UPDATE 12.4.12: This is a post from 3 years ago, which has proven to be my most-read post since I started blogging, even topping my post-election 2012 post titled: “How to tell if your mother is on crack” [A: She’s unhappy and surprised how the election turned out], which got 815 reads almost immediately. This one got posted on one of those vintage erotica tumblr blogs and really keeps readers coming. I realize it’s not because of my popularity, my writing or songwriting! But seriously, I just now noticed that during one of the technical upgrades, those many photos of Mata Hari I used to have on my Mata Hari blogs got lost in the shuffle. I’m putting them back up. Here’s the first batch.
I was supposed to be somewhere else but my mind started to wander so I wandered off to get some coffee. Really good coffee, as it turned out. A double shot espresso with golden brown crema flecked with tiger tail stripes. Very good, very, very good. You could taste the beans from the ancient valleys of Ethiopia, the cradle of coffee. A pocket full of centuries in every sip. So there were these four girls sitting in the booth across from me and I began to draw. Yes, they wore clothes. Drawing clothes is not one of my specialties.
Three of the girls were busy talking about something they had found on the internet. They all had their laptops. But girl number four was reading a book, of all things. She was the best looking. I kept trying to draw her. None of these pictures look very much like her.
But in a sense, these are all pictures of her, because I was trying, right? I was looking at her, and drawing her, so she’s in there somewhere. Then the fish intruded. No, it wasn’t raining that hard, but there they were. The first one said: Federico. The second one said: Garcia. The third one said: Lorca. Federico Garcia Lorca.
And then SHE shows up. Of all the espresso bars in all the towns in all the world. Mata. Hari. There she is.
I have a thing for Mata Hari. Great story. Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida “Grietje” Zelle. “Mata Hari” means “eye of the sun,” as in sunrise, or whatever you want it to mean. She was a courtesan, a term that has somewhat fallen out of use. Whatta gal. Last spring I rented the Greta Garbo movie, read a play and a novel and a biography of her. I’d love to write a new play about her myself. Maybe I will. This will have to suffice for now. An exotic dancer, a self-made woman who continually reinvented herself, she made Madonna look like a wannabe, an amateur, a piker. She was executed for being a spy October 15, 1917, which will be 92 years ago this week. Coincidentally. Was she really a spy? She was more victim and scapegoat than spy, but she ferried intrigue like George Jones throws off twang. Mostly she was misunderstood. Myth and rumor swirl around her like almost nobody else. People can’t even agree on what she wore to her execution, even though there are photographs. She probably wouldn’t even be famous if not for the Greta Garbo movie, which is mostly made up and a flimsy shadow of the real story.
There are some great pictures of Mata Hari on the Internet. That gal was something else. By the way, she married an abusive jerk in the Dutch army who was posted to the Dutch East Indies, where rumors roiled about her supposed promiscuity and she learned many of her skills in exotica. Just so happens that the Dutch East Indies was one of the very early stops on the migration of the coffee bean from its African birthplace. They got some good coffee there.