Odds Against Tomorrow

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty —

“I’d like a birch beer, lots of ice.” It’s eleven AM in the bookstore/bar, I’m running behind, haven’t counted the register. “Take your time, take your time, I don’t want to be a bother,” the guy says “—Hey, don’t pour THAT much in the glass!”

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty — “Hey excuse me, are you the only one working today?” the guy says. I guess I’m not good enough for you, buddy? Tough. Fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty — oh shit, wait, where was I?

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty –

“Excuse me, miss — could you look up a book for me? It’s called Odds Against Tomorrow. They made a movie of it—“

A-ha! This is sounding familiar. I thought I recognized this guy. l know what’s coming next and try to head it if off: “Oh, right!” I say cheerily. “They shot it right here in Hudson”—

He won’t be denied his moment: “It starred Harry Belafonte. Directed by Robert Wise. I was in it.”

I admit I was charmed the first time I heard this story, over four years ago, of how famous noir film Odds Against Tomorrow was shot in Hudson in 1959, and this gentleman, then a young boy (“though you won’t believe it to look at me, I’m sixty-three now; I was ten at the time”) had a role in the movie as an extra. The second time, two years later, I was merely bemused. Now he’s sixty-seven, I’m four years older too, and this time when he starts launching into his story of how Harry Belafonte was so nice, I practically snarl “And every year, for years after, he sent you a Christmas card, yeah – I know, I know!”  But I restrain myself.

“So, hey do you have that book in stock? I asked that nice girl, the one who wears jeans a lot, who works Tuesday and she said she couldn’t find it.”

“Nope, not in stock – I can see if we can get you a copy—“

“Nah, it’s out of print. There’s another book by the same name, but that’s not it.”

“Okay well, I better count this money-“

“Sure miss, take your time.”

Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty –

“It’s written by William…um, McGivern, not the other guy.”

What a pest.  Maybe I’ve been at this job too long?

I’m curious and look it up. The McGivern book is out of print, and the internet search for Odds Against Tomorrow mostly yields results for Nathaniel Rich’s 2013 novel of the same name.

I pretend the guy’s not there and finish counting. Then I get out a broom and start sweeping, too busy to minister to the needy.

Later, it occurred to me I have my own story that I tell over and over. I guess we all do. My first solo album Diary Of A Mod Housewife came out twenty years ago this month. I’ve done plenty of other things before and since then (haven’t I? haven’t I?), but that’s the one the most people know. If we don’t mention what we’ve done, will it be as if it never existed? The album’s out on vinyl for the first time in October. You can pre-order it here.

Back in the bar, I’d felt a little guilty for being annoyed, and turned to ask the guy what it was like, working with Robert Wise – who directed over forty films including The Sound of Music and West Side Story.  But there was just a sweaty, half-drunk glass of birch beer on the end of the bar, with a half-poured soda bottle next to it.


4 thoughts on “Odds Against Tomorrow

  1. horvendile2

    I remember Vin Scelsa playing “Mod Housewife” when it first came out. It’s how i know you. Of course I’ve gotten everything since then too. Not the best album but the most easily remembered title. As for repeating stories my friend Leah says I have four stories that I tell over and over. Of course my saying that is a fifth story.

  2. Paul Schierbs

    I have an early 2000’s bar room poster, all southern sultriness against a violaceous background– and it’s signed by its subject. It’s titled “The Sugar Tree”. I’d like to ask that guy:”What you got?”

    1. amyrigby

      It was a cool photo by the great Jim Herrington that didn’t show up well on the album cover (and oh that font, I’ll always regret that – hmm, unless I can put it out as an LP. We’ll see how this one goes) Hope I can get back to St. Louis next year…

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