Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Special Day

So today is the day that Donnie left the planet, my sweet, funny husband who put up with everything I did to aggravate him, and rejoiced in and reinforced everything I was and did that he was proud of. I write this not to make anyone sad, as I am of the conviction that there is no sorrow for the one who goes, only a hole in the heart for the ones left behind. But the hole has healed, and is planted with merry memories, as it should be, as the good part, the only part that matters, is that we connected for the time we did, and that is a blessing, as my sometimes religious friend Hal says, before he becomes cynical.
Don was one of the loving people who dips down to touch the earth from time to time, like a hummingbird, and for my sins, or lack of them, he touched on me. I found a note he wrote me on my birthday in 1981, saying "Gwen: Shut up! Say thanks! Happy Birthday, Happy Mother's Day, Love Don & Co." That, for those of you who don't know me well, was because I talk too much. He would turn to me from time to time and say "Are you still talking?" and that would make me laugh, and register my own foolishness, the greatest gift I was ever given. He checked out 22 years ago today, which seems hard for me to believe, but how time flies when you're not having a good time, or when you are having one on occasion, which today clearly is.
I had made a lunch date with a new not-quite friend, who called me ten minutes into being late and said she hadn't felt well and had fallen asleep longer than she intended, which turned out to be fine, as I realized I was supposed to have lunch with Don. It was in an Italian restaurant, which was appropriate, as he came from that part of the Bronx where Jews and Italians were indistinguishable, and had his chance to join the Mafia, which he declined, but could still talk knowledgeably with Mario Puzo. He was a defender of the weak-- a man was hitting a dwarf(hright challenged we would have to say now) on a barstool in a pub where we had a date early on in the courtship, and Don went over and dedked the guy who was punching up the dwarf) and he put my mother out in the hall like a cat when she was awful to me. When he was producing a children's show at WOR-TV, Columbia pictures was touring Elsa the lioness from 'Born Free,' the lioness broke loose from her trainer, the trainer got his leg caught in a collapsible chair, and Elsa pinned three screaming children. The director, and the crew all ran inside the control booth, locking themselves into safety. Don went over to the lioness, and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck(no main) and held her till the children could roll free and the trainer loosed himself from the chair and get back control of the lion.
Then he came home and told me about it, turned chalk-white, and fainted. That's who he was: a man who saved children from lions, and only afterwards, realizing what he had done, was afraid. Bennett Korn, who was the president of WOR at the time, sent him a memo
RE: The Wonderama Lion Incident
and then congratulated him on his bravery. Robert, our son, has the memo. I hope he understands, or will understand at some point, who and what his father was.
I certainly do. We had a nice lunch together, with Bresaola, arugula, and shaved Parmesan cheese in the sunlight.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

God Bless America

I had almost forgotten what a darling country this is. I use the word 'darling' advisedly, meaning lovable, deserving of affection, cosseting, cherishing.
This burst of feeling actually preceded all the good news in last night and this morning, engendered simply by my going to vote yesterday morning at the Barrington Recreation Center, where there is a gym, an indoor basketball court, the sign still posted at its edges, 'Visitors', "Home," when I was struck with the truth that this really is an Andy Hardy nation, filled with innocent hearts and young enthusiasms. You can use my barn!
Tying Mimi to the doorway, I went inside and marvelled at the process, thought of all the post offices and schools and churches throughout this truly wonderful country, that were host to the identical opportunity. I was given my choice, on a sample ballot, of being able to vote for Thomas Jefferson,-- too much to ask for-- but at least enjoying the freedoms that remarkable gentleman helped set in motion.
Last night I was conflicted about what to watch on TV, because as hungry as I was to know the news, I had read a great review of Peter Bogdanovich's documentary on John Ford, and didn't want to miss that. My husband Don, in the early days of his might-have-been career as an agent, worked for Freddie Fields and David Begelman, and had been given the assignment of taking Ford to the airport. When he dropped him off, Ford, apparently a great student of human nature, gave Don his soft, sloppy hat as a parting gift, maybe having gotten what a sweet spirit Don was. So I always admired him, and as 'The Quiet Man' had been the only movie I could watch over and over as a very young woman and still be moved, and as I admire Bogdanovich, rather than being torn, figured that the news would still be there when the special wasn't, so turned to the Turner channel. They were showing 'Stagecoach,' and, as I watched the end of that epic, I realized that indeed i was still tapped in to the news. Because America is a Western. The bad guys come in to town and take it over, but sooner or later the ones in the white hats arrive and drive them out.
God Bless America. I think we forget, in the swirl of TV news, insider information, and high level arguments among like-thinking friends, or sad separation from the ones who stand on the other side of the sharp divide this country was in, how smart not only the Framers were, insisting on this system of checks and balances, but how stupid the American people aren't, after a point. You can fool some of the people, etc.
So we have, apparently, gotten our country back. The people have spoken, and their words are a roar. It is just short of the Munchkins coming out and singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead." Oh, on second thought, maybe it isn't short of it at all. It's dead on. "As coroner, I, Vocifer, have thoroughly examined her, and she is not just merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."
'Vocifer' means the voice of the people. I learned that from my friend Gary, a fine First Amendment attorney. That lyric was written by Yip Harburg, whom I had the joy of having for a mentor when i was a songwriter. Yip didn't believe in God, even though his gift was one of the best evidences I ever saw of God's provenance.
But Irving Berlin did, little Russian Jew that he was, judging from the open-hearted, unqualifiedly respectful and joyful song that he wrote. We have the same birthday, which I always imagined gave me a leg-up in the songwriting world. But if that failed to materialize, at least my love of country has been shored up, reinforced, reinvigorated. It really is the land of the free. Thank God.