But fact is, there is a limit to how long you can sit in a grey Nissan Sentra, just surveilling. My limit turned out to be about fifteen minutes.
That’s why Adrienne drove the surveillance vehicle to work in Sausalito. We still lived in the fourth-floor garrett at Lyon and Oak, perched high on the corner overlooking the Panhandle Park, originally named because it’s like a handle on the pan of Golden Gate park further up the street. Later the Bored of Supervisors changed its name from Panhandle Park to Panhandle Park. It’s the same name, sure, but now it’s named after the bums that hang out and pester you for spare change.
So, we lived there beneath the gabled roof, high above Panhandle Park.
There was a Sunday morning, every year, when sleeping would become impossible, because as the sun was peeking through the high branches of the tree outside, we would hear, from the road below, a great murmur and clatter. Peering from our high windows, we’d see, spread out for blocks and blocks, the throng of runners in the Bay to Breakers race, as they ran in a chattering mob along the street and through our Panhandle Park.
It was very satisfying to make the coffee, staring bleary-eyed down through the branches, watching the runners and thinking how nice it was to not be among them.
Also entertaining were their bizarre costumes. Runners dressed as hot dogs or streetcars, and sometimes they were nude, except for the running shoes, of course. It must have really hurt, pinning the cloth number on, without a shirt.
And this morning, after the coffee had sped me up, I remembered that I’d promised to help Adrienne with the Chinese art dealer.
She had this customer in Hong Kong. It never seemed clear whether he was a collector, or an art dealer himself. His name was Stanley Ho.
As you know, China is on the other side of the planet. As we all learn when we are children, if you dig down through the earth you will pop out in China, where everybody is walking upside down. They must be upside down because anyone can see that we are right-side up.
Not only are they upside down, but they are sleeping in the middle of the day, and they are running around all during the night. Our day, and our night, I mean.
Now Adrienne was very happy about Mr. Stanley Ho, because now and then he called up the Fine Art gallery, and he would buy Erte sculptures. If you have been so fortunate as to have missed Erte sculptures, let me tell you that they are little statues about a foot tall, depicting mostly women in 1920’s or Art Deco garb, looking totally thin and blase from a long time ago.
Plus, they’re really, really expensive.
So it was just swell whenever Stanley Ho would call up the gallery and buy an Erte sculpture from Adrienne. There is apparently no end to the Erte sculptures. Like Barbie dolls or the science-fiction novels of L. Ron Hubbard, mere death of the artist seems not to slow production at all!
However, the problem was that Adrienne was supposed to telephone Stanley Ho. She had agreed to call Stanley Ho. She had attempted to call Stanley Ho. She had several times risen in the wee hours of night, so as to catch the daylight hours in China.
And each time, Chinese secretaries answered. They would mutter in sing-song Chinese, or in garbled English. But regardless of the conversation, never, never, never would they put Adrienne through to Stanley Ho. Never, never, never.
Adrienne had promised to call. She’d tried to call, over and over again. But she couldn’t get past the incomprehensible secretaries. It was like an impenetrable wall of singsong. Adrienne told me about this at great length, and last night I’d promised to help her.
And this morning, as coffee fumes cleared my brain, I realized it was time to strike, now!, before the Stanley Ho business office closed for the day!
And so I dialed the number in Hong Kong.
It rang some more.
A diminutive female voice answered with some Chinese gobbly-gook. I interrupted her.
“Stanley Ho!” I said sternly. She chittered at me. I spoke louder.
“Stanley HO!” I said. She began talking again.
“Stanley HO!” I yelled furiously.
“One moment,” she said.
There was a pause. I motioned Adrienne over. I handed her the phone as a male voice said, “This is Stanley Ho, may I help you?”