Hello fans of my blog, "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me". Greetings from the author, Shawn M. Cohen. If you have not ever read this blog, and want to read an incredible epic love story, then do go to the archived entries on the right hand side. Scroll down to the beginning, dated "FEB. 28,click on that to begin, read and enjoy, then continue up by the next date until you reach the end, more than 20 entires. Don't forget the videos that are selected on the right, as they accompany our story. Beautifully, poignantly atmospherically, the music provides so much of what was essential between Art and myself, our secret code to dream upon. If you have read all the entries to this incredible true story between my beloved Art Swiden, an ex- Heavyweight boxer, who fought some of the very best in his day, and myself, his secret love, than you know our story...but our story is a continual journey, even after his death. Yesterday, August 23, 2010, was the 6 year anniversary of Art's passing. To honour his memory, I put up on my Facebook page 3 days of stories about Art, actual press clippings of his boxing history, and music videos. Art loved music, and spoke to me often, as our secret code, through the lyrics of Sinatra, Matt Monro, and so many of his time. This blog entry is the last shout out to him and my readers, for now, as I plow on with the book. People wonder what happened to us, why did we seperate and not stay together? Well, there were many reasons. I did not even know he had passed away for a whole year, being 10 years away from him, living in London. We had an almight argument that set us away from each other. So, no connections to him, or anyone who knew him meant I had no way of being informed of his death. The very last time Art and I saw each other was in Hollywood, Florida in 1994. That time was our first meeting in 14 years, and I had already became a Metaphysician, developed myself psychically and spiritually, from attending The American National Institute for Psychical Research and Development, in Westlake, California, earning my BSc. Metaphysics. I would go on to teach esoteric subjects, consult clients using the tools I was educated in; Tarot readings, Astrology, Past Life Regression, years of training towards becoming a psychotherapist and much knowledge earned through my Nursing certificate (L.V.N.)in allopathic and in natural medicine. Brought over to London, England, in 1985, by my best friend Robbie's older sister, Harriet, a psychotherapist herself, and asked to conduct a workshop in Montecorice, Italy at the Pellin Institute with Harriet and all British therapists and participants was my way in to deciding I wanted to live in London. I would make London, and many working trips to Europe, my home, some 25 years now. In the meantime, opening up to my own gifts as a psychic was an epic journey in itself. It seems to me what we gain is usually born of some kind of challenge, trauma or pain. And this, too, was opened up to me with the tragic death of my very first boyfriend in 1979. I had been with Art after Glen and I broke up, and that was the way it was. I had left California, where I had lived with Glen. We had dated all through High School in Pittsburgh, he was 2 years older than me, and it seemed right for us to be together once I graduated from High School. The times were defiantly changing, as Rock and Roll was belted out from every car window, and the messages of freedom calling, breaking all the old restrictions, fighting social injustices, Vietnam and its impact on the youth of America was paramount in the early '70's and 1974. The hippy movement brought consciousness in. The psychotherapists would analyse and develop it, and the Mystics proclaimed it, "The Age of Aquarius". "Hair" had been on Broadway, as well as "Jesus ChristSuperstar". Life as we knew it was becoming a far cry from the set values of the 1950's and our parents, and the 1960's would usher in a new dawn of equal rights for women and minority groups, and the technology for much more free time. By the time I became 18, Jim Morrison was already dead by 3 years, I had witnessed on TV, as a child, the Moon Landing. Images of Vietnam ransacked our TV's news nightly. I was to hear, again as a young child, of the brutal deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and our President, John F. Kennedy. These experiences floating around my psyche and all about my person had a huge impact on me. I knew my life would have to be a contribution, have meaning, and above all help those who were helpless. It would take me to many wondrous and heartbreaking experiences before I saw Art Swiden again in 1994. The way of the world is as diverse as it's topography. The way of love can be even more mountainous as each individual finds their way home again, to the beloved, the Soul Mate. Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you both wake up to what is most important on this journey called "Life", and sometimes you just stubbornly fight all the signs. Fear is the opposite of love, always has been and always will be. This is a Universal Truth. When we wake up to who we really are, and what we are really doing here, the road gets clearer. We are all Divine Spiritual Beings having a (yet another!) Human experience.
This is the real truth of all of our existence. And this is what I have learned. My book, and the continue writing, researching and editing process that I have been submersed in for the past four years is ultimately what , "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me," is all about.
Here is, for the fans, one more excert from my book, "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me". It is said that the path to true love is never easy. Believe me when I tell you, that is true. But there can be so much joy, love, even bliss and Heaven on Earth on that journey. Discovering what we are all meant to ultimately discover, as Art said to me when his spirit came to me after his death... dressed in a white suit, looking more handsome then ever before, (if that was possible!) surrounded in a blindingly beautiful white light. As my eyes looked on, glazed and fixated on what I knew to be "that moment" when my life would never be the same again, mouth agape, breathing shallow, just afraid to move should this vision of him leave. He leaned over my ground floor apartment balcony, just like Rhett did when he first caught a glimpse of Scarlett at the top of the stairs, dressed like Rick from "Casablanca", he leaned his arm on the balcony and spoke to me. Not in words, but in thoughts, which I clearly heard, and with so much love in his eyes, he said, "Shawn, love never dies." I heard it, I consumed it in my brain, as I watched with my own eyes, afraid to blink, at his brilliance, his dazzling display of coming back to me, across the sea, across the dimensions, from Heaven itself to bring me this message. My eyes welled up, afraid to blink, so I would not see him, I dared not to cry. The key to the back door was across the living room, and I cursed that I did not have it right there in my hand so I could go out to him, there leaning in, standing on the grass, gazing at me with that smile, that look which I came to know so well in my days before when he was mine, so long ago. Slowly, the light began to fade, and just like he had teleported here, his image began to be swallowed up, as if Scotty had just began to, "beam him up!" I saw him fade, slowly, bit by bit, the white light diminished and I heard myself breathing again. I stood motionless for a minute, to see if he would reappear. The key, I must get the key! I ran across my living room floor to the bookshelf which safely housed the magic key. Snatched it and ran back, ripped the door open as fast as I could and stood on the opposite side from where he had been standing.The 3 inch black wrought iron railing between. It was broad daylight, about 11:30 am, and the usual goings on were there, people walking by, etc. I wondered for that second if anyone else had seen him? It mattered not, as I was too consumed to care. "Art, Art, come back to me, Art! Are you there?" I knew I looked like a lunatic should anyone see me calling to thin air off my back balcony, but I did not care. Just then I felt a breeze rush by me, blowing my hair right in front of my eyes. It was October, a nip was in the air. I took my hands which were wrapped around the railing, the railing where Art had leaned his arm on, and I pushed the hair out of my eyes. I want to see! I wanted to see him again. The breeze quickened, then warmed and I felt a swirl of love surround me, as if the breeze was embracing me. I called out softly, "Art, Art, Darling is that you? Don't leave me, come back to me!"
This would begin the final 3rd of my book. It is this part where, believe it or not, the real action begins. Thank you to all the many people, researchers, and friends who have helped to make our story come to life. My plan ( and you know the saying, "the best laid plans of mice and men") is to complete my epic book, edit, rewrite, edit again and make ready for submission to the right publisher by the end of 2010. It may take a little longer, because my work as a professional psychic medium and my daughter all come before, but I will get there. As Art would say, "What's the rush? We have all eternity."
Hopefully, someone out there will enjoy this blog so much they offer me a deal. Hey, it could happen! Not only a book deal but a movie deal as well. Art always wanted to be an actor. I know that no one could play him better then himself, but since that isn't possible, he'll have to be one "helluva guy"! These are the dreams and ambitions of this author. Thank you for reading and being a part of our story. Look for ,"The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me" in bookstores worldwide, and online, in 2011, if my swarthy, handsome heavyweight boxing Angel in Heaven and I have our way!
Miss Shawn M. Cohen, London, England, August 24, 2010.
"The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me", by Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. All events are true, some names have been changed to protect people's privacy. All video content is copy righted to their perspective artists, musicians and composers. No copyright infringement intended.
A heartfelt message to all my readers of, "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me", By, Shawn M. Cohen, author of this blog and the book to which these excerpts belong to.
Today I am sad to learn that the rules of blogging by some publishers of written books, may consider this blog as my book (because of the content, excerpts) being an "already published" item. That may mean that I would not be able to submit "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me" as a manuscript for Publication, in the first instance, only as a "reprint" as a book to be sold and marketed in the world. Now, please don't misunderstand, because I myself had to get my own head around this and took advice from two different editors and book advisors. This means that this will be the last time I will be writing excerpts of my book, and that also means I will give myself and "Phantom" the dignity it deserves to be published worldwide, and have an audience that all my hard work, and Art's continuous love and influence deserves. The publishing world is a true mystery to me! I can speak to the dead, foresee the future, as a Psychic Medium, and yet, I stumble myself through the writer's journey! It has been a delightful and emotional journey with all the love and support coming from my readers and their comments, and encouragement, and so I am forever grateful to you all. I will be blogging now about the process of writing my book and its own journey as it makes it to the final stages of , after nearly 5 years of intense research and uncalculable hours of writing, rewriting, and onward to its final draft for submission. I hope you will stay with me, and enjoy the snippets of the writing adventure along the way. Meanwhile, for all your love and attention, here is just another little episode which happened along Art and mine's journey through love.
