Funny how real life so often imitates a really good country song. Crazy people and Eastern North Carolina go together like a duck on a June bug, like cheese on a cracker, like a spray tan on Snooki. It’s a land where teeth, literacy, AND common sense are optional. After fourteen years, I am about to conclude that the folks around here who clean houses are MORE than a few bricks shy a load. For the past fifteen months, every second Friday, a swarm of ants arrived at my house armed with vacuums, mops, brooms, and all manner of their favorite cleaning products. 30-45 minutes later these industrious little ants leave and presto, chango, I have a deliciously sparkling clean, lemony fresh home, making mama one happy little camper.
I have been delighted by the work they do, and on the rare occasion when they overlook something, I just clean it myself and move on. Two weeks ago, however, it seemed like the whole bunch was heavily infected with either spring fever or some magic brownies, because, after they left, I noticed they had completely overlooked a huge sink in the laundry room. Note that all 12 of the ants have to walk right past this sink to exit the house! They had also neglected to vacuum a whole section of a bedroom floor, hadn’t dusted much at all, hadn’t touched fingerprints on doors, and had left the tile floor in the kitchen as sticky as it was after The Teenage Morose One’s little party.
Cruella de Villan, employer of my ant cleaning team, had told me on numerous occasions to please let her know if anything wasn’t done properly or to my liking. For the very first time, I decided to take Cruella up on her offer and had a brief phone chat with her. “I’m in my car now and can’t take notes, but please jot everything down on paper so I can address it with them next time we’re there.” So, this past Friday when they were due, I left a very nice reminder note and check for Cruella. As is our habit, The Spousal Unit and I piled the puppies in the car and tootled off to the beach so as not be under foot when they were cleaning.
When we arrived home, I was surprised to see that nothing in the house had been touched. There was, however, a note from Cruella handwritten at the bottom of my memo to her. Apparently Cruella felt that none of her ants could do wrong because her supervision of them is so thorough, so, instead of providing them with a mild admonition about being more diligent in the future, she just up and quit and said they wouldn’t be coming back. Way to be a grown-up business owner, Cruella, you puppy stealer, you. All I can say is thank goodness William and Kate weren’t able to accept that invitation to dinner Friday night, what with the house being a mess and all.
In retrospect I think I’ve only had one cleaning lady in fourteen years who wasn’t certifiably nuts. One decided to stop using cleaning products because they might harm her and the environment. I’ve got no beef with people being green, but attempting to clean a 3-story house with a roll of paper towels and a pail of hot water? Really? You think?
My favorite was Nikki, the witch. My poor Mama was still alive when Nikki cleaned, and she was so afraid of her, she’d go sit outside with her rosary, a cigarette, and an Old Milwaukee just so she wouldn’t get cursed. When Father Don made his monthly visit to his aging parishioners, she convinced him to sprinkle Holy water in every room of our house, just to be on the safe side. The poor priest was so rattled by Nikki’s evil aura that it took two Ketel One dirty martinis to get him safely back to the rectory. Now don’t misunderstand; I don’t mean Nikki was Goth, though she was all that and more. Oh no, she was a certified, ordained priestess of WICCA. The sweet child (listen, I’m trying to avoid a curse here people!) would walk in with her black bat wing sleeves trailing behind her, and her black cat eyeliner pointing straight up to Jesus, while her blood red lips spoke low and hypnotically to whomever was on the other end of her cell phone, which never left her ear. The Nikki problem was self-correcting, as she disappeared soon after a story ran in our local paper about strange activity on the night of a full moon, a bonfire, and something about a missing calf, or maybe it was a cat? The details escape me at the moment.
Anywhooo, it’s been a busy weekend for me and The Unit, what with interviewing new cleaning ladies and me searching for my missing mojo. While I was out food shopping, The Unit offered the job to Swedish Inga and and her twin sister Anke, but once home, I quickly corrected his horny little blunder and hired their lovely mom, Helga, to be our forever and always cleaning lady (or until her next mental aberration occurs, or her next tooth falls out, or the mothership arrives to return her to her birthplace). I’ve decided that if this one goes loco, I’ll just shove a broomstick up the cat’s butt and call her a dustmop.
Cleaning ladies were the furthest thing from my mind in March 1976. I had been booked for the entire month by a bridal magazine called “La Sposa”. It was the closest thing to a regular routine I ever had in my modeling career. Monday through Friday 9AM til whenever I would arrive at the photo studio in Milan for hair and makeup and we’d head out in the photographer’s RV to find interesting places to shoot for the day. Noonish to 2PM was for fabulous lunches, always complete with mucho chianti, and then siesta or quiet time. The Italians really understand balance. Too much work and not enough play makes Antonio a dull boy indeed. We’d finish out the day and I’d head back to my hotel. It was a very peaceful time after the chaos of Paris.
One very strange thing about the modeling business is that you make very little money working for magazines. You are paid an editorial day rate, which back then (and maybe still today!) was $75 per day. You did this for the tear sheets and to boost your career, not for the money, obviously. What was unusual about this particular set up with this magazine was that I was shooting both editorial pages AND ads, all on the same day. I’d never encountered this in America, but it meant that I was actually making decent money while at the same time amassing a gazillion tear sheets for my portfolio. I was in about 75% of all the pages in this very thick magazine, as a bride, a bridesmaid, and oddly enough, at the tender age of 23, as the mother of the bride!
Alfa, the photographer, was a kindly grandfather who delighted in cooking up wonderful lunches for us on the days we stayed in the studio. He was an avid historian and story-teller, and there was never a dull moment on his set. His photos were at times awesome, and other times, well, let’s just say mediocre. I never correlated whether the best photos were the ones taken before or after the wine-soaked lunches! Some days we would shoot inside beautiful old cathedrals, sometimes gardens, and some days we’d head out to the surrounding countryside. It was on one of those beautiful spring days that I fell in love.
Years later, when I saw a movie starring Diane Lane called “Under the Tuscan Sun”, my first feeling was one of outrage. Who the hell had stolen MY story? I had lived this very thing, exactly as the movie depicted. Alfa had stopped the RV to shoot inside a lovely old olive grove, when I spied an intriguing house with a ‘for sale’ sign in front. The front door was not locked, and there was enough architectural detail present that we decided to shoot some film inside. The walls were stone and stucco, with amazing tile work and arched doorways and windows framed by greenery. Naturally, there was wildlife present; could I ever love a normal house that wasn’t full of four-legged or winged creatures? It was in a sad state of disrepair and therefore, quite reasonably priced. I decided on the spot to buy it when I returned to Italy to live, which I fully intended to do if New York didn’t pan out.
As I said goodbye to Alfa and crew, I said hello to April and springtime in Italy; could anything be better? Except for the fact that Boy was about to arrive for his six-week vacation. Whatever had I been thinking or drinking when I issued that invitation?