Ok, folks. Tonight I've seen the future, and I'm not sure if I'm ready for it.
I'm using this Elizabeth Taylor magnet from my Union Square magnetdude, because she was British-American, of the 20th Century's Golden Age, and because with only five years separating them, she kind of reminds me of the woman I met tonight in a random West Side bar.
So yesterday, I wrote that "I am woman, hear me roar" post. You know, the one about having no other master than me.
Today, I met my future sitting in a bar built in 1868. Early for drinks with some pals, I made friends with this older lady sitting next to me. After telling me the history of the bar (sound familiar?), she moved on to telling me she was born in 1927 in Rockland County, and she's lived in NYC ever since.
Her relatives on both sides of her family came over on the Mayflower (in 1620!, she said). Both were from England - on her mother's side, they just didn't like England. And on her father's side, well, he was the King's Taster - the dude who didn't die from tasting the king's meal before he ate it. To hear her tell it, her family was English through and through. (Nothing she could do about it, she said, it wasn't her fault.)
My God, the life this woman has lived.
She basically grew up in New York City - lived through the Depression (her older brothers were all born in the 1920s as well) and remembered Pearl Harbor.
She spent 18 years living and working on Broadway as a dancer, working with the likes of Bob Fosse and other greats.
She spent 2 years straight going to every 2nd night of every Broadway show, free for this newspaper she worked for, seeing the likes of Laurence Olivier staring right at her in the audience.
She lived in a Hell's Kitchen (before it was called Hell's Kitchen) railroad apartment for $200 for 50 (not 1-5, young lady, 5-0!) years, her rent never going above $400 (big deal!, she said).
Finally, her friends insisted that she move to an assisted living home near the bar we were at, where she hates it. Not only does she hate having helpers she doesn't need, but she's surrounded by folks who've never traveled and seen and done the things she has. (I always traveled, because I had money and I could. They didn't! Now they know nothing of the world and other cultures!, she said.)
She insisted that she would never marry. She didn't. She insisted that she would never have kids. She didn't. Even when the guys promised they wouldn't have to have kids, she said, hell no, not for me, move on!
Seriously - if you know me at all, you've heard me claim the exact same things. And, if you know me at all, you know this extremely personal question did not come easy for me. I asked her straight out if she ever regretted never getting married or having kids.
She looked me straight in the eye and goes, "Hell. No." To which I replied, "Hell. Yes. Thank you."
She relented a bit, and said "Now, that's me. You have to decide for yourself." And I said, "No, I'm in agreement." She asked how old I was, replying, You're just a baby!, when I told her.
On the one hand, she's right. On the other, it was like God sat her right next to me to give me an idea of what my life would be in the next 40-50 years.
She was a tough old broad, right down to complaining about the Irish bar we were in (it's Irish bar food, what the hell do you expect?), and it was kind of ridiculous seeing her having to repeat things for me to hear.
But honestly, ya'll. I can't imagine living my life almost twice over to get to her ripe old age of 84. Jeez.
It's one of my favorite things, listening to older generations tell their fantastic stories. I probably could have chatted her up all night, except sadly, after telling me everything I mentioned above, she then started telling me about her family coming over on the Mayflower, like she hadn't just talked to me for the last 20 minutes. Sigh. Sad.
Still, she was absolutely amazing, and I was kind of sad to join my friends. I did start to worry that she'd escaped from the old folks home down the block...but since she knew the bartenders, too, I figured she'd be ok.
So I'm sharing her stories with you guys - after such a great conversation, I couldn't just let her memories fade away!