It is the little things that one remembers best. Moments of shared joy at RKO on 86th Street at the 25 cent matinee on Saturday morning seeing The House on Haunted Hill... the theater owner had rigged a skeleton to glide down on a wire half way through over our heads. No one was really fooled but the intent to frighten allowed us to play along and yell and scream as if we were terrified. Or playing handball or mumbly peg with pen knives and beating the older kid on the block, Chevy Chase (yes, that's his real name – same guy) who always lost for some reason. Or watching Marc Rothko and my dad paint the poured 16' concrete back wall an apartment building had snuck up during the summer of '60. The magic that Mark and my dad, a scenic designer, painted of a trompe l'oeil birch forest enthralled Mike, Kate (Mark's wonderful daughter) and I. Thirty years later it was still there only no one but us knew who had painted it.
Or fishing for snappers at the Garands' in Centerport on Long Island. When they ran, you caught ten or fifteen in minutes. Or course, more reliable was Mike pulling one end and I the other of a seine net catching 1" shiners – to be deep fried on the beach for dinner, heads and all. Or helping Mike with his math homework at middle school and, later on, he helping me with French idioms and, because he was older and cooler, feeling honored when he awarded me the role of raiding the kitchen stores at our Swiss boarding school for potatoes that he illegally fried into pomme frites in the dorm room. He fed dozens of classmates – and the odd dorm teachers – every night so I was constantly breaking into the storeroom.
Or watching him with a wonderful friend (ever since), Laura, being truly in love and wondering, as we all do at 18+, what life is all about. He was so happy... It was a simpler time I suppose. Nostalgia for the past creeps up on one as you get older.
And, yes, as we got families and jobs, our lives physically drifted apart, in distance only. But there were still wonderful, if fleeting, times together. We knew we loved, we didn't have to prove it. Like when our father passed, walking with my brother Mike in the Alps as dad loved to do, with our younger brother Paul, three as one. A sad time made happy because of the joy we had in each other's company. All I remember of that day was laughing.
No, the nostalgia today is about an anniversary, 70 years of life, not quite attained by Mike due to an accident while filming Jango Unchained, but what time we had was replete with love, caring, and the true Mike moments all along the decades. And in that anniversary one has to reflect and, yes, learn a thing or two. Life is made up of these precious moments, too many to list perhaps, but never too many to have nor too many to always cherish. It's like the Dia de los Muertos – it is not about celebrating death, or skeletons, it is about celebrating memory. Today I celebrate Mike's.