Posts Tagged ‘friendship


death comes to beverly hills (not written by p.d. james)

my dear friend, charlotte fisher, died yesterday at 91, just a month shy of her 92nd birthday. she’ll be flown home to providence to lay next to her family, including her son, paul, who pre-deceased her. i wrote this post on february 11th of this year before we drove up to beverly hills to see her (the same day that whitney houston was found dead in her bathtub.)

i will always love you, charlotte.

this little lady will be 92 this september.  if she makes that date it will anger her as she’s been trying to die now for the past several months.  cedars sinai hospital recently kicked her out because, as her doctor said, “she just won’t die.”  typical of her really.  she’s always been a contrary soul.  “charlotte,” you might say, “isn’t it a beautiful day?” and she’d reply, “why, robert, it’s pitch black out.”  and then you’d spend several hours debating your position (if you had the wherewithal to last that long, her stamina is/was legendary.)

she lives in beverly hills; m. & i are driving up to see her today, a farewell visit, if you must.  i’ve known her longer than i’ve been with m.—which is quite a long time.  she hired me at the first art gallery i worked for in chicago.  i like to think that i learned the art of selling art from her.  which is mostly a true statement for to watch her with a collector (newbie or seasoned) was to watch a master at work.

we were quite the team; me 6’4” and she just shy of 5’.  she, with her beantown honk and me with my flat midwestern drawl; she was manipulative and sly, i, well, i’m a bit of an open book, but we clicked.  we filled in where the other might fall down; she smart and funny, so quick with a riposte, so silkily delivered you wouldn’t know you were bleeding until you hit the street (having just spent several thousand dollars).  her collectors were fiercely loyal (we joked that we should hang a sign out in front of the gallery when she was there that read, “the doctor is in”), because these lost souls would come in, sit down at her green onyx-topped, cruise-ship-sized antique desk, spill their guts, hand her a check and leave with a work of art.  it seemed a fair trade.

at the same time, she was impossible to work with: that slyness manifested itself in peculiar ways and after several years it became obvious to the gallery owners that if we (both valued employees) were to continue, something would have to change. i had by that time, expressed my displeasure with the status quo; she had the opportunity, after the death of a cousin from whom she inherited a considerable pile of money and a home in beverly hills, to move to our sister gallery on beverly drive, just south of santa monica blvd.  i took over the operation of the chicago gallery.  we stopped talking.

and then in 1997 we picked up where we left off, as if nothing had ever come between us.  she had retired, i had moved to another art business, we had a mutual friend whom we both adored (besides, she had always adored m.).  we spent vacations together in carmel, we lunched and shopped and giggled and yes, debated whether it was night or day.  we always said, “i love you” when we parted (irl or on the phone).

today’s trip is going to be hard to bear, but necessary.  i’m feeling a little weepy already as i type this; our mutual friend who has been helping her throughout her dotage has said we should steel ourselves.  charlotte wants for nothing now except she will not die and it’s aggravating her.  she’s begged her friends to kill her, but who among us could do that?  she joked (we think) that we should have her son come out and do the deed, but we’re afraid he would (truly.)

time to say goodbye, farewell, bon voyage, let go, i love you.


sir gawain, the green knight, and other dreams of the dead

they were smiling at me, so close i thought i could reach out and touch them. their love emanating from their smiles in visible waves of air (a distortion of my psyche); i ached for it to be true, although i knew that it was only a dream and that they were long gone from my life and this reality. i like it when they come to visit, but i always wonder what they want when they do. what can it mean when they seem so alive, but i know that they are dead?

sir gawain and his pursuit of the green knight came to my consciousness without warning or prompting, they were just there last night at around 9:17 pm pst. it wasn’t an unpleasant visit, even though it has been more than 4_ years (yes, that is a 4 in front of that underscore, it is there because memory is like that) since i had met them. all things camelot were the rage, we were all reading t.h. white’s “the once and future king.” why i do not know. i liked gawain, his honor, his fears, his duplicity, and his redemption. its alliterative verse underscoring (in a john williams movie score kind-of-way) the valor and the grandeur of the court of arthur. did my thoughts of gawain prompt the visit this morning, just before waking, of my smiling, lovely friends? i do not know, but today i believe i will let them accompany me, their love my knight-in-shining-armor.

p.s. my interview at artist career training is up.


