In 1991 I was barely two years out of college, living in a volunteer community in New York City and working full-time at a runaway shelter. An experience that seem to teach me much more than I would give. My sometime commercial break from living with fifty other volunteers and helping kids find a way home, was my high school friend who just so happened to also be living in NYC. He was starting his journey in the corporate world of American Airlines in their sales department.
He is one of those guys who always manages to get cashiers to smile, waiters to laugh and parents to adore him. My own mother has referred to him as her fifth son for years. He is tall, funny and breaks out into song out of left field. The songs can be anything from current hits, old standards or a McDonald’s commercial in Japanese. He also has that gift of remembering key moments and phrases to bring up later in front of a crowd to entertain all and playfully embarrass someone as he retells a story. Over the years he has managed to repeat some of these old stories, and unlike your well-intentioned great Uncle Morty, he somehow still gets people to laugh.
One such story involves him, me and four hundred public school second graders on a day time field trip to see the original 1991 movie Beauty in the Beast. I have never been a huge Disney person. The tickets must have been free, perhaps his company was sponsoring the event. Whatever the case, we were surrounded. I remember we managed to get seats on the lower right hand side, because everything looked huge when glancing up. The most memorable aspect of the viewing wasn’t the visuals, it was the loud chorus of oohs and aahs from the sea of seven-year olds.
Out front on the sidewalk after wading through the crowd, we got to talking about the movie. I have never been very musical, but I did like the movie. When asked what song I liked best, I responded, “oh that one….the one…the one…what was the name of that song…Welcome to Dinner?” He lost it and broke down laughing on the sidewalk. How many times do they have to repeat the words “be our guest” in a song for someone to remember? Well obviously not enough for me.
So now the new version of the Beauty and the Beast is soon to be out. My friend still works for the airlines, but lives in London. This spring break we are headed to Asheville, NC with friends. It hasn’t been discussed, but I suspect we might be going to the movies and that 1991 story – which he tells so much better – will probably never die.