Sunday, May 8, 2011


When I was a street urchin just out of knee pants I had four best friends. Johnny Kassabian was in the apartment next door. Peter Dalebrook lived on the other side of the building and Frank Loeb was across the street. Stanley, my life-long brother, was six blocks away. Only Frank and Stanley liked each other. All the rest never hit it off. I've always wondered how I could befriend people who weren't friends with one another. Isn't that a violation of some geometric theorem?

Fifty-five of our closest friends gathered for Peggy & Sam's 180th birthday bash yesterday. Many had never met before but as far as I know there were no food fights or even minor skirmishes. It was such a pleasure to see people mingle and spark the air with their own particular voltage. New geometric configurations everywhere I looked. Most of us are still vertical; some bent, a bit diagonal. By my arithmetic there was about 4,000 years of wisdom and folly under that roof. Talk of infirmities was put aside. I heard more about plans than memories; upcoming travel to New York, Glasgow, Paris or Barcelona. I can't decide whether to go to Cornwall or Costco. Still ripe, not yet deciduous, we are.

I'm sure any of us could gather a like number of friends who may not have met before. It shows the many facets in the diamond. Old friends, new friends, friends of friends, neighbor friends, poetry friends, sports buddies, literary junkies, music aficionados, movie buffs and friends you forgot from where or how but just plain love. Often it turns out that old friends make new friends from the mix and that is gratifying. Lately I've noticed how some are just one friend away from having known us all along. But I suppose when you live in a small town like Los Angeles these things can happen.

Many of our friends are happily retired now, well into their second or third incarnation, re-making the world. In the room were potters, printmaker, photographer and poets, dancer, singer, musician, woodworker, artist, essayist and thinkers of great thoughts. Some have never stopped their movie-making and playwriting; many electrons bumping into each other and charging the air; many hills of beans. In addition are most of us, fully present as caring persons whom we hold close.

I told Sam that he is the ideal ex-husband-in-law, how we’ve grown close as extended family. And how I first met him and Peggy 54 years ago when they hosted a UCLA poetry group…. even though neither of them remember me since I was just a slip of a lad. We go way back and will continue to be here for one another, for better or wrose through surgeries or holidays.

Here are the words I put together to toast Peggy:

Peggy at Ninety

Of all the gin joints in the galaxy
we met first in ’57 when I was mere
and you were already launched
into orbits of art and leafy things

then in 1980 when our way was milky
my Fahrenheit frost, your centigrade sun
abruptly ablaze,
a glance became an avalanche
you effervesced in an eighth day of creation
glaciers calved from rupture to rapture
you Buzzed my Berkley, Budda’d my Pest
and we traveled through this
heart of light and darkness
the Africa of you, your Sahara and Serengeti
my call to prayer.
Not just your adjectives, laden as they are
but the verb of you
its many swerves and swoops
you make the gibbous moon, full.

How I witness you un-moored,
your voyage out,
singing with the genius of the sea
even in your Krishnamurti hush
seeing what is
you are the quiet noticer of rust
the peeling crust of masonry,
you rescue weeds, read
the calligraphy of un-leafed trees.
What feeds the violet on the sill
if not your spirit in the fuse,
who like Yahweh does a constant collage;
you architect the shards.

You are my high and low holidays,
my feast and my fast.
Your birthday is mine, each morning a genesis,
an afternoon exodus, an evening revelation and return.

Now at ninety, the fiction of calendars.
Ninety cannot even keep a straight face
so curvolinear it is. A kind of fuzzy math is at work
where you lose a year at each birthday.
Soon I’ll be a nonagenarian and you……
a Yes-Yes genarian

1 comment: