a mother/daughter conversation taking place a table over. The mother looked to be in her 70s, petite, well-preserved, with a silver helmet-like hairdo. The daughter was a hefty, freckled redhead who resembled a high-strung, middle-aged Shirley MacLaine.
“I’m so busy,” she told mom. “It seems, my God, it seems like I have to do everything down at the office. The more I do, the more they expect me to do, the more they let me do. I’m overwhelmed.”
“You must learn to delegate your authority, dear,” advised mom, daintily sipping coffee. “You know that.”
“If I don’t do it, well, it doesn’t get done right, if at all. I’m snowed, just snowed. Look, I’m president, I’m a Lioness, and everything comes back to MY desk. I must take responsibility. Every month we have to…oh look, like, this golf tournament we’re pro-moting. What I want to do, I want our members runn-ing around in these huge sombreros. That’s our theme, Cinco de Mayo, and I think it’ll draw local media attention, and who knows where that will go…?”
“A wonderful idea, dear.”
“MY idea, mom. But, of course, I have doubters.”
“Oh, there’s always doubting Thomases.”
“But I’m president, and I wanted to be president, and they wanted me to be president….”
“It’s a thankless job, honey…you knew that going in.”
“But it pays well, so…”
“But few people want such a hellish job, dear.”
“Somebody’s got to do it, mom!”
While Shirley talked, she ate, displaying a hearty appetite. The mother nibbled tiny morsels and sipped. The daughter rambled on.
It was early February and she was booked with nonstop events until June and then there was a huge convention down in L.A. that month! $350 just to rent a small space! Lions and Lionesses from everywhere coming out of the woodwork! She had no idea the job would be this demanding. She’d been president of the chamber of commerce and this was twice as hard, twice as hectic, twice as burdensome, twice as time consuming!
“I try to get to bed by ten, mom. But I never make it. I’ve got to get my run in, so lately I’ve been getting up at five in the morning, before I go to the gym to get in my weight work.”
“Five in the morning? Since when? Poor thing. It’s still dark out. Somebody could run you over.”
“In Carmel? No way.” She ate, drank, sighed massively. “I never get to bed before midnight. I’m working on an average of four hours sleep a night. My phone never stops. Never.”
“Do you realize you’re looking more and more like Shirley MacLaine every day, dear?”
“Yes. People keep reminding me. I’m flattered. The older I get, the more I seem to look like her, and people say I actually ACT like her. You know, kind of snippy and…abrupt, I guess. No nonsense, please!” She flashed a longsuffering smile, tinged with pride.
The mother nibbled and sipped. Smiled fondly at her daughter. “So how’s Jeff doing?”
Shirley rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Mom, do you really want to know?”
“Of course I do, dear.”
“Well, he’s really pissed me off this time.”
Mother sipped, sat back, waited.
“He took a hundred-thousand dollars out of our joint account and used it for a down payment to buy a condo for his daughter from a previous marriage. Lisa. Spoiled rotten and never hold a job in her life. I blew my top.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“I mean, she thinks she’s got it coming…so…entitled. And it’s MY money, too. I mean, we’re married, aren’t we?”
Mom nodded with gravity, slowly, wiping daintily at her mouth with a napkin. I glanced at my longtime lady companion. We were eating, exchanging glances and the occasional smirk.
“I don’t blame her for being pissed off,” my girl whispered. “I’d be pissed off, too.”
“Maybe the guy’s got so much money it doesn’t matter. I mean, they’re from Carmel,” I whispered back,
“I’m sure they’re millionaires. Still, it’s the idea. He didn’t even consult her.”
Shirley MacLaine was going on about this husband. According to her, she gave everything in the relationship and received nothing in return. He made no sacrifices, she did. His business, his comings and goings, were more important than hers. This was a real bone of contention. She was growing angry.
“We almost had it out the other day, mom. I mean, I was close to leaving him.”
“You don’t want to, honey. You want to try and make this one work.”
“Mom, we’re both busy, granted. We hardly see each other. Like two ships passing in the night. When we do see each other, we bitch at each other. We’re both overloaded, stressed to the max. So, I told him this, told him we needed to hash things out, have lunch, have a long talk, to see if we could get our relationship back on track, before it was too late.”
“Good idea. Communicate. It was wise and mature of you to suggest the meeting, dear. I’m proud of you.”
“So we meet at the Fish House. I waited. Forty-five minutes, I waited, and then I see him pull up in the parking lot. And what does he do? He sits there for fifteen minutes and talks on his goddamn cell phone! The prick. The bastard!”
The mother, previously unruffled, showed her first sign of emotion: shock. “That was rude. Very rude.” Wrinkles of concern and chagrin emerged on her exquisitely made up face.
“Humiliating is the word, mom. Total lack of respect.”
“You must stand up for yourself, dear.”
“Well, he finally comes in, and I want to know why I have to wait forty five minutes for him to show up, and then he yaks on the phone for fifteen minutes, while I’m sitting twiddling my thumbs. But of course, he has his deals. He’s duty bound to his customers. Fifteen minutes could mean fifty-thousand dollars. Does he want me to have him sacrifice fifty-thousand dollars? I was so mad…well, couldn’t talk.”
I leaned close to my girl, and she offered her ear. “This guy sounds like a real prize, ey?” I whispered. “And you think I’M bad. Can you imagine me sitting in a car while you’re in a restaurant, gabbing away on a cell phone?”
“You don’t HAVE a cell phone. You’re incapable of even operating a cell phone, remember?” she whispered.
“What a pair, ey?” I whispered. “I’ll never hurt YOUR feelings for a lousy fifty-grand! And I’m a pauper.”
Now the daughter was talking about Barbara Jean. It soon became evident Barbara Jean was her aunt on her mother’s side. Barbara Jean had taken no bullshit from her three ex-husbands. She was now 76, alone, content to cohabitate with multiple pets.
“She’s where you get your Shirley MacLaine,” mom said. “Everybody’s always said she reminded them of Shirley MacLaine.”
“Oh, I know. She told me, well, she told me she used to leave an egg in one bowl, next to an empty bowl, and leave it there, and she warned her husbands, if they didn’t shape up, she’d switch the egg to the other bowl, and when she did that, it meant she was kicking their asses out.” A giddy giggle emanated from her like a tinkle, and I glanced over, and she seemed dreamy-eyed, far away. “I guess I’m like Barbara Jean, mom. Everybody says I am. She takes no shit from anyone.”
“She was always the feisty one of us girls, honey.”
“Fifteen minutes on the goddamn cell phone while I’m sitting twiddling my thumbs. You think Barbara Jean would allow THAT to happen, like I did?”
“She’d put that goddamn egg in that other bowl but quick!”
I leaned forward, giving my girl an ear. “She does remind me a little of Shirley MacLaine,” she whispered.
“Listen,” I whispered. “Shirley MacLaine never had a role like this. I mean, I thought YOU had issues, but not anymore.”
When we came in, the pair were half way through their meal. When we left, after finishing ours, they were working on at least a dozen coffee refills and Shirley MacLaine was still going strong. §
Dell Franklin is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at email@example.com.