The Cocktail Bar

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M Dateline:Tuesday, September 30th, 1952

Hail to the girls!

Well, my dears, I'm back at work after a lovely holiday. And oh, what a hard, cruel world is my work located in. I won't say any more about that (it's so abrasive to the gentler sensibilities of those who live in Aristasia proper, though those of you who live in Aristasia-in-Telluria know what I'm talking about, I expect.)

No, thank you honey, nobody has been mean to me. It's just, you know, the pace and the sort of wall you have to keep in place all around you.

So I just wanted to say, well, it's really nice to have this place to come to, and you lovely darlings to talk to, all of you: Amy glowing with the life inside her, chic Candida, breathlessly blonde Ariadne, sweet Miss Fox, and dashing Cassiopeia, and Katherine, and Mary Margarete, and little Miranda, and well, you know, I could go on and on. But thank you, my dears, thank you just for being here, and for being you, and for letting this hard brunette melt and flow a little at the edges.

ELIZABETH RUTH


Tea and sympathy

Oh Valentine,
I am so sorry to hear about your broken heart. But aren't you lucky to have found a nice older brunette who will take care of you and offer you the protection every blonde needs. I am lucky that my brunette wife takes such good care of me that she even keeps all the family bills and checkbooks and money matters far from my reach. I never have to think of such things, and that bit of protection frees me to think of more important matters, such as racinating our home, arranging flowers, getting our little nest ready for our second blessed event, canning, and preparing special birthday packages for very special friends. But don't pass that on to anyone else, for some of those very friends are sitting at a nearby table!

The racinating touches to your home sound wonderful. It makes all the difference, doesn't it? You might do a little here, a little there, buy a Kadorie picture for one wall and a art-neo lamp for a corner, then, one day, you look around and realize you've really honestly created true sanctuary from the Pit. And what a glorious feeling that is!

Let me buy you a hot toddy, darling, and know that you have all of my sympathy.

Love,

AMY


A Romance Unfolds: Chapter Two

As it was Kwethalyn's twice daily chore to feed her family's carrier pigeons, she had ample opportunity to lavish special care on the six Novarian birds, whose separate and privileged presence in the dovecote remained undetected. Kwethalyn would bring them tasty crusts from the table and caribou suet and flakes of dessicated whale blubber, too, while the other birds received only their plain rations of unhulled tundra rice and dried aspen cones. Kwethalyn reasoned that the New Ladyton squadron, as she secretly named them, having been raised in a much milder climate, might lack the stamina required to carry her letters south over the cordillera in the dead of winter.

She could not release them to fly about the village in sharp veering formations like the others, as she knew they would have instantly absconded in unison towards the sun fast receding southwards, so to keep them in trim she would tenderly take each one in turn under her warm lynx fur parka and gently stretch out its wings to their full expanse, softly clutching each bird to her breast the while as if to suffuse it with her own fortitude and determination for the long journeys to come.

During these pensive moments she wished herself a bird, able to soar over the mountains to Novaria in a day, being transformed back into a girl the moment she alighted on Cassiopeia's doorstep (for she imagined that flats in New Ladyton had doorsteps), in a hazy fluttering of white feathers becoming fair skin and blonde hair before the door was opened and she was swept in to Cassiopeia's protective embrace. Kwethalyn, of course, had no desire to be a bird except for the temporary power of flight such a transmutation would have conferred; she was more than content to be an ultrafeminine Northern Amazonian girl at all other times -- a prototypical blonde.

But not such a blonde all alone, separated from her of whom she nightly dreamed and for whom she daily pined during most of her waking hours. By the time the autumnal equinox had been passed but three weeks and the river had frozen hard and all was white below and blue above, her mothers, sisters and friends could plainly see that Kwethalyn was in love and was visibly being consumed like seal oil in a lamp that is burning too brightly, though the analogy falls somewhat short of the mark because Kwethalyn became wan and listless as her wick grew shorter.