Autumn came in with the leaves falling into the most spectacular display of color. I always loved this time of year. The air was fresh, crisp, the sky filled with scarlett and gold, hanging off every branch of tree. Driving into see Art, after hours in the Encore II, downtown, I had on my pink jacket with the white fur around the hood. It was a lined cotton jacket, I was not quite ready to get out the winter woolens. Art and I were so very much in love. We had spent months in blissful delight, laughing, loving and having fun together while fooling the entire public with our secret relationship. Art wanted to announce it to the world that we were together but it was me who told him it was better for us both if we were discreet. That upset him, but he knew I was right. The Press might have a field day, not to mention my parents! Along side that we would be endlessly teased by the people who we worked with, and all I needed to hear was some loud mouth say that I was, "sleeping with my Boss." Art told one bartender, named Bobby, a newcomer to the Encore but a friend of Art's. He was also younger but not as young as me. When I confessed my age to Art he almost fell off the bed! After the shock, I finally asked him his age, it was 48. My parents were 4 years older than him. But it didn't even affect me. That was the night we decided we didn't care, it didn't mean anything to either one of us, and as Art said to me, "Well, you have always been older than me, huh? Between the two of us, you are definately the older one!" He wasn't wrong there either, Art always kidding around and being playful. I told my best friend, Robbie. That was all who knew of what was going on between us. We worked together most nights, along with those precious hours after the Encore closed we spent upstairs, in the make shift apartment he was living in at the Encore downtown. Tonight, I would be taking that elevator ride with him upstairs again to his private domain. To a rather rand sack room with a mattress on the floor, some blankets and pillows, his boxing memorabilia all stashed away in one big cardboard box, his shirts hanging off the back of restaurant chairs, cigars in the ashtrays, his clothes astrew, no heat and of course, his music and Hi Fi system. His best buddies; Sinatra, Matt Monro, Elvis, Aznavour, all there waiting to be turned on, creating his romantic moods we dreamed to. We had made love to them all, but there was always something more he wanted to show me. I knocked on the big door of The Encore II as usual at 2:30 am. Art opened it with much joy on his face, "Come on in, Baby, where ya been, been waiting for you, come here." He grabbed me, kissed me then picked me up. "Art! Put me down, right now!!" I yelled and laughed at him all in the same time. "No, you're mine now, and you can't get away!" I was hanging with my butt in the air over his shoulder, and he slapped my butt. "ART! I mean it, put me DOWN! I'm getting dizzy, come on, NOW!" Art was walking around the empty Encore II with me hanging there like he had a small sack of potatoes over his shoulder! He just laughed. "Promise me something and I will think about it!" he teased me."Ok what is it?? I promise!" "Ah, but you didn't hear what I was going to ask you, did you?" I was now hitting his back with my arms, "PUT ME DOWN, NOW!" I screamed, light headed and laughing. He was still adamant..."OK, OK, but where I want you!" and he walked over to the bar and gently swung me over his shoulders to his arms and sat me on the bar stool. "ART! what are you doing?!" I unzipped my jacket which was up around my neck and took it off, pushed my hair out of my face, and watched him giggle as he watched me fix myself. He went behind the bar and got us both a drink. I noticed that there was a big black baby grand piano on the floor by the stage. It had been brought in for Duke Ellington who was scheduled to play there this week. Art had put our drinks on the bar, and a song came on the radio which had been playing. He walked out from behind the bar, and went over to the baby grand. He stood there , leaned on it with one arm and looked at me. Really looked at me with so much love in his eyes. As if Divinity itself was there, to bear witness, the next song came on the radio, and Art started to sing it to me. He never sang but "said" the words, which was his way of singing. I watched him, mesmerized. The song was by Leon Russell, and it was the first time I had heard it. Art sang this entire song to me, which was:
"I've been so many places in my life and times,
Sang a lot of songs, I've made some bad rhymes.
I've acted out my life in stages, with ten thousand people watching,
But we're alone now and I am singing this song for you.
I love you in a place where there's no space and time.
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine.
And when my life is over, remember when we were together,
and we were alone and I was singing this song for you.
You taught me precious secrets, the truth, withholding nothing,
You came out in front while I was hiding.
And now I'm so much better, and if my words don't come together,
Listen to the melody, cause my love is in there hiding.
I know your image of me is what I hope to be,
I treated you unkindly, Girl, but can't you see,
There's no one more important to me,
Baby, can't you please see through me?
We're alone now and I am singing this song for you.
We're alone now and I am singing my song for you."
Art told me that night that he would always love me. He made me promise him that I would remember this song all my life, and his love for me. I promised him right then and there. "Yes, Art, I promise." as he stroked my hair and looked into my eyes. I did not think that our time would be limited but it was. We stayed together , up and down, for 3 years, under so much duress, till eventually the pressure would get to us both. It was never our intention to hurt other people but we lived and loved in the times when divorce, age differences, were still very upsetting, people's judgements were less forgiving. I stayed with Art until things got very difficult for us both and by 1979, I was mourning the unexpected death of my first boyfriend, Glen, he was all of 25 years old. That shock reeled me into another zone. I had seen his Spirit on a bus in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was a place I escaped to from all the pain in Pittsburgh and I did not know he had been killed. It would be the moment that would change my life forever. Art still begged me to come back to him, but I knew his daughter needed him more. Or so I thought at the time. I left Pittsburgh for California to begin the path of my own discovery. It would take me to a Metaphysical University, where I would become a Professional Psychic, Counsellor and Healer, Holistic Nurse, Astrologer, and Past Life Regressionist. I graduated with a BSc.Metaphysics, and as a Liscensed Vocational Nurse. That was 1983. I had left Art to the past and his life in Pittsburgh. However, having studied and worked with my dreams as part of my own psychic development for years, and having travelled and worked in many countries as a Psychic and Metaphysics Teacher, opening up people's consciousness and helping them to heal their souls, by 1994 I was tired. My mother had divorced long ago, was happy and well living in Florida, so I went home to spend some time with her. One night, out of the blue, at about a month shy of age 38, I had a dream about Art. I had also wondered why so many of the men I had met and dated just were not right for me. I had thought about my "Soul Mate" and wondered, "where could he be?" and then I had a dream about Art. "Oh my, Art! Art!" Just to say his name again made me feel warm inside. "I wonder how he is doing? He would be about 66 now, " I pondered this. I wonder if he still lives in Pittsburgh? I called directory inquiry and gave his name and sure enough, there was his phone number! I braved a call to him after not speaking to him for 14 years. He was absolutely delighted to hear from me and arranged to meet me in Florida, across the State where I was currently staying with my mother, in Hollywood, where his old friend and another Encore bartender lived, one who did not know about us, but was now learning. Art was so excited and insistent, so we met within a couple of days. Here is one of the photos that was taken on the day we met again and that is what you see above. We were happy, even though it was, on that day, 100 degress F. outside in the Florida sun! I had become blonde, and a little rounder around the edges since Art last saw me, and had my hair was tied back and up off my neck, sunglasses on too, because of the heat! It was March 3rd, 1994. April 6th I would become 38 years old. Art still looked good, handsome as ever, even at age 66.
The story continues between us. Art Swiden passed away in his sleep on August 23, 2004. He was 76 years young. He had seen a double by pass operation on his heart and had had his voice box removed from cancer in 1999. I had come back to London when Art told me he thought my psychic work was "the Devil's work", as he had become a "Born Again Christian", but had neglected to tell me that when we met in 1994. His last words to me on the phone were, "I never want to hear from you again!" I felt betrayed and so angry with him, I never wanted to speak to him again, either. He was still living with his wife, the one he did not love and only returned to when he got sick and seemed to think, by accounts of his friends who revealed this to me after his passing, that he had "nowhere else to go." For me and for us, our story begins on a whole other level, after his death. Art Swiden laid in an unmarked and unpaid for grave for nearly three years. I did not know this until my return to Pittsburgh, where I see to it that he is buried with the dignity of not only a great human being but a great boxer deserves. This, too, was another beginning to our never ending story.
If you have enjoyed my excerpts, then you will see why when the book is finally published. This is where Our Story as two Soul Mates continues and Art contacts me from Heaven and the astral plane, first, to let me know he has passed on. He wanted to set the record straight about us, his feelings for me and so much more. Because of Glen's death, when I was 23, I became a Psychic, my own gift of psychic ability opened up. Because of Art's death,when he contacted me at 49, I became a Medium. Because Art wanted to speak to me so much, I was opened to this understanding that there truely is no death, and love is everlasting, for all Eternity. I want to thank all who helped me in my research and to my beloved Art for still being there, in all ways, while I hit the keyboard daily. It has been a true joy being here with you, my readers and friends. Look out for my book in your favorite bookstore one day in the near future, and if Art has anything to say about it from where he is, it will be "One helluva film!" Peace, Love and Light to you all, Ms. Shawn M. Cohen July 3rd, 2010, London, England, U.K.
The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me, by, Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. These excerpts are from the book I am currently writing of the same name. All events are true, but some names have been changed to protect people's privacy. All video content is copyright to their perspective composers, artists, performers and no copyright infringement is intended.
