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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams' Suicide

According to a report published in today's Morning Telegraph (UK) Robin Williams hung himself. He was evidently suffering from acute depression. The mad,incredibly inventive and totally original riffs on almost any subject, for which he was justly famous could have been stimulated by a bi-polar condition. I find it difficult to avoid associating Williams' death with that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's heroin overdose. Both brilliant actors - both principals in their own tragedies. Only those who are completely engaged in life can experience the great highs and the terrible lows. 
Good night sweet prince, you will indeed be sorely missed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Some Are Gone..." from My Life

Those aren't teardrops on my keyboard - it's just condensation. OK maybe not all condensation. A couple of tears shed for the friends who have gone ahead maybe. Someone recently remarked that he knew he was getting old when he saw frequent obituaries in the paper about his friends and contemporaries. I replied that "you know you're really old, a 'Super Elder" when you don't see many obituaries for friends and contemporaries anymore. When I stopped in Milan for a visit a few years ago, I made a few phone calls to friends I had made when I lived there for several years in the "sexy sixties" but after I got a few " No, sorry he died a couple of years ago" I stopped calling. The older I get the less likely I am to make friends -especially in a place so far from where I spent most of my life. The connections tend to be tenuous and rarely survive more than a few encounters. My tennis partners and opponents are fine- even great for tennis but not much else. Is it me? Probably but like Popeye used to say between gulps of spinach : "I yam what I yam"

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A Painful Experience

Yesterday was...August 14, 1968 My mother died in April. She was 54 and I hadn't heard anything from her since I arrived in Italy in '64. I was never very good about communicating with my mother- it was something I knew I should do but I was always puting it off and now it was too late. I struggled with her death and my guilt. Maybe if I had made more of an effort to keep in touch? I never knew she had been sick until I learned that she'd been in hospital for several months before she had a stroke. She was very high strung and perhaps bi-polar. A short, unhappy life marked by great disappointment and loneliness. My father left us - my mother and my two brothers when I was seven (On Pearl Harbor Day) and she never recovered or remarried until just a few years before she died. I fell from a cliff in the foothills of the Alps overlooking Lake Como. My first wife, Jacqueline and I had rented an apartment close to the Lake where we spent weekends. In the morning, before my fall, we had an argument and I left the house in a fit of anger and climbed the hill behind the house in worn tennis shoes. I remember reaching a point on the face of the hill which was almost vertical (I'd been there before) and I had to grab an overhanging rock to swing over to the trail. Evidently, I lost my grip or the rock came loose and the next thing I remember is lying on my back in a clearing and there was boy saying in Italian "Your Lili's father, I like Lili, she's funny" and I asked him to find help because I couldn't move and I hurt my back. The boy was known as "il cretino di villagio" ( "the village idiot" he and his brother collected and sold firewood that they collected in the forest. I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was in a hospital and a doctor was asking me how I felt and if I was in pain. I said I was and he told the nurse who was standing by the bed to fetch something for "Signor Smeeta" . The sister came back a few minutes later with a cp of tea . I then asked the doctor why he offered me a cup of tea when I was in great pain from the injuries I had sustained and he said "You Americans think that pain is some kind of an unnecessary problem that must be avoided but the truth is that pain is the only way we can diagnose your condition and help you to heal. We don't use the powerful pain killers here except in very unusual and extreme circumstances." So I learned to live with my pain and eventually walked out of the hospital on my own two legs without assistance (after I had been awarded 75% permanent disability) Now, almost 50 years later, my stupidity has caught up with me and I've been diagnosed with stenosis caused by the injuries to my spine so many years ago. So it is true that "You can run you cannot hide" from destiny.