Her cheekbones could now be detected and naked in the steam lodge her ribs could be seen tenting up her pale skin in ridges where she had been smooth and never ridged before. Her knitting became irregular as she began to drop stitches, she twice spoiled the musk-ox butter by leaving her churn too close to the stove, she burned the loaves each time it was her turn to bake, and in a hundred other little ways she showed that her attention was anywhere but on the task at hand -- except for tending her special birds, which she did with all the care and concentration that should have been spent on her other work. But her tending was secret, of course, so everyone thought that Kwethalyn could do nothing right anymore and would not last out the winter, which promised to be an unusually harsh one.

And of Cassiopeia, two thousand miles to the south, in warm, sunny Novaria? What of her? Cassiopeia had made an unexpected and enormous profit on her tundra rose honeycombs, as the wild honey harvest had unaccountably failed in many parts of the Empire because of a prolonged summer drought affecting all provinces except Northern Amazonia. The Novarian cosmetics firm, New Lady, was frantic for the beeswax -- like ambergris, it became worth its weight in gold; the scarcity of the firm's facial restorative and its resultant exorbitant price merely had the effect of overheating demand to near-fever pitch, driving prices up even higher and fueling blatant speculation in the product, like Dutch tulip bulbs or the South Sea bubble in Eastern Arcadia. But, canny trader that she was, Cassiopeia took her profits out in good time and did not speculate further.

So, with this single and exceedingly fortunate transaction alone, Cassiopeia suddenly found herself a brunette of independent means, far richer than she had ever dreamt, with tens and tens and tens of thousands of Imperial Pounds invested with her bankers at six per cent per annum and no need to work at a living for many years to come, perhaps for the rest of her life.

Without reducing her principal one farthing, Cassiopeia refurbished her flat in the most up-to-date Art Neo style, sparing no expense; she replaced her whole wardrobe, bought herself a stunning necklace-earring-and-bracelet combination in platinum-set diamonds and threw a number of tastefully lavish dinner parties and only slightly understated glittering soirees to which she invited hundreds of friends and acquaintances. All of New Ladyton was soon abuzz with Cassiopeia's success: blondes clamored for invitations, some even attempting to bribe the domestic staff with favors better left unmentioned, or, on one notable occasion, mobbing Cassiopeia's poor private secretary in the street, importuning her to add their names to the guest list.

At these functions Cassiopeia would amiably but absently preside, engaging in small talk and being perfectly polite to all, but she would invariably retire early on such occasions, before her guests, pleading a headache or other temporary infirmity and begging them to stay on to enjoy themselves as long as they liked (which they usually did until all the food and drink were consumed). Having thus extricated herself from her self-imposed social obligations, Cassiopeia would dismiss the upstairs staff for the night, then steal out alone onto the roof and into the dovecote, creating a soft stir of wings and a muted ripple of cooing as she gently sprang the latch and stole quietly in amongst the sleeping birds.

Like Kwethalyn, Cassiopeia had set aside her six special Unalakleet birds from the rest in a separate part of the dovecote, an enclosure large enough to walk into upright, and she, too, was fattening them up for their forthcoming missions. She would cuddle each bird in turn, feed it a special morsel held between her own lips, kiss the tip of its beak, adjuring it, in that baby talk which always sounds so unsettling when coming from the mouths of otherwise competent brunettes, to deliver all her passion with the letters she would soon send.

[TO BE CONTINUED] Dateline:Wednesday, September 24th, 1952

The American Home

Hello Darling Friends,

I don't know if any of you subsribe to The American Home, but just in case you don't, I brought in this month's issue (yes, this month's, September 1952. The Iron Curtain isn't always so kind to us, you know) to pass around because there is so much in it for everyone here. For our lovely Amazonian friends, an article on a brave family who have settled in the wilderness of the Yukon; for Miss Fox, an article on "Jacaranda Jubilee," about the festival that attends the blooming of that tree each year in Australia; and for Elizabeth O., who loves I Love Lucy so much (but where has she gone to? Elizabeth O., I mean, not Lucy, sillies), a delightful behind-the-scenes look at that crazy redhead's life. Plus, the regular movie reviews and a look at a dozen interesting people's lives for the rest of us. Isn't it swell? But no canning recipes for me, though I am not complaining because last month lots of them came through the Iron Curtain in my other subscription to Woman's Day.