I finished my shift at the upstairs bar and cashed out. Art pulled me aside and whispered, "Just give me time to get down there, so see you about 2:30? You won't forget now, will ya?" he asked me with some hint that maybe I wouldn't show up. "No, Art, I will be there, about 2:30. See you then." He gave me a big smile and off I went, out the door of the Encore in Shadyside, to the parking lot and in my mother's car bound for home. I could have gone out until then but this gave me the perfect opportunity to relax and change before I drove to Downtown and Liberty Ave. I didn't want to over do it, just casual, so I had a quick shower and put some jeans on, a pretty buttoned down pink cotton shirt and some open toed sandals with wedge heels. Casual but Chic, I thought. I did my make-up and put on my favorite perfume from Lancomb which was "MagieNoir". I loved the smell of this, and only used it for a special night out or a special date. Before I knew it, it was coming up to 2 am. Time to leave now. A bit nervous, I quietly made my way out of my house, not wanting to wake up my mother or my younger brother. I gently closed and locked the front door. I started the car, slowly backed out of the driveway, and I was finally on my way. What would happen tonight with Art? I didn't know but I did know that first I would also have to find a place to park downtown. There was a 24 hour parking lot across the street and slightly down the road of the Encore II but the area was not very safe. I thought about Art getting everyone out of The Encore II quickly so he could have his date with me and that image put a smile on my face. He always made me smile to myself, he is such a character! When that realization finally dawned on me that he had been doing all these attentive things for me not because he was a nice Boss but actually because he really liked me, wow! That look on his face when he tore into those guys who were harassing me, the tenderness in his eyes when he ran up the stairs to make sure I knew he was not an ogre but that he did that for me, to defend me because he liked me! It took my breath away even now as I was driving in the dark towards Liberty Ave. I wonder what will happen with him now? I thought along the long empty streets, just lit by a street lamp here and there. I put on the radio, the DJ was playing Neil Diamond singing, "Forever in Blue Jeans". I sang along..."maybe tonight, maybe tonight by the fire, all alone, you and I, nothing around but my heart and the sound of your sighs..." I finally pulled into the well lit 24 hour parking lot across the street from The Encore II, about a block away. I took the ticket as I went in and found a space right away. Not many people parking in there in the middle of the night, in fact, it was almost empty. I locked the car up, with my purse firmly tucked under my arm, I quickly walked across the empty street. Nothing was open but maybe some After Hour Clubs around the corner. I knew of them, I had been to them by now with Robbie and some of the waitresses at the Encore I. But it was still scary out here. A lone yellow cab went by, no traffic at all on the road. I hoped Art was there. My heart started to pound in my chest. God, I pray he is there. I had now crossed the street and came to the big red door. I took a deep breath, fixed my straight long hair, which the hot summer night wind had blown all over the place, and knocked loudly on the door. Quickly checking my watch, it was exactly 2:30am. The door swung open by Art, whose eyes lit up, still dressed in his suit, as he said bowing to me like a butler, "Welcome to my world, won't you come on in..." I recognized it right away as an Elvis song. His hand holding the door open and the other gesturing for me to "come in". I giggled because I got his reference. He was smiling from ear to ear. His tie was now loosened up around his neck and he was clearly "off duty". "Come in, Shawn, so glad you could make it, would you like a drink?" He walked me to the long, now empty, rectangular bar. The back lights of the bar were on, and the house lights were on too but very low. "Sit down here and make yourself comfortable, what would you like to drink?" He offered me the bar stool and I put my purse on the bar, taking out my cigarettes. He went behind the bar and put on the stereo with one flick of a switch. It was Sinatra, who I was beginning to realize now that Art really liked. It was soothing and intimate, one of his love songs. "I'll have a glass of dry white wine, thanks Art." I said as I took out a cigarette. He was so happy and clearly glad to see me. However, I had to think how it was weird, strange, like a step out of time, to be in the restaurant with no one else but us two there. I had to have a quick glimpse around just to see what it looked like empty. "Comin' right up!" Art took off his tie and put it in his jacket pocket, opened up his top shirt button, as he poured my glass of white wine. He put a cocktail napkin down in front of me, put the filled wine glass on it and then lit my cigarette with his lighter and its enormous flame. I laughed. "Why do you have your lighter flame up so high?" I asked him. "Don't know, I like it that way." he said, smiling at this question. "So, Art, what will you have?" He took off his jacket and laid it over the far end of the bar. He was clearly getting comfortable. "I never drink, ya know, but today, well this is a special occasion, maybe a Chevis". Sinatra was singing away in the background, "When somebody loves you, its no good unless they love you, All the Way..." Art poured his Chevis on the rocks and came out from behind the bar to sit next to me on the next bar stool. "Hi, Baby." he said to me, "Hi Art." I smiled back at him noticing he called me "Baby",( and I liked it, too.) He raised his glass for us to clink them together, which I did with his. "Here's to Shawn Cohen, who has the bluest bedroom eyes I have ever seen, and the prettiest face, too." I blushed from here to China and back. "Thanks Art." I managed to say. He looked at me, stared at me, scanned my whole face, my hair , while I took a sip of my wine. "You do know that about yourself, don't you?" he asked me searching my eyes. "No, Art, not really but thank you." I didn't want to go there but Art clearly wanted to. "Listen, Shawn..." he took my hand in his and held it as he continued..."you know from the minute I saw you, I don't know what happened to me, I just couldn't get your face, those eyes, out of my mind!" I laughed because he said it like he was as perplexed as he was ardent. He continued, "I just hope maybe, you like me a bit, too?" He searched my eyes again, to see any sign of it. "Art, I wouldn't have come here tonight if I didn't think you were someone I wanted to get to know better." I took a sip of my wine. He grinned again satisfied, for now, with my answer. He took a sip of his Chevis. "Good, cause I wouldn't want you to do anything you wouldn't want to do!" he said it in such a funny way, commanding and cute, like a comedian giving a punch line. I laughed again. "I won't, don't worry... so what now?" I asked wondering what we were going to do here in the empty Encore II. "How about we just talk and get to know each other a bit more." I was glad he said this, he wanted to know me more and he wanted me to go first. "Tell me about yourself, Shawn." That was it. I talked and he talked and we talked about everything. First work, then eventually we got to more personal stuff. Art listened to me, commented as he went, asked me another dozen or so questions. He was interested, not just making conversation. He wanted to know about my hopes and my dreams and my opinion about various things. I got the distinct impression my thoughts were important to him so I told him that I really wanted to go back to California. Turns out he also loved California and told me how much he also longed to go back there. "That is where I always wanted to live. I fought there a couple of times, when I was boxing and I always liked it out there, so pretty, can't beat it, can you?" We agreed on this. Art poured us two more drinks, the music was playing soft and low, a backdrop to our conversation. It never crossed my mind to ask him his age. I looked at his handsome face, dark brown eyes, black, thick, somewhat curly, almost wild hair, sideburns just like Elvis, and the stature of his big frame. He was sweet, warm, funny and intelligent. His eyes seem to say much more then his mouth but he had the quirkiest expressions, too which he could "act" or put on. He confessed to me that his life was, "All an act! I'm the Great Pretender." I asked him what he meant by that. "You know, people expect me to be "The Boxer, The Champ", give 'em the old One, Two, make 'em laugh, act dumb, punchdrunk, all that crap...but I'm not like that, really, I am also a person, Shawn." I realized that it must be hard to be "on" all the time. I was touched he shared this very private part of himself with me. He was now not the person he was at work. He was more relaxed, and much more there with me, in the moment. Articulate, intelligent, the Macho Boxer Champ was not there. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was seeing him differently with each passing moment. He told me he was married once before the current one he was in the process of divorcing, to a woman who, in the end, wouldn't let him box, didn't want him to get hurt, so in the end, they divorced because he wanted to prove himself to the world as a boxer. It was a long time ago. He also told me where he was from, New Kensington, and that he grew up in Whitaker, near Kenny Wood Park; Pittsburgh's answer to Disneyland. He reached his hand across to my face and touched my cheek gently, he also squeezed my leg with his two thighs quickly as we sat there. "Art, it's getting late and soon the Sun will be up. I better go." It was nearly 4:30am and in the summer the Sun would be up any minute. "Gee, I wish you could stay longer, it's so nice to be with you, Shawn." He stood up and helped me off the bar stool with his hand, like a true gentleman. "I know, Art, me, too but when the sun comes up and the birds are just singing away, I can't sleep, can you?" He smiled at me, "Depends who I am with!" and I laughed. He walked me to the front door, holding my hand. It was warm, felt so nice in my hand, like it belonged there, although bigger it fit like a glove, making me feel even more connected to him. By the door, I looked up at him, and said, "Thanks for a nice time, Art." He took my face in his hands and looked into my eyes. "I hope to have a lot more of these times with you, Shawn Cohen." and he tenderly pushed my hair back away from my face with his big hand. He let his hand glide down my hair, touching it, feeling it down my back. Then he closed his eyes and slowly kissed me. It was a gentle but firm kiss on my lips. A kiss I felt the whole drive home. A kiss when I got into my single bed in my home, in my summer night gown, when I had laid my head on my pillow, I still felt on my lips.
