MN - What a fine gig this has been! The hotel accommodations
were real suites--for a change. Two couches, two TV's, two
telephones, even two rolls of toilet paper! We performed at
the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which has a beautiful theater
in the center of the museum. Everything was perfectly set
up for us -- a new, rock-solid table built amid the audience
for the lantern, lighting cables already run out to it, a
technician to fuss over the sound. Our "Victorian Halloween"
had two performances, both sold out; very enthusiastic audiences.
Local collectors came to the shows and then treated us to
a delicious home-cooked dinner afterwards. I wish all gigs
were like this!
Now we're ready to leave, shepherding the
lantern in its giant red shipping crate through the Northeast
Air Freight Service. (Note: This was back in the days when
we shipped by freight; now we take the lantern as luggage.)
Ahead of me in line is a flamboyant character dressed in hip
boots and a serape. He's arguing noisily with the freight
clerk about the air rates for shipping frogs' legs.
Dundee's Frogs in
By J. B. Beale
The argument goes on and on. I'm getting nervous
about my schedule. Finally they agree on a rate, and I move to the
front of the line.
I fill out my paper work; an assistant clerk takes
the lantern away to weigh it. While we wait for him to return, I
ask the head clerk what the argument was about.
"Oh that guy!" he says. "That's just Frog-Legs
Dundee, playing the angles." Then he explains that Frog-legs has
a business of catching and shipping frogs. Normally he gets a special
rate for botanical specimens, because each city establishes special
rates for industries that are unique to it; say a special lobster
rate for Boston. But Frog-Legs is arguing that because some of the
frogs are being shipped live to restaurants, he ought to get an
even better rate, the Live Fish rate, which will save him $25.
I'm fascinated. The clerk warms to his story.
Frog-Legs gets most of his frogs in the Spring, when the ponds start
to warm up. The frogs come out of the mud and collect in the open
places in the ice. Frog-Legs swoops down with a net and the frogs
are too cold to jump away.
Frog-Legs has a cousin, "Mosquito Dundee" he's
called, who specializes in mosquito larvae. . . . . He's trying
to get a special rate too. Everybody does.
"Like, . . . what business are you in?" the clerk
"The magic-lantern business," I say.
That stops him. I explain. He thinks hard. "Well,"
he says, "that is specialized. Maybe too specialized. But I could
give you a good rate on those mutton-chop whiskers of yours."
I take a lesson from Frog-legs and start to haggle.
And the result?
The magic-lantern pays full freight. So does the
magic-lantern showman. But the mutton-chops ride free.