|Lisa Rosen||Sep 11, 2020|
Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.
Where we are: London, which is making me very happy, but slightly nervous. We’re staying outside as much as possible. I guess I’ll be needing some rain boots.
I did a bad thing once. Okay, I’ve done more than one bad thing (some of which I’ll never tell), but this one—well, what would you have done?
We had been in India for a month and a half. We arrived in Udaipur late in the day, just at dusk. We had booked a room in a haveli, a historical mansion, that had been renovated into a hotel. I was excited—atmosphere, authenticity, charm.
It was raining. The streets were slick with mud. Our room was tiny, with twin beds and a view onto a dirty wall. Lee knew, instinctively, that the wheels were coming off my little wagon, and fast. He took charge, and chose a restaurant for dinner. It served one thing only: dal baati, an Udaipur specialty. This involves a server wearing a white glove, using his hand to crumble a buttery ball of bread onto your plate, then dishing out dal to accompany it. It was so good. We both still talk about what a surprising delight that meal was, even though we were the only customers on a chilly, damp evening.
And then we went back to our cold, dim little box of a room. We went to bed, hopeful that a new day would bring warmth and adventures and (for me, at least) a more positive attitude.
It didn’t, really. When we went downstairs early the next morning, we discovered that the staff stored their motorbikes and bedrolls under the stairs. They hung their laundry on the roof—right next to where our al fresco breakfast was served. We hunched over cups of hot tea to keep warm. Then went to the outdoor market and bought cheap sweatshirts, to ward off the weather. We wandered around the narrow, chaotic streets, dodging cows and motorbikes and rickshaws and giant mud puddles. There are parts of Udaipur that are lovely—The lake! The palace!—but Princess requires a certain base level of comfort, to be able to appreciate her surroundings.
That night, as usual, Lee fell asleep before I had even gotten in bed. When I turned back my covers, there was a small brown stain on the white duvet cover.
What did I do? Well, what would you do?
I did the sniff test.
It was—you see where this is going, don’t you?—It was shit. A literal shit stain on the bed covers. And my friends, if it’s fresh enough for an aromatic ID, it’s too fresh for sleeping with.
So I woke Lee up. It seemed the only thing to do. Misery loves company, right?
Me (in hysterical tones, rapidly approaching shriek): There’s shit on my duvet!
Lee (barely awake): What, that little brown stain? I think it’s just a rust spot. I saw it last night on my bed.
Me: Oh! My! God! You slept with shit last night?
Lee: No, of course not. It’s just a rust stain. Go to sleep.
Me: It’s shit! Excrement!
Lee: How do you know?
Me: I smelled it! (Hysteria is getting out of hand at this point.)
Lee: Why in the world did you do that?
Me: Why did you NOT?
Lee: Well, call down to the front desk and get clean sheets, if you want.
Me: They’ll think we did it!
Lee: Tell them it was here when we arrived.
Me: But you slept with it last night! Either it was already there, and we ignored it, which is disgusting, or we caused it, which is even more disgusting! What are we going to do??
Lee: Well, I don’t know what you’re gonna do, but I’m going back to sleep. If you want me to deal with it, it’ll have to wait till morning.
He promptly did exactly that.
And that’s when things got ugly. What did I do? I switched the duvet covers.
I’m not proud. The only thing I can say in my own defense is that he had already ignored it once, and he really does have an unreasonable ability to sleep through anything. At least I flipped it over, so the stain was on top.
To my surprise, he didn’t leave me over that incident. He didn’t even complain.
And that, my friends, is true love.
From my writer’s notebook:
In 2010, a seventy-year-old French handyman showed up at the Paris office of the Picasso estate, asking to have a stash of paintings authenticated. The suitcase he was carrying turned out to contain 271 works by Picasso. He claimed they were a gift from the artist, forty years before, and that he’d stored them in his garage in southern France ever since.
The paintings and drawings were apparently in pristine condition, and were fully catalogued. He claimed to have done the cataloguing himself.
Now, back when Lee and I owned a house, we hired a lot of handymen, and they were all perfectly nice, but I never met one whose side gig was art historian. I’m just saying . . .
The trial took ten years, but Monsieur Handyman and his wife were convicted last November of receiving and concealing stolen artwork. The lawyer for the Picasso family speculated that art merchants had used Monsieur “in the same way that traffickers would a drug mule“ (New York Times).
That ‘drug mule’ is now eighty years old. How in the world does a person wind up in a situation like that?
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