A Modern Maltese Falcon: Past Tense Future Perfect
As we learn in the Maltese Falcon, past tense makes the future perfect… things are not always as they seem at the time.
Acceptance… conditional or implied is a contract requiring performance. Acceptance of an offer to perform from a dapper young Englishman in a pin stripped suit with a tartan tie has distinctive flavors, advantages and intrigue. First, courage to leave it all behind, make a solitary journey some 3500 air miles to an enchanted island called the United Kingdom. Make a commitment based on a handshake to apply certain knowledge. Make your connections and load your duffel into the back of a vintage Rolls Royce. Press on by blasting through the darkness along the M1 expressway, eventually to be dropped by the curb 4 hrs later in front of the Musters Hotel and Ca beret Dance Club.
It was late but this being the weeks-end this joint was hoping in West Bridgeford, just outside Nottingham, England. Mercury street lamps cast long shadows, neon signs singed the dampness and music from Abba filled the night air. Through the turn-style doors and I am suddenly in the lobby of a Bogart movie, the one with German agents in trench coats and pencil thin mustaches. Front desk directs me to the Hotels annex for long term guest. This meant back out those revolving doors through the rain searching for a mystery room at the top of the “apples and pears,” some Cockney slang for down the alley and up the narrow steep stairs.
Finally, a door to a room with matching skeleton key numbers that releases a bolt allowing entry. Light switch yes, electrical power not a chance till you deposit foreign coin, that I did not have at that moment, in the slot that you can’t read because its dark and you can’t think because this room is directly over the stage where Abba is still blasting, Dancing Queen. Welcome to the Musters Hotel, a shady establishment, which managed to survive German fire bombs of WWII.
Not a problem for me, cause when I awaken from this Bogart movie the sky will be blue and adventure begins—well the sky was never blue in England but the adventures were awesomely delicious.
Rewind… Only a few days prior to this late night rendezvous and perilous journey, contently passing time with a ravishingly beautiful French Mademoiselle. Phyllis Andre’ was a Master Chinoiserie Artist to the highest degree of perfection. We spent long hours in her private studio where I honed my skills with a brush, creating amazing treasures. Phyllis delicately applied pumice gesso to create a raised 3 dimensional effect for the draped figures we brought to life on fine furniture. As time passed my forte’ developed into a line of custom furniture for Hatteras Yachts. These machines were world famous and many wealthy clients requested seascapes painted inside or on furniture which I proudly produced. There was also an exclusive line of gun cabinets. The lavish cabinets arrived with a photo or some cocktail napkin sketch the client wanted painted on the surface to remember missed shots or made trophies.
The back story of how I met Phyllis is interesting as my Mom had scouted a simple advert in the Salisbury Evening Post newspaper “artist wanted.” She cut it out placed it on her American Heritage laminated Formica kitchen table and suggested I give a call. After due consideration of the ad and close re-examination of the not so fortunate gnat fly that got trapped in the making of the Formica table top, the call was made. This was actually her second attempt at pushing me toward the promised land of milk, honey and J.O.B. Her first attempt was more assertive, where Federal agents show up at your door attempting to convince you they have a place for career minded individuals, licking stamps, hunting renegade Indians or becoming Dive Bomber pilots. This ended poorly by my telling the Badge man I would never bow to a Federal fiction or wear a gun for their b/s fear system.
Arriving at Phyllis’s properly appointed Creative Custom studio with my treasured portfolio tucked under my arm, she said, “forget that stuff and follow me.” Wow! I thought, is she ever beautiful, and off I went like a little church boy led by the ear to her perfectly manicured rose garden. She quickly set up an easel and all the gear in a lavish outdoor setting. She very gently sniped a full bloom yellow rose from its stem placed it in a heavy engraved glass vase, “Chris, would you paint this please” she asked.
Impressed by the situation and overwhelmed by the contours of this attraction, I was able to load the brush with blended Cadmium yellow oil paint, stroke the layers to re-create that juicy yellow rose. She intently watched each and every stroke as the paint flowed to canvas, “Chris, you will do nicely!” Five years later having proved one can paint their way to success with a brush connected to a brain. Now, while stood standing, shivering in the English rain, once again curious about the dynamics of the choices we make.
Those were wonderful and valued years with Phyllis, quietly intoxicated by French accents, French perfume, French curves, oil paint and lacquer thinners. As with all things, change is good, sometimes quick and seldom painless the choices we make dial the futures long distance call. Does the past tense make the future perfect?
Fast forward, to the dapper gentleman, the secret agent visiting NC from England and his search for a design artist.
Timing is everything, in all things under heaven, turn, turn, turn. During my more formative denim years I had many friends even some girls. One very special friend was Patti. From first grade of public school to 12 grades later we were classmates. Patti worked for a State Agency when the inquiry arrived for a dependable artist, dependable with abilities to wrangle many forces through various formations. She thought of me and suggested I give this guy a call based on her recommendation.
Call was made an a rendezvous set to meet this secret agent in room 007 at the Hilton Hotel, Greensboro NC. Now imagine this– A proper English gentleman, well journeyed, visiting NC because of its reasonable airline connections and history in the textile trades. A decision made between Charlotte and Greensboro NC simply because the cab driver was more courteous in GSO than CLT to become the International import hub for a commercial Japanese Capitol equipment mfg. High speed embroidering machine… Faces off with a regular guy with drawing, painting, drafting skills from the exact opposite end of the social structure as the secret agent man. This was very cool exchange between the two opposing forces and by the very end of the interview a CHOICE was made. “I want to take a chance on YOU if you will take a CHANCE on ME, he says.” No where close to my last offer which required painting a living rose. I accept your offer sir!
These Barudan Manufactured machines were used to produce high quality designs, embroidered directly into fashion garments, sports apparel, Lace and even Defense applications. The company name was derived from its founders two favorite people, Bridgett Bardot and Pierre Cardin.
Artist were required to prepare the digitized file to automate this function. A skill-set that had gone literally unchanged for several generations. My assignment, should I accept it, move to England, live in a hotel, learn the trade, return to the states and train a design staff to support the sales of these machines as they are placed in every textile manufacturing factory across North and South America. Then as markets developed to computerize these functions. Quite a long term plan but it all fell into place and these decisions introduced me to thousands of people from around the World. All because of a few actor/factors, a past girl friend and a cab driver. Neil Macpherson was a car collector and a DJ in his earlier years. His Dad started this International Import/Export business immediately after WWII. Geoffrey E MacPherson was the managing Director of Nottingham Forest Football Club the year they won the World Championships. When Neil made his offer for my acceptance his decision was based on two things. He ask my most influential musicians and I released a flood of information on Peter Greens FleetwoodMac and he wanted to have a go in a Datsun 240-Z I had customized. Well, the dagger sank deep and the world changed. The stage was set and the players chosen for our adventure to begin.
Does the past tense make the future perfect?
The past tense is not always how you conjugate a verb but how you create your own reality from direct experience.