Friday, November 16, 2012
The thing about the 24-hour news cycle, the thing I like least about it, anyway -- is the fact that a momentous event -- like, oh, say, the re-election of a president is here for a moment, then gone the next. Then it's on to the next big thing like a certain political consultant who is probably still licking his wounds after being unable to produce one single successful candidate for all the millions he garnered from donors. Oh, and made for himself. Really wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now.
And no, we're not going anywhere near that 4-star general's triangular tribulations. No one could do that better than Jon Stewart did on a recent "Daily Show." But see what I mean? Carl Rove was stale news 24 hours after his stupendously unsuccessful promotion of right wing-nut hopefuls. By the time I finish this something will probably have supplanted Israel's bombing in Gaza. Um, or not.
I was still unpacking from my two months away from home when I learned of two deaths that shook me mightily: One, a dear and wonderful friend in New Orleans -- she was going for her first chemo treatment when I talked to her husband shortly before I left for one trip, and died before I returned 30 days later. The other was the death of Isaiah Sheffer, for many years the host of "Selected Shorts" at New York's Symphony Space. He died just as I returned from the second trip.
I never met Sheffer in person, but I felt like I had. Sunday after Sunday I sat in my comfy living room chair and waited for the tinkly music that presaged the start of "Selected Shorts," and wait for his gentle voice to welcome me and introduce the evening's works. Actors read short stories penned by well- and lesser-known writers, and the program was always engaging.
I did, however, know Diana Pinckley. She and her husband John Pope graciously read and critiqued the Molly book manuscript before I submitted it. Diana came up with a title for the book I loved, but the publisher didn't, so you can pretty much guess who won that argument. (Fortunately another dear and wonderful friend produced a title everybody liked and that was that). Anyway, Diana took the rejection much more graciously that I did. She arranged for me to have a book reading and signing at the Farmers Market and at Octavia Books, a charming neighborhood independent store.
While Diana's death left me deeply saddened, Sheffer's death affected me too. She was only 60, two years younger than Molly was when she died. Sheffer, who died of complications from a stroke, was 76. When you are in you 70s, as I am, these confrontations with immortality recall Longfellow's reminder that art is long and time is fleeting. The time we have on this beleaguered planet is so short that it is increasingly a waste of time to fret over what we can't do or change; to get angry with the moron who cuts us off in traffic; the dunderhead who can't bother to stop for the driver trying to exit a parking lot at rush hour; the arrogant shopper who directs his/her filled-to-the-brim grocery cart to the 'express' checkout lane; the loud-mouthed idiot whose cell phone is grafted to his/her ear everywhere , all the time.
These and other social transgressions call for a deep breath or two or three because there are other things to do. Other mountains to climb. Other places to see. Other friends to visit. Art is long and time is fleeting, so stir things up when and where possible, then move on.