Despite the fact that two siblings (one blogging one non-) are in Florida with the Ancient Mariner & spouse, I'm zipping to NYC to spend a weekend with my True Ann-Sister and her husband Jacques. There's a lot that needs to be done. I'm going to play the part of the heavy, sitting in the double-parked car on the narrow New York street, with the parking lights on, hoping someone dares ask me to move, while Amba is upstairs packing boxes. Then I'll shlep some of those boxes wherever Amba needs me to take them. It's the least I can do.
Jacques first powerfully impressed himself on me when I was a teenager and he was a mountain. I had one friend who was a very awkward, self-conscious kid (now a Berkeley law professor), and Jacques contemptuously referred to him as "unshaped protoplasm," which is still one of my nicknames for that particular friend. When I was in Chicago and Jacques came to town, he'd want to know if anyone was bothering me. If I said yes, Jacques would ask for the kid's name and address. There are a couple I now wish I'd handed over.
When I moved to New York after college, following a girlfriend around, Amba and Jacques fed me and introduced me to people and told me where to go and not go, and when.
When I moved back to New York after acting school, with the girlfriend-turned- wife, A & J fed us both. We looked after their cats sometimes when they were out of town, but they always looked after us when they were in town.
After that first (stupid, stupid) marriage failed and I returned to the Midwest, I still loved visiting them, still felt like a protected kid. Jacques could make Jesse Ventura feel like a baby tucked in a papoose.
A & J's perch above the noisy thoroughfare has always seemed like something out of The Owl and the Pussycat (which always struck me as funny, because Jacques played the super in Barbara Streisand's building in that unforgettable film). I can't resist eating entire quarts of Jacques' vinite (homemade Romanian eggplant dip) and drinking a screwdriver out of a Pyrex pitcher. One of their cats always decides I'm OK, and before long I've got cat hair velcroed into my beard and itching my nose, and little holes in my pants from where the cat digs her claws in when she's delighted with a new lap to sit on.
I remember sitting on their giant bed, eating cold noodles with sesame sauce, watching a NOVA episode where a microscopic camera was inserted into a woman's uterus to record the moment of conception, and laughing hysterically, because our noodle-slurping and the sperm's upstream thrashing made identical noises.
I remember a parade of cats with personalities so vivid, you just waited for the little man to unzip his cat-suit and step out.
Most of all, there was the invincibility of Jacques' powerful, protective, garrulous love, and Annie's glinting eyes and galloping mind. Although he's lost a step, Jacques still seems formidable, impregnable, even. Amba's mind still laps everyone else's.
I don't know exactly what it is they've got, but ... I'll take another helping!