BETWEEN THE BOOKS
February 14, 2019, El Paso, TX, Mesa Street Grill
“It feels like I’ve been gone from work for years,” complained Bellamy Weiss, head of the Performing Arts Department at University of Texas, El Paso.
“It’s only been a few weeks, Bel,” retorted his colleague from the English Department, Phil Meyer. “Besides, absolutely no one leads the exciting life you do. Everyone I know just returned from Aspen or Vail or Park City with tales of conquering the ski slopes. You, on the other hand, were stabbed, strangled, and almost attacked by a jaguar. I mean, really, let us not forget about the classical jam session you had with the Russian KGB.”
The waiter served them enchiladas, tacos, and a savoring platter of salsa and chips. After a while, Bellamy introduced the topic he really wanted to explore. “Hmm, what are people saying about me burying Paul just a few weeks ago and then taking up with Alex so suddenly?”
“Well, we were all startled, to say the least,” Phil answered while biting into a chip. “But, from time to time, we’re all sluts at heart. Remember the time I fell for that matador in Juárez? He was so remarkable in that form-fitting matador outfit…. Who knew that a man with white stockings and ballet flats could look so good?”
“Yes, I remember him. Always covered in bull blood. I just don’t understand how you could be so infatuated with that,” sighed Bellamy. “I started to wonder if you’d acquired a new fetish. Remember that time in Boston when I was visiting you at Harvard? You were so taken with that baseball player, in form-fitting leggings and a metal hat. I roll my eyes when I think of how many hours of baseball I had to sit through at Fenway Park; I thought I’d go crazy with boredom.”
“That was the time,” Phil laughed, “that you volunteered to play the stadium organ and gifted the crowd with all that Halloween, creepy music. Fans loved it!”
“That’s because they, too, were bored out of their minds with the baseball games,” reasoned Bellamy. “So, Phil…answer my question about the whispers in the school hallways about me and Alex.”
“Not whispers, Bel. More like erotic moaning of vicarious role playing. Alex Ranslow is the hottest shaman in the borderland.” Phil informed him, twitching an eyebrow.
“Well, now that George Nightly is dead, he’s the only shaman in the borderland.” Bel laughed. “So that doesn’t really count.”
“Are you kidding me? No one looked at George twice. He looked like a frumpy wizard from Lord of the Rings. George was always pontificating, which is mind-numbingly boring. But there’s nothing boring about Alex.” Phil grinned, shoving a forkful of enchilada into his mouth. “Hum, these cheese enchiladas are really good today.”
“Let’s wash them down with another margarita. I want to get plastered so I can think more clearly,” Bellamy insisted quite honestly.
“Oh, yes, you do have to make some decisions this week about what the performing arts production will be this fall. What are your thoughts?” asked Phil.
“My thoughts? I’m not producing Les Misérables! Not in the borderland where everyone, including myself, would be bored,” decided Bel.
“How about Angels in America?” suggested Phil.
“Oh, no! That would go on for hours. I don’t have that long of an attention span. French revolutions or New York City gay stories? Big no on both of those,” Bel concluded.
“Kinky Boots! We could get the local cobblers to create cowboy boots; you know, design something fitting for a borderland production. Cowboy boots have high heels, after all.”
“My arches are throbbing already. No. I was thinking Lin-Manuel Miranda,” confessed Bellamy.
“What? You want to produce Hamilton?”
“Not exactly. We live in the space between Mexico and Texas. That space is narrow and cramped. I want to reach out, like Miranda did, and humanize our founding fathers.”
“Our founding fathers? Since you and I are east coast gays that definition can range from Hamilton and Burr to Tom Ford and Billy Porter. Is that what you mean?”
“No, love, I’m taking about Pancho Villa, General Juárez, Emiliano Zapata,” Bel announced, flourishing his wrist, “a la El Mariachi.”
“We need another margarita for sure.”
“Let the slushy ice flow with tequila!” Bellamy announced.
“Hush, Bel, they will think we are too rowdy,” Phil whispered. “Remember our preschool graduation ceremony at Manhattan’s most exclusive kindergarten school? You did a production of Lost Boys. You insisted on performing the whole play in just your Calvin Kline underwear for little boys. At the end, you mooned the headmaster. Then you turned around to the startled audience for a full-frontal stance, complete with a pink satin ribbon on your penis. Your mother applauded delightfully while everyone else’s parents stared in horror. At that point, the headmaster screamed something about no more of your prodigy would be attending his institution. Where you came back with the storied retort that will live in infamy: ‘That’s okay; I’m gay with no heirs in sight.’ Our private school days were so delightful after that.”
“Don’t worry about being rowdy, I have already covered Anton’s palms with silver for the use of his restaurant for the afternoon. We’ll be quieter, but I refuse to be less enthusiastic.” Bel joined the whispered tones.
“Okay, so please explain what you mean.”
“Well, we will think about the twentieth century Mexican revolution as a musical. There will be all the good guys, like Pancho Villa, Juárez, Zapata. Do you know that Zapata is ‘shoe’ in
Spanish? That’s your Kinky Boots element right there.”
“You’re stunning, Bellamy. Such an inventive mind.”
“Yes, yes, I know. But seriously, why can’t we do a borderland Hamilton?”
“That means a ton of writing. You will also have to write the music scores. Not to mention, costumes; we’ll need to capture those old Vaquero styles. Nice form-fitting trousers with bell bottoms. Do not have horses or any other animal on that stage, either. It will be very messy if you do. Even Shakespeare never used animals.
“No, he or she used men for women’s roles, but not animals.”
“Are you disrespecting The Bard?” Phil asked, visibly on the verge of anger.
“No, Phil, I’m not disrespecting your alter ego. Wait, whoever Shakespeare really was, and I prefer the Earl of Oxford theory, that man or woman was bisexual. You are most definitely
NOT bi, Phil. You really need to change your academic emphasis.”
“Ten years too late for that, Bel. We can deploy our collective armies of graduate students for this production. I can get them to produce dialogue drafts in exchange for footnote
recognition,” suggested Phil.
“Excellent, I can use my graduate students to clean up my drafts of music scores. Isn’t Anton working on a Masters in Textiles? How does he manage this restaurant and his course work?” asked Bel.
“People love Anton, Bel, he can marshal all the area abuelas to sew the costumes. I think he even knows a milliner to make those giant straw hats that those revolutionaries wore. It will be the fashion rage when the musical becomes famous.”
“I could use a good milliner; my old cowboy hat has seen better days. But I’m too small for one of those giant straw hats Pancho wore,” Bel disclosed. “Viva!”
“Viva! will be the name of the production,” Bel confirmed.
“The title sounds like an old Elvis movie. I will not be a part of an Elvis necromancer/comeback movie.” Phil pouted and crossed his arms like a mad toddler.
“Do not be concerned, Phil. We will produce such a good musical, no one will ever think of Elvis again. Certainly, our generation of students at UT El Paso do not even know who the
man was,” Bellamy said. “And let’s keep it that way. Wait, my cell phone is lighting up like a Christmas tree. It’s Alex. He’s outside waiting for us in an Uber. Seems Anton called him to
plead that he remove us from these premises because Anton’s staff needs to prepare for supper, and they are booked solid tonight.”
“Okay, let’s go. Bye, Anton…you chicken! Great lunch, Anton. Start assembling your abuelas, we’ve got costume designs for your review,” Phil snarked and then smiled at the restaurant owner who was standing in the kitchen looking totally confused.
“VIVA!” shouted Bellamy as a final tribute to their luncheon.