"The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me ", By, Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. All events are true, some names have been changed for privacy. These blogs are installments from the book I am currently writing of the same name. All video and song lyrics are copyrighted to their perspective songwriters, composers and performers. No copyright infringement intended.
The next three weeks went by like a whirlwind. I was training with Gilbert every day from Monday to Friday. Because of my request, I asked if I could have another week's worth of training. Gilbert understood and let me. I was faster in my second week and now I was taking cash as well, from my small corner of Gilbert's bar and the waitresses, serving their station. Learning to use the register, how much all the drinks cost, and adding it all up in my head, when necessary, was a real challenge. Thankfully my math skills worked, even if I was not great at math in High School. During this time, the summer came in, and you could fry an egg on Walnut Street. We had air conditioning, so this was not a problem for us working at The Encore nor our customers but when you stepped outside, day or night, it was a warm humid blast of hot air that hit you, 80degrees plus were the constant temperatures.
In my sessions with Dr. Rivers, I had read the book he gave me and I learned what it meant to be in an "adult state" from the psyche, and also what it meant to be in a "parent state" and a "child state", as Transactional Analysis had described. The best, I had learned, was to come from an "adult state", when you are an adult, that is. I was trying my very best to understand this, and implement it. However, I could now see that my mother was lost to a "child state" in her malaise of being abandoned by my father. It was beginning to look like Miss Havisham's house from "Great Expectations", every time I entered our home. The den where my father's office was, where he had his own private red business phone, which we were never allowed to use, was still there along with his desk, file cabinet and swivel chair. But my older brother had taken down all his pictures,at my father's command ,and brought them to his new home. The ones of him fishing all over the world, catching the biggest fish with his buddies and his big stuffed marlin were not missed by me. He was gone but still some left over remnants remained. "Ma, why don't you take Daddy's stuff and throw it out?" Was what I wanted to say. But she could not cope with this. She was furious with him and this fight, I feared, would go to the bitter end. She talked to her girlfriends, who all agreed she was better off without him but to no avail. She was going to be taken to court for divorce, and he, having the money and power to get the best lawyer, was going to win no matter who was "at fault". He would owe her alimony and child support for my younger brother, Jake. But she was already informed he would fight not to pay it. When my Bubba was alive, my father's mother, she could only speak Yiddish. Yiddish was her language, she never learned to speak English in all the years she lived and raised her 3 children in the United States, in Pittsburgh. When my father would bring her over to the house, as she didn't drive, she would start baking from 6:00am, kuggle and raisin cookies and cholla bread and all manner of delicious Jewish foods and pastries. It was Jake she loved the most. He was the baby of our family and he was cute and funny. Now, as I walked into our kitchen, the one my father's Aluminum Siding and Home Improvements company built, had added on to this house, I got a vision, a memory of her short round body with her white apron on, flour on her face, hands, flour on the counter where she had been preparing what she was baking. Her saying to my little brother when he, and all of us kids, woke up to the delicious smells which filled the whole house, of her wonderful and love filled cooking. We'd run into the kitchen to see her, to see what she had made for us and eat her wonderful food, "Dance, Kin- da- la, Little Jake, Dance!" She would clap her hands in rhythm for him, and he would move and twirl to her delight. She loved to see my younger brother dance, when he was 5 years old. I wondered, as I made the coffee, and the nearly empty fridge which held no trace of her ever being there, what she in Heaven must be thinking now? I wondered what she would say to Jake now...."Dance, Kin da la, Dance"? What future did he have? Or any of us for that matter without a college education? The irony hit me, as I poured my coffee, for that is just what I am doing to help my family...dancing...but not at the Disco, not that kind of dancing but at the Encore bar where I will be making my "debut" as their upstairs restaurant's bartender next week. If my mother hadn't been suffering from her heartbreak, I might have been able to ask her, the actress, for advice. But no, my mind somehow drifted back to my "Bubbie", for that is what we kids all nicknamed her and called her.
It was Annie's birthday and Judi and Anne and I were getting together to celebrate. She was turning 20, like me and Judi already had. I had the evenings free, so this was a good time to finally catch up with my other friends who didn't live the night life, like I had. We all went out to dinner and gabbed away. It was great to see my old friends, they always made me feel like I belonged to them, even if our paths were shifting faster than Bubbie's baking flour. Judi would go back to Penn State again, studying horticulture, and Anne would go to College here in Pittsburgh, starting September. I would be working at the Encore, as far as I knew and that was that. I didn't talk about what happened there, as I knew they would not understand. Yes, I spoke of training as a bartender, and my parent's divorce. I grew up with these girls, I was like the adopted sister in Judi's family. We were the first to be friends, in 4th grade, and her mother was very loving and kind to me. Her father paid for me to go horsebackriding with Judi, and when Judi got a horse, I wanted one so badly, too. "Daddy, can I get a horse, like Judi has, Please, Please!" I braved it one day to ask him. "Are you out of your f***ing head??!! NO!" was his reply. I was 10 years old and heartbroken. Judi's parents must have known something was wrong, as they took me in as their own. I loved them and Judi. I was invited to synagogue with them. They took me every Saturday to shul, and on the High Holidays, I also attended and sat with them. It was something I would have never experienced in my own home, nor did any of my siblings. I heard the Rabbi recite his prayers, and the Cantor's beautiful and rich voice sing his songs, but because it was all in Hebrew, I really didn't understand. Judi would tell me when to stand up when God's name was mentioned and then tell me when to sit back down. That is all I knew. But I went religiously, when I was a kid as all my Jewish friends did. This is why I had a Bas- Mitzvah, because Judi and all my friends who were Jewish were all having one. Kalvin had one, two years before me, too but he was a boy and it was expected. I was surprised when my father agreed to my request, and he enrolled me in Hebrew School, like he did with Kalvin. We went to the Hebrew Institute, in Squirrel Hill. I don't know how they accepted me or my brother, since our mother had never converted to Judaism. It was always my suspician my father paid off the school with some big donation, so they would keep stum, and let us do it. Children are what the mother is, in the Jewish religion. The Catholics believe you are what the Father is. Clearly we were in No Man's Land, according to both. So we kids joked that our Dad must have paid off the Rabbi to turn the other way, when we came along to get Bar and Bas Mitzvahed. The event was a success. My father let me keep my presents, after I stood there in my 1968 styled, flared sleeved, white with lace short dress with the yellow bows on the elbows. I was singing the words of my Hav Torah with the Rabbi, " Baruch ata Adonia", but I really didn't understand what they meant. Judi and her parents came, and so did all my friends from school or the Jewish community center, which is where I met Reva, Rae- Gayle and Robbie, also the non Jewish side of my family and my cousins. It was a real mixture of Jewish and "Goyam". But I did it and to my knowledge, I did it well, the Rabbi told me, "Good,no mistakes!" I had recieved much money, through checks as gifts. When it was over and we were back at home, after the party, I was upstairs in my bedroom, looking at the sealed envelopes, some already open with cards saying, "Congratulations Bas-Mitzvah Girl!", and taking down the names of who gave me what, to send thank you cards. My father came into my bedroom, still in his Armani suit and Italian leather dress shoes. He said to me, "Give me all the money." with his hand out stretched to me. "Why? I am just writing down who gave me what for thank you cards." I said back explaining myself. "Just give it to me!" I didn't understand why he wanted this. "Why do you want it?" I braved it once again, figuring he had to be nice to me, it was my Bas- Mitzvah day. He answered me back in a raised, angry tone of voice, "Your Grandfather needs it, I have to give it to him to get him back home, he hasn't got any money, so just give it to me NOW!" I handed it all, checks and cash, to my father, thousands of dollars, who took it away. My grandfather was my mother's father who lived in Brooklyn, New York. An older Scotsman, nearing 70, with the thickest brogue you ever heard. No one understood him when he spoke but mostly he was also always drunk whenever we saw him, and he never had any money. I felt the tears run down my 13 year old face. I knew I would never see that money again, money for my future. And I never did. I told my mother at the time, but she argued that I had had a party, which was true, and I had received some other presents, which was true, and that was enough. It was patently clear then to me that they had no concern for my future. I knew then that I was truely on my own. Which is why I left home to Los Angeles to be with Glen the very next day I had graduated from Peabody High School at 18 years old. I figured my future was with him, but I was wrong again. These were the things I was telling Dr. Rivers. These thoughts and memories about myself and my family. It wasn't that I didn't want to help my grandfather, or my mother, or my younger brother but why me? My father was wealthy, we all knew that and so did everyone else who knew him or heard of him, so sayeth his friends at the bar also. Trying to be a grown up and come from an "adult state" is good when you are a grown up but can be very damaging when you are a child. Now I was a grown up. So what would happen now? I drove to work once more, only this time, it was the early evening of my "debut" at the upstairs bar at the Encore. It was now the beginning of August. I made sure I was dressed for success. I had opening jitters to say the least, but there was Art, who I hadn't seen now in weeks, waiting for me. He greeted me with a huge smile, "Hello Shawn. How ya doing? You ready for your big debut??" He came close to me, enclosing me with his big presence. "I hope so Art, I have been training like a soldier!" he laughed and corrected me, "No, like a Champ! Now don't be nervous, I will be right here, sitting at the end of this bar, so don't worry! Let's see what you got, Kid!"
