Monday, March 17, 2008

Velma's Journals--December 3, 1931

I am in the thick of finals. My attention to this journal will be scant because of it. I will be leaving for Christmas recess as of the 18th and not returning to campus until the 4th of the new year. A large part of me dreads the time at home. But it will be a chance to catch up on the reading I was not able to do because of school. I will also need to perfect my Dutch usage since a second semester of Dutch is required for my post.

After two weeks of not hearing from Loockersmans, he has contacted me for a very important matter. I spoke with Harold this morning who told me that a directive has been left with him at the professor's office. Apparently a large sum of money was drawn out of the World Exchange Bank when it closed earlier in the year. There was also an important item in one of the safe deposit boxes that I need to claim and deliver to an anonymous member of an associated commission. I don't know what any of this means, but nothing surprises me anymore. 

The ladies of Hewitt Hall are having a Christmas social this coming Tuesday. I have nothing to wear.

Friday, March 14, 2008


"Why don't I give you what you came all the up here for, huh?"

I actually forgot there was a purpose to this meeting other than freezing ourselves for the sake of a tuna sandwich. I neglected to mention that it really was one of the best tuna sandwiches I had ever had. It was something about the amount of mayo she used in concert with the celery bits. I'm always a sucker for celery. "Right, the letters."

"And my profile. Nicky wanted to type it out, but I thought handwritten would be much more personal."

"You can scan the note and put it on the blog," Courtney offered as she sketched.

Nick perked up, "With Velma's permission." He turned to Velma, "Would you be okay with that?"

She hit him across his shoulder with her gloved hand. "Would you stop it! Quit showing off in front of guests. What the hell do I care if he posts my note? He's gonna put it on there anyway. You're not my mother, Nicky, so cool it."

"I'm watching out for your interests, Velma." I have a feeling they've had arguments of this nature before. Nick didn't seemed phased by the retribution.

"I already told you, we can trust this one. He's a good egg."

Nick just looked at me suspiciously. "I assume. He doesn't appear threatening."

I kept all of the many comments I could make to myself.

Velma growled a little and opened her satchel. "God, this kid. He's lucky he's good at what he does." She carefully pulled out a brown package wrapped in newspaper with a white envelope on top of it. "Here. The package is the letters. The envelope is my profile."

"So about these letters-"

"Yeah. Return them to me when you're done and I'll give them back to Laural. They said use 'em for whatever."

"What if I added them on to the blog?"

"They said whatever."

"Should I call one of them and ask?"

Velma took out a piece of scrap paper and pen from her pocket. She quickly scribbled a number on the scrap, "This is Laural's number. Her full name is Lauralea Tulip. Although she's married now, I don't know if she took his name. Wilcott or Walcott, I think the husband's name is. She lives in Brooklyn by the park."

"Do you know where? Courtney and I live over there."

"I forgot the address, but it's close to the park. Call her. I'm sure she'll be fine with it."

"What about Owen?" I asked. I noticed everyone sort of snapped out of where ever they were and looked at Velma. Courtney stopped sketching. I couldn't help but ask.

"What about him?" She said quickly.

"Does he live there?"

"Yeah, they all live in the same house."

"Could I talk to him?"

"Look, sweetheart, don't bother Owen. You know me, I don't mind the fuss. Owen likes it quiet."

I knew I hit a nerve with Owen. As Nick is protective of Velma, I think, knowing what I know, Velma is protective of Owen. And just who Owen is, will be answered soon enough.

"Nicky, did we feed Mimi, yet." Mimi is one of the peacocks, for those who might not remember.

"I haven't."

"Alright, go do that for me, while I wrap up with these guys."

Nick immediately got up and gathered his things. "Well it was very nice meeting you both."

"Good meeting you, Nick," I said.

"Yeah, bye, nice meeting you," Courtney said distracted with her work.

"Be there in a minute, Nicky," Velma said as he was walking off. Velma whispered a couple of things in my ear. She asked that it not be put on the blog. "So I'm glad you finally got these letters." She forced herself up.

"So am I. And thank you for the tuna sandwich." I got up and grabbed her by the arm. "Let me help you."

"I'm not an invalid sweetheart."

"I know, but I would love to have the honor."

"Oh, such a gentleman. Courtney, are we done?"

"Well, no. But I have enough to work off of."

"Am I beautiful?" She asked with a grin.


"Good, maybe I'll get a man from this blog."

"Maybe," I said.

"I hope he's not one of those internet weirdos," Velma cackled.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


When I stepped off the C train at Cathderal Parkway the wind was whipping down Amsterdam Avenue. My face was already tingling and my fingertips where raw. This was going to be a challenge. I was never one to mind the cold, but to sit out in a park and eat lunch was a bit much. I had decided on the walk up Amsterdam that Velma Graydon was a woman of extremes.

When I came to the fountain I saw Velma sitting down with a skinny dark-haired gentleman of about 24 or 25, and Courtney next to them clutching a cup of coffee. All where wrapped up in scarves and hats. Velma had a large thermos and the gentlemen, whom I figured was Nick had a bottle of water that was in the process of changing from a liquid to a solid.

"Courtney said you'd be late," Velma yelped out.

"It is only 1:04," I said, struggling to find the watch under my glove and coat sleeve.

"That's the worst kinda late," she said. "If you're gonna do it, be courteous enough to take a full hour," she then jumped up and bear-hugged me. "I'm just pullin' your chain. Glad you made it, sweetheart."

"So am I." Thinking about making it out of the cold.

"Justin, this is my assistant, Nick Fish. I believe you've met."

Nick stood up to shake my hand. He was shorter than I thought. "A pleasure to finally put a face to the name."

