Monday, July 09, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"..Chapter Sixteen

With the company’s acquisition of Rogtex women’s wear, my personal wardrobe grew, helped by being “Johnny On The Spot” when the new season’s ranges arrived in the showrooms. Opening the cartons of new designs was like Christmas morning. My office would be deserted as I’d rush to the Rogtex showroom to assist Mr. and Mrs. Head unpack, unfold and hang each garment carefully on the clothes’ racks. It was difficult to resist, so I didn’t resist. Having one’s own fashion store a few feet away from one’s office was a dream come true and being able to purchase at cost price, sometimes less, was a girl’s idea of paradise. Wearing the company’s products, including the panti-hose was great advertising for the company’s wares. Buyers from the city and far afield regularly visited our showrooms, so it was important to at all times be well-presented. I certainly wasn’t going to put up an argument!

Dr. Robert Wright, the dentist/Chilean Consul had entered my life, platonically. Shortly after our “Machu Picchu/Easter Island” launches I needed to see a dentist so I made an appointment with Dr. Wright. During that appointment he invited me to dinner, an invitation I accepted. For the next couple of years, Robert and I had a weekly, sometimes fortnightly dinner engagement. He always picked me up from my office. It was simpler this way rather than my going home first. We had all the facilities in our premises. I would change out of my daytime attire into suitable dress for our “date” around 6-6.30pm. From there we’d go into the city to the Gateway Hotel to dine at the “Matthew Flinders’ Restaurant”. Robert was a creature of habit, I think, but I didn’t mind as I grew to love the restaurant. We were always greeted warmly by “Lucky” (“don’t call me “Lucky Luciano”), the stocky, beaming Italian maitre d. “Lucky” was adept at what he did and I enjoyed watching him at his job. It became a habit of mine, (I must have caught Robert’s ways!) to always order the same meal, “Steak Diane” as “Lucky” table-cooked. I’ve never tasted Steak Diane like that prepared by “Lucky”. Carefully watching him prepare my meal, I “stole” his method and it’s locked away in my brain. When I was cooking in restaurants, I regularly let it out of its “pigeon-hole” and I always used “Lucky’s” recipe for the preparation of Steak Diane. Sometimes I’d order dessert and I’d always order Crepe Suzette, again just to watch him cook at the table. He had flair. “Lucky’s” dream was to eventually open his own restaurant. It was a dream he fulfilled a few years later by opening “Lucky’s”, a successful, much-praised trattoria in Fortitude Valley. During one of my visits to Brisbane when I was managing the Hinchinbrook Island resort, I paid “Lucky” a visit at his restaurant. As I was ordering my meal, he came over to my table. He remembered me from those years before. It was no wonder his business was successful.

Robert was good company, a gentleman. He was someone who had led an interesting life. We had much to discuss and were never without a subject to debate over dinner. I’ll briefly recap on the evening of the death threat against him. I have written about this incident previously.

During the time Robert (remember, he was the Chilean Consul) and I were “seeing” each other, Allende was kicked out of power in Chile. One Wednesday evening, we had just begun to place our meal order when Robert was called to the office of the restaurant. He returned to our table saying we had to leave immediately as there had been a threat made against him! He instructed me to go one way to the car-park where, by habit, he always parked his car, as he went in another direction. Arriving at the car, I stood wondering to myself as he unlocked the car door whether or not I should climb in the car with him. My mind actively raced through all the movies I had seen where cars blew up when the key was put in the ignition! I felt it wouldn't be very 'kosher' for me to mention this to him at that particular moment. Caught between “the devil and the deep blue sea”, I thought to myself, 'What the hell! If it's going to happen it's going to happen and I shouldn't allow myself such thoughts." I felt it would be a very cowardly thing for me to do to allow him to proceed while I ran! So, I got in. As you can see, the car didn't blow up! It was a telling moment.