I went under the bar,as it was the only access in, by the waitresses' station and started the routine of making the bar ready. The waitresses were beginning to come in, and greeted me with a big smile and hellos, and a few funny ribbings as well. I saw my hands shaking a bit, as I cut the lemons and limes for the fruit tray for the cocktails and Art, who was sitting staring at me from the corner of the bar, asked me for some coffee. Terry poured it, passed it on to me and I walked down to where he was sitting and placed it in front of him with a nervous smile. "You'll be alright, Shawn." He said winking at me. "You look very pretty tonight, too." he added. I blushed. "Thanks, Art." was all I could say, getting my heel caught in the wooded slats again. I knew I shouldn't have worn them but I wanted to look my best. Now I thought that that was silly since no one saw them, however much taller (and hopefully thinner!) I looked. The customers came in, and I started to fill the orders. Art read his paper when he knew I was up and running. The waitresses were all nice to me, and forgiving when I forgot a beer, or didn't mix the drinks as fast as they wanted. Art ruffled his papers and watched me all evening, never leaving his post. I was really surprised. He actually did what he said he would do and I couldn't believe it.
My second evening went well too, until a wine glass slipped out of my wet hands and went right into the ice well, breaking in there. We were busy, too, and I just looked over at Art. He jumped up as quick as lightening and said to me, "It happens, and it happens to the best of them. Just clean it out, I'll get you new ice." I was so disappointed in myself. All production behind the bar had to stop until this was emptied out, cleaned of any broken glass and then refilled. Art helped me and it was done very quickly. I just looked up at him , feeling like I had let him down, as he was standing next to me pouring the big bucket of ice in the well. He winked at me, "Now, don't do it again!" and I laughed.
The third night was like no other, and never will be. I was giving Art his coffee, again as he sat there, as he had done now each night, all evening. He was dressed in a very stylish suit and lovely tie and shirt. I could smell his cologne which was heady and strong, but pleasant, just like him. The evening began with customers coming in, and there they were eating at the tables. There was alot of noise downstairs and you just knew that part of the Encore was filling up. I had on black tailored trousers and a pretty light blue, flowered patterned silk shirt, with the top two buttons undone. Three men in their late 20's came in, drunk. You knew they were drunk as you could hear their rucuss on the stairwell as they came upstairs. I saw Art sit up, alert. They came in staggering and set eyes on me behind the bar. As they came to sit on the barstools in front of me, one spoke, "Hey Baby, you come along with the drinks, too?!" he slurred his words at me, looking at my chest not my face. The other men sniggled. I caught Art's eye glaring at them, ready to pounce but I let him know quickly I was ok with a wink and said, " Now, Gentlemen, settle down, what drinks would you like?" The next one said, "Let me see those tits!" and with that I heard this big BANG as Art jumped up, lept over and knocked down 4 barstools, grabbing the one who said that to me by the back of his shirt with his big boxer hand, yelling at him as he threw him down the stairs! "Don't you EVER speak to her like that again!! Get Out of my Bar!" He took the other two and pushed them down the stairs as well, "GET OUT OF HERE!" I heard him shout as he ran down the stairs after them and threw them all out on the street, screaming "You fucking bastards, who do you think you are, talking to her like that?! NEVER come back here again, YOU HEAR ME?!!"
I stood frozen holding on to the back wood of the bar behind me. Art ran up the stairs and came right to me, leaning over the bar, out of breath saying, "Don't be afraid, Shawn, don't be afraid..." For that split second it was as if all time had stopped. I noticed my hands were actually holding on to the back of the bar, from fear and I released them. I saw Art's face, as if it was the very first time I had ever seen it. I never in my life saw anyone do that, just to defend and protect me. The look on his face, it said it all...."I did this for you, I did this because I care about you, I like you, don't be afraid of me, I like you more than you know..." The restaurant had completely stopped as if stuck in a time warp, and Art looked over at the restaurant and said, "Show's over now, Folks!" straightening his tie, and fixing his hair out of his eyes. The people went back to eating and the waitresses went back to serving. I thawed at that moment as his eyes looked deeply in my face for some sign, some hope that maybe now I would realize just how much he cared for me. I smiled, first to myself, thinking of all the antics he had done along the way; the bringing me up to the Encore from Downtown the day after he met me, the wining and dining me when I arrived, the way he got me to go in his car, saying he was afraid, which I knew wasn't true but thought he wanted to see me safely to my car, the way he stared at me, all along thinking he was just watching over me, how he always introduced me to the best tippers, most famous patrons, and finally, he offered me this bartender's job, where he sat, true to his word, every single night, all evening during my shift, talking to me, laughing with me, helping me....that lightbulb was finally over my head! He likes me! He has been coming on to me all this time and I didn't realize it, oh my God! I walked toward him, with a big warm smile and a new found feeling in my heart. I leaned over the bar which seperated us and I said, whispering to him, "I'm not afraid, Art." He lowered his eyes, and he blushed. I couldn't believe it, he was blushing! He looked up at me and in a voice that no one else could hear but me, he asked, "Would you like to have a private drink with me this evening, after work?" He was asking me out on a date! My mind raced. It dawned on me in that moment that he was married. Oh, no! I had to be sure, so I asked him. "Art, aren't you still married?" He replied with this, "I filed for divorce last April, over a year ago, I am living alone and I haven't been with my wife for over a year. I am getting a divorce now, so will you please do me the honor of having a private drink with me, Shawn?" His eyes were hopeful and I looked at him, standing there, waiting for me to say Yes. "Yes, Art, I will. Where shall we meet then?" I was excited. His face lit up. "Meet me downtown at The Encore after it closes about 2:30am. We'll have it there, ok?" I was a bit surprised and asked, "Why there, why not somewhere else?" and he said to me, "By the time I finish cashing out everything will be closed. Don't worry, I have the keys, so since you'll be done first, can you come down there later on? Then we can talk in private, no one else will be there but me." He was right, everything would be closed except any after hour clubs which I gathered he was not into going to. He wanted us to have our drink alone. "Ok, Art, what should I do, knock on the door when I come there?" I asked him. "Yes, I'll be there to let you in, see you there then." He said with a grin. The rest of the evening Art kept looking at me as he resumed his barstool vigilance, protecting me. I couldn't believe it, I smiled to myself all evening, and him whenever our eyes met. How could I have missed the obvious gestures he was making towards me? I was really looking forward to seeing him later on, just us two, alone.
(Please see the video on the bottom of the page,"Someone To Watch Over Me", it will take you to You Tube to view it, when you click on it because of embedding laws. It is from the 1954 film, "Young At Heart" where Doris Day finally gets that Frank Sinatra is into her in a big way! The look on her face is priceless...mine was exactly the same at this time!)
The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me by, Shawn M. Cohen (c) 2010. All events are true but some of the names have been changed to protect people's privacy. All video and film content is copyright to the writers, composers, and performers. No copyright infringement intended.
