One of my dearest friends in the world is visiting us this week from her home in South Africa, where she has lived there for (gasp) 25 years. She arrived in Los Angeles last week just in time to catch Jimmie’s performance in Endgame. Or, to be more accurate, she flew half way around the world, stopping in Dubai along the way, in order to catch Jimmie’s performance in Endgame. We are truly blessed to have a friend like Susan.
Susan and I met, as best as we can remember, our two addling brains competing for the discretely retreating details of our youth, as Juniors at Princeton University. She was living in a brick two-story house near the Princeton Inn College, where I was working as an RA. Somehow, someone at the university or at PIC determined that we would be good students to put in charge of producing events in a small black box theatre in the basement of PIC. We laughed this week as we tried to remember what had been involved in this assignment. I can’t imagine such a thing, but we produced a few shows that year and bonded in the process.
I was a horrid R.A. I was responsible for advising an entire floor of freshmen in PIC for which I received free housing and board that year. That was also the year my Mom went to Columbia University to get her graduate degree in journalism at the age of 45. At 20, under the guise of writing a religion class paper about cults, I managed to get sucked into the EST movement. It was an eventful year.While Mom was at Columbia, she loaned me her car, which was great to have at college; come to think of it, it probably enabled me to go to the EST Trainings and drag along all multiple friends. You are welcome, Susan, Bob and Bill.
I remember visiting Mom in New York, where she was living in a rented room in a woman’s apartment at 101st and Broadway while she attended Columbia. Mom’s room was filled with antiques, a burled walnut bed with a tattered canopy, but the woman’s kitchen was filled with cockroaches, and after watching my proud and extremely elegant mother eat her Lean Cuisine on the oilcloth covered kitchen table, I promptly drove back to Princeton and got black-out drunk. It was a complicated year; why I was probably not in a position to advise freshmen.
Aside from the low phases described above, I met Susan, and she and I hit it off extremely well. We ran together, like gazelles, through the woods, leaping over the trickling brooks in the Princeton woods surrounding the campus, training for a half marathon, until 10-mile runs seemed routine, and then, a week before the race, I got the flu and had to drop out. Susan went on to run the race; I was proud of her for finishing.
Susan went on to become assistant production manager at the McCarter Theatre, and a year or so after we graduated, she was the one who called me back from Venice, Italy, where I’d been living for a glorious 13 months. She invited me back to be a dresser on a new Joanna Glass play, called “Play Memory”, directed by Hal Prince. I may have told you about how Jo Henderson,the actress I was responsible for dressing, used to call the foam enhanced brassiere she wore her ‘play mammories.’ Anyway, I did come back from Europe to take this job, meeting my now husband of 32 years who was in the cast. I like to tell people that I was his dresser when we met not only because it’s true, but for its naughty shock value. But again, we have Susan to thank for that blessing.
Susan was the maid of honor at our wedding just about a year later, and I remember her standing in the apse of the church playing the flute in her bare feet for our ceremony rehearsal. Jimmie and I honeymooned at a little inn in New Hope, NJ, near where Susan lived. He was going to have to go off the following Monday to New Haven to rehearse a play, so we just snuck away for the weekend. We walked into the beautifully decorated room, where a bouquet of yellow flowers awaited us. Susan again.
When Jimmie turned 80, we planned a party in NYC with some of our oldest friends, and a day or so before the party, we were invited to come to dinner at our friends Bob and Mitchell’s apartment. We went and sat down; soon after, there was a knock came at the door. When I opened it there was Susan at the door holding a dish of potatoes or something for the dinner. She had flown from Cape Town to be there for Jimmie’s party, and she had been able to keep it such a good secret. I think I burst into tears; we were both so floored.
Later that week, we went to Bryant Park with our life-long friend, Bob, where we witnessed a flash mob of drunken and disorderly Santa Clauses. You think I’m making it up, but I am not. Here’s the proof. Yes, the large Santa Effigy is holding a beer guzzling device, which pretty much sums up how you get that many people to participate in a Santa Flash Mob…
There are some people in your life with whom you can just pick up and continue a conversation like you never stopped talking. We have had a long ongoing conversation about life and its challenges and joys for the past 30+ years, and it never seems to end or sour. When we were in college, we anticipated how we would spend our retirement years together. We discussed various scenarios, but the one I remember consisted of us sitting in adjacent rocking chairs on a porch in Portland, Oregon. Now, with Susan in Cape Town, Bob in New York, and our friend Bill long gone to his poorly timed encounter with HIV, our lives are more complicated, but this week, we have renewed the retirement conversation. Of course, we are trying to reel Susan in closer to our home in Los Angeles. It probably won’t work, but we’ll keep trying. You don’t let a good friend like Susan get away.