Howard was looking at me funny. We were sitting in his truck across from SAME DAY SERVICE LAUNDRY (200 East 6th Street), waiting for a space after street cleaning, and I was telling him about what would make a perfect day.
"First, there has to be mystery and excitement. So the call comes in the early morning from maybe a Major Mancheck, and he says, 'You can't go to work. You have to go to the BEARD STREET WAREHOUSES IN RED HOOK on a national security mission because you have one of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds in the country.' So the DELANCEY CAR SERVICE (228-3301)—I just can't take the subway for this—would whisk me to the end of Van Brunt Street, where I would begin the long, lonely walk to the water. And it would be foggy, and I would have to stare at the 19th-century brick warehouses with the black iron doors and the big hooks and also the snorkel lift. Then a man in yellow oilskins—his one arm would be two inches longer than the other from lifting cargo his whole life—would force me into a motorboat. I would have to lie under a blanket because it was so dangerous, and we would go up the Gowanus Canal and that's where the enemy would be and . . . " But when I started thinking about this, I got scared.
Photograph by Sylvia Plachy
I said, "Howard."
"I don't think a national security mission is the way to go. Maybe something more realistic, like where I would marry Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (EVERGREEN VIDEO, 37 Carmine Street, 691-7362)—after all, love is so rewarding—though the movie would have to be changed a little so that he wouldn't have agreed to help the mob, because I wouldn't want to marry a criminal. But he would still look and talk the same, like when someone's buttering him up and he says, 'Uh, without the birdseed.' I, of course, would look like Eva Marie Saint.
"So we would meet when my brother had been discovered dead—not that I'd want my brother dead—but tragic moments make for more intense passion—and of course, in this version, it wouldn't have been Marlon's fault. He would help me recover from the tragedy even though I would try to run away with the scarf on my head and the little black coat (MACY'S, 151 West 34th Street, 695-4400).
"Later, we would go on some dates. He'd show me the pigeons on the roof, and I would love him even more because of his close affection for animals, but I'd tell him to be careful because I heard you can get spinal meningitis if you touch pigeon droppings. And then—I guess this would be our life after the movie—we'd go to dinner at BAMONTE'S (32 Withers Street, Brooklyn, 718-384-8831), which would look the same as now though they wouldn't have that see-through wine cooler, and we would order Bamonte's special antipasto or maybe clams casino. Then, just before the cannoli arrived, he would say, 'I have something to tell you.' He would take out a small velvet box and say, 'Uh'—he has trouble pronouncing words sometimes—and I would know what he was trying to say, and there would be stars in my eyes and the waiter would run over, wiping his hands on a towel, and congratulate us.
"Then, after the marriage, he and I would live in a little tenement apartment near his job—this would be before containerized shipping replaced men lifting cargo in nets. The apartment would be spick-and-span, and I would wear an apron (STELLA DALLAS, 218 Thompson Street, 674-0447) but I'd take it off when he came home, and maybe I'd have a ponytail. He'd say, 'Some monkey down there dropped a box on my foot.' I'd say, 'Oh relax, I've made some ziti.' I would be the best cook and I would iron all his shirts, and after all that I would have the look that Francie has on her face in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (Evergreen, ibid) when she's ironing a shirt for her father, a singing waiter whom she loves more than anyone in the world, and he says, 'A day like this is just like somebody gave you a present—everything just right!' "
So I told Howard all this in the truck. "What do you think? Is that a perfect day or what?" I had been wrestling with this for weeks.
Howard said, "Hah! You're a workaholic."
"What about all the ironing?"
"Not quite. Your perfect day is when you figure out the solution to a story."