|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
Someone remarked to me the other day that two people that we both knew were the oddest couple she had ever met. I replied that I didn't find them all that odd, to which my companion replied that I must have very inflated standards of oddness. This got me to thinking about some of the odder people I have known in my life, and I must admit, I have known some extraordinary individuals of remarkable oddness, more than a few of whom I have been related to by blood.
When I was much younger and newly married, my then husband and I both worked in the hotel business, an industry which is pretty odd by anyone's standards and tends to attract some different kinds of people. At the time we worked for a hotel and conference center in a suburb of Chicago that had been converted from a mansion built in 1900 by the reigning Sausage King of Illinois, who evidently had a strange attraction for all things Medieval. He must have taken his title as Sausage King pretty seriously, because he had some poor architect design him a house that was supposed to look like a castle. It ended up looking like a kid's drawing of a castle, complete with towers in the corners, fake battlements on the roof, and a pair of sickly looking Gargoyles poised over the massive front door, which was designed, of course, to resemble a drawbridge.
The interior of this flight of rich man's fancy had a huge Great Room with a fireplace that was big enough to roast an ox or burn a tree-sized Yule Log. There were coats of arms, swords, and battle axes raised in stone on the walls, and at one time, I am certain, various coats of armor standing around. The floors were all marble and flagstone and the main staircase was enormous, with giant carved lions at the end of the balustrades. One of the big bedrooms upstairs had a marble shower so big that you could have comfortably thrown a small cocktail party in it with room to spare. I used to wonder about that shower.
The basement area, which covered the full length of the manse and housed the original kitchen and work rooms, was deliberately designed to look like a dungeon with torch-like sconces on the walls and barred windows. This is where the poor servants had their dark, dank little rooms and where the master of the house had his giant game room. The whole effect was like something out of a nightmare King Arthur had after eating too many sausages.
In keeping with this odd atmosphere there was an equally odd British housekeeper who always wore black and was thin as a rail. She was in her 40's and had the boniest hands and arms I have ever seen and a long, thin nose. She was a neurotic lady with a Gothic belief in the supernatural, and she staunchly maintained that the old mansion was full of ghosts with whom she had frequent and often recounted close encounters. Personally, I thought that the only ghost who would haunt that place happily would be Ivanhoe, and I was pretty sure he wasn't hanging around. Her husband was Swiss, and despite many years in America, had a very thick, and often incomprehensible accent. He was as odd as she was, but they were a nice and happily married couple who had somehow met, married, and ended up living and working in suburban Chicago. They were childless, but had two Doberman Pincers that they loved like offspring. Why they chose Dobermans as surrogate children I have no idea, but I think that I might have gone with something a little more cuddly. We were constantly being regaled with stories about the two dogs and treated to too many photos to count until the couple finally invited us to dinner one night so we could meet the two little darlings in person.
When we arrived at their house we were greeted at the door by the housekeeper who had a glass of gin in one hand and the two barking dogs in the other, which was a good thing because it was difficult to tell whether their enthusiasm was because they wanted to greet us or eat us. She handled them with a firm hand and a lot of baby talk and managed to get us in without letting them go or spilling a drop of gin. Their house was crammed to the gills with heavy Victorian furniture, numerous china cabinets, and countless little round end tables laden with knick-knacks and lamps with fringed shades. The windows had heavy velvet drapes, some with fringe and all drawn against whatever they thought might be outside. It was like walking into an episode of Dark Shadows. They gave us a tour that was like maneuvering through a narrow Gothic maze with two large dogs trying to love you to death. The tour ended in the living room, which they called 'The Parlor', at the fireplace mantel, which was covered with photographs, a bunch of fussy Cuckoo Clocks from Switzerland, none of which were synchronized, and two big, ornate marble vases.
The Lady of the House waved one bony hand at the mantel. "And here are Heidi and Heinrich," she intoned dramatically.
I squinted in the darkness at the photos and saw that there were two of handsome Dobermans in matching silver frames in front of the vases. They looked like their two dogs but I was a little confused because I was pretty certain that the two panting canines sitting on the floor and leaning ominously on my legs were named Zoe and Tristan.
"They certainly are beautiful dogs," I said hopefully.
Their mommy looked at me for a moment as if I had said something completely absurd and replied, "I'm talking about the urns you silly girl," followed by a healthy swig from the glass of gin.
There was a three count while I struggled to process this remark, but it finally occurred to me that the two gigantic urns that looked like something stolen from the Acropolis, were the present residences of the aforementioned Heidi and Heinrich.
"Oh...well...lovely urns," I said lamely.
"They ought to be," she said, draining the glass of gin and handing it to her husband for a refill, "we paid a bloody King's ransom for them." She took out a dainty hanky and wiped her misty eyes. "We wanted to have them stuffed and sitting on the hearth rug of course, but we were worried that the two new ones might gnaw on them."
My ex-husband and I rode home in silence that evening until we pulled into our driveway when he remarked that all during dinner he couldn't help thinking that the bouncy Zoe and Tristan were someday destined to share a place on the mantel with the dear departed Heidi and Heinrich.
"They are going to have to either move some of those ridiculous Cuckoo Clocks or downsize their final resting places," I answered. "Those urns are massive."
"They are an odd couple," he said simply.
That time, I had to agree.