"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an
attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, bourbon in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" "after" Hunter S Thompson
Now, I don't read the above mentioned Mr. Thompson, he was a bit too drunken and hateful
towards women for my taste, but that amended quote is pretty damn good. As Elaine Stritch died yesterday and my brother passed away a few months ago, quite unexpectedly, death has been on my mind. I was on a marathon car trip the other day and there was time to ponder at 70 mph.
I often say that you should live every day to the fullest, because a house could fall on your head tomorrow. Well, it happens! Hug those you like and tell the ones you love that, too. You just never know and every day really is an adventure. Well, it's up to you to find the magic in the day. I had a topsy turvy week (and it's only Friday), and I refuse to have it turn out terrible. I will, however, accept it as a learning experience and squeeze some joy out of those crushed lemons.
So, Elaine Stritch, let's start there. I've seen her shows, talked with her afterwards and at StageDoors, but I did have one truly special encounter with her. On a very pleasant Sunday, 2 years ago, I think, I was walking down Madison Avenue with my bestie Jill. We were on the tail end of a marathon walk through CentralPark and beyond. It was around 4ish. The legs were giving out. We are waiting for the light to change, to cross at 79th, and I see, standing on the far corner that very familiar face and those long skinny legs. The light changes. Halfway across, I call out, "Hi, Stritchie, how'ya been?" All action stops as we have a brief but cheerful exchange in the middle of the intersection. She is on the arm of a tall blonde young man. She thinks she knows me because I was so friendly. Huge smiles on all parts, and we wonder where we all are walking and how great the day had been in the city we both love. The light goes yellow. Not wanting to be responsible for her possibly being hit by a car & having the world hate me, toodeloos are said and off we go. She away from The Carlyle and we towards. All the tiredness has gone. Her vivacity and radiance boosted our energy. The woman exuded life. Jill and I happily talked about her from what we knew from living in TheCity. Isn't it funny how New Yorkers think any other New Yorker, even the famous ones, are family? Tonight they dim the lights on Broadway. She really was one of the top tiered Divas.
So, truth be told, I'm not over my brother's death from last April. Perhaps I am a bit angry with him, as well. He and I were a team; as kids, the two of us against the world of adults and as adults, against the idiots we encountered. The guy was smart. Really, he was much smarter than I am, and I'm not too dumb if I passed the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" test 7 times! (not selected, I think because I am unphotogenic and hide under my hat, but that's for another conversation.) So, I need to say this about my brother. He is a hero to me. He went through life on his own terms. Got everything he wanted with his own dime. While our parents did give him a top notch education, they didn't help him one bit out of college, because he dropped out of Law School. You know, I think it was brave and wise to leave a path that was not suited to your personality. He would have been a terrible lawyer. No bullshit in that man and he hated to compromise his values. He had lovely friends and they miss him, but none more than I. I still think of thousands of things I need to call him up about every week. He NEVER called me. That's the truth. He was just funny that way. The other thing he did that was hero worthy was to break away from the toxic relationship that my mother fostered. She was ruthlessly mean to him because he didn't conform to her standards of dress and association. While I dutifully kept dealing with an aging parent who just couldn't stop mean things from coming out of her mouth, he said, "ENOUGH!" He is hero for that in my eyes. Someday, get me drunk enough and I will tell you some of the ugly words that were spewed. I am an easy drunk. It will only take 2 Cosmos and I will tell all the family secrets.
So we come back to the quote at the top. Love life to the max and do it in your own style. Both of these people did that. Both will be missed for that reason, because most of us give in and secretly long to be braver and freer. I wish my cel phone could reach Heaven. I could ask Uncle Bob some things and get his perspective on history. As to Elaine, she may not be there. I do believe she was a bit on the bawdier side. Wherever she is, I am sure she is laughing and drinking her own Cosmo (but only one a day).