Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good-bye, Jay...and thanks for the good times.

Jay Landesman was an integral part of the cultural scene in St. Louis for many years, and a big part of my directionless youth. Not that I was a pal of his. I knew who he was, shook hands with him whenever I had the opportunity, but I doubt if he knew my name. That's okay. He was cool. I spent a lot of time in Gaslight Square. Cool jazz at the Dark Side, the Other Side (Spider Burke's place), and Georgie's; dixieland jazz at Smokey Joe's and the Tiger's Den (the swinging two-beat temple of Sammy Gardner and the Mound City Six); hip and hilarious comedy, distinctive bars, and a vibrant street scene. Like a small rendition of The Village. 

Mary Lee (my wife of several years) and I used to celebrate TGIF there after we got off work at KMOX-TV (before it was KMOV). Olive and Boyle was a great gathering area, and Jay was largely responsible for inspiring it...thanks to his Crystal Palace. I have clear memories - at least they're clear in my head - of that place, where I saw the Smothers Brothers, Lenny  Bruce (it was the first time I ever heard the "f" word on a stage), Jack E. Leonard, a nerdy and nervous Woody Allen, Nichols & May, and others...including a very young and shy Barbra Streisand. When I saw her, as the opening act for the Smothers Brothers, I predicted, "She's not very pretty. She'll never make it." That might have been the same year I bought an Edsel. Thanks to the wonderful comics and satirists and improv geniuses, I developed a love and appreciation for slightly off-center humor. Okay, more than "slightly." 
Jay had a full-time piano player in the bar named Tommy Wolf, who wrote songs with Jay's wife, Fran. Strange: the more I'm writing about Gaslight, the more I remember. Some other time, maybe.

Yes, St. Louis had a Golden Age once, and its name was Jay Landesman.
Thanks, Jay. Whenever I think of "cool," "hip," and an inspiration, I think of you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I woke up this morning and looked out the window. IT'S BACK!!!!!! Words fail me.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Call

I’m waiting for the phone to ring. It will be the vet.
He will tell me that he has good news.
I will ask him what it is.
He will say, “That neuromuscular problem with Hannah? I think we can treat it.”
“But,” I will say, “You’ve already euthanized her. On Monday.” I can barely get those words out.
“No problem,” he says. “We have reversed the effects of the injection. She’s back. You can pick her up tomorrow morning. Good as new.”
And that’s where the fantasy fades.
The neuromuscular problem was myaesthemia gravis, two words forever seared onto my soul. The prognosis was grim. 
How do you know when to say, The time has come? Hannah was 12 years old. That seems to be the magic number for Golden Retrievers, the genetic time bomb. I always thought she’d go the way most Goldens go - from cancer. Okay. No more medical talk. I don’t like writing about it or even thinking about it any more than you do reading about it.
I’ve been trying to figure out what hurts the most. Possibly the loss of one of the best friends I ever had. Maybe the sadness at seeing a beautiful creature come to the end of the trail much too soon. Then there’s the sheer habit of having her around, developed over twelve years and thousands of miles of travel, including New England, Florida, Chicago, Colorado. Finding motels that took dogs, and sneaking her into those that didn’t. If we drove, she was a passenger. Even scoring the front seat on several occasions. She would watch the road as carefully as I. And she knew the landmarks in town. Where we turned off I-44 for West Tyson County Park and our hike through the hills. Where we pulled in at Weldon Spring State Park and walked to the river. What part of Forest Park we were headed for, where the cops couldn’t see her off- leash. Where she could expect a treat to come sliding down the chute in the capsule. Answer: Walgreen’s Drive-thru Pharmacy, U. S. Bank, and MacDonald’s. But not White Castle. So I’d order an extra burger for her. No pickles, please.
The loss hurts for so many reasons. But the one that hits closest to home is most beautifully conveyed in a quote that a good friend sent to me after she heard of Hannah’s passing. It’s by John Galsworthy, a British writer best known for “The Forsyte Saga” and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1932. But you knew that. Here’s the quote. 
“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives...”
I like that. It is true. He understands. “ many years of our own lives...”
We have not only lost a loved one. We have lost part of ourselves.
My beautiful Golden girl is gone. But somewhere, lodged deep inside me, mingled with memories of a youth immersed in fantasy and science-fiction, of knowing the impossible is sometimes possible, I still wait for that phone to ring.