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Daily Archives: 01/23/2011
Our website is just about ready to go (it’s already live) and I have a feeling by the end of the week we’ll be ready to feature it, so stayed tuned.
Since we’ve been heavily featuring Dottie in this scene, I thought I would add a little more on her background by including one of Velma’s journal entries. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorites and I think it’s easy to see why. This excerpt from Velma’s journal not only features Dottie’s tough-as-nails persona, but also serves as an intro to the bartender Fox and Velma’s foray into becoming a whiskey enthusiast. Take note of Velma’s staunch and stuffy tone in this entry. She’s 19 years old in her first month at Barnard.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1931:
At 9:30 PM when I am usually tucked away in bed with a book, Dottie told me it was time to get ready. She ran down to the showers and washed herself. She flew back into the room in a terry robe and quickly threw on a slim black dress with white trim. Although Dottie has a pale complexion for someone of the Italian persuasion, I still think black washes her out. Of course she feels she can rectify this by over roughing her cheeks and painting her lips cherry red to match her finger nails.
I put on a simple blue dress and over it a trench coat. Of course Dottie had something to say about this. “What are you some shamus or something? You’re going out not solving a crime.”
“I’m investigating.” Was my retort.
Her face grew stern. “Listen to me and listen good, I swear to the holy Lord if you rat on this joint I’ll bust your nose in.” She made a fist to enforce her claim.
“Dottie, I’m only curious to see if my professor is there. I’m not out to ruin anyone’s fun.”
She unclenched her fist. “As long as we’re clear. Just cause you’re whacky doesn’t mean the rest of us need to be.”
I kept the trench on since the evening was moist. We walked over to Broadway and traveled a few blocks south from campus. The restaurants and coffee shops were full of life, which amazed me. I would have been asleep for at least an hour on any other night, but here a whole other world went on right outside my door.
Dottie stopped in front of a dark bakery. She looked both ways. In the dark sliver of space between the bakery and the building next to it was a red metal door with high grate climbing above it. She tapped on the door lightly and whispered, “Sticky buns.” With that the door opened to a crack and we were permitted to enter. Behind the door was a slim dark-haired gentlemen who whispered, “Hiya Dottie.” He looked over me. “This a friend?”
“My roommate, Velma. Don’t mind the jacket. This is her first time out.”
He tipped his black hat, “Nice makin’ your acquaintance, Velma.”
I cracked a smile through my fear, “You as well.”
“Howie’s inside waitin’ for ya,” he said to Dottie.
“Thanks Rick. Come on, Velma.” She took me by the arm and led me through the alley. “That’s Rick. Sweet kid.”
“He seems it.” I was trying to mask my throbbing nerves but the shady alley lit by one naked bulb and the secret passwords were not helping.
She stopped in front of a smaller green door and tapped again four times. The door opened cautiously and we entered. The man behind this door looked exactly like Rick at the first door. “Hey, Dottie.”
“Hiya Mick.” She looked at me. “They’re twins.”
“Oh,” I said. Mick and Rick sounded like the Vaudeville.
“This ya friend?” He asked.
“My roommate, Velma. Don’t mind the jacket. This is her first time out.”
“Nice to meet ya, Velma,” he said tipping his black hat.
“And you as well,” I said nodding my head.
Dottie rolled her eyes at me. “She’s from upstate so that’s why she’s all formal-like.”
Mick smiled, “A formal dame ain’t something I’m used to here…. Howie’s inside.”
“Got it. Thanks, Mick.” Dottie put her arm out and with her hand clutched the air and drew it to the side not only to reveal a room spotted with candles and hanging lanterns, but the noise of the seventy or so patrons drinking and conversing. The black velvet curtain blocked out all sound and light from escaping.
We stepped down a short staircase into the main room. “We call it the Bakery seeing as it’s behind a bakery.”
“Very clever,” I said, my heart racing. The smell of cheap liquor and the clouds of cigarette smoke made me immediately dizzy.
“The air’s not so great. You might want to lose the jacket.”
She was right I was beginning to sweat. “No I’m fine.”
“Suit yourself, honey.”
Out of thin air a man in a cheap blue suit came from behind Dottie, wrapped his arms around her waist and swung her off the ground. She yelped out with a smile, “HOWIE!”
I was frozen with fear.
He turned her around and kissed her on the lips. “Your sucha nut,” she said laughing.
“I know it, but I’m your nut, doll face.” His eyes were light with an angular creamy face and the distinct trace of freckles on his cheeks.
“Howie, this is Velma.”
“Nice to meet ya. Dottie says awful things about ya,” he starts laughing. I hoped he was joking.
She slapped him across the cheek playfully, “Howie’s an idiot who says the first thing that comes across his pea brain, but we keep him around for fun.”
“And Dottie’s the dame who can hustle any of these guys at pool,” he said proudly.
“And Velma’s the one who can speak eight languages. Now that we know each other’s talents, let’s get a drink,” Dottie heading toward the back of the establishment.
“Nice meeting you Howie,” I said. “But I can only speak three languages although I can understand five.”
“Alright, enough,” Dottie said as the three of us walked over to the long bar. “What ya got tonight, Fox?”
Fox seemed to be the short older gentlemen with not a trace of hair on his head and a round pug face. His white apron was impressively spotless. He replied tersely, “Gin or whiskey.”
“What’s homemade?” Dottie asked.
Howie chimed in, “The gin and you can taste it.”
“Ok, three whiskies and put ‘em on the rocks in honor of our new friend, Velma.”
“Dottie, I’m not drinking,” I urgently reminded her.
The man called Fox poured the drinks into ice-filled glasses. “Yeah you are. It’s on me.”
“No, I’m not,” I insisted.
Dottie pushed Howie out of the way and put my arm into a vice grip. “Listen sister if you walk around in a joint like this in a jacket like that and you don’t drink, kids are gonna start thinking you’re the fuzz and it won’t be pretty for any of us—”
“Ladies, ladies,” Howie started seeing the fear in my eyes, I’m sure.
“—so drink the damn drink.” She let my arm go and smiled. “Besides, you might like it.”
“You’re a beast,” Howie said to Dottie with wild excitement in his eyes.
“Remember that when some pretty dame walks in front of ya.”
“I will,” Howie said with a grin. Dottie picked up a glass and handed it to me. Then one to Howie and she took the last for herself. She raised her glass, “To breaking the law,” she took a large sip and placed the glass on the bar. Howie took a reasonable sip.
I looked at the full glass and just wanting to be done with the whole thing, I took a breath and drank the entirety of the amber liquid. In an instant the combination of heat, smoke, body stench, and poison hit me and all went black.