Monday, November 12, 2007

Gypsy Queen

My life was so turbulent back then that I didn’t really know how to deal with the calm after the storm. I didn’t know how to handle the heavy dose of freedom that joint custody prescribed every other weekend. So I became a manic traveler, fleeting off for a weekend here, a getaway there. New York, New Orleans, Las Vegas, even Port Aransas. My little black suitcase had wheels, so I was always packed and ready to roll. I was quite the gypsy.

Suddenly one weekend I decided to ground myself. It was time to stay in my own hometown and simply sit still, play with some of my Austin friends. But my anemic attempts to make plans failed. Everyone I called was out of town. I was hopeful that the phone would start to ring and the invitations would come pouring in. No such luck.

After a grueling Friday night alone with my dog and my thoughts, I knew I had to get out of the house on Saturday as quickly as possible. It was a beautiful day so I wandered up to the Four Seasons pool which was packed. There were three weddings at the hotel that night so the pool area was alive with pre-wedding revelry. I found a chair and set up camp for a day of sunbathing and people-watching. But before long my voyeurism was eclipsed by self-pity. I couldn’t believe how unnoticed I was. Didn’t one person want to talk to me? Don’t they realize how funny and charming I am? I’m a laugh-riot for heavens sake. I felt like I was in a movie where the character dies but doesn’t know it because he’s still roaming around in his own life, just invisible. Even the waiters were oblivious. I needed a bottle of water and a margarita but couldn’t get anyone’s attention. Waiters waiters everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Things were getting kind of crazy by the pool. A wild, sort of exotic looking group of older men arrived and they were revving up the party. They weren’t part of the wedding crowd. Were they foreign? Heavens, there were more of them. Multiplying exponentially, they were everywhere…chatting up the wedding guests, playing water volleyball, snapping girls’ bikini tops. Oh yes, they were foreign. Smoking in the pool and ashing right into the water.

As I took a dip I tried not to make eye contact with the wild bunch. They made me nervous and I decided I wasn’t in the mood to be social after all. But the chief wild one who was managing the flow of things bobbed over to include me in their next round of fruity frozen drinks. Well, at least I could finally get my drink. And just like that I joined their wacky little party. What were those accents? Hard to say. Apparently some of them lived in France, some in Los Angeles. The Chief of the wild bunch was very nice and effusive about how much they loved Texas. So finally I had to ask…what were they doing in Texas?

Chief puffed up a little bit and proudly gestured to include all of his comrades. “We are the Gypsy Kings.”

Good Lord. The Gypsy Kings? I was kinda into their music for a spell in college. And when I lived in Boston every uppercrust hostess played The Gypsy Kings to add a dash of acceptable flavor to an otherwise whitebread dinner party. And now I was in the Four Seasons pool playing water volleyball with them. Apparently Chief was their manager. They were doing a show that night at Bass Concert Hall and he assured me there would be a ticket with my name on it waiting at Will Call.

And poof, the pool party evaporated. Everyone but me had to get ready for a wedding or a concert. I went home to google The Gypsy Kings and learn all about their Gitano gypsy culture. Funny, I decided to stay put for once and the wanderers came to me. Maybe it was a sign I should go to the concert. Should I go to the concert? I really didn’t want to go. But I knew all the get-over-divorce literature would want me to roll the dice and go. Fine, I decided to go. I mean pretty cool, right? I could say I was with the band, of gypsies.

I took a cab so I wouldn’t have to navigate parking at Bass Concert Hall. My seat was in the second row, surrounded by all the gypsies’ extended friends and family. And a few groupies. The men were a little oily and the women were, well, also a little oily. A pungent cloud of cologne lingered over the first few rows. Meanwhile the rest of the hall was filled with yuppy couples, several of whom I recognized. Soccer moms trying to look spicy in their Tory Burch tunics. Oh, I didn’t want them to see me with the smarmy crowd at the front. This was embarrassing. Finally the lights dimmed and the music started, but I was getting a splitting headache. I suppose the performance was topnotch, I just couldn’t get into the groove. People were dancing like crazy, singing along to hits like ‘Volare’ and ‘Hotel California’. One song about flying and the other about being stuck.

