"Bullets are like waves, they only rearrange the sand.
History turns upon the tides and not the deeds of man."
-Robert Hunter, Down the Road, 1995
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rTist IN RESIDEnCE continued . . .
Atop her head a
beehive towers, awashed in
pink champagne hair rinse.
Grace sported a champagne-pink beehive that rivaled the Rock of Gibraltar in form. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she prided herself on being a true native, not some half-witted transplant that believed faring a single soggy season did an old-timer make. The product of one Captain Samuel MacArthur and Elizabeth Grady, her's was a legacy Northwest legends were spun from. Or, if not legends, her pedigree at least made for light conversation when there wasn't anything good on cable. The Captain came to Seattle as a teenager during the height of the Great Depression, on a tip that jobs were plentiful. Like most tips, this one was better left to a waitress. What he found upon his arrival were not the rumored jobs, but a militant solidarity among those who still had them that smacked of Stalinist underpinnings. He enlisted with the Navy the day he turned sixteen. Her mother had a similar upbringing, sans the jobless trek to an unfamiliar backwater
of North America without prospects, that military thing, and want for a better life. Raised in the wilds of Bellingham - a minitropolis on the Canadian border - her's was a life of privilege, although she was almost completely unaware of it, having known nothing else. Born into a family with large parcels of timber, Elizabeth's father was a scrupulous manager, and nurtured his holdings into a vast lumber empire by the mid-forties. Pleased with himself, he happily grew old and fat.
Before the war, and the atom bomb and a pot of money on every porch, Elizabeth met Samuel. By chance she found herself in Seattle on an outing with friends when she spied the most handsome specimen of a man. It wasn't his care-free saunter that caught her eye, or the way his eyes sparkled when he smiled, although she would come to adore those things about him. What sent her heart a racing that day were his clothes; more specifically, his Navy uniform. He explained he was on leave from Hawaii, and would it be too bold to ask her to spend the day with him? Elizabeth impulsively gave him the brush-off, then giggled about it with her girlfriends. A few minutes later she went to the ladies room for a powder, and never returned. When she finally did resurface a week later, she declared she'd become Mrs. Samuel Mcarthur in a ceremony before the Justice of the Peace, and had a license to prove it. Her mother cried, her father smiled and congratulated her, concealing his
misgivings about marriage to a man who thought it appropriate to return to the island paradise without his bride.
"He'll be back," Elizabeth announced with confidence.
Elizabeth was right to be confident. Samuel MacArthur did return, six months later. It was on December 7, 1941 he arrived in Bellingham for a four week leave. The next day he was called back to duty and shipped out on an extended tour in the South Pacific. America had a new menace on its hands, and Samuel MacArthur intended to play his part in routing it out. Roughly ten months later the telegram arrived, notifying Elizabeth that Samuel made Captain shortly before making the ultimate sacrifice for God and Country. She held her newborn tight against her, and bawled her eyes out, soaking the baby in tears. Shortly after they moved to Seattle to get away from the commiserate atmosphere of their hometown.
Some people say growing up with her mother's memory as a proxy father made Grace a little strange. Others have blamed it on the sorrowful tears she was soaked with at such a young formable age. Whatever the cause, Grace posessed the ability to blend fiction with reality to a degree that made neither truth nor falacy discernible. Some said she would have made a good politician. Grace and her mother would often sit for hours on end discussing Samuel MacArther - whom Grace would take to referring to as simply "The Captain" - a man Grace certainly never knew and Elizabeth perhaps less so. With but brief memories to go by, Elizabeth relied on the facts she knew, and made up the rest as she went along. Sometimes their discussions lasted well into the night, covering new ground and fine-tuning old, until at last Samuel seemed a whole man in Elizabeth's mind; other times they'd get bogged down on details, and Grace's imagination would run with its own possiblities until The
Captain seemed a whole god in hers.
In 1962, at the ripe old age of twenty, Grace was hired by The American Artificial Limb Manufacturing Company. At that time it was an energetic new company, and Henry Senior ran it with the vigor of a Sultan who had conquest on his mind.
"You'll do just fine here," he told her. "There are exciting things happening in this field, and though you may find it a challenge, just put your nose to the grindstone and it will all work out. You'll see."
"Thank you," Grace said, although she wondered if that nose to the grindstone comment implied she had a big nose. She dug a compact mirror out of her purse and gave herself a once over.
"Oh, and . . . Gloria . . ."
"Grace," she said, correcting him.
"We've got a slogan around here. If you need a hand just ask," he said, producing an artifical hand as if out of thin air.
Taking the limb, she said, "Thank you sir. I'll cherish it," and set it on her desk, which totally threw Henry Senior off leaving him chuckling alone at his gag.
"Yeah. All right then. Carry on." Henry Senior was finished, but then thought to add, "Oh. I like your hair. Very impressive."
"Thank you, sir," she said, giving the hive a quick go over in the mirror.
