Sunday, July 01, 2012

America, the Beautiful

    In the early 70s, when I was most concerned about where my country was going-- and it WAS my country- my Grandma and Grandpa had a picture of FDR cut from the Sunday magazine cover of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in the window of the dish closet by Grandpa's easy chair-- I was researching for The Motherland, so spent a lot of time in Washington. At the time, I entertained the notion of reincarnation, so had a theory that the Founding Fathers were all back in new guises, to get the country in shape for the Bicentennial.
    My best friend from Bryn Mawr, Muggy, lived in McLean, Virginia, and graciously hosted me when I was there, and her lawyer husband, Marty, a fierce patriot working in government, taught me the basic tenets of our democracy, and conservative though  he was, in every sense, told me when I brought forth my theory of the Return of the Framers, that once when he was running his fingers over the Constitution, he "got the most peculiar buzz." (I thought he was James Madison.)
    Through the Hoffmanns, I made a series of unlikely friends, Republicans who subsequently invited me to be their houseguest. So I was staying in the home of Gerald Warren, undersecretary of the Press for Richard Nixon, as every morning at 4 AM the phone would ring with new revelations from the Washington Post. It was as if I were getting on-the-job training in Watergate. (I asked him when it was all over, why he'd let me be witness to what was going on, knowing I was a Democrat and fiercely anti-Nixon, and he said "I knew you would be fair.")
    All this culminated when I actually gained entrance (it wasn't easy; every journalist in America would have liked to be there) to the trial of Haldeman, Erlichmann, seated right in front of Judge Sirica. When I returned to LA, my new neighbor, in the house being built just above us on Rembert Lane, rang my doorbell asking to use my telephone, and it was John Dean.
    So lunatic though it might have seemed, there was a certain credibility to my notion.  I considered one of my best friends to be Benjamin Franklin, whose epitaph I had chanced on in the airport of Covington, Kentucky where I'd flown to do the Nick Clooney show (George's dad, Rosemary's brother;) 'Here lies Ben Franklin, printer, food for worms.  But he will return in a new and better edition, created and edited by... (and then signed on the bottom, with a flourish:) The Author." Well, if it was good enough for Ben, it was good enough for me.
    As THE MOTHERLAND, arguably my best novel was published just as Watergate broke, no one had any interest in fiction. So I thought God had a choice between saving the country and my career, and had made the right choice.
    Somewhere in there my sort-of-friend, A.E. Hotchner, invited me for drinks in Coldwater Canyon, where Paul Newman was living. I spoke of my friends "the good Republicans," and Newman fixed me with his hypnotically ice blue gaze, and said "there are no good guys in this bunch." I'd thought that judgment obtained with this administration, and the sad direction the country was headed. Until... until...
    I am so proud of Justice Roberts. There is a reason he was a good student (with the same teacher as Barack.) He chose judiciousness over party. So this is still America. 
    Hip Hip (and I have a new one) Hooray! We are in shape for the 4th of July!