Dad looked like the old film star Robert Taylor, my mother like a corn-fed, Midwestern Elizabeth Taylor.
It would have been two weekends ago, All Souls (morphed along our border into Day of the Dead), a date I have had fun with in the past. It is, if nothing else, an opportunity to run Halloween right into the ground. This avenue had not been presented to me before I moved to San Diego, having been left to observe now-obscure rituals in the Catholic liturgy for All Saints and All Souls (they did give us two in a row), and in my dotage I’ve pretty much forgotten what they are.
This is the first of what might be called a fine autumn morning here in Southern California. The air is blessedly dry, even crisp, like, say, a Chardonnay (not that I’m thinking of wine, honest), and there has not been a morning like this in memory. I am grateful; actually, as a kind of lifelong ingrate and malcontent, for some reason I have never had a problem with gratitude when it comes to fine fall mornings. The air conditioner has been silent so far, the first time since May. The summer has been a long one for me. You? Ah, well, who cares? I outrank you on this page. Hah! Moving on.
It is mornings like this that remind me of New York. Manhattan, to be specific. (Ah! And I may have left some of you right there. No matter. Bye.) And if this sounds pretentious, too bad, the promise of the infinite. Manhattan may be a poor substitute for the infinite, but in a pinch it will do. And on the heels of that thought come memories of the dead: too many of them, it seems, for a man my age, but there we are. Not to cast a pall on things, but last week I wrote of my friend Gerry, whose death I learned about only recently, though he passed four years ago. I loved him, and it is appropriate that his memory stings this morning like the first bite of a green apple on a November morning.
And it is not just Gerry, or the dead, but I find on mornings like this an inexplicable sense of affection, unfocused, but I am convinced, not misplaced. I simply don’t know what to do with it.
I have taken to writing this column with the television on in the background. The most distracting thing I can find (this morning it is some Dirty Harry movie) to see if my string of sentences can’t win out against this implacable foe. It’s stupid, yes. I don’t remember ever consciously deciding to do this, but at some point I suppose I assumed that if I can win out against, say, Lawrence of Arabia or The Dead Pool, I may have something interesting. No guarantee, naturally. I may have picked up this trick (or self-hobbling perversity) from a New York SF editor named Roy Torgeson, who did the same thing. Roy is among the dead as well, and I remember him as he sat at his desk injecting himself full of insulin, eating a TV dinner, drinking from a bottle of Bombay gin, and looking up, telling me, “Congratulations! Two of your stories won out over Ironside. I can pay you $300! I really like one of them, by the way. The other one scared me, though. Are you ill, by the way? Care for a drink?”
This was, in many ways, my introduction to the business, such as it is. One could do worse.
It is 11:56 a.m. and I have just turned the air conditioner on, having stuffed an old T-shirt under its condenser. My gratitude, sense of liberation, and promise are giving way to the ineluctable modality of that die-hard “Endless” surf movie in which I have placed myself in order to writhe out of that dour and Slavic reality of Chicago and my less than euphoric childhood. Sympathy? Of course I want your sympathy. Who doesn’t want someone’s? I expect none, naturally. Another gift from our border area has been a kind of Zen resignation: wanting nothing, rejecting nothing. After a while it actually happens, and I wonder how that would look in a tourist brochure or chamber of commerce literature for the potential homesteader in these parts?
In the mail yesterday was a package from a Roger Barbato, containing photos, war records, articles for the military press, etc., about and by my father, Robert John Brizzolara, a corporal in 1944–’45 in the Philippines during WWII. The first thing I removed was a cardboard-framed wedding photo of my parents, Dad looking something like the old film star Robert Taylor, my mother like a corn-fed, Midwestern Elizabeth Taylor (coincidence unintended, but who knows?). I placed it on top of my closet unit. The dead again, overseeing everything. I intend to find Mr. B. and determine where he found this stuff. I am sure it was in a forfeited storage locker among manuscripts, art, journals, and photo albums of my own that I had long ago assumed lost. No doubt they are. Looking at Mom and Dad, the line from Joyce’s short story “The Dead” will not leave me: “Let the dead bury the dead and let the dead marry the dead.” He was talking about Dublin — and my parents.
An excerpt from Victory Is in the Air. A radio play, Las Vegas Army Air Field, December 19, 1944. Script: Brizzolara.
“MUSIC: ‘Adeste Fideles’ up and out
BUCK: Man is a creature of will, freely given and freely exercised…. In the garden of Eden man weighed paradise in one hand — and the apple in the other…. He chose the apple…here began the war between good and evil…. The spirit of man groped in darkness until one night, 1944 years ago, a new light came into the world…. In the cold, windswept hills near a little town called Bethlehem, simple men stood vigil near their sheep, unaware that this was the night that would be commemorated by men to the end of time.
SOUND: Sneak in wind effect.”
Oh, Dad, poor Dad. Has the apple fallen so far from the tree?
Any clue as to the fate of this stuff would be welcome. Any clue of any kind, regarding anything whatsoever would be welcome. And here is your cue to write TGIF: Get a Clue, Brizz @ P.O. Box 85803 San Diego CA 92186-5803.