“x”mas marks the spot

at least the dining table looks like christmas even if the rest of the house does not; what with the cards we’ve received in a bowl (the ceramic sleigh we usually bring out for that purpose still stored away), gift wrap, tissue paper, ribbons, half-wrapped boxes, re-gifting as necessary (btw, got my christmas present early this year, $715.00 car repair, thank you swedish-asian auto service!), greeting cards in their boxes awaiting addressing and note-writing–you did notice that today’s date is the 23rd, didn’t you?  we are seriously behind on this whole “celebration/holiday/giving thanks/hosanna/lamb of god mewling in the manger-thing”.

and i’ve been particularly reluctant to get going on it.  now mind you, it’s not that i don’t love all of my friends and what family is left (and of course, i do have all of m.’s extended family that i absolutely adore–if they’re reading this, anyway), but that sense of wonder of the season has just not arrived with little reindeer hooves on the roof of my soul this year.  for a moment yesterday, when i was being driven from work to the auto service place-a-ma-bob and was chatting with  armando, their go-fer, about christmas and his little two-and-a-half-year old daughter who loves the lights and has figured out what presents are hers under the tree already–to hear his voice soften with love as he told me about her joy was, well, it was joyful.  for the moment.

but back at home later that evening, even with the loving attention of our billy and joey and the sweet baritone of m. that sense of malaise (could it be ennui–the guilt of the downwardly mobile?) seemed to settle over me like the cold that i just cannot shake (3 damn weeks, enough already!)

however today dawned, as they do, the days that is, you know the sun came up, and after a night of serious contemplation and a look back at some christmases past and a lovely note from a friend this morning, well, i thought i should get over myself and wish you a merry christmas, which i will attempt to do in less words than you can shake a stick at and perhaps along the way i’ll manage to mix metaphors or over-indulge in hyperbole and other grammatical legerdemain that, like it or not, are a part of who i am (crown me with a non-sequitur of holly berries and mistletoe, which of course is not your traditional non-sequitur, but what did you expect in 2011 anyway?)

consequently and without further ado or not too much ‘do’, but maybe a bit more, it is the holidays after all and a little excess may be de rigueur when celebrating the birth of a son of a god–even zeus would agree, although by now zeus may be a bit of a stretch for you traditionalists–but regardless of whose god you may celebrate, the holiday is about love and friendship and i am prepared, yea, verily, i am ready to distribute my love and extend my hand in friendship to all who cross my path today, who may have done the same yesterday, and to those who may come tomorrow.  i love you.  i really do.


untitled (study of the gray areas)

try as i might, i can not work up a head of steam over these photographs.  they have been a part of my memory life for many years and even though i’d asked, “can we go there?” and had been assured we could, we never did (perhaps to avoid a pleasant/bad memory of their own, i don’t know.)  and yet, i’ve hung onto them, shuffled them around, taken them out of their album with its black corners holding these small black and white photographs against a deep, velvet-y black paper–a paper so luxurious that it feels like animal skin when you take a corner to turn the page or slip a photograph back into its corners (sometimes in their original place and sometimes forced onto other pages and other memories, a dissonance as they rub against each other, shouldering their way to the front of the line, “i’m more important, these are my pages, this memory i hold is clearer and happier than yours,” until you relent and go back to where they belong–a delicate, faded white script describing the day, the place, the people–you try to remember which one went with what description, but realize it matters not.)

of all the photographs from this section of a life before mine, this is the only one that shows any life; that is blatantly untrue, it is that i have chosen to share with you only those that seem to be uninhabited, even this one, bereft of a human touch, a sign, a fence, the destruction we leave behind us as we move through our time.

this colony began almost two hundred years ago, a president lived here before he decided to move on and make something of himself.  it is here that he shared his life with another man–of course, this lifetimes before hate drove love of your fellow man (whether sexual or not) underground.   when it was not uncommon to touch another man on the shoulder, hold his hand, look into his eyes and smile, without fear of reprobation.  and that may be why these photos remain a blank for me; it is hard to imagine a time when love existed in a gray area of life, a smudge between black & white, as valid as either of those two opposites.


moon and palm (and goodbyes)

so.  do you find it hard to say goodbye?  is it easy for you to turn your back on a relationship — whether friend, lover, family and just walk away from it?  does “until the next time” fail to convince either party of your sincerity?  let’s call it ‘adieu syndrome’, shall we?  let’s not call it goodbye (too final, save that for death or a really nasty cold).  i have often wondered (just as an aside, can you believe it was jeremy brett, he of the sherlock holmes series from masterpiece theater, who sang that wonderful song in “my fair lady”—“i have often walked down this street before, but my feet…”, well can you?  such a handsome man in his youth), but where were we, yes, i have often wondered what goodbye really means in today’s world.  you can’t really get rid of anyone anymore what with all of the social/digital connections one makes—you’re connected in spite of your feeble attempt at saying goodbye. it seems so impermanent, more of a concept than a reality.