Robert drove me home along a different route, this time, along Coronation Drive, instead of his regular route, Milton Road. He told me the Federal Police were following us at a distance and that they would have done all their checks on me etc., to ensure I wasn’t a threat to his safety. As we were driving home the smell of petrol permeated the cabin of the car. Again, my mind went into overdrive. Finally, I just had to say something, so I brought the petrol smell to his attention. He had a can of motor mow He chuckled, informing me he had filled up a can of mower fuel that day and the can was in the trunk of his car, hence the heady aroma! He deposited me safely to my door, planted his customary peck on my cheek, and then went on his way! Eating dinner definitely wasn’t on that evening’s agenda.

Around this same time, protesters were waving placards through the streets of Brisbane over the events in Chile. They’d discovered the Robert’s premises in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley so set up camp outside on the sidewalk in noisy protest. Robert, who was a grey-haired “Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, Brisbane born and bred, closed his surgery that was on the second floor and unnoticed by the madding crowd weaved his way through unscathed. I think protesters should do their homework before they start wringing their hands and screaming loudly about issues they clearly know little about. The incident with Robert was proof positive.

I knew Robert liked me, but I was soon to discover the depth of his liking.

My job with Kolotex was keeping me very busy, but missing the “footlights and the smell of the cooking oil”, I began working a couple of nights a week at a small Italian “hole-in-the-wall” on Milton Road, Auchenflower, not far from where I lived. “Spagalini’s” was owned and operated by an ex-Canadian, Casper. It was simple, uncluttered, with a few tables covered by red and white-checkered gingham tableclothes. Casper catered for “dining-in” customers as well as “take-aways” (“take-outs” to those in the Northern Hemisphere). I often grabbed a container of Lasagne, pasta or pizza on my way home from work at Kolotex if I’d had a long day, so being a “regular” I became friendly with Casper. One night we were talking as I waited for my order and I asked if he needed any help. He said, “Yes”, so that’s how I got the job. The magnetic tug of food-preparation and food-service was strong and I succumbed once more to its lure. And the extra “cash” money was a big plus!

A couple of months after my mother’s passing, “R” aka “Randall” (this seems like a ceremonial unveiling, doesn’t it?) telephoned from New York. He was planning his return to Australia, to Brisbane and to me. This announcement came as a surprise to me. My life, as it had been, suddenly was in turmoil.


  1. Snuck a new post in on us Ehh!

    A checkered past, or was that Pasta.

    Good post Lee!

  2. Yep, I crept in when no one was looking, Marc! ;)

    Both a checkered past and loads of pasta!

  3. Wow, that ending was a zinger. Can't wait for the next installment.
    Interesting as always Lee.

  4. G'day, must always end with a cliff-hanger! ;)

  5. Aaawww! I wanted to find out how much Robert liked you, Lee. Now I have to wait.

    I've worked in a clothing warehouse and like you, I had a wonderful wardrobe, getting everything at a very good price indeed.

    Not so cold today, thank goodness. I froze yesterday with those ice cold westerlies.

  6. Hi Lee, well that episode had a little bit of everything in it... well done.

  7. Lee
    I have something to read when I come home from Art. Thanks I cannot wait.

  8. Hi lee
    Another time and space you have created in your story for us to reflect on!! I like the way you introduce those characters to us, your story about these people and their style and custom, the dentist, who gave you just the peck on the cheek !

    Images of relationship that needs no more explanation and provides insight into your life and thought at that time.
    I look forword to you sharing your nest chapter.

    I would also be interested in your ideas on how immigrants have shaped our food tastes and how it in turn influenced you’re own culinary delights. We live is such a rich multi cultural society here in Melbourne, now with over 140 different nationalities and all with different tastes and culture, living in relative harmony. !!

    Best wishes

  9. You have had an interesting life! I think it was very brave of you to get in that car. And then when there was a smell of petrol ...!

  10. Phew! You were a brave woman to get in the car! Oh, I am hungry - I'd just love a steak Diane cooked by you, Lee. I agree with you that protestors should do their homework.
    What an ending! Get back on the laptop and write the next part - please!

  11. Having the easy availability of new season's clothes was tempting, Robyn and I succumbed all the time!

    There is so much to fit in, Peter...I don't know where to start and finish or what to put in or what to leave out.

