We know Broadway like the back of our prosthetic hand.
We still have our two real ones but like having the third for status. We are so cool when we go to the manicurist shop and all the gals with their lousy one or two soak dish set-ups have to stare with envy.
We used to have a little (and we mean little) shop right in front of one of the big-time theaters. This was a while ago and the theater went by a different name and we cannot print the name or our website will be thrown out of public libraries, again.
Our shop was designed to look like a card table with a Navajo blanket covering the top. We sold us some Cups and Balls, Ball in Vase, Multiplying Billiard Balls, Magic 8-Balls, Bounce/No-Bounce Balls and our knock-off version of the spring and fake fur puppet, Rocky Raccoon. At the time, the real ones were selling for $17.00 over at Tannens. We cut out the middle-man, the man who enforced the child labor laws and the “you don’t need to go through Customs” man; but we could not eliminate the “It would be a shame if something were to happen to your cute little store or cute little wife” man.
Broadway was a tough place where guys like us would walk the mean streets with our pants weighed down by coins in our pockets. All the sales people on the Great White Way jingled. There was almost no paper money on Broadway then. The Automat served meals and hot coffee but only if you had exact change. The restrooms in the nicer establishments cost a dime or a quarter. Showers were half a dollar and all of the better movie theaters charged per three minutes per $1.00 in coins. You could always tell a fellow salesperson by the tension on his or her belt, the bumpy, dimpled bulges projecting like a topographical map over their pants legs, and the bar of Ivory Soap in their back pocket.
Ivory Soap was started right on Broadway and they never forgot their roots. They went from selling cheap turquoise or silver plated jewelry to becoming one of the largest companies in the world. If you were from the Broadway Sidewalk Sales Society, you could walk into any store – it didn’t have to be on Broadway – and pick-up one bar of Ivory Soap per month. Most of the times no one even noticed or cared. They likely knew about Mr. Ivory’s promise to his fellow merchants and were happy to see his wishes fulfilled. Sometimes you’d get a new clerk or cashier and we’d have to go through the whole story. They usually gave in about an hour into our spiel and we’d walk out cleaner.
Rumor had it that there were folks on the south side of Broadway that worked with their version of the Ivory Soap man. He was the person who invented orange juice and they could go into any store that sold orange juice (fresh-squeezed only – we guess he didn’t invent the concentrated version) and take one gallon a month.
So the north side merchants smelled good and the south side guys smelled bad but didn’t have scurvy. Life is all about trade-offs, though.
Our point was that we cannot wait until Hugh Jackman takes on the role of our hero. In fact we named other people’s children “Harry” and “Houdini” and “Bess” when we were employed for a week as a temp at the Mystic Hospital for Women and Childrens. (Yes, we know the “s” is grammatically incorrect and there is not even a word with that spelling but the benefactor of the MHWC was a self-taught Polaroid Land Camera repairman. He knew everything about every version of that famous camera from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He could fix your camera as good as new in no time but he was otherwise unintelligent. He couldn’t count (except to 60 – the number of seconds to wait before exposing pictures taken with the first film stock) he chewed with his mouth open, he sewed his own clothes – while they were on – and they remained in place for years as a consequence. Jimmy knew those dang cameras though. He would lose all the money he made on one repair job when the next customer would get him confused about the amount of change he was owed. Poor guy.
Even though he was destitute for most of his life, he loved what he did and folks in town loved to have him roam the streets looking for Polaroid Land Cameras in need of repair. People wonder how he could afford to fund Mystic Hollow Michigan’s largest building and most important medical service when he rarely had a dollar in his usually securely sewed pocket. Apparently, one of the big celebrities heard of Jimmy’s abilities and brought his camera for repair while he was performing in Chicago. He couldn’t stay for the hour or so it would take to repair so he asked Jimmy to send it to the Schubert Theater in Chicago when it was ready.
