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Lucky Lindy
By Laurel Ollstein

Two a.m. May 12, 1983, the phone rang.

I was right out of college, living in San Francisco, wanting to be an actress but mostly being a waitress. I was just preparing to open in the show Lucky Lindy at the Eureka theatre, an irreverent look at the life of Charles Lindbergh. All the characters in his life were played by just two actors. Lindbergh himself was portrayed by different sized toy airplanes. The Atlantic Ocean was a large aquarium center stage. I played Lindbergh's mother, his first flight instructor, his wife and Herman Goering, among others. The other half of the cast was Drew, a string bean of a man, an older established San Francisco actor. We each played about 20 different characters.

We'd been rehearsing in a cold, cavernous warehouse space at Fort Mason for six weeks. All the critics were set to come opening night, Thursday, May 12. We had a preview the night before, that my very opinionated friends Bob and Jane had come to. They loved me, but they weren't so sure about the play.

We went out for a beer after the show to a dark, woody North Beach pub. I had just started seeing a young southern artist. He had a great drawl and even wore a cowboy hat. He was more smitten with me than I with him. I tended to like it that way -- safer. I was in high spirits; the preview had gone well, but not too well, leaving room for a spectacular opening night. I had planned out the relaxing next day already -- lay in bed late, maybe go to the place on 24th street where you could rent a hot tub for an hour. It had a deck surrounded by lattice and jasmine, just right for a little reading, relaxing. Then at around two, go over all my lines, go through every character, all the blocking, take a short nap, and then head to the theatre. I was ready for anything.

We finished our beers, and I took the cowboy home with me. I had a railroad flat apartment on the third floor of this old Victorian. The best part was the kitchen, big and airy, with a door out to a rickety porch that looked out over the whole Mission district. The cowboy and I made love. He was a ferocious lover, couldn't get enough of me, he said. I made him feel 16 again. Good thing he didn't make me feel 16, he wouldn't have been there. I didn't like cowboys at 16.

Two a.m., May 12. The phone rang.

I woke up from a dream where I was riding a horse. Must have been all that sex. The phone was ringing in the dream -- while I was riding the horse on a cliff. Then I realized -- there are no phones on this horse. So I woke myself up and there I was in bed with the cowboy. The fog had rolled in, as it always did. You could almost feel the weight of the moist air pushing against the tall curved window. The phone kept ringing. Cowboy didn't budge. Men sleep better than women I think. It takes me a good six months before I can sleep well next to someone. And since most of my relationships don't last that long, I don't get a lot of sleep. But he was snoring away. I got up -- naked, pulled on a t-shirt that was balled up on the floor, and made my way slowly down the moldy smelling hallway to the living room.

I answered the phone. It was my brother -- very odd for him to call me at all, and to call at two in the morning even odder. He asked me if I was alone. I thought that was nosey. He called to ask if I was sleeping around? I told him no. Then he told me I should sit down. What a cliché. Something hard to hear must be coming next. I said okay, even though I didn't sit. He wasn't going to call me at two in the morning and boss me around. Then the flash came -- maybe my father had another heart attack. He had one years before, and god knows he still ate pastrami and slept around with younger women.

My brother's voice was calm.

"Dad shot himself."

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