Sorry that this entry of Upstate Journal is late. Tiny crisis: was TROTTING past the V.F.W. hall in Slattern, phone to ear, trying in vain to convince Gully Wells to give me her family’s mutton-suet-pudding recipe, when I SLIPPED on a patch of ice, sending me arse-over-teakettle onto the sidewalk! Fortunately, two hardy legionnaires were quick to help me back to my feet, and my Ann Demeulemeester leather jeans kept me from skinning my knees—no small thing at my age, when every dermatological episode is potentially a prelude to skin grafts and a cefoxitin drip.
But my iPhone was less lucky. It landed with a PLOONK in a slush puddle! I remembered that you’re supposed to plunge a wet iPhone into a bowl of dry rice, so I RAN home, but all I had in the cupboard was Israeli pearl couscous. I tried using it, but it didn’t do the trick—a metaphor, as I told Joan Buck, for my two-week engagement to Meshulam Riklis.
The Dread Pinwheel Thingy
Fortunately, I’ve gotten to be something of a regular at Tech Smiths, an adorable little computer store in Kingston, where I have a little man, Alfredo, who talks me off the ledge every time my laptop screen freezes and the dread pinwheel thingy appears—which is really like a little death, isn’t it? Well, I don’t know HOW Alfredo did it, but my phone is not only working again, but he even upgraded the software so that I can send those little animoji texts. Don’t ask me why, but I just sent Marianne Faithfull one of the wild-boar animoji singing “Broken English.”
“Too real,” Marianne replied. “:( ”
Anyway, technical disaster averted. Back to business: In the last journal, I told you how I had sleuthed out my former friend Patrick Lyonnais, locating him in the parking lot of the Great Barrington ganja store, Theory Wellness. We buried the hatchet right then and there—neither of us is getting any younger, Patrick especially—and I followed him in my Kia Soul back to his house in Lee, Mass. (Graydon, he drives a 2003 Subaru Forester now. Oh, PATRICK!)
Patrick was an early adapter to post-magazine living, well before the rest of us. If memory serves, he was the first of Penelope Green’s “re-invention” profiles for the Times’s Style section. Remember that one, with the picture of him sitting forlornly in United economy class, under the headline “Coping with Coach”?
He lives in a converted gardener’s shed on the grounds of Stott Hall, family seat of the Massachusetts Stotts, who sent 20 men to Congress in the 19th century and 19 to rehab in the 20th. Patrick doesn’t keep his home as tidy as I do mine in Slattern, but I AM impressed by his resourcefulness. He’s got a cache of other people’s unused notepads—Rochelle Udell, Charles Churchward, Suzanne Slesin, don’t those names bring you back?—and a complete Philippe Starck dinner set for six that he lifted piece by piece from the old “44” restaurant at the Royalton. His drafting table is just an old barn door on sawhorses, but he has decoupaged its surface with old vouchers from the Big Apple Car service. I knew that he still cared for me when I saw, on his nightstand, a framed Bill Cunningham shot of the two of us charging up Madison Ave. in 1986, our Willi Smith trenches flapping in the wind. We were SO beautiful then. So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so beautiful.
Remember that one, with the picture of him sitting forlornly in United economy class, under the headline “Coping with Coach”?
Patrick sold his place in Palm Beach about 10 years ago, but even that windfall is long gone, along with his Eames chairs and signed Herb Ritts prints. What DESTROYED my heart were the little homemade curtains in his loo—tension rods hung with maroon hand towels from Price Chopper! “When I want to see my whole life flash before my eyes,” Patrick said, “all I have to do is go on 1stdibs.”
We blazed up some of the bud that Patrick had brought home from Theory, specifically an “indica-dominant hybrid,” as he called it, sold under the DREADFUL name Dank Commander. BLEAH! What a long way we’ve come from when I used to go with Peter Tosh, and everyone was scandalized by his song “Legalize It.” (My personal favorite of his was “Ketchy Shuby,” whose title was my euphemism for open-air night sex on Trelawny Beach.) Peter NEVER spoke of our thing—his Rasta friends would have crucified him for it—but it was Patrick who knew all my secrets, who extrapolated my affair with Peter into the phony rumor that Anna dated Bob Marley. (Oh, if ONLY; they would have had gorgeous little fine-boned babies togedder.)
I asked Patrick why he had gotten so increasingly reckless with his gossip, and he said it was a reaction to all his friends dying around him. “Lansy,” he said, “I didn’t think I would live to see 1999, let alone 2019. If I was going down, I was going to Hindenburg it, baby.” So he spent like a drunken sailor and burned every damned bridge.
Two Old Biddies Blasted on Dank Commander
Yet there we were in Lee, Mass., in this 2019th year of Our Lord, back together, sitting in his garden-shed hovel: two old biddies blasted on Dank Commander.
When the Dank C. high wore off and we found ourselves tearing into a jumbo bag of Harvest Snaps green-pea crisps ($0.79 at Price Chopper!), I got to the task at hand: enlisting Patrick as my cold-case-cracking Sherpa. I filled him in on sad young Haven Deeds from in front of the Kwik Fill, and how Haven’s mom and dad had exchanged words in 1994 at the Slattern Ridge Tavern, and how the strangled body of Haven’s dad, Walt, had washed ashore of Leech Pond the next day, with no trace of Haven’s mom, Louise. And how the last thing resembling a clue was a $200 ATM withdrawal in, of all places, Lake Worth, Florida.
Patrick ruminated for a while (literally RUMINATED; I forgot how disgusting his chewing sounds are—would Air Mail want a piece by me on late-onset female misophonia?), and then made a declaration: “We’re going to fly down there, Lansy. To pick up the trail. Do you have any frequent-flyer miles left?”
Well, the last miles I had were with Air Berlin, which went belly-up two years ago before my plane even landed in Hamburg for Jil Sander’s columbarium dedication to Dickie Mommsen.
“Then sell your Majolica butter pats. Sell them on One Kings Lane!,” Patrick said. “Five of them should get us both to West Palm on JetBlue.”
“Follow the Citrus, Lansy”
I asked Patrick why he was so ready to plunge into his old playground, having only just learned the details of our “case.” He told me that the connection between southeast Florida and these parts upstate and in the Berkshires is not as random as I’d thought. Graydon, do you remember Cushman’s Honeybells, the expensive novelty fruit that looks like an orange that is nursing? They used to take out a splashy full-page ad every winter in the Times?
No matter. It turns out that Cushman’s used to bring down a lot of seasonal farmhands from up our way every year. Patrick remembers cruising a Honeybell picker from Tivoli, N.Y., at H. G. Roosters in West Palm many moons ago.
“We have to follow the citrus, Lansy,” Patrick said.
“And will it tell us why Louise Deeds murdered her husband and fled to Florida?,” I asked.
“Hang on there, cookie,” Patrick said. “When did I ever say that Louise murdered Walt? It may be a whole lot more sinister than that.”
OOP—sorry! I just got an animoji text from Marianne! It’s the octopus singing “Song for Nico.” HA! More later.