To Grace's relief, Henry Senior was right. She did do just fine at The American Artificial Limb Manufacturing Company, and discovered she actually enjoyed serving Henry Senior. So it came as a great shock when he unexpectedly turned the reins of the Company over to Henry Junior in 1969. Henry Senior had been diagnosed with cancer. It affected Grace profoundly as - sight gags aside - he had become a man she deeply respected. It didn't take long for her to determine the positive traits possessed by Henry Senior were not genetically linked to his son.
Henry Junior entered the business with change on his mind. The artificial limb industry was not synonymous with glamor, but he believed it could be. "New image" was to become his rallying cry. Why a vending machine? New image. Why are we getting Vogue, Vanity Fair and Psychology Today? New image. What's with the bum sleeping in the doorway? That wasn't anything new, but chasing him off with the latest issue of Architectural Digest was. Henry canceled the Company subscriptions to Redbook and Mechanics Illustrated. He began replacing the used office furniture with new used office furniture. It wasn't always the most upbeat furniture, or in the best shape, but besides one or two exceptions, they were an improvement over the pieces they replaced.
"New image" was to become his rallying cry. Why a vending
machine? New image. Why are we getting Vogue, Vanity Fair
and Psychology Today? New image. What's with the bum
sleeping in the doorway? That wasn't anything new, but chasing
him off with the latest issue of Architectural Digest was.
A few months into his tenure, Henry treated Grace to a cup of joe. It was thick and black and not fresh, but it was hot. He noticed a copy of Vogue on her desk. "What do you think of that?"
"It's printed very nicely," she said.
"Nice. What do you think of the magazine overall?"
"The cover's nice."
"What about the content?", Henry asked then added, "Wait, let me guess: Nice?"
Grace leveled her eyes at her boss - eyes with long black fake eyelashes that had the tendency of sticking to one another in a mottled mess - and said in a shrill but controlled voice she tended using when angry, excited, or simply bored with her natural vocal tones, "As I'm sure you're aware, it contains a goodly amount of trendily-clad women. Probably the most beautiful women in the world by the publisher's standards, sporting the latest hairstyles, using the latest products, and no doubt wearing the latest perfumes. It is stunning in its unapologetic approach to the exploitation of women." For emphasis she laid the magazine open to a page featuring a braless beauty in a t-shirt with the word "Liberation" emblazoned across it.
"You call that exploitation?", Henry asked in amazement.
"You certainly don't consider it art, do you?"
"It titillates you."
"She's a very pretty girl . . ."
"She's probably paid hundreds of dollars an hour."
"And were she not being paid hundreds of dollars she wouldn't be caught dead outfitted like that."
"I'd hope she would," Henry said, eliciting a glare from Grace. "What about the hairstyles. The hairstyles, Grace, do you like them?"
"As I stated before, they're simply trends."
Henry pointed to the braless t-shirted girl. "What about her hair? There's nothing trendy about it. It's your classic long, beautiful hair."
"Classic?", Grace asked, growing incensed. "What's classic about uncontrolled hair falling where it will, getting in your eyes, blinding you? Bosoms, unfettered . . ." She paused briefly and jotted down a quick haiku:
She was that good. Then, with hardly a beat missed, she continued her thought. "It's the end of Western Civilization is what it is. Classic is a term used much too liberally these days with absolutely no regard for its original bearing. You want classic? Look at nature. Nature's filled with classic forms, and if you took the time to study it you'd find nature is symetric. Not sporadic. There's symetry to nature, as there's symetry to all truly classical things. Ballet: symetry. Classical music: symetry. Hair growing willy nilly and bosoms left to bounce where they will: not classic. It's a mess. The honeycomb in its perfection is classic, Mister. . ." - a formality she insisted on using though he was only five years her senior - ". . . Henry. Thus the beehive." She waved her hand before the stack of hair on her head like Carol Meryl exhibiting a fabulous game show prize.
become our liberation,
handing men the win.
Henry was speechless, but it would take more than a dissertation on classicism to keep him down. "So, in a nutshell, you don't like long hair?"
"The nutshell. There's a classic."
"A Rolls Royce?"
Grace just glared at him.
"C'mon, that's a classic automobile."
"Nature is poetry," Grace said, softening her candor. "It's rhythm and lines and form. It's what separates classics from pretenders. Read Dylan Thomas and you'll understand. Under Milk Wood is a classic. The perfect blending of poetry, characterization and plot. That Mr. Dylan has rhythm."
"Dylan Thomas," she replied, her growing agitation evident. "Read Under Milk Wood."
"You don't like any of these hairstyles?", he asked thumbing through the copy of Vogue.
"I like Redbook."
Back in his office, Henry resolved to update the Company quarters whether Grace was hip to it or not. New image. She could keep the beehive, but it wasn't going to affect the rest of his plans. New image. He'd read about a hot pop artist in New York by the name of Andy Warhol . . . and wouldn't his prints look good on the walls of The American Artificial Limb Manufacturing Company? New image indeed.
To be continued . . .