If there was a place I could be other than in Dr. River's office, I guessed I would have been there. I sighed as I knocked on his door, here I am again. He opened the door with a warm smile, shook my hand and guided me to the chair where I would spill my guts. I asked him what should I talk about and his response was, "anything you want." I thought about the myriad of issues floating around my head, but the one thing that was puzzling me was my new job at The Encore,however the training with Gilbert was going well. I worked every day with him behind the bar, and I was learning so much more. How to make a drink in a shaker, like a martini, and what goes in a Pina Colata, just for starters. How to pour the perfect draft beer, and so on, Gilbert was truely a Master Mixologist. Mixing drinks was fun, even if the dirty old men at the daytime bar were getting their rocks off watching my breasts shake under my blouse as I mixed the drinks. I saw it, it was obvious when their tongues were hanging out. "I'm now training as a bartender at my job." I offered him up for questioning. "Is that something you want to do?" he asked me with interest. "Well, I can't say it was ever in my plans of what I would do, but it seems to be going ok." I could not brave it to tell him I was being ogled by the daytime "alchies" who perched at Gilbert's bar; their second home. "I feel embarrassed sometimes when they stare at me." I said in a softer voice. Dr. Rivers looked at me, and pondered this. "Why do it then if it makes you feel uncomfortable?" I thought about how Art said he would watch over me, when I make my big debut on my first night but I never factored in the training in the daytime where Gilbert, who was nothing but sweet and polite to me, could take over from Art...especially when Art wasn't there. Somehow, it wasn't the same. "I know my Boss will watch over me when I finish my training, and I think it will be ok, anyway, I'll make more money." Dr. Rivers thought and didn't say anything so I quickly changed the subject. "I guess if I could I would go back to school, it's summer now anyway... but this is it for now." He nodded. "Shawn, I wonder if you would like to read a book that I found very useful. It is a book I base all my therapy with clients on, and it might give you some insight into yourself and others." I was interested, "Yes, what it is?" Dr. Rivers went to a shelf and took off a book, which he then handed to me. I read the title aloud, "Games People Play, Transactional Analysis, By, Dr. Eric Bernes." I looked up at him. "It will help you to understand that we all relate from three places in our psyche, which are: the Parent State, the Adult State, and the Child State but not all together and often not when we should. You'll see what I mean, will you read it and let me know what you think about it next week?" "Yes, ok." I agreed and I was curious. I asked him questions about this book. He answered them all. Then we talked about my family. And my time in California. And some of my dreams. Then that was it, our time was up for that day. I went to the car, put the book down on the front seat and drove home. I had another day of training and I had to be at the Encore by 11:30 am. I was not used to the daytime again. I changed into my black slacks and a striped cotton shirt for behind the bar. This time I would not wear my heels as they kept getting caught in the slats on the floor. There was always a wooden slatted floor that bartenders walked on behind the bar. I didn't know why it was there but I guessed so when the water or booze or ice went on the floor the bartender wouldn't slip and break their neck! I entered into the blackness which was The Encore, Shadyside. "Hi Shawn, how ya doing today?" it was Gilbert giving me a big hello. I smiled at him when my eyes adjusted from the hot July morning sun to this darkened room. The waitresses were all getting ready for the lunch crowd and were there before me. I spent just 3 hours there with Gilbert. He was the boss here, and I his meager assistant/trainee. I crawled under the service bar and put my purse under the shelf behind the bar. "You take the service bar today, Shawn, any problem, just shout, ok?" I hoped I was ready for this. So far my training was for 3 days. Was I ready for the fast lunch crowd and the waitresses who I did not want to screw up their orders for their customers? I could feel my face getting hot. "INCOMING!" shouted Franny to me. She must have wondered what the hell I was doing there. In fact, they all must have, but nevertheless I was there, acting like I knew what I was doing with the bravest of bravado. "What do you need, Fran?" "3 Miller Lites, 2 Drafts- Coors, and 1 Coke." I reached down to the bottles beers and opened 3 Miller Lites, she took the glasses from me as well. I iced the Coke glass and poured it into the glass from the well. I then got out two draft beer mugs and set one under the beer tap and leaned it in as I poured it, to get the right amount of head on the beer. So far, so good. "Not bad, you're learning but a bit faster." Fran took her drinks on her tray and went speedily to her tables. " A dry Martini on the Rocks and two Manhattans and one White Wine Spritzer, please," was the next waitress's call to me. I got the shaker, filled it with ice and took the shot glass and as Gilbert had taught me, to a long 3 count or a short 10 count...in my head I counted as I poured the Gin into the shot..".One...two...three.." then into the shaker and then added the touch of dry Vermouth. I shook the mix, held the strainer and poured it into the Martini glass, now the Manhattans.. I mixed two shots worth of Rye Whiskey, added the sweet Vermouth and then a dash of bitters, strained and into two glasses with ice in them. Now, the White Wine Spritzer; a tall glass filled with ice, added the white wine from the well, added a bit of soda. Done. The waitresses all dressed the drinks, with cocktail straws and cherries or lemon twists or olives. The day went on and it was touch and go, I was learning but not fast enough. I had to whip those drinks out in seconds, and I wasn't even taking the money yet, or adding the costs up in my head! "You'll get the speed, it will come, don't worry!" Gilbert assured me. "Hey, whose the sexy new bartender, Gilbert?!" One guy called out as I was pouring drinks for my waitresses. "That's Shawn, and she is a great gal, I am training her..now be nice!" Gilbert admonished him. Gilbert was very nice to me and protective of me but I had to get used to this and I knew it. I had to find the way to "quip back" or I might get slaughtered here. Luckily I had made some plans. The daytime music in the Encore was from the Hi Fi, 70's classics of soft rock, easy listening and what was in the charts. The live jazz was at night. I was looking forward to tonight. Robbie and I were going out for the evening, hitting this new disco which opened downtown called, "Heaven". We heard it was great and wanted to check it out. Since I was training during the day, I wasn't working nights but I was being paid as a bartender, so that was ok. My tips were from the waitresses, just like I used to give the bartender, but I told Gilbert, that this was his money. "No, I insist! You earned it!" he said. I had gone through the ropes, spilled a few drinks, dropped a few glasses and broke them and cut myself when I was slicing more lemons for the garnish boxes. Some of my Dad's cronies were in there, too, just glaring at me. Gilbert gave me a wink and we just kept working. I had earned it all. I left there stinking of booze with a bandage on my hand. But Thank the Lord for the Night Time...as I was going out dancing, and I was going to have a good time with Robbie. "What time will you pick me up?" I called her when I got home. "About 10:00? Don't want to get there too early. Hey Shawnny, what are you wearing?" she asked me also excited. "I don't know, it's hot as hell, what are you wearing?" I asked back. "I'll find something cool, but the air conditioning will be on, too." She was right, everywhere was air conditioned. I was thinking about our electric bill now, as I enjoyed the comfort of our air conditioning at home. Something I never thought about before...wondering what that will cost me? I left that question hanging in mid air. Had a shower, washed the smell of booze and bar off me. I took out a black twirl skirt with a big belt, which I had also bought at "Yesterday's News", the length was to the calf and a red cotton sleeveless top, which had a sweet round collar with little pearl buttons. I wore red heels with little white ankle socks, and a clutch bag which was also red, put my make-up on with red lipstick, too. Robbie beeped for me and I came out to her mother's car which she was borrowing. I was so happy to see her.She looked great, too. It was her night off from the Top Shelf and she didn't want to waste it. I knew I had to get up early but the heck with it, we were going out to dance, maybe meet some guys and enjoy what all girls our age were doing. We entered the gates of Heaven as if we had landed in Gay Heaven. I looked around this vast place with 3 floors and I shouted in Robbie's ear...above the Disco music which was pounding the heaving dance floor, "any straight men in here??" Robbie looked around..."Not a one!" We both laughed. "Screw it, let's get a drink anyway." I said, watching the men dancing with each other. She nodded and we headed for the bar. We weren't the only women there, there were many, probably just as perplexed as us, but the music was brilliant and so was the dance floor. "Well, the music is great...let's dance anyway, and we'll head over to the Rhino later." Dancing on the disco floor I never saw so many gorgeous looking men. "Robbie, look at him." I was pointing them out, one by one and some you would never know if they weren't holding another man's hands to dance. "Yeah, oh my God! He's beautiful! Well, at least we'll be safe in here!" She shouted back as we danced away. I had to laugh. The music was the real star of this show and what the heck, we might lose a few pounds, we got up and boogie oggie, oggied, till we just couldn't boogie no more! This Gay Disco knew how to throw a heck of a party!
(See The Disco Video on the right and all the 70's Videos to get an idea of what music was playing on the radio during this time besides the Jazz at The Encore.)
The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me By, Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. These excerpts are from a book I have been writing of the same name. All events are true, some names are changed to protect people's privacy. All Video content and the music therein is copyrighted to the musicians, performers and songwriters. No copyright infringement intended.