"A face to the fingers," I said. "They're the real stars of the show," I laughed. He didn't. "Nice to meet you too."

"Ok so sit," Velma commanded. "Business first. Nick?" Nick turned around and handed her a green satchel. She pulled out four white packages tied with brown string. "Lunch."

"Ewww tunafish, yummy," Courtney said. She put down her sketch pad to take the sandwich.

"I brought some coffee, but Courtney beat me to the punch," Velma said taking white styrofoam cups out of the satchel.

"Well, I haven't and I could use a cup," I said grinning at the thought of holding something warm.

"I'm fine," Nick said.

"Nick doesn't drink coffee," Velma said. "How can you trust a guy who doesn't drink coffee?" She started pouring.

"My thoughts exactly," I said

"I made it light and sweet, I hope you don't mind.... Yeah he only drinks water. It's why he's so thin. Courtney, sweatheart do you need more in that cup."

"Please," she held out her bodega cup.

"Velma can I ask you something?" I said eying the worn satchel. "Is that the bag you've always used?"

"Good eye. Haven't used anything else. I hate change."

I looked at the satchel in awe; a virtual time capsule that held my tuna sandwich. To think what that thing has carried over the past 75 years made me giddy.

"Velma, our friend Jenny is from Saratoga," Courtney offered.

"Oh really. Does she still live there?"

"No she moved by us in Brooklyn."

"Smart move. Saratoga was a great place to grow up, but it got too small, too fast for me."

"She works for Yaddo," Courtney said.

"Fascinating. Good for her. Beautiful campus." She sipped her coffee. "I haven't been up there in 15 years. To bury Henry."

"So, Justin," Nick cut in, "Velma and I were talking about your progress with the blog."

"Uh huh," I said munching on my sandwich.

"We've done you a great service," he said. "We've compiled a list of dates from 1932 to 1942 which are the highlights, so to speak, of her journals."

"What does that mean?" I asked nursing my iced coffee.

"That means we're gonna cut to the chase a little. Cut out some of the bull that you're readers don't need to know," Velma said. "I mean, I'm bored with some of it."

"That's because you lived it. We haven't. I find it all fascinating."

"That's because you're a nerd sweatheart. I'm gonna trust your readership is not as fascinated by all this as you are."

"She's right. You are a nerd," Courtney said.

"Shhh, you're not helping," I said to Courtney.

"Honestly, it's not that much of a cut. Just enough to keep things moving. I'd say we axed about thirty or so entries. Wouldn't you say that, Nicky?"

"More like forty or fifty, but still that's nothing compared to what lies ahead of you. Of course, I volunteered to help in the process, but Velma said no."

I continued munching on my sandwich, a little vexed at the turn of events.

"Sweatheart, honestly it's chump change stuff," Velma said kindly.

"You see Justin," started Nick. I could imagine my eyes rolling to the back of my head, but my pupils were frozen in place. "You're job is to edit. An editor would pick and choose pertitinent entries. Not include everything. Can we talk about typos yet?" He looked at Velma but she made a head-slicing motion with her gloved hand. I assume she saw my face turning purple.

"I guess you're right, Nicky, I can't thank you enough for bringing that to my attention," I said smiling.

Courtney had picked up her pad and pencil and begun sketching again. I noticed Velma had taken her hat off and was primping her gray bob. "Courtney assured me she hadn't gotten to my hair yet. I've become so vain in my old age. Ha!"

"Pretty much there," Courtney said. "It won't be too long. I also have to draw you in," Courtney said to me.

"No you don't." I barbed back. "Just do Velma and Nick." I gobbled down the remains of the sandwich with a frown.... I knew Courtney was drawing me into the sketch.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Courtney seemed to think that it was perfectly natural that Velma wouldn’t cancel. I was left to question if I was insane for thinking eating tuna fish sandwiches outside on a frigid February afternoon was crazy.

“Old people love being outside,” She said on the phone when I called to tell her we were on.

“I do too, but this is a little extreme.”

“Justin, this woman has two peacocks and does yoga at the age of 95. I think everything about her is a little extreme.”

“Right. Well, she must be doing something right…. Ok, well I’ll meet you up there at one. Oh. I think she wants you to sketch her.”

“What makes you think that?”

“She mentioned that she got her hair done in the event that you wanted to sketch her. So wear thin gloves.”

“Oh great,” not said in an exciting tone.

“Yeah. Extreme.”

“You’re not gonna write this conversation out on the blog are you?”

“Oh no, I don’t have time for that.” I didn't even cross my fingers.

“Good, I don’t want Velma to think I’m talking bad about her.”

“Please. She’d love it.”

Monday, March 3, 2008



In order to make the whole experience on Friday with Velma more digestible, I have decided to break the entire entry down into parts. That way it won't be too overwhelming. So here we go.

Lunch with Velma was cancelled last week due to snow. I figured since the high this Friday was 31, we would postpone once again. So at a more reasonable hour this past Friday morning, I gave her a call.

“Hi Velma, it’s Justin.”

“Hey sweetheart, can’t wait to see you. One o’clock.”


“Of course. It’s gorgeous today.”

“It’s 29 degrees!”

“You truly are a delicate specimen. As long as it’s dry, I’m out there. It’s good to get fresh air every day.”

I sighed. I was still in my sweatpants thinking I had nowhere to go but back to sleep. “Okay, one o’clock.”

“Is Courtney coming?”

“I guess so. I’ll call her and tell her we’re on.”

“Good, I got my hair done yesterday in case she wants to sketch me.”

“I’ll let her know.”

“You know where the Peace Fountain is right?”

“Yeah, I’ve been there once or twice.”

“Of course you have. Why did I even ask? Okay, see ya there. Tuna sandwiches in hand.” There was an immediate click and then a dial tone.