By Lawrence Henry on 12.10.04 @ 12:06AM
Dear Blues Brother:
I suppose I’ve suffered less political ostracism than most. On a professional level, I don’t flash a very big light, and I write about politics only about half the time. And I’m too old to care.
But being old makes me care a great deal about personal animus. You can point to the big public melters-down, like Maureen Dowd, but they don’t interest me much. What matters are stories like the ones on this Free Republic thread, “Lost an Old Friend Today. Politics and the Personal.” Thanksgiving has just passed, Christmas is coming up, and I sure don’t go into any political diatribes on our family’s Christmas card letter. Do you?
We have so many good things to remember and to talk about. We’ve been talking for decades. Why stop now?
Like…Who can tell the biggest laugher about his misspent youth? Was it you or me who told about having to go into the IRS and tell them that the years 1977-1979 were lost? No, not just the tax records or the pay stubs. The entire years. Maybe a wife or two in there, who knew?
“Yes, sir, I know. I must have eaten and slept. I must have driven around in something. Maybe I paid rent somewhere. People tell me I was in Los Angeles. What? Yes, of course, get your supervisor. I’ll wait.”
Or was it you or me who used to say he always kind of dug blackouts? “You know, man, teleportation. Like, ‘Wow, I’m on a highway in the middle of the desert. I wonder where I’m going. Wait, there’s a sign. Las Vegas? Kewl.’”
Which of us was it who had played the gig with the old-time jazz trumpeter, the reformed junky who’d just had all his teeth pulled, and was playing on his new dentures for the first time? And he’d bend over at the back of the stand playing these strange outside lines, really quiet, and when you looked him, he’d say, “Man, that’s Schoenberg.” Was it you or me who got stuck on a gig all night with a band where the drummer was the leader’s brother-in-law? The guy who had to play the same thing with both hands and both feet at the same time, he was so uncoordinated.
Or cars, we could certainly talk about cars. You picked me up at O’Hare one night in sub-zero weather and drove me home in a classy old Jag from the period of fabulous English coachworks and iffy mechanics and explained that you had had a Chevy V-8 put it in. “This is a real car,” you said, accelerating up a ramp. I know what you mean. I like old Cadillacs myself and have one I call The Reading Room, because I go out and lounge in one of its big leather seats for my after-dinner cigar in the winter months.
Remember Dodger Stadium when Valenzuela was pitching? Innocent nights, when you and I still smoked Pall Malls, and when the Stadium still had an organist. Remember my old show-biz pal, the dancer, who would break her unforgiving diet only for baseball games with two hot dogs, two bags of peanuts, and a Carnation chocolate shake? Remember the Hollywood Bowl under a full moon with the Count Basie band wailing? Remember the old Reservoir Tennis Courts under a mist in the Beverly Hills summer night? Remember the unemployed actors and screenwriters and real estate hustlers who used to hang out there?
Now this story I know is mine. I once knew a Vietnam vet, a big tall redheaded guy who hung out in bars, and who was the sole survivor of his platoon. He told war stories. Only problem was, he had forgotten which were which. He had read all the classics of history, and when he told his tales, his own experiences got all wound up with those recounted by Bernard Fall and Cornelius Ryan and Bruce Catton and Thucydides, in a world where wars were all one.
Remember our wives? Remember our kids? Come on, old friend. American politics shifts around every couple of years, and not really all that much. Is politics really worth throwing away a lifetime?
Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.
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