I sensed we were nearing the end, thank heavens. But right before the grand finale, Chief appeared in the aisle, gesturing at me to come with him. Come! Come! Oh Lord, I was invited to an after party with the band. Chief marshaled me into a brightly lit conference room that was already packed with about 40 people. Folding tables displayed vege trays with ranch dressing and heaping piles of cubed cheese. Goofy women were waiting with cameras and paraphernalia to be signed. It had finally happened. I had died and gone to Hell.

And I needed an exit strategy pronto. I had to get closer to that door so I could slip out unnoticed. I was sizing up my options, when who should walk in the door like a wonderful apparition, but living guitar legend Charlie Sexton. I couldn’t believe it. I had just been on an airplane with him a few months earlier. What are the odds? I’ve been a fan ever since he was in Thelma & Louise. His band was in the bar scene when Thelma and Louise launched their fateful roadtrip. And now he was alone by the door so I launched over and introduced myself. He was lovely. We chatted for a few minutes and sang praises for The Gypsy Kings (even though I was completely sick of the Gypsy Kings at this point.) Just enough chatter for me to get closer to the door, duck out and call a cab.

A cab that never came. I waited and waited. Everyone was long-gone. It was getting dark and desolate, my head hurt. I roamed to the back of Bass Concert Hall to see if the cab might be there. Damn! I found the band and their giant entourage getting on their bus. Please don’t see me, please don’t see me. Too late. Chief spotted me and insisted I ride back to the Four Seasons for the after-after party. I almost started to cry. I just wanted to be home alone with my dog. But with no car and no cab my options were slim. Begrudgingly, I joined the gypsies on their caravan and was seated with the lead singer. Why? Why was this my life? This was creepy. What if they weren’t really going to the Four Seasons? What if I ended up like Thelma & Louise? What if this is really a ring of white slave traders? Nervously I made small talk. Doesn’t the capital look pretty at night…look how many people are out downtown…did he enjoy Austin…the show was great. If he could speak English he pretended not to understand me. Finally I stopped filling the silence as the dark bus barreled down the road. And suddenly without warning he just put his hand on my knee. Ewww!! Completely creeped out I politely, but emphatically removed his hand from my knee. We never spoke. The moment we arrived at the Four Seasons I hid behind a column until the band of gypsies were all inside. I grabbed a cab and headed for home.

I woke up Sunday depressed. Did that whole trippy evening really happen? How surreal. Where was my normal life? I scooped up my blues and my handbag and headed out for another aimless day. I found myself at a weird little garage sale, flipping through some old records when who should appear, all alone at the same little garage sale, but Charlie Sexton! Charlie Freakin’ Sexton…three times in three months. I mean seriously, what are the odds?

It was a sign. He is, after all, in a band called the Arc Angels. So I decided it was a positive sign and that perhaps this weekend might be redeemed after all. I mustered up a tinge of cheer and drifted back to the Four Seasons pool. Certainly the servers would have more time for me on a Sunday. I could tell my story from the night before and probably get a few laughs. And dulled by a hangover, maybe the wedding crowd would be a little more open and friendly, a little more respectful to their once and future Gypsy Queen.


Rick said...

Laughing out loud. I think that would make Chapter 24385 in the CJ book of hysterical star-studded experiences.

For the record, I saw Thelma & Louise in the theater in Santa Fe, NM with you and our mothers summer of 1991. Top that, Handler.

Peter Chen said...


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Peter Blog*Star
Blogger for Dummies

Ed Ryan said...

best line - Soccer moms trying to look spicy in their Tory Burch tunics. LOL

bhandler said...

Christine, Am I being taunted by our child protege on a blog??? I'm aghast.

Yes, you are THE Gypsy Queen and a fantastic writer. When Rick starts to publish your book, I'll promote it. Hell, we've been promoting it for years.

Best line - I’m a laugh-riot for heavens sake.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for more stories all week and discovered spam had them, took care of that right away. Totally great, I'm 62 divorced and laughing away with you. Carol N.

BD @ said...

Really, this adventure of your life is getting better and better as I read your posts chronologically. Hanging out with the Gypsy Kings? By accident? Pretty neat...

Arc Angels is a great, albeit relatively unknown, band. That CD has been in my "heavy rotation" bin since I discovered it by accident working in a record store in College (in Boston too - I grew up in Boston).