Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Angelina -- A "Dover Street" Story -- Part One

From November, 2008:

Introduction: I don't usually reference an example of someone else's work as heavily as I've done in this story, unless I'm doing some sort of parody, or a review... and this story is neither.

I'm hoping that printing the lyrics to a song by someone as gifted as Leonard Cohen in a tale which also showcases lyrics written by one of 
my characters -- in other words, actually written by myself -- doesn't invite comparison. This definitely is not a case of my including two songs so that anyone can decide which is "better," for that would only be asking for trouble.

As mentioned above, the following story, "Angelina," is only one tale in an ongoing group of stories which will be known as the "Dover Street" series.

More on that later...

* * * * *

"Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!" screamed the other kids. They sang it, actually. The tune was the same tune children applied to almost every sung taunt, that abrasive "nyah nyah, nyah nyah, nyahhh nyah" -- or "neener, neener, neener," depending on your own neighborhood -- which evidently began with traditional children's songs, but had invaded everything from later pop/rock songs to Wisk detergent's old, irritating "ring around the collar" commercials.

She was six or seven when one of the other neighborhood children had combined "Gina" with her own name of Angelina. Why he'd done that made no real sense to anyone, but it was never questioned. And as for why she took it as an insult? That could only be explained by the fact that it was meant as one.

Such was the mentality of the children in Angelina's hometown. And everyone else's, too, she assumed. For that reason, and no doubt several others locked away in Angelina's subconscious, she hadn't really cared for her so-called peers and equals while growing up. She continued that disdain for children into her own adulthood.

That "disdain for children" disappeared immediately and for no apparent reason, however, on the day that Marty Shulman asked Angelina to marry him "and have my children."

Marty had proposed seven months earlier, four days after Angelina had turned twenty-eight.

Tonight, she stood on a sidewalk, in front of a door. The bangs of her short, curly blonde hair had started to grow past her eyebrows, blocking her vision a bit. She brushed them out of the way. Through a barred glass window, she could see a staircase.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard the long-ago screech of the "little brats" she'd known while growing up. "Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!" Those damned kids! Their voices always intruded during moments of nervousness.

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!"

Little creeps.)

Angelina pressed the buzzer for Marty's loft apartment, and was answered in kind by a clicking sound which told her she could now enter.

Marty rarely brought Angelina here, or invited her here. The loft was certainly large enough for entertaining, but it was sparsely-decorated, only to make itself functional. Marty himself didn't care to spend much time here. He mainly stayed here long enough to write his songs, and practice/play his piano. He usually spent his nights at Angelina's apartment, so he didn't even sleep here much.

But he'd called her three hours ago, and told her to show up at "sometime around eight." He made it sound important, without actually saying it was important. Angelina was often able to infer quite a bit from the tone of Marty's voice. She knew him that well.

Tonight, however, she was baffled. She was nervous.

Her skinny frame ascended the stairs slowly. She entered the loft apartment itself through its unlocked door at 8:02. She had wanted to be respectful of Marty's "sometime around eight" designation, and not rush things, but she was apprehensive, and impatient, and...

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

Marty greeted her warmly with a hug and a kiss. "Hi, doll," he said cheerfully. "Cold out tonight?"

"Hi, baby," she replied. "No, it's not bad for November." She removed her coat and handed it to him. He looked at it uncertainly for a couple of seconds, then draped it gently across a nearby chair. "So," she asked him, "what's up?"

The cheerful look on Marty's face was immediately replaced by a more serious countenance. "Um. Not quite yet, okay?" She nodded, following him further into the large room. He stopped at the piano, sat down upon its bench, and motioned to an opened bottle of red wine on a low-set coffee table. The wine was flanked by two glasses; both had already been filled.

They'd been dating for about a year now. Marty had "summoned" Angelina here before, twice actually, to debut a new tune for her, so she was used to this ritual... but the wine was a new touch.

Next to the coffee table was a tall metal chair. Angelina sat on the chair, and bent to take one of the wine glasses. She couldn't; the table was too low, the chair too high. She got off of the chair, reached down to pick up a wine glass, and seated herself once again.

They were separated by three feet, maybe more. She looked into his dark brown eyes, a match for the long, wavy brown hair on his head. (The rest of his face resembled the actor, Michael Imperioli.) "So, baby, whatcha got for me tonight? A new song?"

"Yeah," he replied, nodding. "But I have something else for you first." Angelina saw that Marty was holding a small, battery-operated cassette tape player. He placed it on the coffee table.

"Listen closely to the lyrics, okay, doll?" he said, as he pressed the "play" button.

She'd never heard this song before. Its arrangement made her think of Gypsy music, but the song was slower than what she'd expect them to play for some wild-eyed young woman cavorting by a campfire. The singer obviously wasn't Marty, as she'd expected at first. Whoever the artist was, he had a strange tone to his voice, something Angelina immediately thought of as "different," but nothing she had words to define.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love*

Marty clicked the "off" button, then casually hit "rewind."