Jimmy was surprised to find two photos stuck in the mechanism. He wasn’t sure if he should look at the pictures to make sure they weren’t ruined from their cramped position inside the camera for years. He decided he wouldn’t look because he thought that would invade the celebrity’s personal life. Instead, he caught a series of trains to the Schubert Theater and tried to drop the pictures off at the box office. They wouldn’t take them and they directed him to the stage door outside and down the alley. It was raining pretty heavy and Jimmy put the pictures in his tattered but well-sewn pants. His pockets were completely sealed from years of stitching practice and probably of the natural glue we all produce through our skin pores if we don’t change clothes or bathe properly.
When he got to the stage door, it was open and two stage-hands were smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Jimmy explained that he had something for the celebrity and they sent him inside. Unbeknownst to Jimmy, the play had started. Jimmy saw the celebrity on stage and walked directly to him. He admitted later it must have been a startling sight to see. Jimmy was soaking wet, his clothes were oozing lather and bubbles from his “natural juices” and sweat, and he couldn’t see because of the stage lights.
He walked to the celebrity and said, I have something you left. It was all crammed up inside and that’s why nothing was coming out when you pushed the button. You could have pushed and pushed all day but it wasn’t going to move because it was all scrunched up.
Jimmy said the audience laughed and the celebrity looked horrified. The audience thought it was part of the act and the celebrity thought it was the end of his career.
Jimmy saw the anxiety on his customer’s face and so he tried to calm him by getting to the point and leaving.
He reached down the front of his pants and said, I kept the two that were all scrunched up in there. I couldn’t tell if they were developed or not but I figured since they were yours to begin with you should be the one who looks at them first. They may not be something you want to show or they may have ended up ruined because of all the pressure and heat up there.
The celebrity called quietly to his assistant off stage. She wrote a check to pay Jimmy and end the chaos. Jimmy walked over to give the pictures to the assistant and she handed him the check. Jimmy said it was for $100.00. With that amount, he could afford to take the train home in luxury but he noticed something weird as he walked across the stage towards the wings and ultimately the stage door. He stopped half way across the performance area and announced, “there’s something wrong with this check. It’s the zeros. It’s the wrong number.” Apparently the assistant understood Jimmy to be demanding more zeros on the check; as if he was complaining that it was too little. She took out another check and invited Jimmy to her side of the stage while the actors and the audience watched in amusement and horror respectively.
Jimmy was going to tell her that according to his studies, all zeros must have a complete, closed circle. Someone had told Jimmy that a zero that isn’t a round circle is just the letter “U". “And you know who will let you buy food with a letter U? No one, that’s who.” Jimmy remembered that rhyme and repeated almost daily.
The assistant asked Jimmy, “Is this zero okay?” as she drew figures on a check. Apparently she upped the payment to $1000 by writing a new check with additional zeros.
Jimmy shook his head and started to explain his concern with the way she was writing her zeroes, “If we don’t close the circle, it will be a letter and no one will let you eat anymore because of the letter.”
Her interpretation led to Jimmy’s riches. She understood his comment to mean that if she didn’t pay off the blackmail, he would send something in a letter and the celebrity would never “eat in this town again.”
Both concerns were mollified when she gave up the struggle and asked Jimmy to show her what she was supposed to put on the check. Jimmy said he wrote, very slowly, but correctly a perfect circle. He announced to the crowd as he picked up the check to show everyone, “See, no letters, nothing in my pants to keep dry and no pictures to worry about.”
The celebrity vomited in a likely unscripted moment and the show ended early.
Jimmy had the good sense to have the check deposited in the bank and from that investment the hospital was built.
Now where were we. Oh, yes, we can’t wait to get back to the Great White Way to see Hugh Jackman – our favorite Stage and Screen Actor – play Houdini – our favorite magician. We’ll be there with our lucky pants with the sagging pockets but filled with wrapped Ivory Soap this time around.
Read the articles about Mr. Jackman’s upcoming show here.