Well, pettes, hope you liked it. I have to go now because today is going to be apple butter day in my kitchen and I just stopped by for a little chat before starting in on my work.

Lots of Love,

AMY


A Sad Blonde

Sigh. I too am sad. A sad blonde. Perhaps I have come to the right place. Or at the right time. Hot milk, did you say? Didn't you forget the rum?

My brunette has left me, and for the longest time I could scarcely survive! I did not want to learn to do brunettish things, I wanted to run to her and implore her to come back! And I did, so many times. Sob.

But finally, after such a long time drifting around in Aristasia and looking at the shops and the wonderful racinated houses, and listening here silently for I could not trust my own voice, well, I found myself racinating my home. Nice blue carpet and towels to match. Simple and timeless, classic, neatly hung. Making beauty here and there. The Bona Dea gave me a wonderful set of matching drapes and spreads. All a bit formal and Kadorian.

Not at all the sort of things that we, sob, used to choose together. Just given, found. So it is like visiting in the hestia of Diana or Glinda.

And, after such nice spiritual companionship here through the ordinator, in my solitude and peace, it now feels like a wonderful older brunette comes to visit me. Not for romance, but a practical governess, who really enjoys balancing check books and things of that sort. Of course it is my hands that have to hold the pencil, but all the commonsense and how-to is strictly hers, I assure you! She even made a calendar for me with all the due dates of the bills and cute little circles to fill in when paid. Such fun! So now as long as the circles and check marks look right, I never have to worry about forgetting anything!

It is so nice to feel protected again! Almost as nice as coming here and hugging my friends, with all this wonderful scent and music and soft smoothness!

VALENTINE


A Romance Unfolds Across Provinces -- Chapter 1: The Stage is Set

Dearest Aphrodite Cocktail Bar patronettes, I am the narrator, just like those usually encountered in novels and stories. In the cinema or the theater, we often hide mutely behind camera or stage directions, but even there you may sometimes hear our own voices. We are the explainers. I and my ilk have been notably absent, however, from the Cocktail Bar, which thus far has relied principally on soliloquies or personal correspondence to cobble together accounts of romances, celebrations, triumphs, tribulations and little adventures ... Not much employment for my sisterhood here, I am afraid. Not until now.

You see, it is at times passingly difficult to ascribe motive, delineate character or even paint the simplest scene without assuming the Olympian position we narrators so adore and from which nothing may be concealed, not a girl's innermost thoughts, most secret desires or even her seemingly most trivial actions. How very cumbersome it is, in an exchange of letters, to convey that Mary, say, has lost her locket, where she lost it, whose picture it contained, and that Susan, say, has found the locket and what Susan now plans to do with it, but how very simple it is for the narrator to tell you! So I have been engaged by certain parties, whose names need not be at present known, to turn my all-seeing eye on a budding romance between two girls already introduced to you in these pages -- the diminutive Amazonian blonde Kwethalyn and the tall brunette Novarian trader called Cassiopeia -- and to tell you what it sees.

Now, please do not misunderstand -- I have not been engaged to banish any exchange of letters between the two. On the contrary, I trust my presence will facilitate it; I shall limit my occasional appearance only to make things a bit more comprehensible, since I always know what is happening and what is going to happen, even if the two girls may be completely in the dark.

But, to the point, as I am already on company time and must earn my retainer. So let me hasten to tell you first that the dashing Cassiopeia brought to Unalakleet more than those six bolts of gossamer platinum cloth-- five to trade for tundra rose honeycombs and one to propitiate Kwethalyn for past conduct unbecoming a Novarian brunette of high breeding and honorable intentions. Wise to the ways of the North, Cassiopeia had also brought with her half-a-dozen swift snow pigeons (Gallicolumba borealis), raised at her own hand, whose minuscule avian brains were chiefly devoted to retaining the precise terrestrial coordinates of their snug little dovecote on the roof of Cassiopeia's New Ladyton flat, and whose aggregate grey matter, which came to barely a tablespoonful among the six, desired nothing in the world more fervently than to return there at first opportunity.

