The lifestyles of the rich and famous took off immediately on Emily Street.
In no time at all my cousin and I created something that looked like half movie set and half Liberace palace. My friend James and I had recently discovered that one of the local cemeteries didn’t pile all the floral tributes on the graves, but instead tossed them all into what we called the “dump”. Every Saturday morning we made a trip there to gather up flowers for the house…plowing through ribbons and banners, secure in the knowledge that the deceased wouldn’t mind a little recycling. Hence we always had dozens of roses, orchids floating in chipped crystal bowls, and centerpieces that only guests over nine feet tall could possibly see over. The ambiance was fabulous with our newly opened log burning fireplace..that only sent the faintest of fumes wafting into the dining room.
My cousin and I were young and adventuresome on Emily Street. Neither of us had ever quite acknowledged our sexuality, but when my cousin went out with friends of his to a wildly popular half gay half straight dance bar and saw me dancing like a maniac in a wedding dress on the giant video screens the gig was up. Suddenly the parties at the house took on a much more diverse flavor, and the arrival of two fierce looking drag queens at the formal Christmas party sent shock waves through the whole relationship. Some of our older aunts and red neck cousins probably still talk about it. One of the “girls” actually became my friend Timmy’s cleaning lady…who arrived every day in cleaning lady drag and drank all of his vodka.
My cousin recalls the night I went out with my then boyfriend Gary who was dressed as a hooker while I was in my best Miss Campo the piano teacher ensemble. Since it was a chilly night, I’d flung my mother’s old mink coat over my shoulders just to ward off a possibly deadly chill. I must have been over-served that night because Gary had to drive home…for some reason or other I decided to climb up over the terrace instead of using the stairs that night…and awoke to a very disapproving cousin who was picking little pieces of mink out of the ivy plants. The only other time I remember a problem with shedding was when I forgot my key and had to climb up a ladder to my bedroom balcony…through the lilac bushes in the same tattered mink…and was caught halfway up by my cousin warning me that my mother was going to kill me.
We had a whole lot of fun in that crazy old house…parties with a mix of people that no normal person would ever attempt to put together. I remember a big burly friend of mine stomping down the stairs from the third floor disco…just beside himself as he warned another friend of mine who was on his way up ” I wouldn’t go up there if I were you…there’s guys up there dancing with other guys”….to which my other friend replied ” Really?…do you want to dance?”.
My dear departed friend Ed ( big Ed ) would often fall asleep on my sofa..a fine dark brown very cheap but very comfortable old warhorse that I’d bought in LA, and Ed could have slept through a nuclear attack once he was out. One lazy afternoon while he was out like a light, and I was bored, I decided that since he really looked like he was dead, I might as well actually ”lay him out”. I crossed his hands on his chest, put a couple of ferns around him and a few of the floral arrangements, lit candelabras on either side and put on some soft organ music. While I was just sitting back having a solitary chuckle, my mother and her friend Frances came to the front door for a tour. That was one of those times when I figured that just the truth might be the best choice…but it kinda fell flat for me that day. Poor Frances just kept looking back at Ed, and my mother just kept shaking her head while she softly steered her friend into the kitchen.
When Ed died I was asked to do his eulogy…and of course I began with ” My dear friend Ed was actually laid out twice”.
My cousin and I moved on from Emily Street eventually. I still ride by there pretty frequently, and marvel first of all that the house is still there, and then I wonder what the genteel couple who lives there now would think if the walls in the old place could talk. When we first moved in there was a picture of the original owner in a beautiful oval frame. We could never quite figure out if it was a really odd looking man in a long dress or a really butch old woman. Maybe he/she set the tone for all the inhabitants who would follow. We certainly gave it our best shot.