    I'll have the coffee pot waiting for you, Lady Di! ;)

    Lindsay, immigrants have shaped our food styles and tastes considerably. Where once we just ate the foods passed on to us by our mainly Scottish, British and Irish forefathers, our tastes have changed radically throughout the years. With the influx of the Italian and Greek immigrants, particularly after the Second World War, who began the changes, we became more adventurous. The Germans played a big role in South Australia...and then of course, the Asian influences hit our shores. Melbourne is and has always been a prime example of the variety of food styles available in this country. Melbourne is the food capital of Australia...still.

    Liz and Welsh...I don't know whether I was being brave or not but I knew I couldn't stand aside and let Robert face the music alone. I can remember what was going through my mind at the time, when he went to place his key in the car door. In those few seconds, I questioned myself about what I should do. I chose to take the direction I did. Perhaps I should have said something, but I didn't, thinking I was perhaps being overly melodramatic. It's like any situation, one doesn't know how one will react until faced with a situation. We can talk and talk about what we think we would do but until face to face with a situation we certainly do not know what we will do.

    I'll start Chapter 18 today...I think. ;)

  12. Hi Lee ~~ Another interesting chapter in your exciting life and next time we hear more about Randall. Robert
    sounded like a nice guy, but that car ride would be scary.
    Glad you liked some of my pics. Take care, dear friend, Love, Merle.

  13. looks like i have some catching up to do...too long away!!

  14. Anonymous8:12 AM

    Interesting read. Enjoyed it.

  15. Hi Merle, Rebecca and Steve...glad to see I've managed to hold your interest. :)

    Nice to have you back, Rebecca. :)

  16. yeah, that sounds like rather an inconvenient development ... keep us posted on the next chapter!
    I'm still posting up my story... it is getting too long and I keep trying to keep it brief!
    Tonight I added you to my blog "roll" you're under best blogs vi - congratulations!
    Hope all's very well indeed at your end.
    All the best 2u


  17. Hi Gledwood...good to see you again. Thanks for adding me to your blog-roll. That's nice of you to do so. :)

    I know what you mean about "trying to keep it brief"...I'm trying to do similar with this story of mine, but am having great difficulty as you can see! ;)

  18. Gidday Lee,

    Phew, finally caught up. Another interesting post. I might have to actually read Chapter 17 when it appears to find out what happened to the "Robert" story instead of leaving it go for my weekly read.

  19. Lee
    We people who think with the wrong side of our brain do have a WILD IMAGINATION. I am thankful it was your imagination and you are still with us to entertain the masses.

    Did you have to enlarge your closet for all those clothes? What a DEAL!!!!

    Thanks for the entertainment.

  20. Hey Wazza...thought you'd gone on walk-about! Good to see you! ;)

    Hi again, Lady Di. I'm glad it turned out that only my imagination was in play..or as you say, I wouldn't be here to tell the tale! My apartment had two bedrooms and only me, so I took over both in-built wardrobes! ;)

  21. lee,
    Very good Lee, flash fiction for real. So what did Robert do? Buy you a ring, a restaurant.....What, what, what?

  22. I always like a post where you're dining out. You always make me feel like I'm there the way you describe it.

    My wife and I recently cashed in a gift card I received for my birthday. It was to one of those fancy restaurants. When you mentioned "crepes suzette", it reminded me that they served Baked Alaska at this fancy place we went to. Didn't order it but I wanted to. Ever hear of it?

  23. Patience, Rel...patience! ;)

    Sure have heard of "Bombe Alaska", Dave. I've got a funny story about them I must tell one of these days!

    Thanks Rel and Dave for your comments. :)

  24. WHAT? R is Randall? And now he's coming home to YOU? Phft. I vote for the Chilean with the death threats. He sounds...ummm...romantic. Good steaks at least. I'm confused. Have I gotten things out of order. Is this the restaurant you worked at for a while and then quit or is this another one now? I can't keep up. I know. I'm slow and behind. Teach me a lesson.