Thursday, August 05, 2004

Busted on Beals Avenue

After the blog equivalent of War and Peace on Tuesday (2500 words), I'm still talking about Friday, July 30.

Nothing like progress, eh?

There's a boutique downtown called Esther's. It's been in the same studio apartment-sized hole in the wall for 25 years, and yet the owner, Esther (go figure) is by all accounts a multi-millionaire.

Esther sells dresses, and not much else. Designer dresses, like Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Donna Karan, and so on. Red carpet kind of shit. Supposedly, she gets most of her inventory from factory seconds (which she repairs herself) and closeouts, but some people say she has too much first-quality product for that to be true. It's been whispered for years that Esther's is a Mafia front, but no one's proven it, as far as I know.

She has been written up in all the local business journals, featured on TV news shows, and is revered as an icon among all the downtown "fashionistas" who pay attention to such things. I guess you could say she is a local hero. Never mind that rich guys' wives are basically the only ones who shop at her store.

I walk into Esther's around 1 or 2. "Hello, Hunnee!" she says, as if seeing an old friend. I've been here several times over the last couple of weeks, looking at dresses for Lila to wear to the wedding.

"You're going to a wedding, right? Tomorrow?" Esther's got an eastern European accent, like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

"Yeah, I think I know which one I want," I say. I'm kind of gambling, waiting until the last minute, I know, but at these prices, it ain't like buying a pack of Chicklets at the checkout. If worse comes to worse, Lila can wear one of her own dresses. She's not expecting a new one.

"Which one you like!" Esther says, excitedly. "Ze Versace?" She keeps trying to push that one on me.

"No. The D & G."

"Ahhh, Dolce Gabbana. Eees be-yootiful, veddy be-yootiful!" We go to a rack and find the dress. It's chiffon, mid-calf length, with a pink and red floral pattern. It's gorgeous, really.

Last time I was here, we tried the dress on a mannequin that was roughly Lila's size (we measured), and the size 6 fit. So I'm going with that one. God pity me if it doesn't fit Lila.

"How much for this one," I say. There are no price tags at Esther's. No tags at all, in fact. The last time I asked, Esther quoted me $600.

"Eees seex hundret, steel seex hundret, same as last time. I don't forget," she smiles.

"Wow, that's a bit steep, isn't it?"

"Ohhhh, hunnee, thees dress is vedddy be-yootiful! Eef you buy at the store, you pay one thousand dohlars. Or more." She is rolling her r's emphatically.

"How about if I paid you cash," I say. "Could you knock a little off the top?"

Her eyes light up. "You pay cash, ees $550."

"OK," I say. "Guess I better head to the bank. I'll be right back."

"I hold ze dress for one hour," she says.

Five hundred fifty fucking dollars. From now on, blow jobs are not optional.

After Esther's, I go to the mall and find a nice pair of red shoes to match the dress. Another $110. I don't think I've ever spent this much on anyone's birthday.


Saturday morning, July 31st (Lila's birthday). I work out, shower, dress, and head to the train station. I park at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street and wait for the "all clear" from Lila.

It's 6:30. My phone rings. Lila.


"We gotta problem," she whispers.


"My mother wants to stay until I get on the train."

"Tell her to shove off!" I say.

"I did. She said she wants to see me leave to make sure I got on the train ok. So I told her to leave me the hell alone."

"What did she say?"

"She said, 'Lila, what do you have up your sleeve?'"


"So what do I do?" she says.

"OK, hold on." I pull out my copy of the train schedule (luckily, I had printed it out and taken it with me).

"That train stops at Riverdale in an hour. So go to the window and buy a ticket to Riverdale, then get on the train. I'll meet you at the station there and pick you up. It's only 30 or 40 miles from here. It's the same train that goes to Springfield [where Lila's dad lives]. Your mom will never know you're getting off early."

"I don't think I can do that," she whispers. I can barely hear her.

"Why not?"

"Mom is right outside the bathroom. I'm afraid she is going to go up to the ticket window with me."

"You're in the BATHROOM?" I say.

"It's the only way I could get away from her! Steve, what do we do?"

"All right. Just buy a ticket to Springfield..."

