I received a query from a loved friend who wondered why I hadn’t sent off one of my missives, exuberant and detailed. In fact, it was a curious night. I am so used to losing, combined with where I was, that I believe I was in kind of a state of spiritual shock, a weird emptiness. In 2000 I was in London for the election, voting absentee, sitting in the bar of the Connaught when John Kerry walked in, looking as distraught about the results, still then up in the air, as I felt, so I introduced myself. He said that everyone in politics in Europe thought we were crazy. A few weeks later I was in New York, and he was standing on 7th Ave., hailing a cab. I went up to him again—by then the truly crazy thing had happened, the Supremes had given it to Bush—and Kerry wrote me a note, “twice in three weeks on different sides of the pond—what are the odds?” At the time I was in my Mystic phase, so I figured him to be truly in tune, space-y-wise, and was delighted at his 2004 candidacy until he stepped up to accept the nomination and gave his Wussy salute, and I felt it was all over.
Nonetheless I voted for him with the same urgency a lot of us felt, the point being to get Bush out. I was in Skibo Castle, in Scotland, the night of that election, and went to sleep with the televised news that Kerry was winning. At dinner the other guests at the long table at which Andrew Carnegie had entertained world figures were rich golfers from America, those with many homes, none of them in difficult places(Tahoe, Palm Desert) who’d come there for the course, and one of them had murmured thickly, “You know, we could wake up and find John Kerry president,” to which I had silently swallowed my Amen, since I was a guest at the place, and unaccustomedly didn’t want to offend anyone. I woke up to the horror of a probably stolen Ohio, and all the GOPers preening around a Bloody Maryed breakfast table, cockatooing over the fact that Bush had won. One of them apologized to me, but as I was still an America, even being in Scotland, I told him not to suffer over a difference in opinion.
The Manchester Guardian that day had a front page all in black, with the smallest print in its center in white: “Oh, no.”
That is pretty much how I, and most of my friends have felt through the past four years, sustained only by MSNBC and Jon Stewart, whose observations and wit made it possible for me to go to sleep at night. So the fact that I did not become euphoric when Obama won is a puzzle to me, as I am certainly euphoric in my heart, as Jimmy Carter was an adulterer in his. I can only conclude it was because I was with no one I loved. Alone, these past few elections, I have suffered the loss of the country I really loved. In Nixon times when I suffered just as much, Nixon was laid out on the bed in our bedroom, a mask with a joint hanging out of his mouth, while people voted in our front hall, a polling place at that time. There was love around, Don, and laughs around, Tommy Smothers. And all of us were allied in our loathing and distrust. When he won, we moved to England. But I always had someone dear and funny to suffer with. During the OJ flight, compelling as it was, I watched the chase on TV in the bar of the Hotel Bel Air, and there were people I felt close to, including Gus the bartender, so the moment was curiously bonding.
But I guess for this I should have been in Chicago, or in LA with my family. I know it was one of the important moments in my lifetime, and I was sort of stultified, being in the company of people I hardly knew, hard as it was to throw off the mantel of dread.
Then came the news about Michael Crichton, which stunned and saddened me, great friend that he had been for a while in my life, giving it much mental stimulation as he was really smart, and really tall, so most of the time I spent with him resulted in a stiff neck. But I cared about him and sorrowed over his sorrow that all he had was success and money, with no one praising his writing. When he showed up with the blonde who was to become his wife(the last one? The fifth? I’m not sure) it was more or less the end of our close friendship, as she didn’t like him to talk to other women. He also sorrowed over the fact that he had no time to be with even the closest of his friends, as he was so busy being successful. But we both hads had our first bestselling novel on the same Time Magazine list,-- his, the Andromeda Strain, mine, The Pretenders. Of course I never got near the number of his winners, and assumed, with my still Pittsburgh mentality, that if you were that big a hit all the time, you would live a long life.
So I am sorry he is gone. He called me when I was living in San Francisco and I told him I had a three Landmark view, as the realtors like to say up there: Coit tower, the Golden Gate bridge, and Alcatraz. And he said “The story of my life. Sex, Escape, and Imprisonment.”
Well, at least the country is free again. Free at last, free at last; Lord, God Almighty, we are free at last.