Calling Norma McDesmond

Image result for novelty green necktieI was eighteen or nineteen years old, home from university but not keen to stay home, so I had legged it into Manhattan where a clutch of my friends — all a year older — were living while attending art school. We went to a party at someone’s flat on St Mark’s Place. Back then (late 70s) it felt racy. I had a few drinks. All perfectly legal at the time, and not even anything too wild. But I woke up the next morning with a hangover.

Unfortunately it was the day I’d promised to return to Stony Brook and the parental home. So I dragged my sorry ass up to Penn Station, bought a Long Island Railroad ticket, and made my way down the underground concourse towards my platform.

Coming towards me was a man wearing a giant green tie. A tie that knotted around the neck and then travelled down and down and down, until it skimmed the floor. I thought I’d gone insane. I thought I’d crashed through the doors of perception, never to return to normality. I thought: other people get pink elephants, but me, I’ve got to be clever — I’ve got to hallucinate a Kelly green tie. What’s that about? (Except we didn’t use that phrase in the 1970s, so substitute the historical equivalent, which I’m too old to remember.)

After quite a long time I realised it was St Patrick’s Day (note to readers: I’m not Irish!) and I calmed down and made it home. Once there I sat at the kitchen table feeling sorry for myself. I clutched my head. I rubbed my stomach. I covered my mouth with one hand in case vomit dared to make a run for it. I probably moaned a little, subtlety not being one of my noteworthy qualities.

In a rare instance of Behaving as a Completely Normal Mother would do, Gloria buzzed around, asking a litany of questions: what’s wrong, what are the symptoms, what can I do?

Unaccustomed as I was to traditional parenting, I finally snapped, “Stop trying to fix this. It’s just a hangover. It’ll be gone in the morning.”

Gloria recoiled, drew up to her full 5’10 1/2″, channeled Norma Desmond, and said, “I have a child who drinks to excess?!”

Now that was the mother I recognised.

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