I have a new routine. Actually not that new. I spend most of the day paying bills in my otherwise silent office while listening to “Fifties on Five” on Sirius XM. This is a life changing service. In the silence of my room, as I write the checks for my insanely large (soon to be much smaller) array of real estate holdings, cars, and dependents, mostly employees, I hear the sweet sounds of the Coasters, the Corsairs, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Little Richard, Elvis, the Platters, Johnny Mathis, and other superstars. I can remember every single word of every song.
I think I heard them on WDON, a small radio station in Silver Spring, where the DJ was the son of the owner. What a great DJ he was, too. The hippest of the hip. Don Dillard.
That was almost 60 years past.
A few days ago when I was paying bills, the phone rang and it was my old pal from UC, Santa Cruz days, the Ace Magician, Larry Wilson. Larry was an ultra-cool guy with a beard who had a tall girlfriend named Susan something. She was amazingly beautiful.
Larry was the guy who invented, as far as I am aware, the full-on “Slip’n’Slide,” which is like an X-rated version of the slip’n’slides we know today. I went to several of them and wound up with a young woman named Andrea. Her father was a super braino at the Stanford Research Institute. We had some amazing times together.
I was 28 then. I am 70 now, and I can tell the difference. My pal, Ken Hensley, asked me a couple of months ago, what the happiest year of my life was. Of course, every year that I spend with my wife is now and has been for some time.
But when I was young, my life was all about romance. Not law. Not drugs. Romance. I can remember a girl with an Irish name whose father was a power in the world of linguistics and worked next door to Noam Chomsky, even then a big name. She was so beautiful, beguiling, sweet — sometimes I think I will lose my mind when I go back to those days. It’s sort of incredible to me now that I used to have females who liked me and liked hanging around with me even if I couldn’t help get them an agent.
Well… Larry Wilson called. He has an incredibly funny idea. He is raising money for a charity and he uses an Internet tool called Crowdfunding to do so. He auctions off various items and acts. Meals with David Copperfield. With the great Pendragon. For a very large contribution, he will make a Presidential candidate vanish. Not kill him, of course, but make him vanish. It is a brilliant idea. Larry is such a creative guy. I won’t ever forget the Slip’n’Slide.
I believe you can find out more about the event by going to a site called NevadaShines.org. Try it.
Anyway, after I listened to Larry and his idea, my mind told me to sleep and listen to Mozart. I did. The Requiem. Laudate Dominum. Exsultate. They were great. How can it be that I, a complete idiot, can just press a few tiny little buttons and I get to hear the finest musicians on the planet playing the finest music in history while I lie in bed, sunlight streaming in through the jacarandas, my right hand resting gently on the noble head of my dog, Julie?
Someone had to invent the musical instruments. Someone had to teach how to play them. A super once in a millennium genius named Mozart had to write down the music. Then other geniuses had to think of ways to record that music. Others refined those methods until we had a nearly perfect method of reproducing music. Then still more super brainos had to invent mass production of the means of hearing this music so that it would be virtually free.
And someone had to invent the system of private property so I could be in my own home, not in a crowded tenement, and then some many people had to build my house. Then my parents had to leave me the money to buy it. HA!!! Fooled you there, didn’t I? I actually earned most of it by hard, hard, hard work. We freelancers work night and day. We have no days off ever.
Anyway, someone had to invent and mass-produce air conditioning, the greatest invention of all time. Someone had to invent and breed the German short-haired pointer. Someone had to invent and mass-produce the car that brought her to me.
All of this just scratches the surface of what I get from history and society so I can listen to Mozart’s genius.
I fell asleep thinking about Larry Wilson and his Slip’n’Slide. My wife came in to wake me up and tell me to start getting ready for bed. Now I search for sleep.
My ritual these days is to watch one of the many documentaries about World War I that litter my bedroom. Tsar Nicholas and his unbelievably beautiful daughters (“… I killed the Tsar and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain…”). The smiling Tommies headed off for the Somme and 60,000 dead in a few days. The Boche hurling themselves at Verdun. The Germans and Brits fighting it out in German East and German West. The rogue German cruisers in the waters off Chile. The Michael Offensive. And so much pain and suffering over nothing much. The First World War. The interlocking machinery of blood letting. The seamless set up for World War II. The slip’n’slide that led to the Cold War and to Iraq and ISIS. Just overwhelming.
There are many newsreel photos of the pitiful Jews of Eastern Europe being tormented by the White Russians and then by the Germans. They look beaten down, wretched, hopeless. They wear rags. The German or Russian soldiers beat them and mock them. They look hunted and haunted and they are. My family was — Thank You, God — here in the Golden Land long before the First World War. But I could see myself and my father and mother in the faces of those terrified Jews.
Then came America and we get to have air conditioning and Mozart in our Bose headphones. And our dogs next to us in bed.
Whatever decisions any Jew in this country or his ancestors made, the most important one was to come to this glorious land. True, apparently I am not allowed to be a member of El Dorado Country Club in Indian Wells because I am a Jew. But I get to cruise in my Cobalt along the shores of Lake Pendoreille, and that’s better.
(By the way, I totally miss Sandpoint and will write more about it very soon.)
Well, so I watch these documentaries and I literally get on my knees thanking God for being in America. (I am not Michelle Obama. I was always proud to be an American, even when people driving by screamed “Get out, Kike!” as I rode my bike in Silver Spring. I wonder if anyone ever said anything remotely similar to Michelle before she became First Lady. I doubt it.)
Then, I watch the local news at 10 PM or 11 PM. Hey, people, guess what! There is war here, too. There is violence all around. A UCLA co-ed accused of dealing drugs found murdered in Westwood. Dozens of blacks and Hispanics shot and killed every month by each other, decade after decade. Almost every day, some poor creature struck and killed by a speeding hit-and-run.
Fires in overcrowded housing killing sleeping infants. Routine homicides among our homeless. The guys on our side, the cops and firefighters, get crucified in the media. Disgusting.
Lately I have been watching DVDs of my pal Kimberly Lefebvre, a fabulous actress, who is on a bunch of true crime and adventure reenactment TV shows like “I Almost Got Away With It” and “Tornado Alley.” She’s lovely and young and enthusiastic and talented. She will be a star while I am eating cheeseburgers in Idaho in my dotage.
Then, back to the wars in Serbia and in Compton.
We human beings are not such hot items. Then again, hundreds of millions of us are unbelievable heroes, unbelievably brave, self-sacrificing, unselfish. The bad ones ruin the lives of the good ones.
But then there is a shower and prayers with my wife and more Mozart, and an endless list of people I am grateful to for my life. As I write this, I am thinking of my frat brothers at AD at Columbia 1963-66. Stuart Reynolds. Larry Lissitzyn. Grant Roberts. Rad West. Clay Maitland. I am thinking of my sister who was a cheerleader in Junior High and never did a mean thing to me.
But then I think of Larry Wilson. I miss those days. I miss the slip’n’slide.
That’s all trivial. I have my little family. I am not at Passchendaele. I am not being beaten with iron rods for being a Jew.
Above all, I have my wife and I am in America. No end of gratitude.