The Brass Ring
Star date May 2012: Seattle
Tuesday, 10:00am: Not at a Starbucks.
I was sitting outside, under very threatening, but very typical early May Seattle skies. I was also busy keeping my Starbucks Avoidance vow going, having made it six weeks so far. Lori Dean was a friend and one of the last brave souls in Seattle still willing to open a small independent coffee shop. Lori and her husband Travis had managed to stay open for three years, and they were proving plucky, if not downright bold. I’d passed the nearest Starbucks two blocks from here, and it had been sparsely populated as well.
There were a half dozen steel tables and chairs scattered about. No one but me was braving the potential rain. Inside were about eight people.
A young woman exited the shop and paused, looked around, eyed me speculatively, and walked to my table.
She stood over me, coffee in hand, smiling. “May I sit here?”
I looked around at the empty tables, hesitated, and said “Ok.”
She sat. “You sound dubious.”
I looked at her. Cute. No obvious makeup or hair issues. Plainly dressed, as if to understate what appeared to be a body that was a neck-snapper.
“Well, until you show a card face up, I’ll probably remain ambivalent.”
She nodded. ”Is that a smart, subtle way of saying ‘show me your tits’.”
I laughed. Loud. I am not often non-plussed, but that caught me off guard. I waited a four count.
“No, but if you played that particular Ace of Spades, it could vault you into Charter Member territory.”
“We’ll see”, she says, sipping her coffee.
“I’m Sandy,” she said, extending her hand. I shook it. A firm handshake. Another point in her column. A dead fish handshake from a woman is like a cold shower to a man. Maybe that’s why so many women do it.
“Jeremy,” I say, letting go of her hand after about three seconds. “I haven’t seen you here before.”
She looked around, then glanced south through a couple of high rises where the top third of the Space Needle was visible.
She turned back to me. “I’m boycotting Starbucks.”
”You too, huh? I’ve made it six weeks. It hasn’t been hard. I’ll confess, the owners here are friends. Loyalty trumps all else, in this case.”
“You know Lori and Travis? For how long?”
I stared at her. That bitch Lori has been hiding this morsel from me? Or maybe she’s such damaged goods, Lori was protecting me.
“As long as I’ve been in Seattle, about three years. I met them when they opened up this little place. Where did you meet them?”
“Here too. Almost a year ago. That’s when I began my boycott. I got you beat by 10 ½ months.”
“I guess they command loyalty without asking for it, huh? Be nice to get some world leaders who could do that.”
She grinned and sipped some more coffee.
“What do you do, Jeremy, that allows a leisurely cup of Joe in the middle of the morning on a Tuesday?”
“I’m a comedian.”
“Really? I don’t think I know any comedians.”
“So, I’ve changed your life then?”
“That’s one way to look at it, I guess. Do you play any of the local clubs?”
”Well, unfortunately, I play only the local clubs. Waiting to be discovered. Hollywood agents don’t make it up to these parts too often.”
“Then go to L.A.”
“Oh, were life that simple.”
“Why isn’t it? Are you one of those leftover grunge-era angst-ridden tortured souls with the requisite Cobain poster and the paralysis by analysis outlook?”
“Did you just come up with that on the fly?”
She laughed. “Sort of. I get tired of those fucking guys. Seattle is home to a lot of them. I’ve polished my rant over the years, though.”
“Maybe you should do standup?”
“I do standup here in Seattle.”
”No way. You said you didn’t know any comedians. I know practically everybody.”
“’Practically’ being the operative word, apparently.”
“Let me get this straight. You’ve been coming here for a year yet I’ve never seen you. You are a standup in the very small community of Seattle comics, and I haven’t seen you. You’re either lying or I’m blind.”
“Where’s your German Shepherd?”
“Good one. So why have we never crossed paths?”
”I’ve seen you Jeremy Crane. Here and on stage. You’re funny. And you drink too much coffee.”
”A stalker. And you know my last name. Maybe I have hit it big and just don’t know it.”
”When I blow up your house, then maybe an agent will notice.”
I looked closely, studying her face.
Nope. No recognition.
“How do you fly under the radar?” I asked.
“Just your radar, Jeremy.”