"Steve, I can't DO that! It's an eight-hour train ride! I'll miss the wedding!"

"LISTEN!" I shout. "Buy the ticket to Springfield. Then, get on the train like you normally would, and just get off at Riverdale. I'll pay you for the ticket."

"You mean get off before I'm in Springfield? They'll let me do that?"

"Of course! They don't care who gets off; only who gets on! You can get off a train whenever you want. As long as it isn't moving."

"Has anyone ever told you that you are incredibly sexy," she says.

I get on the road for Riverdale, and get about a 20-minute head start . While I'm driving, Lila calls to let me know she's on her way. Her mom did watch her buy the ticket and get on the train, and seemed more comfortable after doing so.

"I hope she doesn't call your dad," I say.

"Don't worry about it. She should be fine now," Lila says.

I get to Riverdale in 40 minutes. The train is still 10 minutes out. I have some coffee and read the paper.

I am on the walkway right next to the train when it arrives. Lila gets off an exit somewhere to my left and bounds over to me, overnight bag bouncing against her shoulder. She practically jumps into my arms.

"Babyyyy!!!!" she shouts, planting kisses crazily around my face.

"Happy birthday sweetie," I say.

"I'm so glad I get to spend it with you," she says.

"I have something for you," we say in unison. We laugh.

"Me first. Please?" she says.

"My birthday's not for a week," I say.

"I have something else for you that you can't have until your birthday," she says.

"Lila, you didn't have to...."

She hands me a cube-shaped box, wrapped in dark blue paper with a bow to match, from her duffel bag. We walk to the car and get in, and I open it.

It's an iPod. And a 40-gigger too, the largest capacity model they make.

"Lila!! These things are five hundred bucks!"

"Open it, open it! Look at it!"

I open the box and take out the iPod. It's about the size of a deck of cards, but thinner. I flip it over, and on the shiny, metallic reverse side, a message is engraved:



I must be the biggest asshole on the face of the earth.

"Baby! This is so sweet," I say. I kiss her.

"I hope you like it," she says. "You said you wanted one."

"You REMEMBERED? That was months ago!"

"Girls remember these things."

"Can we wait until we get there to show you your present? We probably ought to get going." I say.


The traffic is light, and we get to Springfield by 10:45. The side trip to Riverdale lost us about an hour. The wedding ceremony is at 11:00, so we're probably going to miss that. Good. I hate church weddings. The reception starts at 12:30.

I check into the hotel, and Lila and I go up to the room. "I brought my red dress," she says.

"You're not wearing it," I say.

"Huh?" I hand her the 2 boxes.

She opens the dress. Her mouth drops open. "OH my god. Dolce and Gabbana!!?? STEVE! How much did you pay for this?"

"You're worth it," I say.

"Where did you get it?"


"Esther's?! There's nothing in there under a thousand dollars!"

Actually, yes there is, but you go right ahead thinking that, baby.

"Open the other box."

She opens the shoes. "Oh my god. Gorgeous!"

"Try everything on!" I say. "I want you to wear your new clothes to the wedding."

There are tears in her eyes. "Baby, you are sooo sweet. No one has ever done anything like this for me before. I love you so much-"

She is bawling. I hug her.

"It's ok baby," I say.

Lila crying usually leads to sex, but we really have to get going.

She puts on the outfit. "How do I look?" she says. I am totally blown away.

I am not one of these dorks who looks at his girl and says, "Oh my god, you look beautiful" every time she puts on a new outfit. I never say it. Not that it's a bad thing to say; it just feels phony. Maybe I've seen too many TV shows.

But this is the exception. The dress is flawless. It fits her perfectly, accentuating her every contour. The white chiffon compliments her porcelain skin; the red blends with her slightly ruddy cheeks. Her hair is flipped over one shoulder; she is wearing hoop earrings. And the red shoes complete the ensemble seamlessly.

You guys know me. I'm as jaded as they come. And I just want to fall over.

"Hey," I say. I hug her from behind and kiss her ear. "Can I tell you something?"


I turn her around and look at her. Here goes.

"You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life."

She is crying before I'm even done saying it.