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Almost 10 years ago (can it really be that long?), I graduated from college in the pouring rain with a disgruntled family watching from the sidelines. My parents were divorced; I had flipped out and lost a million pounds barely finishing school, only saved by a sudden fascination with Holocaust memorials; and my grandparents seemed to hate everyone and everything. At the bitter end, my grandmother handed me a card with a check for $50 and the note inside: "Marry Rich." I had just broken up with my blue-blood English boyfriend. This didnít look so promising.
In a normal family, $50 would have been generous. In my family, it was punitive. A few months later, my grandparents successively had strokes and died. My grandmother left my cousin Jane and me each a diamond. My brother and her brother got cash ó cash enough to buy 10 of our diamonds. Put a diamond on your finger and Marry Rich. All I had to do was find a guy named Rich.
Though it wasnít a pleasant task, my parents, in their divorced cease fire, made my brother split the money with me and I went off to NYC and spent it all in about three months going out to eat after work at nice restaurants and paying for all my friends, buying weird antiquated clothes at auction, and flying home to Maine to stay with my Mom for long weekends. I mostly, and this is the truth, spent it on other people. You know how baseball players sign their first contract and buy their moms houses and cars? I got rich (like $7000 rich) and bought everyone I knew stuff because, for the first time in my life, I could.
Soon, I was back on Greyhound and just where I had been before, which was working three jobs and trying to write something someone, somewhere, might want to buy.
Apparently, in this splitting of money agreement, I told my brother I would split the diamond (which I had never seen before) if he ever got it together and someone actually said yes. I was doubtful this would happen. And then I forgot all about it and went into fashion amnesia at Bendelís.
Well. He got it together. This year. In six months of dating a woman Iíve never met. He called and said he knew. Iíd never heard a man say he knew, so even for me, his sister, this was a thrill. Vicariously.
Then the real call came over my cell on a Friday evening, while I was on my way home from a meeting. I was tired, had been working long hours producing a show, and would have liked any conversation that could be trouble free. He asked about the diamond. He wanted it ó or a piece of it ó to slip on his bride-to-beís finger. He reminded me that heíd split his money, something heís evidently still ruffled about. I told him Iíd take it to a jeweler to see about breaking it. He was huffy. Like maybe-I-wouldnít-get-it-from-our-fatherís-safe-and-actually-do-this huffy. He really wanted the diamond. Like now.
That made me huffy.
So began my foray into the business of jewels. All of a sudden Iím standing at the jewelerís looking at diamonds and wondering about their clarity and my brother, of all people, is asking me if this diamond Iím holding in my possession is "princess cut." I began to feel like a medieval merchant, traipsing up and down the streets into this jewelerís and thatís, getting quotes and finding that a real appraisal of a diamond (which by the way could not be broken) costs real money and is a real headache.
The diamond had been my grandmotherís grandmotherís. It was passed from woman to woman until it came to me. Now my brother wanted it. How do you say to your brother, "Thatís fine, but if you get a divorce I want it back?" And then, how, in good faith, after you get it appraised, do you tell him he needs to buy out your half?
What I really wanted to do was send him a ring pop in a nice box. I even bought one ó bubble-gum flavored. I was on the phone with Cowboy, who sometimes acquires the morality of Dubya when I want to be "mean funny." If I point this out, with GWís name slipped into the accusation, he threatens to hang up on me.
Cowboy commands me to throw the bubble gum rock in the trash and just stop it already. I do it. Then he hears me rustling around.
"What are you doing?"
"I just found the perfect box."
"Youíre not going through the trash are you?"
". . . Yes."
"No. I wonít let you send it. Youíve never met this woman. You canít send this candy rock as a joke and make them think youíre giving them the diamond until they open the box. No."
"But how many chances does one get in life to be funny ó okay, mean ó about this?"
"I hate you."
"Throw it away."
"I canít find a good box anyway." (pause) "Thatís the only reason Iím throwing it away. Just so you know."
"Fine. Now Iíll go pray for your soul."
Okay, he didnít say that last part, but it makes me feel better to think he did. So now I wait for my brother and his bride-to-beís arrival to check out my wares and see if they want to purchase it from me. I may ask for a pound of flesh instead of money. Or maybe thatís what weíll all have lost here in a tussle gone nasty.
Caitlin Shetterly can be reached at email@example.com
Issue Date: April 15 - 21, 2005
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