There are weeks that pass without leaving a trace of themselves. Silent strangers that pass without a whisper or a footprint. We ask ourselves, “Where did the week go?” Occasionally, however, a week will pause, declare itself with emphasis, mark its passage in neon. Recently, it was more than one week. Almost two.
The days and nights contained fulfilling highs and, sadly, a painful low. Such is time. Such is life.
At the risk of seeming indulgent or boring, here’s how the past twelve days went down. If you have something better to do, like rake leaves or bake chocolate chip cookies, go to it. Just click “like” or whatever you click on the blog so I know someone’s reading these things.
The events began on a Wednesday night, Oct. 14, with a play at New Jewish Theater. A friend and fine actor, Peter Mayer, was hilarious in “The Sunshine Boys,” one of Neil Simon’s funniest in my opinion. John Contini was his able partner in comedy. I covered it for a new theatrical online service called “BuzzOnStage.com.”
Friday morning I was at Powell Hall for a “donuts and coffee” concert. One of my favorite events. Kind of a senior Woodstock. The SLSO performed music by Bernstein (“On the Waterfront” suite), a piano concerto by Schumann, and a dynamic rendering of Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” The bad news was they ran out of donuts. I only got one. The hall was packed, lots of young people from high schools. I’m sure they ate most of the donuts. To be young and unafraid of sugar and fat.
Saturday night and Sunday brunch was “best friends forever” time.
Five of us guys who stretch back to grade school. One of them was in town from Aspen, where he lives in something between an estate and a castle, on a mountain of course. He was the smart one. Dinner with our wives at the house of one of the couples, Steve and Julie Plax. Then brunch on Sunday at Brasserie by Niche in the Central West End. Guys only.
Leisurely, laughter, stimulating conversation, perfect Eggs Benedict. followed by a leisurely walk around the Grand Basin in Forest Park on a stunning autumn day.
Last Monday night Mary Lee and I saw Josh Groban in concert at the Peabody Opera House. That guy has some pipes, as they used to say. A beautiful show in a classy venue, although I don’t think it’s changed much since I went there when it was Kiel Opera House. Best memories of it: Jazz at the Phil, and the St. Louis Symphony with Vladimir Golschman conducting. Probably when I was in grade school. I can’t believe I remember his name. I’ll remember Josh Groban’s name too. The place was sold out.
Tuesday around noon I got the call from Jerry Sexton. As soon as I saw his name on my iPhone, I knew. His wife Maryann had passed away during the night. Jerry and Maryann - names forever linked - were two of our dearest friends. The four of us shared so much, enjoyed each other’s sense of humor, appreciation for good food and movies and theater. I have photo albums filled with pictures of us - in Brazil, in China, in Louisville for the annual Festival of New American Plays, and on and on. We all knew time was running out for her. Still……
Skip to this past Thursday. A gentle day, fall weather holding nicely. Mary Lee and I, along with Sadie and Lexi, took a day trip to Ste. Genevieve (an
hour away), for fried chicken and onion rings at The Anvil on the town square. Then a short stop in Hawn State Park. Bad idea. The Conversation Dept. was doing a once-every-3-year burn. We drove down the road, around the curve, and ran into thick smoke and approaching flames. You’d think they’d put up a warning sign. We got out of there, watery eyes and all, went for a short hike at Pickel Creek, then ended up having coffee at ColJac Cafe in beautiful, downtown Farmington. They make a mean iced frappuccino and the best biscotti I’ve had in years. By the way, there’s a very old state mental hospital in Farmington. Why is this meaningful? Because that’s where the sister of Tennessee Williams spent the rest of her life after a less than successful prefrontal lobotomy many decades ago. We didn’t go there.
I was reminded of how precious life is on Friday evening. Visitation, or a gathering of friends, for Maryann. The line was out the door and stayed that way for two hours or more. I always have trouble making any meaningful conversation at times like this. I basically sit and stare, which some people write off as “he’s unfriendly.” No, just quiet. At times like these, the strength of family and friends makes itself felt. Afterwards, Mary Lee and I needed a bit of an uplift, so we used our two tickets to the Symphony at Powell, my mind bouncing between the music and Maryann and Jerry. Then a quiet trip home to our waiting golden retrievers, who were unusually attentive. They understood.
Saturday morning I went to Mass. Not one of my favorite things to do. But this was for Maryann at Holy Redeemer in Webster. In front of us, on stage, five priests in white, an urn, and a smiling photo of Maryann. Highlight of the morning, for me, was the eulogy delivered by Tim, their son. Maybe the most meaningful eulogy I’ve ever heard. He writes for a living - a screenwriter in LA - and he showed just how beautifully he can write, how deeply he can reach.
Final installment: last night, Sunday, Oct.25. Stevie Wonder at Scottrade Center with his “Songs in the Key of Life” tour. I can't believe how many great songs he's written. At age 65 he doesn't slow down, putting all his energy into a 3 1/2 hour concert. It doesn’t get any better than that.
So, if you're still with me - and I hope you are - take heart in the fact that occasionally time will slow down to make an imprint on your life, even as it refuses to completely stop. But you know that wouldn't be any fun. It's in the passing that makes the pauses so meaningful.