Some blogs back and again on Facebook, I’ve mentioned a few of our friends, such as the Spanish voice actor who settled in the States and scared the crap out of us doing his Dracula impersonation while we drove down a dark, deserted country road and another friend, who cut off part of Jerry’s ear while giving him a haircut. These people were unique and we couldn’t have come up with anyone nearly as much fun in the world of fiction. I wish to add James to our list of friends from the past.
James had been an encyclopedia salesman before leaving France. He would tell us about his adventures crossing the Alps during winter storms and I’ll have to admit, some of his driving advice paid off when traversing over the snow and ice covered roads during Chicago Winters. He decided to settle in the Midwest and further his education although his mastery of spoken English left much to be misunderstood. Standing at about six foot six and skinny as a stick, James fell in love with and eventually married a woman who worked for one of the major newspapers in town. She was the stereotypical American girl, blond and lanky, voicing an opinion on everything topical, and he with his very pronounced accent and his clothing preference of bell bottom pants and striped, knit shirts making him a poster boy for all things French.
We, along with some other friends, were asked to help them move out of their North Side apartment. Being the only punctual ones in the group, we were there in time to help with any remaining packing that was needed. I helped Fran empty her closet and throw her clothing into plastic bags and empty out the dresser drawers while Jerry helped her husband take down artwork and curtains from the many long windows adorning the apartment’s walls. I remember Fran shouting to me from the bathroom to find her diaphragm and what went with it and stick it in her purse since she’d be needing it that night. Never having seen one but too embarrassed to mention it, I spotted something in a small case that I didn’t recognize amid the mess of dresser memorabilia I had just removed. I grabbed the case and dropped it into her purse. I don’t know what happened that night and I never asked.
The rooms were large, oak floors and high ceilings; a beautiful place but too expensive for them at that time. They had an enormous oriental area rug in the living room which we rolled up and intended to lug down the three flights of stairs and out to the waiting truck. The rug was heavy and bulky and the very thought of making it down those winding stairs caused us to pause for a bit and rethink the situation One of us, I don’t remember exactly who, turned their eyes towards the open window in the living room. The rest of us followed suit. Light bulbs exploded over our heads.
It was like pushing a sausage through the eye of a needle but finally, enough of its weight hung over the ledge and gravity took over, sending that rug down towards the ground and smashing into an elaborate flowerbed then bouncing onto the windshield of a parked car. James and two other men ran down to the courtyard and pulled the rug off the miraculously unbroken windshield and, with adrenalin driven superhuman strength, they carried the rug to the truck and threw it in. No one reported the incident. James and his wife got their security deposit back and their area rug they discovered was unfortunately too large to fit in their next apartment; they left it by their new apartment’s dumpster.
We were the next couple to move. We didn’t have much furniture but did have hundreds of books which I, of course, packed in as few boxes as possible. Our transition was from a modern apartment building with an elevator to a brick four-story apartment with lots of stairs. After getting most of the boxes up the stairs, James stood on the landing, perspiration running down his face, soaking his striped shirt, hugging a particularly large box to his chest. He spoke words of truth when he exclaimed “Ceci est lourd!” as the bottom of the box gave way and the books tumbled out onto the stairs and to the landing below. Fran unnecessarily translated to us the fact that he found the box to be heavy. That night we all got more than a little drunk but felt we deserved it.