#26 So I Bought Him a Humidifier : The Lucy Episode

Recap of my “stupid” second affair with the same man—After two and a half years of his lies, hiding drugs and my public humiliation, he disappeared and married another women. (#5 So I Bought Him a Humidifier)

Before all that, around 1979, I built a house as a rental investment in East Hampton, Long Island. My friend and colleague Ivan was my partner in the house. He’s the first person I’ve written of by name, because he’s dead now.

Instead of leasing the house for the summer income, he spent his weekends there. And this should come as no surprise; we had put nothing in writing. But that’s not the story here.

Back to Mr. Humidifier, who by then was spending alternate weekends with his three children in Manhattan. We planned to take time introducing me to them so we wouldn’t disrupt their lives even more with their separated parents. I loved their father, so of course I would love them and was eager to meet them, even hug them.

One weekend in May the oldest boy had chickenpox and I agreed to a new and really bad plan. Mr. Humidifier wanted to take the two younger boys to my Hampton house for the weekend for a change. His only selling point was that they were so young they wouldn’t remember meeting me. I did not fight the new plan. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t fight it. Instead I drove out with Ivan earlier and Mr. Humidifier picked up the boys in Westchester and joined us later.

He arrived very late, dashing into our serene house with a big surprise. He talked fast breaking the news before the boys could get out of the car. The oldest, about 11, who was supposed to stay home was over the chicken pox. Mr. Humidifier said that Ivan and I would have to pretend to be a couple for the weekend. And while our jaws were still dropped, the boy entered the house. The Lucy episode began with my gay friend Ivan and me, as Fred and Ethel Mertz.

We put the boys in the downstairs bedroom and their father on the living room couch. Late at night he sneaked upstairs to my room. Our sleeping together was more important to him than time alone with his boys. Seems it was more important to me to be desired than to be appalled.

A car load of kid stuff was hauled into the house. It’s significant to mention that Ivan, who got rid of a puppy when it chewed his bathroom wallpaper, detested children.

In the morning Ivan banged on my bedroom door. The oldest boy woke early and was looking for his father in a stranger’s house. He found Ivan first who was upstairs shaving. A fast thinker, he told the child that his dad was in the basement: the basement where there was nothing but a washer and dryer. He was buying time so Mr. Humidifier could scramble downstairs to pretend to have been in the kitchen. Now this was a very bright kid who had already checked the kitchen. On the trip out the night before, he kept asking his father how he could find the house in the dark with no written directions, to a place where he had never been. Moving men could never find that house.

The weekend did not improve. The children I had waited to meet had no idea who I was or even that this was my house. Ivan in his very deep voice yelled at the youngest child who never made another sound. The two of us stayed at the house all weekend, but I don’t think even the three-year old thought we were a couple. I, the unidentified stranger, played games with them but it was never clear who I was. Once the youngest wouldn’t get out of the car and stayed there crying. I went to comfort him and he took a swing at me. The boys and their father hopelessly tried flying a kite on a windless day at the beach.

My first stint as a step-mother, the toughest job I’ve ever had, was off to a tragic sitcom start.


#25 Mugged by a Nun

In the early 70’s, I in my mid-twenties, worked at WNBC in New York, commuting from New Jersey. Friends from Ohio came to visit. We were meeting other former colleagues at a touristy steak joint in Manhattan. We didn’t have much money so someone suggested we pool our cash in advance. I was to pay the check.

At the restaurant we all sat at a big round table for drinks. When some of the group left, my guests and I got up to move to the dining room. But my purse on the floor by the chair was gone. We told the management and then we remembered that a nun had come around our table, begging. No one paid attention, but she stopped, looked me in the eyes and said, “God bless you my child.” When we got up and my purse with all our money was gone I knew what she meant. I had been mugged, by New York definition.

The restaurant paid for our dinner. Seems the “little nun” was well-known and they felt responsible. But then we had to try to talk the garage into giving me my car. The ticket for the car was gone. My driver’s license was gone. Everything was gone. They did trust me with my car. If only I had understood the power of young attractive women back then.

I drove downtown because the out-of-towners had never been in the Village, Greenwich Village. I grabbed a parking spot smack in front of a brand new Mexican restaurant. A waiter standing outside talked us into coming in. We explained our plight and they couldn’t have been nicer. They wanted bodies at their tables so they brought us platters of nachos. They didn’t have a liquor license yet, so served pitcher after pitcher of punch to go with the nachos.

Our depression about losing the money turned into belly laughs. That was no punch they were pouring, it was our first experience with Sangria: lots and lots of Sangria. I should never have driven us home that night, but it wouldn’t be the last time my car was a little crooked in its parking spot the next morning.

I told the story at the radio station the next day. That afternoon one of the salesmen spotted the “little nun” on 42nd street so he chased her. She pulled up her dress or whatever it’s called, where she had hidden my purse, revealing high top sneakers. She slalomed through the crowded sidewalks and outran my stocky friend in his three-piece suit.

I got a call from another restaurant. My purse had been thrown into their doorway. I got it back sans anything of value including my tiny treasured perfume. So there was a dark-haired “little nun” somewhere in Manhattan with my wallet, our money and smelling of Givenchy.

That wasn’t my first mugging. When I lived in Greenwich Village, I came home one night to the apartment building. There was no doorman, but there was a security door. When I put my key in the 2nd door, two very tall young men came in behind me. They held a knife at my wrist and wanted my money. My biggest fear was that they’d stab me because I was broke. Then they wanted my watch. Stalling, I told them that it didn’t work, hoping someone would come through the lobby. I think they were just as new at robbing as I was at being robbed. They left.

Police arrived and had me ride around in the back of their patrol car to spot the two guys. I was more afraid that they would see me. No way I would recognize guys in stocking caps.

A few weeks later my brother and his wife were staying with me. His car was parked out front and we were leaving but forgot something inside. We all went back in for just a moment. When we came out there was a coat hanger on the ground and his radio was gone. I saw a police car at the corner and waved. It was the same two officers who had driven me around the Village weeks before. There was nothing they could do.

Months later, living in New Jersey, I left WNBC to go to Port Authority to catch my bus. But a man there held a knife to me. I gave him the scraps of money I had and he disappeared, probably laughing. I walked back to the station to borrow a few dollars from the D.J. on the air so I could get home. Why did they think I had money? I had to empty my coin collection to get to work the next day.

Soon after that I had another purse stolen from the floor of a restaurant. I never got that one back.

Then one day, walking down 6th Avenue over lunch, with crowds of people, I felt a tug on my shoulder bag. I had my pay check in that bag. But now I was a New Yorker. I whirled around, saw the young guy and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” He ran. And it was the last time I was mugged.

It’s been decades since I had a drink and then drove.

But I do still put my purse on the floor in restaurants.