Cassiopeia, you see, knew that Northern Amazonian villages, isolated from one another and from the rest of Aristasia by rugged terrain and harsh weather, and lacking even the simplest Arcadian electric telegraph, have for generations entrusted their important long-distance communications to these sturdy and reliable Arctic birds during the dark winter months when the Imperial Mail is paralyzed. Cunningly fitted with delicate waterproof pouches of seal gut, snow pigeons are able to carry two pages of tightly rolled lemon-grass parchment over distances as great as three thousand miles with remarkable security and speed.

So, on a prior trading trip to Northern Amazonia, perhaps two years earlier, divining that sooner or later some need would arise for her to communicate with trading partners far distant, Cassiopeia acquired three dozen fertile snow pigeon eggs and returned with them to New Ladyton, where after a successful incubation of thirty-eight days they duly hatched and came to know their mistress's New Ladyton dovecote as Home. It was six of these birds Cassiopeia brought with her when she traveled to Unalakleet for her precious consignment of tundra rose honeycombs.

Just as important to your understanding is what Kwethalyn omitted to tell you in her last letter, to wit, that in the very early dawn of the day Cassiopeia departed, the two girls, faithful to an understanding reached the previous day while picking mushrooms together on the high slopes upriver, met secretly on the mist-shrouded pier at the broad river's edge and exchanged pigeons, Kwethalyn taking the six New Ladyton birds and locking them in their own private little willow cage deep inside the family dovecote where no one but she ever went, and Cassiopeia taking Kwethalyn's six back with her to New Ladyton where they were ensconced in correspondingly secure surroundings. There they yearned only for Unalakleet, as the six in Kwethalyn's care yearned only for New Ladyton, all twelve with no less intensity than the two girls found themselves, to their utter surprise and occasional discomfiture, yearning for one another.

Now we shall see which girl first releases a bird.

THE NARRATOR


Little Girls' Fashions in Trent

Anita here again, pettes, to remind you that smart feminine fashions are by no means reserved for Big Girls. Which of us cannot remember her first fancy dress? Or, before possessing even that dress, how she coveted her older sister's frilly frock, which, of course, was all the finer mainly because it was her sister's? And did she not feel cruelly singled out by Fate to be the Most Miserable Girl in the Entire World because her sister Had Everything Nice and she Had Nothing-At-All to Wear? (This is the point at which most little girls with big sisters are convinced they are adopted; Cinderella is very popular with this set.)

No doubt a little girl lacks the super-refined taste of avoiding bright plaids with stripes, or of wearing orange and pink and green together if left to her own predilections, (such matters of style being best left to her blonde mommy), but when a little girl's clothes are properly suited to her coloring, personality, stature and age, she can be as stunning as the most beautiful grown-up princess!

Here, look at darling Shirley Temple as she appears in Curly Top, currently a smash hit in mid-Trent. The film requires eighteen changes of costume, each one costing $35 to $40, or ten times the price of a normal little girl's dress! This ensemble is fashioned from heavy white silk crepe and sheer black velvet, topped with a modified black velvet Breton sailor hat. The velvet capelet is trimmed with hand-embroidered bright yellow baby ducklings. Note the Very Proper white doeskin gloves, regulation white socks and black patent leather Mary Janes. The smart little purse of is white suede. (What do you suppose Miss Temple carries in it? Lipstick? Comb? Compact? Address book? Spare pair of nylons? Chewing gum?)

Little girls all over Trent dream of being Miss Temple, or at least dream of being dressed like her, so are quite fortunate if their mothers can afford even one dress. Those whose mothers can sew are perhaps more fortunate, as both the Ladies' Home Journal and McCall's carry studio-approved Shirley Temple patterns for only fifteen or twenty cents each. Miss Temple, however, is the most fortunate of all little girls, as not only is she Miss Temple, but she gets to keep all her costumes when each film is finished!

