Here I am in Easthampton, Massachusetts, standing in a drizzle, next to a football field where my son's team, Williston-Northampton, is playing their arch-rival, Suffield. This is a big game. Suffield is rated number one in the league. And our side is not rated number one. Nevertheless, we have a fine coach, Mr. Conway, and a hard working team, and a few parents on the sidelines. For some reason, there never seem to be any stands at these games so we have to stand on our own feet, in the sopping grass, and cheer and yell while holding umbrellas.
I had a real adventure getting up here. I stayed overnight in New York at the glorious Essex House. I am a thousand times too tired to drive myself, so I hired a car and driver to take me from Manhattan to Easthampton, a distance of about 180 miles. I insisted that the driver be experienced in New England and that he have a thorough map.
Naturally, the driver was a little man with one bum eye. He was from Guinea, in West Africa. He spoke almost no English. He had a primitive map. He had no clear idea of how to get to the destination. Great.
Anyway, I gave him very clear directions and told him to wake me when we got to the right exit, namely exit 18, in Massachusetts. I promptly and trustingly went to sleep. Next thing I knew he was awakening me and telling me we were there.
I don't think so. We were on a tiny road under construction with no sign of the lovely town of Easthampton, but a very full scene of Guida's Diner. We pulled in there to get directions. My driver, Mr. Bah (real name), had turned off on Exit 18 in Connecticut, not Massachusetts. We were only about a hundred miles from our target. The people at the diner could not have been friendlier or kinder. They gave me directions, wanted autographs, were ultra enthusiastic. A UPS driver said, "Just go back a mile, get on the 91 throughway, and stay on it until exit 18 in Massachusetts. But whatever you do, stay in the left lane and don't get into the right lane for the Mass Pike."
I thanked everyone profusely. We got back into the car. For the next hour, every time there was the slightest chance, Mr. Bah tried to get onto the Mass Pike. I was really getting angry. Finally, we came to the right exit and I ordered him to get off. He did and said, "Where de school?"
There was an immense sign right in front of us saying, "Williston-Northampton School" and pointing right. "Can't you read," I asked him. "It's right there."
He grumpily followed the signs and soon we were at the school.
Well, no use crying over spilt milk. The man was trying his best. But what does it tell us about the employment situation in this country when, for a well-paying job with the chance at really big tips, one of the major limo companies can only get one-eyed drivers who barely speak English and really cannot drive?
Anyway, I saw my glorious wife waiting there at the main driveway of the school for me. She has been up here for a few days for parent-teacher conferences. They have been going well indeed. As always, the teachers say, "He's really bright but he doesn't concentrate." Only this year, they say, "Sometimes though, he does concentrate."
He has an astounding gift in mathematics and I think eventually he will bring it to bear. But for the meantime, he has a lot of friends, does not smoke or drink (which I did at his age), does not use drugs, and is on the football team. I certainly could not have done that. In many ways, he impresses me very much.
In fact, to get back to the present, he's standing in the rain looking massive in his padding. He's second-string fullback. (That's largely because he's a junior.) Only his school is not playing him. Not once. Not at all. So, he's standing there cheering on the boys who are playing. Well, it's still nice to see him right there looking so big and strong. Even in the rain.
The other side has this really evilly good runner, number 32, a muscular brute who is literally unstoppable when he gets going. Tommy came over to me and said, "He's a wrestler and I am going to be wrestling him." Tommy gave me an amused look, as if to say, "Que sera, sera." I would have been terrified, but Tommy took the prospect of being on the mat with this monster well.
The game turned out to be agonizingly close. Down by almost a hopeless margin at the end of the first quarter, Williston was ahead by the middle of the fourth quarter. Then there were a few mishaps, and number 32, Godzilla, was put in again, and Williston barely lost.
I have to say they played beautifully and I led an extended ovation for our side from the sidelines. The leaves on the sugar maples were yellow. There was a small lake near the field. There was no KGB, no Gestapo, no OGPU. There were no angry, snarling people. Everyone was proud of his or her child. We all had plenty to eat. We have the Constitution. I have my strong, mathematical genius son and my beautiful, good-natured, endlessly patient wife. La dolce vita.
In the car on the way back, I slept, saying thanks to God over and over and over again.
But how I miss my son. He has the most beautiful blue green eyes, like a cherub. A mighty football playing monster teenage-sullen cherub.
