Welcome, Newcomers. I’m Earl Pomerantz. If you want to know more about me, don’t bother checking the “About Me” thing, I don’t know how that works. Instead, take a look at my introductory blog, “Welcome.” Sorry for the inconvenience; you’re paying the price for my incompetence.
I hope you enjoy my blog and stick around long enough for me to get good at it.
And now, this.
I’ll be gone next week. I’m spending the week at a spa in Tecate, Mexico, a place where people go to eat healthy and exercise. I go to eat healthy and not exercise. The Ranch, as they call it, offers rigorous Men’s and Women’s exercise programs, which I generally ignore. I’ve developed my own personalized Men’s program: Men’s Hammock, Men’s Bath and Men’s Nap. I’ve been visiting the Ranch regularly for thirty years, and I’ve taken, maybe, six classes. Most of those were something called restorative yoga, which is pretty much napping with strangers.
Why do I go there? To read, to relax and to meet interesting people. I once met the late Texas political satirist Molly Ivins at the Ranch. What a treat. I told her I was there alone, because my wife didn’t like the Ranch as much, since higher rates had priced out the more interesting clientele of librarians and teachers. Molly replied – read this with a Texas accent – she said, “Tell your wahfe thet teachers still come heah in the summah when it’s cheap.”
I also met Oprah at the Ranch, before she was famous. I have a picture of her somewhere, wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt and a haloing Afro. At the time, she was doing a local show in Chicago.
Interesting story, hopefully not just to me. During the early days of that visit, Oprah, her friend, Ellen, and I made friends and hung out together. A little bookkeeping here: the Ranch requires you to sign up for a weeklong stay, Saturday to Saturday. Everyone stays the whole week, the exception being guys who break their collarbones showing off for women during volleyball games. For everyone else, it’s Saturday to Saturday. I mention that, because it’s important to the story, which now continues.
Tuesday afternoon, I’m engaged in my standard daytime recreation, napping in the lounge, when somebody wakes me up. It’s Oprah. I remember not looking my best at that moment, eyes half open, and nap-drool dribbling from the corner of my mouth. It turns out Oprah had woken me up to say goodbye. She was leaving. I was too out of it to ask why. I hugged her, and said, “Goodbye, Oprah”, but having met very few Oprahs in my life, I pronounced it “Aw-prah”, like the place where they sing in high voices. She immediately corrected me. “It’s Oh-prah.” Then she left.
I didn’t understand it. Nobody leaves the Ranch on Tuesday, why had Oprah? One thought came to mind. There weren’t a lot of black guests at the Ranch that week; in fact, Oprah was the only one. Had someone perhaps said something that made her feel, I don’t know, in the minority? Had I? Oprah’s departure left me sad and confused. Even Ellen seemed to have no idea why she’d left.
When I came home, I told my family the story, not because Oprah was famous – she wasn’t then – but because I’d liked her and her abrupt departure was a big mystery. Why did Oprah leave early?
Flash Forward fifteen years. I'm serious. Fifteen.
Our family’s in the habit of taking vacations during the Christmas Week and my wonderful stepdaughter, Rachel, an avid “Oprah” fan, tapes the show when she’s away. So, fifteen years after my Oprah Mystery experience, we’re back from our Christmas vacation, and I get a phone call. It’s Rachel, all excited. “I know why Oprah left the Ranch early!” Rachel had been screening her taped “Oprahs” and Oprah had related the story on her show.
Here’s what happened. It seems Oprah had entered into a weight-losing contest with a friend and she’d signed up for the Ranch to help her shed the pounds. Then, on that fateful Tuesday, Oprah received a call from Steven Spielberg, saying he wanted her to appear in his movie, “The Color Purple.” The catch was he wanted her the size she was, the big size. Thrilled by this incredible career opportunity, Oprah immediately abandoned her weight-losing activities and bolted the Ranch.
So there it was. The mystery was solved.
After fifteen years, I finally knew the reason Oprah had left, And it wasn’t me! In fact, when she related the story on the air, Oprah didn’t even mention me. That hurt a little, but since mentioning me might have included the drool situation, I figure I pretty much broke even. It was a relief after fifteen years to find out why Oprah had left, and an even greater relief to know it was nothing I’d said. Since I never heard from Oprah again, I was concerned she might be holding a grudge.
That’s interesting. I just wrote about famous people at the Ranch, which is not the story I intended to tell. Does that happen sometimes in blogs? You think you’re going to tell one story and end up writing something else? This never happened when I wrote for sitcoms. You told the story you agreed to tell, or they didn’t pay you the money they agreed to pay. Oh, well. I guess I’ll write what I meant to write today, tomorrow. And today, while I’m on the subject, I’ll finish with another story about celebrity.
I had broken from my regular routine of hammock, nap and bath and scheduled a massage. The masseur’s name was Caesario, who, like most of the staff, was a resident of nearby Tecate. There was little conversation for the first twenty minutes beyond “Turn over, please” and “Not so hard.” Then, to my surprise, Caesario offered a non massage-related comment:
“You remind me of someone.”
That’s interesting, I thought. The Ranch catered to many celebrities – politicians, movie stars, the rich, the famous, some of them quite attractive. Which one of these illustrious luminaries, I wondered, did I remind him of? So I asked him.
“Who do I remind you of?”
“You remind me of somebody from town.”
I'll talk to you tomorrow.