“Then why break the fourth wall today?”
“It was time, I think. I’ve wanted to tell you to go to L.A. for almost a year now. The other comedians I talk with agree with me. You’re good, Jeremy. But you’re gonna die up here, so to speak.”
I looked away. My coffee was empty. The clouds seemed to be holding off, though in Seattle a deluge can happen at the drop of an umbrella, which I’d chosen not to bring today.
I got up. “I need another cup. You ok?”
She nodded, leaning back in her chair. “I’ll wait.”
I was hoping Lori was behind the counter so I could get the skinny on this girl, but it was the pimply faced 20 year old kid with the sharp nose and dull eyes who poured my coffee and handed it to me with no comment. I left $2 on the counter and returned to the patio.
“What’s your last name, Sandy?” I asked, sitting and stretching my legs out.
She leaned forward and put her elbows on the table, her paper cup cradled in both hands in front of her.
“Carpenter. You really should go to L.A., you know.”
I sighed. She was pushy, but I also sensed a genuine rooting interest for me in her tone and body language.
“Why don’t you go to Hollywood?”
“I did. In February. I auditioned for a sitcom pilot called 1 ½ Women. Chuck Lorrie, if you can believe it. Told me I reminded him of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.”
“You do kinda look like her.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Anyway, I was so nervous in front of Chuck I almost peed his pants. But I think I nailed it.”
”What’s the character like?”
“You do know who Chuck Lorrie is, don’t you?”
“Of course. Two and a Half Men. He lost a pissing match with Charlie Sheen. Hires the best writers in the business. Supposed to be a Machiavellian asshole.”
“Yeah, that sums him up. So, I’m supposed to vamp it up, wear little black dresses and fuck-me pumps, but then I come home and am supposed to be mother of the year. But I still pine for my ex, who has remarried. Sound familiar?”
“Yeah, but Chuck says there are no new or fresh ideas anymore. It’s all in the execution.”
“And your execution?”
“Well, the scene they had me play was one where my daughter, 9, is staying with her father and sees them having sex. Then she comes home and asks me about it.”
“And the dialogue is actually pretty funny. The kid is a great young actress, kinda looks like a taller Shirley Temple. I don’t know if the show will make it, but all I care about is getting the part and a paycheck. I’m ready to leave this one-coffee shop town.”
“Wow. That’s all I can muster. Just wow. I’m impressed. It takes balls to do what you did.”
“Brass ring, baby. It doesn’t swing within reach very often. I had to grab it.”
”They called you for the audition?”
“No. I heard from a friend down there about it. It was a cattle call. I flew down. Talk about a long shot.”
”So, that was in February. Is three months normal before hearing about something like this?”
“I don’t know about ‘normal’. They did tell me they would call either way. My friend in L.A. works for Variety. She tells me the show is still a “Go”, and they have about half of the cast assembled, but not my part yet.”
”Are you nervous? Excited? Scared?”
”She nodded and patted me on the forearm. “You pretty much hit the hat trick.”
She smiled at me and removed her hand. “So what about you, Jeremy? Sometimes you gotta chase down the brass ring; it doesn’t always fall in your lap.”
“That sounds like exactly what you did.”
She nodded, watching me.
The Valkyrie began playing in her purse. “Wagner,” I said. “Nice.”
She grinned and pulled out her Smartphone. She flipped it open and read the screen. She looked at me sheepishly. “I gotta take this; it’s my friend in L.A.”
“Of course.” Exhibiting good cell phone courtesy, she rose and walked a few steps away, her back turned.
It was my first look at her ass and my neck did indeed snap.
She placed the palm of her left hand over her left ear to hear better. Her head was bobbing but I couldn’t make out the words.
Suddenly, she screamed and raised both hands to the sky, the phone still in her right hand. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
As if summoned by her exhortations, it started to rain.
She quickly said goodbye and folded the phone against her hip and came back to her chair. She was glowing.
“Just re-confirming a hair appointment?” I asked.
She laughed. A deep, throaty laugh. A winner’s laugh.
She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, her arms around my neck.
“Come with me, Jeremy.”
Maybe sometimes the brass ring does fall in your lap.