Arlene axed:

What’s This?

And she picked up the plexiglass unimold thang that holds one a dem panoramic pictures from the disposable panoramic camera that some really clever person made available.

It shows the corner of Market and Golden Gate, looking south out the doors of the Golden Gate Theater, unless it shows the corner of Market and Something Else, and is looking south out the doors of the Orpheum. The next time I’m around Civic Center I’ll confirm. I know. It’s bad I don’t have it zactly, but Arlene axed and it’s on my mind.

Afternoon. Sun. Car entering intersection. Denizens. In the extreme left edge of the panorama is my mother and Edna Ryan, looking in with smiles. Although they are both dead now, this was a quintessential moment while they roamed the earth: the ladies taking in a saturday matinee in The City. They poured thousands of dollars into the Best of Broadway series, were known by theater subscription staff by their first names, and dressed up for the occasion.

I’d meet them for lunch before or tea after once I had successfully dropped out of the pool of attendees. I loved them, but I just hated their series. Year after year of moribund revivals that I kicked myself for not being able to overlook. The subtext was that I was a snob, but they loved me back so they wouldn’t say it. My subtext was that I envied their ability to not even flinch, much less draw the line with a k-rail, at the scheduling of a Chita Rivera show. I wanna not care, I’d mutter as I waved them into the foyer, I wanna be delighted.

During the solo bart rides home, I’d say that my definition of delight was generationally cultivated, and I had no choice but to let them have their fun with… zen enthusiasm, I think.

Then I’d get all melancholy because although they smelled good, the smell wasn’t enough for me to overlook Ann Miller doing that thing with Mickey Rooney. And, when my head was about to burst after a Mamet production, they smiled and said that they generally avoided the heavy things. Gape, I said. Hand wave and Gape, I added. But– I included. I closed with Nnnggggh.

Such nice ladies. Couldn’t be cross with them.

I see my Ma and Edna Ryan peeking at me from behind the foyer door every day. Right where other people have pix of dogs and babies, I’m getting the widest angle possible in a disposable apparatus on a moment that seems, for all its portent and anachronism, permanently happy and fulfilled.

We’re together, from the point of view of the camera. I hear their luncheon conversation about how new fangled it is, and how someone’s daughter brought back stunning views with it. I hear them debate whether to try it. I hear them decide where Ma and Edna Ryan are going to stand.


The walk toward me into the foyer. We find our seats. The lights go down. We laugh. We cry. We love it better than Cats.

That’s what it is, Arlene.

That’s what it is.

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