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  • Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

    The Lady in the Parking Lot

    by Maggie Van Ostrand
    Maggie Van Ostrand
    Garbo
    Garbo
    Photo courtesy www.doctormacro.com.

    I spotted her in the shopping center getting out of a white Mercedes convertible SLS. She was one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen. In - my - life. If Charlize Theron were gay and married to the late Marlene Dietrich, this would be their female child.

    The woman in the parking lot had to be Austrian or Swedish, I decided, because of her incredibly high cheekbones, Garbo-like bone structure, perfect pink and white skin, perfect shoulder-length pure white hair tied at the nape of her Audrey Hepburn neck, and sea-green eyes under Elizabeth Taylor lashes. No visible makeup. I guessed her to be somewhere between 35 and 65. Truth be told, in Southern California, the first thing you look for on good looking faces is a telltale sign of plastic surgery; there's so much reconstruction done on faces in Hollywood, we don't bother saying "plastic surgery," we just say "work." No work had been done on her.

    She was maybe 5'8" and dressed like one of those rich women you see in the pages of fancy magazines, the one who's always sitting on a horse. Not a snobby dressage horse, more likely a sporty jumper. Tan low-rise jodhpurs, blood-brown riding boots that looked to be made of soft Italian leather that probably cost $1,000, a regal-looking black jacket and high-necked pale blue shirt. About a Size 2, she made Betty Draper look fat by comparison.

    She was nobody's trophy wife, I thought, but instead had plenty of her own money and left each of three husbands when they began to bore her. They were all so smitten, even at the end of the marriage, that they never asked for alimony, though she liked to leave them with a building or two and maybe a small yacht. I decided her name would be majestic and start with an "E" as in Elegant. It would be something like Eugenie or Elizabeth or Ernestine. Her voice would be husky and kind of Lauren Bacall-y, with a touch of Ellen DeGeneres's musical mischief just under the surface.

    She didn't notice me and, since we were headed to the same store, I was able to observe her walk. She strode with confidence, verve and importance. Definitely either an Austrian or a Swede. She was the kind of woman who'd gain immediate entry into any private club, movie studio, or even the White House.

    She stood in front of me at Starbuck's, and I was eager to hear whether her accent would be Austrian or Swedish. I leaned forward slightly, anxious to catch her very first words to the Starbuck's counter girl in order to confirm my imagination's vivid conclusions. I wish I had not done that.

    It wasn't what she said: "I'll have a Skinny Vanilla Latte," that blew my imagination to smithereens, it was that she sounded exactly like Mel Brooks.


    © Maggie Van Ostrand,
    January 5, 2013 column
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