Suddenly, I awakened and could see from the freeway the towers and spires of Yale in beloved New Haven. What a shiver went through me. You can hardly imagine the times I had at Yale. First terrible as a result of being poisoned by the Yale clinic when I had slight anxiety. (They gave me mellaril, which is a potent anti-psychotic, which left me literally paralyzed. As soon as I stopped taking the meds, I was fine, which is a premonitory story indeed.) Then great when I came back and became friends with Duncan Kennedy and Mopsy and Dick Balzer and John Keker and Bob and Susan Calhoun and Henry Hansmann and Alan Bentley and lots of others. Oh, Bob Spearman, great guy, too, and Jonathan Rosen. And next thing I knew, I was happy, happy, happy. Smoking and drinking until late at night. Playing bridge while stoned. Watching the snow fall on the New Haven Green. Leading the demonstrations against the war (always praying for the troops, though, and never calling them criminals and, of course, voting for Richard Nixon), snake dancing for the Black Panthers. And always, wifey, world's most beautiful girl, Alexandra Denman, saint of saints, angel in hotpants, too beautiful to be believed. And the endlessly kind, forgiving Yale Law School, nourishing mother indeed.
I felt ecstatic and thought of calling my dear pal, Nan Adams, but then I realized I would be waking her up. And then I suddenly felt so desperately old. So, so old. Those times at Yale were thirty-five years ago.
Now I am almost sixty. Time flies and it scares me. I like living. I don't want to die. I like being in good health. I don't want to be sick and have wires and tubes and scalpels in me. I like having enough money. I don't want to be old and poor.
I sat in my car with Mr. Bah at the wheel, shivering in fear. And then it struck me: I SPEND TOO DARNED MUCH OF MY LIFE IN FEAR. I always have. You cannot imagine how much of my life I have thrown away by being a slave to fear. I don't want to do it anymore. The spires of Yale receded and I thought hopeful thoughts:
Now I have tools. Tools to save my life. I closed my eyes and prayed to God to take away my fear and then to put Himself into my heart, and do you know what? He did.
I prayed to God to listen to my gratitude list: waking up in America; having a great wife and son; having work I love, having great friends and God's special gifts: Dogs and Cats.
I fell back asleep and awakened at the Essex House door. Mr. Bah had learned and had been guided by a Divine Hand. In any event, I was home.
Thank you, God. The man who said that the paralyzed could walk if a Democrat were in the White House will not be Vice President. The man who mocked Iyad Allawi, Premier of Iraq, who risks his life every day to bring about a decent society, will not be President. The party that believes that it's perfectly cool to take a living baby from its mother's body and then pierce its skull with scissors and kill it while it screams will not be in charge of the Executive Branch (as they are of the media). Thank you, God.
Everyone's saying it's because Bush and Rove mobilized values voters. I think it's that and something else that I see wherever I speak all over America. This nation is in the midst of a great religious revival. This nation is turning its life and its will over to God. I see it in Amarillo at West Texas A & M. I see it in Dallas at a meeting of owners of Sonic restaurants. I see it in Beverly Hills at meetings of self-help groups. I see it in Brooklyn in the person of a young man who voted GOP for the first time because he could not pull the lever for a man who backs partial birth abortion. I see it in New York in the faces of men and women at the GOP convention who turned the coldest streets in America into havens of peace and love and friendship all the way up and downtown despite the hatred hurled at them. (This is literally true: New York during the convention, with GOP families in the streets, was the happiest place it has ever been, as far as I could see. The GOP literally piped light into the darkest corners.)
This country is in the midst of a religious revival. George W. Bush is not taking advantage of it. He is part of it. So is Karl Rove. The voters saw the Bush team, the Bush family, the Cheneys, and saw faith in action. And so we were delivered. I watched the results in bed in Beverly Hills with the dogs and a camera crew from Jimmy Kimmel watching me and filming me and I went to bed happy. CNN is trying to pretend it can't happen, but it has happened. Dan Rather is spinning weird homilies to divert us from the inevitable. But it has happened.
In a way, I feel sorry for Bush. He has a hell of a row to hoe. And here is his main challenge: to be as worthy of praise as the men and women who are fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be as brave as they are, as selfless as they are, as ingenious as they are. They are the real stars, not Bush or Cheney or Arnold, and we owe everything to them.