i said goodbye to someone i knew long ago the other day, someone who had wandered back into my life and we took up where we’d left off (if one can really do that — you know, pick up where you left off, oh say, 3_ years ago) and then you discover that you’ve been living within spitting distance of each other for several years and should you rue the time you could have had together (obviously not) and all that time had passed and then after a year of not seeing each other (it is l.a. after all and time has a tendency to collapse upon itself) and after that year goes by, they call to say “we’re leaving” and you do manage to make the effort to see each other one last time, and like any good relationship, there’s not even a bump in the road (that year behind you) and soon you find yourselves standing on a corner, shuffling your feet and it’s “oh, let’s not call it goodbye, let’s call it something else, say, farewell, we’ll see you soon (not true), until we meet again,” and a car honks at you because by then you’d stepped off the curb to get away from the goodbyes (and that tiny bit of sadness that goes with it) and they put out their hand to grab your arm and pull you back onto the sidewalk (hail mary, full of grace, even if you’re not catholic, but want to cover your bases regardless, because getting run over would have really been goodbye.)

p.s. that’s the moon tonight.  goodnight moon (but not goodbye.) J67DXMBYFD35


let’s walk & talk

“let’s walk & talk,” were the words i loved to hear from m. (not my m., another m. that i’ve known forever, you know that m. was the most popular name for boys for several decades after ww2, consequently i have more m.’s in my life than any other name.)

anyway, this m., the walk & talk m., was (and is to a lesser degree now) a dear friend (i still think of him fondly but time & distance have taken its toll on our closeness.)

but these walks we would take, on broadway, or clark, halsted, downtown, lakeview, in the afternoon, early evening, late at night, were always about working out some problem in our lives.  big or small, personal, professional, each listening to the other, sharing.

m. was the best listener i had as a friend & although our bond perhaps was more porous than that of other close friends, i always felt that i received so much from him, because he listened so well.

today, today when i walked i listened closely to what i what i was seeing.  can you tell?  it was a macro kind of day, but because i listened i was able to see the resolution, or if not the resolution, at least the path that i must traverse.

& as m. & i would often discover, the answer to our problems was within ourselves.  just as it was today.


tsouris (language & friendship)

the nature of friendship has been much on my mind lately (probably always) because it has been, as long as i can remember, something that i’ve not been very good at it (building friendships.)  i root around for answers, reasons, thoughts (any damned ‘aha’ moment would do) but rarely find the truffle (a hunting pig i am not.)

today i will not belabor the point, as i’ve covered it here & here & here & in other posts as well.  (should you want someone else’s opinion on friendship in the internet age, i’d recommend this post by author matthew gallaway.)

but the issue remains, & becomes particularly acute as one ages (oh, yes, the march of time; it would be so much easier if, like bees, we had only one purpose in this life, or could decide on only one purpose among all the choices we are given, but that will probably not change any time soon) & if, like myself, you are family-less & child-less, the lack of deep & abiding IRL (internet language delights & frustrates me) friendships weighs heavily.

so, instead of worrying that string of beads (clack, clack, clack), i will put it in my pocket (keeping it close) & will spend a brief moment extolling the virtues of language(s).

‘tsouris’ seems an odd choice of title for me, but, a brief history may help explain:  at some point in my sophomore year of high school, i read “darkness at noon” by arthur koestler, which led me to books by elie weisel & bernard malamud.  then i began to read historical accounts of the holocaust (my fascination with the subject may be due to my german roots) which eventually led me to leo rosten’s “dictionary of yiddish” which absolutely delighted me & i liked to spice up my speech with a well-placed yiddish word (because it confounded strangers, friends  & family.)

at my elementary school, we started learning french in 4th grade (required through 6th grade) & at least one year of a foreign language was required in high school (french, german, spanish were the choices, & i, like the good student i was, took all three.)  but it did not end there for me (i eventually got my minor in french.)

without the foreign language study, i believe i would not be who i am today (or who i hope that i am.)   words would not have the same meanings (in spite of merriam-webster), sentences would not be as much fun to construct (or de-construct or have no structure at all.)  the playfulness of language & the ability to nail a feeling with just the right choice of word, turn of phrase,  all of that would be somehow less compelling for me.

so, back to ‘tsouris’ (distress, trouble); it was the word that came to me when i loaded these photographs into this post yesterday (before the words came out this morning).  it captured how i felt at that moment better than the word ‘distress’.   i have some tsouris about friendship at the end of the first decade of the 21st century & i am in even more tsouris about the deterioration of language & how many (most?) people don’t seem to care.  languages are dying (is it evolution or laziness?)  consider this one man’s stand against the inevitable.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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