What did I want? That question reeled in my head, as if it was the very first time I ever heard it. I asked myself as Dr. Rivers looked at me, waiting for my answer. I did not know...well... I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want this responsibility. I wanted to be my age, and to be able to live like my friends. I wanted to be in L.A. and in my apartment with the little bits of furniture Reva and I had, and finish my finals so that term was not completely lost to my college credits. I wanted safety, security, and a chance at life like anyone else..and I wanted my parents to GROW UP, and handle their own problems instead of dumping them on me! That is what I wanted. But as I relayed this to the teary eyed Dr. Rivers, he announced that unfortunately, "Our time is up now." and I was cast off to announce my revelation in next week's time slot. I left there dazed. Was this what therapy was? Someone who listened and actually heard what you said? Then offered advice? In the end, as I left, and heard myself say, "yes, same time next week." I wondered what I was getting myself into. Yet, it seemed this was always the way. I had gotten myself in too deep with Glen, who had gotten himself in too deep with me. I was working underage at this Jazz nightclub in Shadyside, and although it was working out, I knew I was lying to them about my age. Now maybe that was incidental, maybe this was just a "who cares?" technicality but I didn't like lying, nor being lied to. In the meantime, while my little world was collapsing, America was celebrating its Bicentenial, 200 years old as of July 4, 1976. Celebrations were planned all over the USA, including Pittsburgh, Shadyside and The Encore. I walked into work, with banners displayed all over in red, white and blue, saying, "Happy Birthday, USA!" People came in with tall hats on like "Uncle Sam" wears in those old WWII posters imitating America, saying, "I WANT YOU" and there was general all around excitement building for the coming evening's celebration. Every bar, disco and restaurant on Walnut Street and in Shadyside has their own celebrations. I worked upstairs again in the restaurant and that was less noisy and crazy as the crowd downstairs got more into the night, fun, and the drinks. Art came upstairs to check everyone was stocked and ready for a busy night ahead early on and then I didn't see him the whole night until we were done, and the restaurant closed about 12:30am. The bar downstairs and the band were still going strong. I cashed out, making out pretty good tip wise and Art stopped me as I was ready to leave. In a raised voice he asked, "Did you do ok tonight, Shawn?" I nodded my head, "yes," as the band was playing loudly, a jazz standard I had come to recognize as "Around Midnight". The place was packed, 4 deep at the bar, people everywhere. "You in tomorrow?" he asked again. "Yes" again I said it but you could not hear my voice, nodding. "Ok, see ya then, come in early, I want to talk to you, ok?" he was surveying the crowd with quick glances and then back at me as I stood by the front door, ready to leave. "Ok, why, what's up?" I asked, loudly,thinking maybe I did something wrong. "Nothing, just want to talk, not bad, now, don't worry!" and he winked at me and smiled with that grin. A grin that told me he could be up to something. Next thing I knew the bartender was shouting, "Art, I am out of Barcardi, Glenfiditch and Zambuka!" Art signaled to him, and he was off to go to the liquor storage cabinet which only he had a key to. I walked out into the July night air to the huge display of fireworks blasting off from everywhere. BOOM! I walked over to my mother's car, parked in the parking lot in the back, and got into the front seat. I was wondering, as I drove home watching the sky light up here and there with brilliant displays of color and screething sounds, big booms, and crackles, what on earth Art wanted? Tomorrow is, as only Scarlett O'Hara would know, another day! I was scheduled downstairs for my next shift, but I showed up at 4:15pm, and asked Gilbert if Art was in. He said, "Yeah, he is upstairs, I think he is waiting for you." Now I was worried, what could he want? I went upstairs, with a bit of tightening in my chest. Art was sitting in the empty restaurant, at the bar reading his newspaper, as if nothing was happening at all. I approached him by his left side and he spun towards me on the bar stool, as I stood there, facing him. "Hi Art, I am in early, like you wanted." smiling at him. I had worn a tuxedo jacket I had found at "Yesterday's News" with a man's tuxedo shirt and a black clip on tux bow tie, black trousers with a tuxedo strip down them, even a red cumberbun. He must have liked what he saw, as his eyes lit up. "Wow, you look very nice in that, Shawn." The 70's had the greatest liberation of fashion, and I loved mixing different styles, wearing various "outfits", like a look, a costume, an old style from the '40's, '50's, '60's brought forward, even mixing men's clothes with womens as a fashion statement. All done for a song, at Yesterday's News, which was my little secret. I blushed, as usual but was glad he got the look, and I said, "Thanks, Art, you wanted to see me?" He put down his paper, and asked me this, "How do you think you are doing at The Encore? I mean, do you like working here?" Uh-oh, now I was going to get fired, I was sure. "Yes, Art, I like working here, and the people are nice, too." That was all I could think to say. I held my breath. "Listen, Shawn, how would you like to be a bartender here?" the sound of those words were like he, the ex heavyweight boxer, hit me with his best shot. For a moment, I was stunned...what, a bartender?? I just looked at him like what he just said didn't get absorbed by my ears. " I, I, I don't know.." was all I could offer, but relieved I wasn't about to be fired. "Look, we need a bartender for upstairs and I want you to have the job, what do you think of that?" His face beamed with excitement offering me this postition. "But Art, I have never tended bar before, I mean, I don't know how..." I wanted to be honest with him. "Honey, I know, that is why I am going to make sure you are trained by the best in the business, Gilbert, downstairs. You'll come in for a week, work with him behind the bar, watch him during the day, learn all you need to learn from him, and he is the best this city has! Then start upstairs here, on a regular shift of 4 nights a week, you can still waitress, too, other nights, what do you say??" I could feel my cheeks burning with the redness of embarrassment, yet again. He seemed to have notice it, (how could you not!?) and asked, "What's wrong, don't you want to be a bartender?" How could I tell him? It was bad enough some of the men downstairs thought YOU were on the menu with the drinks. I put up with this night after night men looking at my chest, instead of my face, or pinching my rear, while the whole table laughed. I saw them stare at me, as if I was on display just for them, and it all gave me the creeps. But now, as I saw it, I would be on permanant display. Bars were like this, I told myself, just ignore it, I told myself, the other girls go through this, too, I told myself, and I convinced myself it was the way it was, and it didn't matter. But the truth was, it did upset me and I didn't like it. Art asked me again, "What is it? You can tell me, now, come on..." his voice was sweet, caring. Still I couldn't tell him that, so I said, and it was true, too, "How can I become a bartender, when there are so many other waitresses who have been here so much longer than me? It wouldn't be fair, and then they might not be happy and blame me, you know?" Art stood up. "You let ME worry about that, ok? Now, what else is bugging you?" he sat back down, lit his cigar and took a puff while I thought again. I couldn't tell him, what would he think of me? "No, Art, I don't want to, thank you but I am happy as I am now, please give it to someone else, ok?" He pushed his thick black curly hair out of his eyes, and he said, in Marlon Brandon voice, "Listen,Kid, I am making you an offer you can't refuse! I laughed out loud, and that seemed to calm my fears a bit. "You are helping your mother, right?" He asked me. "Yes" I said. "So, you need money, right?" I nodded again. "Bartenders get paid more, Shawn, so take the job." I thought about this, and it hit me that that would be a good reason to do it. I never saw any women bartenders here. I knew it was uncommon and maybe, if I could get over this sense of being on "display" maybe this could be something that would help me and the remnants of my family. "Ok, now, one more time, are you going to do this?" He was smiling, waiting with baited breath for me to say, Yes.He looked straight in to my eyes, staring, waiting. And I stood there,frozen. "Say it now, right now, what is it you are afraid of??" He could see I was holding back. His black eyebrows raised, waiting for my real answer. I took a deep breath and out came the truth, "Ok, this is what I am afraid of... I don't like being on display, ok? I know it kind of goes with the job but if I was a bartender it would be even more so, and I just won't feel comfortable." He stood up and said, "Is that it? That's what you are afraid of??" He laughed a bit and offered me this, "You take this job, Shawn, take it, and don't be afraid of nothing, ya hear me! I am gonna sit at this bar every single night you work, and if any asshole, any jag off says something off color to you, or even looks at you the wrong way, he'll have ME to answer to! Now, that's it, take the job, please." I thought about just how busy we get, how much running around he does from the upstairs to the downstairs but mostly he is downstairs and I had to ask, "How can you sit there every night when you have a whole bar downstairs to run as well?" He stood up, faced me and leaned into me, with assurity and a smile he said, " You trust me, don't you? I haven't steered you wrong yet, have I? You leave that to me!" I had to surrender now, he had conquered my every fear, and now all I had to do was say what he was waiting for..."Ok, Art, I'll take the job!" He shook my hand as if we had made a business deal and said, "Whew,(wiping his brow) You drive a hard bargain! Welcome aboard, Champ!" I had to laugh. Me, a female bartender...go figure? (see video by Neil Diamond...Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon)
The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me, by Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. All events are true but some names have been changed for privacy. All video content is the copyright of the respected artists, musicians, composers and performers. No copyright infringement intended.
The Story thus far...most of which I didn't know upon my arrival at The Encore and meeting Art Swiden.... Just click on the videos on the right, one by one for the music that Art loved. He wore his side burns like Elvis in 1976, and he loved Elvis, Sinatra and Jazz. There are no need for words, as the songs say it all. Scroll up or down as the videos play so you can see the slideshow of newspaper clippings. All newspaper clippings are copyright to their respected newspapers and journalists and authors and the music videos are also copyright to their respected artists, songwriters and performers. No copyright infringement intended.
The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me, by Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010.
I worked my nights at the Encore, making more money and having a good time with the other waitresses. There was gossip about Art, as usual but I always found him helpful, funny and sweet to me, so I just ignored it and got on with my job. I went upstairs and worked the restaurant of the Encore in Shadyside, discovering that all the food was sent up by a dumbwaiter from the kitchen downstairs. This made for some hilarious episodes by the kitchen staff sending up joints instead of food, and all manor of goofing around! The girls laughed as we witnessed the series of funny things they would send up to us. Funny drawings, food that looked like body parts, you name it they did it in between the real food orders. I was enjoying the fun. People came upstairs to eat as an evening out, enjoying the quiet meals, mostly before the band came in. The upstairs bartender was one from downstairs. The bar was smaller and rectangular like the main one downstairs but half the size. Joni, Terry and I were working a Thursday evening when Art came upstairs to read the paper and smoke his cigar. It was mildly busy and he just seemed to want some space to chill out. I didn't think anything of this as I was busy serving my tables. I went to the service bar and asked John for my order. "2 Rolling Rocks and a Bud", I called to John as he came towards the waitresses' service bar. He nodded his head and went towards the small fridge to get them. Suddenly, the upstairs phone rang. John picked it up, saying, "Encore, Upstairs Bar, can I help you?" He looked over at Art and said in a low voice, "It's for you, Art." The phone cord reached over to where he was sitting at the end of the bar. I was still waiting on my 3 bottled beers for my customers when I heard Art's raised voice, "Leave me alone, I told you, we are divorcing now, don't call me at work!" He gave the phone back to John as if it was a snake and ruffled his paper as he sat down to read the Sports section. I was still waiting for my beers and John turned and said, with his hand on his head, "Oh, yeah, here's your beers, sorry, Shawn." I took them with their frosted glasses and put them on my waitress tray and said lowering my voice so Art couldn't hear me, "Is Art OK, what was all that about?" John said to me in another whisper, although the soft jazz music on the stereo sound system muffled our conversation, "Yeah, that's his wife, she torments him, he is getting a divorce but apparently she's a bit nuts and won't leave him alone." He rolled his eyes when he said this. "Oh, I didn't know that." was all I could say as I turned to serve my thirsty customers. The night went on. Art came back to the waitresses station in the back where the food came up from the dumbwaiter downstairs. Art had a playful grin on his face, seeing the marijuana joint left on the side, he said to Terry. "Where'd this baby come from?" He held it, smelt it as if it was a cigar. "The kitchen, where else?" Terry answered back laughing. Art looked at me, raised his eyebrows with a grin as I was taking off my food for my table. When the dumbwaiter was clear he winked at me and yelled down into the dumbwaiter using his lowered, gruff voice.."I better not find out who has been sending illegal substances up through this dumb waiter cos if I do, their fired!!" He turned to me and Joni, who was now back there and said, "Mmm, don't mind if I do!" and slipped it into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. We all laughed and so did he. "I'm coming down there right now, ya here me!!" He was giggling like a naughty boy to us but scaring the begeezus out of the kids in the kitchen. You could just imagine them all scrambling for a story of defence! Meanwhile, it was the mid 1970's, everyone was smoking pot. I mean everyone but no one did it out and about. The hippy days and all it's music, the counter culture and it's Baby Boom in the '50's leading to the "Me Generation" which was now still going strong. I know because I was part of that and grew up in that. When the Doors were playing at the Civic Arena, my friends went when we were in 8th grade. The famous story was that they had older sisters who took them, and they waited for Jim Morrison to come out from the stage door. They waited for an hour, diligently, and they would not be disappointed. He appeared with a brown suede fringe jacket on and one of my friends...was it Reva, Robbie, or Rae-Gayle, I can't remember, grabbed a bit of fringe and yanked till it was firmly in their hand! The many nights we all went to the Civic Arena and saw The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Yes, The Who, during those years were still fixed memories in my brain. But how when the whole arena was high on pot, was another story! When we were all Usherettes at The Syria Mosque, a smaller venue for concerts ,and got the grand sum of $4.00 to usher in the first act, we could then sit and watch the main act anywhere there was a seat. This was to us, the best job in the world. Judi got me that job, and I got the rest on board. That went on most of High School so in 4 years time, we got to see a heck of a lot of headliners. While the whole arena was filled with the whiff of pot, we saw, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, sometimes with Young, Van Morrison, Jim Croche, and Carly Simon and James Taylor, (before they married) and so many wonderful others. It was a music lover's dream. One night Anne and I went to work to see the Bee Gees. Saturday Night Fever hadn't come out yet. We saw two seats in the front row and grabbed them after we had Ushered in our black skirts and white top uniform. We had changed quickly into our jeans and got our pay and were up front watching them. I reached my hand up, like we all did and Robin Gibb shook my hand! Afterwards, we went to eat in a restaurant within the Hilton nearby and guess who walked in to eat themselves? Yep, the Bee Gees. We tried not to stare, but God knows we did. It was a lot of fun. That era was clearly leaving. Soft rock would still have it's day, and here I was now working in a Jazz Club. Afterwards I might go out to the Gaslight, or a Disco with my friend Robbie, or now some of the other waitresses. That was my life, thus far. Reva and I would catch up on the telephone, which was always expensive. And there was little news of Glen. Mike had seen him not long ago, she told me, and he was thinking of leaving L.A and moving to San Diego. That was it, sadly, no mention of me. I was wearing my 1940's suits like an actress playing a part. The part of a grown up, who somehow was leaving behind whatever dreams and childhood I had and one evening my mother came to me again and said, "Please go back and see Dr. Rivers." We had another argument about it. I wanted to say, "Why don't you go and leave me alone!" But children didn't speak to their parents like that then. There was a line to how much you could say and how much you could get away with saying. In fact, it dawned on me that people don't often say what they mean or maybe mean what they say. My older brother finally showed up to mow the lawn. He was out in the hot early July sun and I did feel sorry for him. He said my father was living with this woman now. He couldn't say any more, because I might tell our mother, and she could use it against him in court. I tried to argue that this was all crazy and it had somehow fallen on me to take care of her. "Your Problem!" was all he could say, aloof and not interested, as usual. My sister would also be coming home. Living with her again was not what I wanted to do. I never got along with her and this summer her now coming home was certainly no exception. She must have felt the same way because she told me over the phone she would be moving into her own apartment when she came home. "whew", I thought, although I wondered where the hell she got the money from to do that? Meanwhile, the day came where I was again sitting in front of Dr. Rivers, the Episcopalian Minister turned Psychotherapist. The threat of never being able to use my mother's car again put me there. I was furious when I went. I had worked the evening before, and we were so busy, I hadn't had enough sleep, so I was cranky as hell at 11:30am. Now that I was serving the public at the Encore, I really saw no sense in wasting his time. "I have nothing to say, and I am sorry that my appointment will probably be as before, my mother made me come here, and said if I don't I won't be able to use her car. I need it for work." He commented this way, "This is your space to say what you feel, what you want to say, or just say nothing, either way, I am here for you." I didn't know where to put my eyes so I just looked down at my shoes most of the time. The time went slow but eventually I noticed there was about 10 minutes left as I was also watching my wristwatch. He asked me where I was working and I answered, "The Encore, waitressing." He asked me if that was a job I enjoyed, and I answered "yes, for now." He asked me if I had gone to college or were thinking about it because I was so young. Something in me when he asked me that question snapped, my face felt like it would explode in tears but I fought them back. I don't cry easily and when I did I certainly wasn't going to do it in front of him! But I thought I would just give him the low down of my life, and then I could just get out of there, there were 5 minutes left. "Look," I began, "I was dragged back to Pittsburgh kicking and screaming, ok? My father ran off with his secretary, a real piece of work, too, he is, always a bully, never nice to us but I told my mother you are better off without him and yet my mother is paralysed by it and by the way he left my mother with nothing, no money, took it all. Now she is on food stamps. She has never worked, only as an actress in local playhouses, which pay zilch! And get this, the secretary isn't even much younger, and she is ugly, too. My mother at least is beautiful! But I was 19 years old, had a great apartment in West Hollywood with my best friend from here, she and I went to Santa Monica City College, I get a call from my mother in mid March, as I was approaching finals, that I had to stop everything and come home! And home to what??! My parents hate each other, my older brother is a head case who beat us all up when we were kids, spoiled by my father but crazy because he has some fucked up problem! He has to touch things, anything, all the time, back and forth, could be a 100 times, but if you tell him not to do it, he hits you, see? And my sister who is about to come home now, oh what joy! She is a year younger then me, dresses like a man, talks non stop about a load of bull shit, non stop, can't stop. Even when I walk out of the room, she is still blabbing away...another nut case, so you see, why I am here, is a fucking joke! And my younger brother, the only one who I think is normal, he is 17, trying to finish high school, what hope does he have now?!!" Dr. Rivers did something after my rant that I never saw before...never saw a man do...he bursts into tears! He whiped them off his face and blew his nose with the box of Kleenex nearby but he could not stop crying. I was so shocked by this all I could ask was, "Why are you crying?" He cleared his throat and tried to speak, still crying, "Because your story is so sad, so upsetting. I could not help myself." Now I did not know where to put myself, was this my fault? "I am sorry I made you cry." I hopelessly offered. "No, Shawn, you didn't make me cry, your story touched me deeply and it is I who wonders why when you tell such a sad and painful story, that you don't cry." he blew his nose again. "I guess because I have heard it a million times, and because I am so used to it, it doesn't affect me like that, I don't know why." I was wondering why now. "Your brother who "touches" things, this is a form of mental illness, and your sister who can't stop talking, this is another form of mental illness. I know you see this, and now I am going to tell you something." I listened with intent, because here was someone who actually realized what I had been screaming to my parents for years but to no avail. "You must be an awfully strong person to have got through all that. And now, with the responsibility of what's left of your family falling on such young shoulders, how will you go on?" I didn't know, I didn't like it but I didn't know, so I just said, "I don't know, working and giving my mother what I can?" I offered quietly. "Shawn, it is not your responsibility to take care of your family. You are a young woman, a woman who should be in college, not picking up the pieces from your parent's divorce and your siblings lives." I sighed. I guess it was relief, because he seemed to be on my side. He was the only one who ever said this to me. Everyone else seemed to think this was what I was suppose to do. My mother, my father, my siblings and my Aunt. As if he read my mind, he added, "What about what you want?"
see Joni Mitchell's Video, "ALL I WANT" taken from her 1974 album above. It is also on the link on the right of this excerpt. All copyright of music to the musicians, singers and performers. The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me, by Shawn M. Cohen. Copyright 2010. Excerpts taken from a book of the same name I am currently writing, a non-fiction memoir. All events are true but some names have been changed for privacy.
Having graduated in 1983 from The American National Institute for Psychical Research and Development,in Westlake, California,with a BSc. in Metaphysics, and as an L.V.N. from their school of Nursing, along side my previous training in Psychology, I have been working as a Psychic Consultant and Teacher of Metaphysics for some 30 years now. I am currently writing my memoirs about my life and the man I loved who came back to me after his death, a book about love and life after death, called, "The Pittsburgh Phantom and Me." You can find excerpts of this at: http://pittsburghphantomandme.blogspot.co.uk
My NEW blog, is called, "Shelter From The Storm" and it is a Metaphysical Notebook on the Path to Awareness and it is all I have learned along the varied roads to enlightenment.