To You, Annie — Zimberts Redux

July 14th, 2011

Anabel Royer, who (as Anabel Gregory) was Robb’s girl friend at the time we lived in the condo, responded to Robb’s last piece, and this is Robb’s answer to her.

To you Annie, who asked for a little more commentary on the Zimberts…

In the sixties, J.D. Salinger’s books were immensely popular. Many of us imagined ourselves in a family of eccentric geniuses like the Glass family that populated several of J D’s books. It all seemed so much more colorful than our own comparatively drab homes and lives.*

In the condo, it seemed we had our own version of the Glass family: the Zimberts. It contained not only the bright and prematurely charming Michael but two extraordinary parents, Dick and Suzanne.

My first Zimbert sighting unfolded in slow motion one day in early fall, 1965. In my youth I was a swimmer and an LA pool guard which credentials enabled me to secure the post of lifeguard at the condo pool. The thing about being a guard in that setting was that you were a part of the woodwork and the Gossipy Condo Ladies, who gathered at the pool, (whom I told you about in the story of how my mother’s cruises landed Tim and I at the condo), would say things that they would not say within the earshot of an ordinary male, and boy, did I get an earful.

The GCL’s were a remarkably similar bunch: Overweight, underworked, stuffed into too-tight orange and lime sherbet colored swimsuits, they would cut a new one on anyone who wasn’t present, pretty much all they ever talked about. But on this particular day, suddenly, their heads shot up and their necks stretched like prairie dogs sensing danger. Something was in the wind.

A figure loomed into view. It was a tall, slender woman in a forties sunsuit, jet black hair stretched back into a severe bun under a floppy straw hat, wearing woven huaraches and mirrored sunglasses, and carrying an armload of tomes and folders.

The gaggle of GCL’s instantly scattered for safety and disappeared. The mysterious lady took no notice of them. She entered the pool area, sat down wordlessly on a chaise, spread out her materials, and began working feverishly.

Okay, so picture this, like a scene from an Antonioni movie: me, sitting at one end of the pool, watching; her on the other side, muttering and scribbling. This went on for maybe half an hour. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. I walked over and asked what she was writing.

“I’m translating a poem from the hieroglyph.”


“I don’t like any of the existing translations so I’m doing my own. The first line is… ‘my name stinks’. The way they have it now it’s just something like… ‘I’ve lost my reputation’ but I think ‘my name stinks’ is much better, don’t you?”

Okay, so this is no ordinary broad. What she’s working on turns out to be the oldest poem known to man at the time and what was it? A lament that the good old days are gone, there’s brawling in the bars and children don’t respect their elders any more.

Suzanne was delighted at the irony of it all. I was struck dumb but recovered well enough to join in a fascinating (for me) conversation about antiquities. By the end, a lifelong friendship had begun and I’d had my first taste of the Zimberts.

Coming up: The Zimberts, part II.

* One of the ways Salinger showed the prodigiousness of Seymore, the main Glass family genius, was by having him as a youngster on a TV show for brilliant children called “It’s a Wise Child”. And who in our little scenario did that resemble? Not a Zimbert but Tim! …who (legend has it) was on a local TV show for stupendous children in DC called “Ask it Basket”. I used to try to bait him by calling it “F**k it Bucket” but he generally ignored me when I was being prickly.

Tim responds: If I had ignored him when he was being prickly, we never would have learned each other’s names.

10 Responses to “To You, Annie — Zimberts Redux”

  1. Annie Says:

    You do realize that you have now captured an audience with the lovely, exotic Suzanne. I hope she appears here someday with her memories, too.
    And more from Michael, I hope.

    Thank you, Robb.

  2. michael hallinan Says:

    Robb, you and Tim were my Zimberts. You guys represented to me the epitomy of hipness. I always felt I was in very special company when I was around you two.(sort of like being part of this blog). I love the stories about the condo and I hope everyone has a place like that in their past. (Just one slightly bizarre and offbeat place that gets better with each telling) I remember Askit-Basket; Its not something you could make up.

  3. EverettK Says:

    Geez, Robb, why aren’t YOU writing stories? Who needs that prickly stuffed shirt who built this cabin when we have a Bard Supreme? (That’s BS, for short…)

    Seriously, there’s some serious talent hanging out around here. Tim, you’re not just a talent, you’re a talent magnet, the eye of a talent hurricance, a virtual conductor of a talent orchestra.

    Okay, I’m going to bed before I run out of analogies, or similes, or artichokes or something.

    Sweet stories!

  4. Usman Says:

    “My name stinks.” Now that’s a great opening line.
    Loved reading this.

  5. Suzanna Says:

    No ordinary broad indeed. Looking forward to The Zimberts Part II!

  6. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    What Everett said-and why does it not surprise me that Tim was on that kind of show? Suzanne was definitely an unusual lady. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  7. Larissa Says:

    Wow. Yeah, no reason that you shouldn’t be writing stories-I am both extremely interested in what is coming up and entirely jealous of this eccentric character who strolls up to the pool to translate poetry from the hieroglyph! Very awesome-can’t wait for the next round. (c:

  8. Robb Royer Says:

    Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement. Mice, how you talk. BTW I notice you corrected your name. Does this mean you’re no longer Mice? As always great appreciation to Tim for letting me off-load these ancient tales. Thanks to Anabel for kick starting this. Lastly thanks to Mike Zimbert (previous blog) for underwriting my musical portrait of him.

  9. Kat Z Ross Says:

    Forgive me for lapsing into ’60s vernacular here, but what a trip it has been reading this! I was about 5 or 6 when these events occurred (the age my youngest son is now), and it wasn’t too long ago that Mom (Suzanne Zimbert), was once again studying hieroglyph! She just informed me that she started doing it again about 5 years ago, but she stopped when Dad became ill. It’s funny to read your impressions of my family, because to me, of course that was normal. Didn’t everyone’s mom have a pet snake, light black candles and wear love beads?

  10. Annie Says:

    Oh. I forgot about the snake. That, too, was “way cool” to me.
    Hi, munchkin.

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