Parked in front of my building this morning was a compact car with out-of-state plates. The rear window was shattered, the ground littered with chunks of glass. Someone had rifled through the back seat and glove compartment and the tape player had been stolen. On the rear bumper of the car was a sticker reading “Visualize World Peace.”
I talked to Amy, who reminded me of the old show-business formula for finding your stage name. You take your middle name and follow with the name of the first street you lived on. My stage name is Raymond Wayne. Amy is Louise Bournthill, and Hugh is Alexander Cannon. I thought this was a foolproof method for coming up with a sophisticated-sounding name, until later in the afternoon when I talked to my friend Marge, whose unfortunate stage name would be Ruth West 34th Street.
To find your drag name, you take the name of your first pet and follow it with your mother’s maiden name. I am Dutchess Leonard. Hugh is Winnie Neurath. Some people were just born with good names. Our friend Jolean Albright has Kerwin Fairlawn as a stage name, and Winky Dykeman as her drag alternative. Winky Dykeman–it just doesn’t get any better than that.
The holidays are approaching and it seems that every time I pick up the phone, it’s someone asking for money. Sometimes they’ll call asking for Hugh, and when told he isn’t here, they invariably say, “Well is this Mrs. Hamrick?”
Strangers on the telephone often mistake me for a woman. The same thing happens to my brother. We sound like girls.
A few days ago I got a call asking me to contribute to a rent-control and stabilization lobby. I told the woman that I didn’t have a rent-controlled apartment, and she said it didn’t matter. “We’re fighting to stop these greedy landlords from tripling the rent and tossing their tenants out into the street. Are you with us, Mrs. Sedaris?”
My parents used to be landlords in North Carolina, and I’ve come to understand that things aren’t always quite so simple as she was making them out to be. The owner of this building has taxes to pay. He has boilers to replace and heat to furnish and it isn’t easy when half the tenants are paying less than $100 a month.
I told the woman that I gave money only to Central Park and the New York Public Library.
“Well how is the park or the library going to help you when you’re out on the streets without a roof over your head?”
I said that, if nothing else, at least I’ll have a few attractive places in which to feel sorry for myself.
She cursed me briefly before hanging up. It kills me when they turn ugly like that. Tonight someone called for Hugh, asking him to donate money to a program that distributes winter coats to the needy. I listened in. “We’re asking for you, Mr. Hamrick, because we know how much you care. Can you help us out with a hundred dollars?”
Hugh told the woman that he’d recently directed a play where the audience members were told to bring their used winter coats, which would then be donated to–
The woman hung up on him, and I sat in the bedroom listening as he held the phone saying, “Hello. Hello?”