To Bee or Not to Bee
Her Royal Majesty, Queen Noor of Jordan, and I go way back.
Ten days ago on NPR I listened to the queen discuss an impending war refugee crisis in Iraq. She impressed me with her measured eloquence, and her compassion.
This was not the first time I had heard the voice of Lisa Hallaby, the American woman who married Jordan’s King Hussein. In youth’s pink bloom, she and I double-dated.
In 1971 the Aspen Skiing Corporation held its end-of-season employee dinner at Buttermilk. Lisa went with Michael. I brought Cathy.
Michael was a ski patroller who lived in a motorcycle crate outside Aspen’s Snow Chase Lodge, on Mill Street at the base of Ajax. Eccentric even by counterculture standards, Michael once told me he wished he could have been “a 13th century logician.” He played folk and bluegrass on guitar and mandolin.
Michael’s motorcycle crate was supposed to be a doghouse, but the Snow Chase dogs sniffed once at it, and then retired to the living room couch. Perceiving a vacuum in a tight housing market, Michael rigged the crate for Spartan utility, if not for hospitality. He could actually stretch out inside.
My digs trumped Michael’s. I resided in the Thunder Hill T-bar shack (the tow was long gone), just above the 700 Monarch Condominiums, and 75 paces behind the Snow Chase. My one room measured six by eight feet on the inside. I had an oil lamp, a coal stove and an unobstructed view up Aspen Mountain. I counted my lucky stars. Michael and I each paid Mrs. Mac 50 cents a night for bathroom and cooking privileges at the Snow Chase.
The once and future queen worked in town and rented a bed at the Snow Chase, a five-or-six-room Victorian. Think youth hostel, but not too elegant. You could ski out the back door to old Lift One.
Forty-something Mrs. Mac ran the place and acted as mother figure for her mostly disreputable ski-bum tenants. She wore Levis, tied her waist-length hair in braids, and smoked unfiltered Pall Malls. In a pinch she would light up a Camel. The rule was “no dogs,” but if she liked you, and the dog, you could keep one there. She jeeped and hunted and skied. Everybody worshipped her.
Anyhow, on this double date we drove out to Buttermilk in Cathy’s red ’66 Chevy Super Sport. I recall that much. They served filet mignon. Strange what stays with you.
When I saw Cathy in Los Angeles eight years later, she said, “Do you remember Michael’s date at the Ski Corp dinner?”
I said, “No, why?”
Cathy said, “Because she’s the Queen of Jordan now.”
I said, “What makes you so sure?
Cathy said, “I remember her very well, and I never forgot her name: Lisa Hallaby.”
After her radio interview I e-mailed the queen. I don’t know if e-mail is the most appropriate way to contact the Queen of Jordan, but Linda and I don’t own any stationery that you would want to send to royalty.
How do you address a queen you once drank a beer with? Dear Lisa? Your Highness? Your Royal Majesty? I wasn’t going to get too carried away. I remembered the words of Senator Byrd, on President Bush: “He’s just a man. He puts his pants on in the morning the same way I do – one leg at a time.”
I settled on “Dear Queen Noor.”
I expressed my admiration and gratitude for her humanitarian work, and I reminded her that we once rode to Buttermilk together in a red 1966 Chevy Super Sport.
I wrote that Michael lives in Durango and that Cathy is back in L.A. I said that Mrs. Mac raises a big garden in Carbondale, still smokes Pall Malls, and can be ornery. Imagine. I told all this to the Queen of Jordan, whom I don’t even remember.
That was last week, and I still haven’t heard back.
Ed Colby, of New Castle, thinks this is too much spring, too soon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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