Monday, August 30, 2010
The PH Is For Penthouse
I was working on my book or my notes or my pile of adverbs with four letter chasers or whatever you want to call it when my bulky, peasant hands typed out the sentence, “All I ever wanted in life was that Barbie Dream House.”
So, instead of continuing with the keypad dance and getting work done and completing another page of gobbley gook, I Googled “1970’s Barbie Dream House” and there it was on eBay, in all its early 70’s glory. Tall as a miniature Christmas tree, colorful as a painter’s palette and as alluring as a naked Nefertiti.
Now, I never wanted the two story Barbie residence with the red roof that opens up like suitcase and looks like traditional, bell-bottomed, suburban home of the late 1970’s America. The one that has haunted my dreams and whispered sweet night terrors into my ear is the earlier 1970’s version with three stories and crank elevator and a panoramic view of what would have included my parents dark, book-filled living room if I had ever received it on a chilly, Christmas morning.
In fact, it is not a house but a penthouse, a chic, single girl dwelling that invited in a sophisticated guest list of authors, artists, poets, composers and gigolos posing as bartenders, who served up perfectly pink Manhattan’s, salacious Sidecars with sugared rims and whole-hearted hand jobs. I always imagined the conversations would be dappled in clever quips and regal retorts and Barbie would float through the clusters of perfectly posed plastic people making sure everyone’s glass was filled and every doll was delighted.
My obsession with the penthouse may have come from a teasing television commercial but in the deepest recesses of my forgetful mind I do not recall ever seeing it advertised on our three-inch black and white Zenith. No, the dripping desire to own the penthouse of my dreams came from pure, unadulterated envy, schadenfreude in shades of very dark, disturbing gray.
In 1973, the year this model of Barbie beauty came out, we lived in a huge courtyard complex of faculty housing known as Escondido Village. Dozens and dozens of townhouses sat next to one another in a huge circle, enclosing an inner village square type-area the size of two football fields. There must have been twenty kids of all ages living in our village, all of whom were our fast talking friends and partners in crime. We all shared toys and costumes and kick balls and dirty jokes and this upbringing was as idyllic as one could possibly imagine. Save for my constant fear of being kidnapped or sold to a murderous, gypsy family, two very specific fears my sister professional installed into my psyche, my life was marvelous.
Then one day, the bottom fell out of my awesome, little world when Bettina and Babette Boor, two gorgeous Danish sisters, moved in three doors down from us, bringing with them an offensively enormous Barbie Doll collection and MY Barbie Dream House with crank elevator. They flaunted it like a hickey on a horny teen. They showed it off like a crotch tattoo on a titillating trollop. And they rubbed it in like a prescription ointment on an open sore. And they never, ever shared.
I had to sit and watch as these blessed beauties threw lavish, ball-gowned Barbie bashes on the open patio deck of the penthouse that emotionally belonged to ME, while a cavalcade of deliciously dressed dolls lined up like The Rockettes on a Radio City staircase. Never once did the Boor Sisters bother to invite or include my two, mangled, hand-me-down Camping Barbie and Surfing Skipper, to the party of the century.
No, my odd ball pals with their homemade haircuts, pilling sweater sets and aged swimsuits ballooning out at the crotch from too much sun and not enough fun, had to sit out the first dance to the last dance all the while crying fake, crayon drawn tears into real paper napkins. Knowing that the Bore sister’s treasure trove of accessories and handsome Ken collection of khaki-wearing manly mates would taunt me day in and day out until the end of time, or until they retreated back to their homeland of post-modern furniture design, Bang and Olufson stereo sounds and Frikadeller meat balls, I tried my un-artistic best to create a beautiful, mid-century modern hideaway for my wilting wing women, using an avocado green step stool and an old Famolare show box. But, much to my disappointment and dismay my attempt looked more like the back room of a filthy Florsheim’s than penthouse perfection.
And now, all these years later, trying my computer-challenged best to fill a thirty-seven year old hole and scratch a thirty-seven year old itch, I sit here weeping (no joke - serious tears and snot here) because I waited until the last few seconds to win the bid for the forbidden cardboard cut out of glamour and good taste that I have craved all these years. Not knowing how to correctly maneuver eBay and beat the one competing bid, I failed to complete a simple task that required a little light reading and the simple click of a manly, unpolished, index finger. I didn’t confirm my $56 bid in time and lost the penthouse with all the original, super cool furniture included, for a mere $50, to some ass-eater in Copenhagen who most likely bought it just so she could relive her glory days, one floor at a time.
I think I may need professional help.