Saturday, June 4, 2016

June 4: This World Floating, Death of a Friend, Lee

Emerson saw it.  "I dreamed that I floated at will in the great Ether, and I saw this world floating also not far off, but diminished to the size of an apple.  Then an angel took it in his hand and brought it to me and said, 'This must thou eat.'  And I ate the world."  All of it.  All of it intricate, speckled, gnawed, fringed, and free.  Israel's priests offered the wave breast and the heave shoulder together, freely, in full knowledge, for thanksgiving.  They waved, they heaved, and neither gesture was whole without the other, and both meant a wide-eyed and keen-eyed thanks.  Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, said the bell.  A sixteenth-century alchemist wrote of the philosopher's stone, "One finds it in the open country, in the village and in the town.  It is in everything which God created.  Maids throw it on the street.  Children play with it."  The giant water bug ate the world.  And like Billy Bray I go my way, and my left foot says "Glory," and my right foot says "Amen":  in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.

It's all about living life to the fullest.  Eating the world like a ripe apple floating in outer space.  And giving thanks for everything in life that brings happiness and joy.  That's what Annie Dillard is talking about in this final paragraph of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  She is giving glory, saying a prayer of thanksgiving, for all the creation around her, big and small.

This morning, I am giving thanks for the life of a friend of mine.  A big friend.  A guy who looked like he could reach up and eat the world like an apple.  Yes, Lee LaForge was larger than life, a Rushmore of a man in stature and joy and love.  Gifted teacher, performer, activist, and friend to everyone.  In the past, I drank with him.  Sang with him.  Laughed with him.  In a musical, I shared a stage kiss with him.  It was a pretty good kiss.

I am not going to become maudlin.  Lee wouldn't want that.  He would want me to tell you this story:

Over twenty years ago, I directed a production of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  Lee was in the show, playing, among other things, a state senator caught in a compromising situation by a news reporter.  The only direction I gave him was, "Do something funny."  Every performance, when the door was opened on Lee's scene, I never knew what I was going to see.  One night, he and his acting partner got creative with a can of whipped cream.  Another night, Lee was on all fours with his partner riding his back like a horse, cracking a whip and yelling, "Who's your daddy?"  That little moment, orchestrated by Lee, always brought the house down.  Every night.  Joy.  Laughter.  Thunderous applause.

That was Lee.  His whole goal in life was happiness, making the most out of the piece of pie that he was served, whether pecan or pumpkin or banana cream.  And he always wanted to share that pie with everybody he loved.  I always knew, when I met up with Lee, he would have a hug and a joke.  And his laugh was thunder.  It rolled and overtook you, shook you, until you were weak and breathless.

Lee LaForge, you took large steps.  On your left foot was "love."  On your right foot was "rejoicing."

Saint Marty doffs his halo to a really saintly man.

A really good kisser . . .

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