"Leonard Cohen," he said simply.

"Ah." She'd never heard of Leonard Cohen.

Marty looked at his lover expectantly. She said nothing more.

Finally, after having taken his first sip from his own glass of wine, he asked, "Soooo... What did you think, doll?"

Angelina smirked; she felt like Marty was putting her on the proverbial "spot," and didn't really like that fact.

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

"Umm... I liked it?" she offered, searching his dark eyes for a reaction. (But there was none, damnit!)

"And if I were to ask you what it was about, what would you say?"

"That's a weird way of... I mean, you are asking me what it's about, right?"

"Yes and no."

She took another sip of wine, draining her glass. "Thanks for clearing that up, baby." They both laughed uneasily. "Your tape's done, by the way," she added, referring to the fact that the cassette was done rewinding. The cassette player's motor was making that faint straining sound a rewound tape always caused it to make.


"Well, it's... Hell, Marty, I don't know. It's a very pretty song. Kind of... kind of... haunting? Is that the right word?" He smiled and shrugged as if to say that her opinion was what mattered here, and that he wasn't going to make any suggestions of his own.

"Go on, doll."

"Marty. What else... Look, maybe it's just my impression, but I don't think he's necessarily talking... I mean, singing... about dancing. Not literally."

("Gina Angelina! Gina Angelina!")

She poured herself a second glass of wine and drained it in one gulp. "Baby, what... What do you want from me here? I feel like I'm being interrogated. It's a very nice song, but I didn't write it. It's not necessarily my place to say... " She cleared her throat, and repeated, "What do you want from me here?"

Marty got up from the piano bench and walked to her. "Take it easy, doll. I was just trying to make a point."

"Which was?"

"Okay, as the song exists in its current form, it could mean a lot of things." She smiled in spite of herself. Marty was sounding very much like a thirty-year-old high school music teacher... which is exactly what he was, of course. "But would you believe me if I told you that the song's inspiration came from the Nazi death camps?"

"Oh," she teased gently, "This is all about the Jewish thing again?"

"Cute," he said, taking her hands in his. "The Nazis often pressed Jews into service as musicians -- in string quartets, sometimes even full orchestras -- who were expected to play while their fellow death camp inmates were sent to the gas chambers. Forced to play, I should say."

"Wow, baby. That's... pretty sick."

"Yes. And that's where Cohen got the basic idea for 'Dance Me to the End of Love.' Can you recognize that?"

She thought back, trying to remember any lyrics that could be interpreted as backing up Marty's explanation of the song's genesis. She thought of the line about "the panic," and the image of the "burning violin," but those were all she could think of at this moment. "Yeah, in at least a couple of places... I can see it."

"But the song evolved beyond that, eventually."

"Okay, sure."

"Now it can mean a lot of things to the different people who hear it."

"Fine," she agreed. "Baby... What's your point?"

"I want you to hear another song, my new one," he said, releasing her hands and seating himself at the piano once more.

* * * * *

To be continued... Friday. Keep watching the skies blog!

Thanks for your time.
*Lyrics to "Dance Me to the End of Love" by Leonard Cohen © Stranger Music, Inc.


  1. Did I recall this from years ago? Sounds very familiar as I read through.Right back to the name. Or was it before the cat? Music sure can stir up different moods and feelings in each indeed.

  2. Hm. When I started this blog in late 2008, this was one of the first stories I wrote. But, IIRC, you started reading my blog in 2011. So I'm not sure where you would have encountered it. Further confusing the issue, there's a song I wrote for Part Two, and I've published that song here with other songs I've written, since then. But that wouldn't explain how you knew the character of Angelina. Sheesh!

  3. Looking forward to Friday. And, now will find that song. Or wait to see how it finds me.

  4. Okay, you got me - especially since that's my favourite Leonard Cohen song. See you on Friday!

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    1. That's the only reference to Leonard Cohen in all four parts, so I hope I didn't lure you here under false pretenses. :)

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you. Do you have any idea how intimidating it is to use my own words wrapped around those of Leonard Cohen's?

    2. I know it's intimidating, but you are up to the task. I'm sure I read this story before because I remember "Gina Angelina." I wasn't following your blog when you posted it, of course, but maybe you sent me the links to the posts once upon a time.

  6. I have always loved Madeleine Peyroux's rendition of this song. You have me hooked with the story, wondering where it is leading. Great job of enticing the reader on.

  7. Hope the rest doesn't disappoint. Thanks for checking it out.

  8. This is well written. She has a lot of anxieties and he's talking about nazi death camps when i thought it was his way to propose. Talk about being far off

    1. Nope, they're already engaged. Can't wait until you read Part Two.

  9. It's been years since I've read anything you've written (for public reading, that is. ha.) Very nice....pulled me right in. And since it's Friday, I get the next installment right away. :)

    1. Lucky you. Ha.

      (For public reading. Cute.)


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