Though one cannot properly say that little girls entertain in their own boudoirs and therefore still have no pressing need for what we in Trent call lounge wear, yet every little girl should be indulged with at least one special negligee, so that she might entertain her menagerie of stuffed animals in her bedroom, serving them tea from a diminutive tea-set before saying her prayers and getting tucked in for the night.

]And here is Miss Temple wearing just such an indulgent negligee (also from Curly Top), a sample of charmingly provocative satin feminine elegance in pale blue. The embroidered trim outlining the bodice, with its chic white bunny, has a created a juvenile Trentish fashion sensation which appears on every conceivable item of clothing from undies to topcoats! The stylish dark blue and white striped yarn framing the neckline is complemented with dangling blue and white pom-poms. The only accessory here is a cuddly white goose with contrasting red and white checked bonnet and polka dot neckerchief.

(I had a stuffed goose once, made of red-and-white oilcloth and so not overly cuddly, but I misplaced it -- having shut it up in the oven for some reason or other and then forgetting about it. Mommy lighted the oven one afternoon and pretty soon everyone could smell my stuffed goose roasting; it got all scorched and black and had to be thrown away. Once roasted, it instantly became my Absolutely Favorite Toy, so its unceremonious interment, only partially cremated, in the ash can occasioned great wailing and its prompt replacement, the following Monday, with a stuffed velveteen pony, very cuddly. This is the first time, since then, I have even thought of the stuffed oilcloth goose!)

Surely Miss Temple is the very avatar of feminine purity and innocence; one cannot deny the power of the archetypes she embodies in such a very small package!

ANITA, PARAMOUNT STUDIOS ARCHIVIST FROM TRENT


Dateline: Tuesday, September 9th, 1952

A Small Slice of Light Hollywood Cheesecake

Hi, pettes, it's me again, Anita, Paramount Studios Archivist, silent all these months because of studio troubles. In fact, most of the big Hollywood studios in Western Trent are cutting their budgets to the bone, laying off staff and even expecting some of their starlets to wear ready-made clothing on screen! Perhaps these bad economic times will sound the death-knell for those glorious, glamourous years of bias-cut satins, feathers, frills, sequins and lace, which yours truly thought would last absolutely forever. How sad that would be!

But, before hanging out too much crepe, let me first (for old times' sake, if for no other reason), titillate your eyes (and imaginations) with some of the finest (and naughtiest) fashion shots Trent can ever be blamed for.

I have only two photos to discuss today. One is from Eastern Trent, where the infamous Hayes Office hasn't any branches, while the other is from Western Trent, where directors must use quite a bit of ingenuity at times to circumvent the censors that office has spawned.

In Western Arcadia, all of Vintesse and the easternmost part of Trent, too, there is little agreement about what should and should not be shown on the screen. Even nudity is not rare, and famous stars -- not mere extras or aspiring starlets -- appear not infrequently dressed in nothing much more substantial than their lingerie.Observe, for example, this breath-taking studio still of Miss Greta Garbo in her Mata Hari working outfit (as she appeared, in fact, in the film itself, of the same name). There is nothing artificial in this costume to mold, trim, augment or alter Miss Garbo's perfect figure, most of which is bared. Indeed, there is not very much of anything in this costume! Though the shot has a bit of backlighting to silhouette Miss Garbo's delectable curves, the primary lighting is frontal

Directors in Western Trent, however, must resort to backlighting an actress clad in a thin, gauzy material to achieve the same effect, and leave more to the audience's imagination, which, after all, may be the better course. Here is such a backlighted studio still of Miss Carole Lombard: only the outline of the famous Lombard figure is actually revealed, so, though the censors might fume (or ogle, perhaps?) they could not do nothing to prevent her appearing like this on the screen itself -- which she does, and often! Provocative, sensual and within the bounds of decent taste.

Which one do you like better?

ANITA, PARAMOUNT STUDIO ARCHIVIST FROM TRENT


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