The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 116

readable, despite three books, this year had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, for a revisionist book, on those young mother years, a book Hillary told me should have been stuffed in the bottom of her cat litter box, if she had a cat, In truth, Hillary didn’t care much for animals, or pets at all, but perhaps I’m wrong, the metaphors of birds trilling sometimes appeared in her lyric poems. In those days the Bank Street poets met at each other’s apartments, and worked together for maybe four or five years, and of the four men in the small group, two were dead by the mid-1980s, victims of suicides. There was a slim volume of poetry they all published in the late 1970s, which was thought to be as important as the Beats, but it never became popular in poetry circles deciding these things. In her last year of college, Hillary had married a guy, from Rhode Island, in the law school, and a year later they had a daughter, Johnna. The marriage lasted five years, and now her daughter was grown with two twin girls, living on the Eastside of Manhattan, near MOMA ,with her stockbroker husband seemingly happy, and she sent her daughters to the Brearley school, at forty thousand dollars a wack. Hillary had kept the university apartment they first moved into with Johnna, and it was rentcontrolled, and so, affordable. She spent most of her time in the nearby Hudson Valley where she owned a lovely old Dutch farmhouse, and led poetry readings among retired academics. She also taught one course a year at Bard to a class of would-be geriatric poets to stay in practice. I had watched her in the classroom, and she was a dynamo, quoting verse after verse of Yeats as her Columbia students who fumbled with texts, fingers firing through pages, tried desperately to stay with her. No one intimidated her. One story I’d heard about Hillary was that the infamous Columbia professor and TV Quiz show guru Charles Donnelly had a crush on her, and tried to get intimate with her one afternoon in the library stacks. She had looked askance at his bumbling passion, and said, “Either do something, or keep it in your pants!” and walked away laughing. This was the apartment she offered to me in New York, and I had agreed to sublet it, furnished with her five thousand books and bad art, a deal we could do in the city because I was a traceable family member, and anyway I wanted to flee my life in LA. I’d had some success in LA producing a couple of TV Sitcoms, and one particularly violent cop show that had surprisingly high audience ratings for five straight years before getting yanked. I’d also done four or five features, films that were box office successes, reaching the 50 million dollar mark. But I hadn’t acted, or written for the stage, since I left New York twenty-five years earlier. I was burnt out, truthfully, and I had to get out of Los Angeles, or check myself into a psychiatric hospital somewhere. It was time to find greener pastures, leave my recovering alcoholic actress ex-wife behind, with her trainer boyfriend, and the house we had owned together in Laurel Canyon or the bank owned. Karin had been a regular on a hit TV detective series with actor Robert Blake, who was later accused of shooting his wife, which Karin always believed he’d done, knowing him, though he was later acquitted. It seemed Blake and his wife had dinner at a well-known Santa Monica restaurant near Loew’s Hotel, and as he was ready to drive home to Malibu, he realized he’d left his pistol back at the restaurant; yes, his handgun. So naturally, he went back to retrieve it, and upon returning to his car, found his wife shot dead. It was a grisly and other worldly place, Los Angeles. I got the keys from Hillary and moved into the New York apartment at 116th and Riverside, just opposite the Hudson River park, on a Sunday night, bringing with me two bags from LA, a pathetic legacy of the years since I’d left the Seventh Fleet as a lieutenant junior grade, and wanted to do film and television. “Super’s name is Emilio, call him ‘Jefe’, that’s chief in Spanish, boss,” she instructed me, “He’s Puerto Rican! Get him if anything goes wrong, not me!