Well, this was a terrible day. For those of you who don’t read the comments, my longtime friend David Reilly, who some of you know as the blogger Lance Mannion, died unexpectedly last night. It was quite a shock, although it probably shouldn’t have been. He’s been in terrible back pain for a few years now, and was diagnosed with diabetes a while back, too.
The D will do all kinds of bad things to your vital organs, but I thought one got a little more warning.
As those who followed him online know at least a little about, David’s main job in recent years has been taking care of his wife, Adrianne. She had a huge benign brain tumor removed a few years ago, and hasn’t been the same since. She’s basically OK, but still suffers bouts of confusion and is permanently disabled. (Was getting so designated by our wonderful federal safety net easy? Oh, hell no. They had to apply multiple times.) I don’t know who will do this job now; her sons, I expect.
Everyone dies, of course, and some go sooner than they should. (Dick Cheney’s blackened machinery, meanwhile, churns ever-on.) But sometimes a death comes with extra misery, and this is one of them.
I’ve spent much of today remembering the David I knew when we were all much younger, in the ’80s, when he came from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop to live with his college girlfriend Adrianne, who was hired in Fort Wayne the same time I was. Tall, rangy, blonde, whip-smart, a die-hard Democrat to his bones — that was David. It was his idea for us all to go the Stratford Festival for a little Shakespeare every fall, and we did, for a long time. David knew all the plays forward and backward, and could, and did, explain them all over dessert and coffee afterward. He had done some acting in college, and carried himself with a certain physical confidence I always associate with actors. I once saw him leap-frog over a parking meter with inches to spare, so it was a shock to see him, years later, hobbling on a cane because of his back problems.
But he was always up for a phone call, to answer my questions when I was trying to noodle through a column or a blog or something else. “David,” I’d say. “I watched ‘The Crying Game’ and was totally fooled until the big reveal, and I tried to watch it again the other day and it’s just so obvious. How did they manage that trick?”
He’d explain that by making the audience the proxy for Stephen Rea’s character, we see Jaye Davidson the way he did. We fall in love with her, too. It’s Theater/Screenwriting 101, and then he’d deliver an extemporaneous lecture spinning off from this — David worked off and on as a college teacher — and I’d hang up 30 minutes later, smarter.
His blog was like that, too. Is like that. You can still find him there, I expect for some time. He had a great writing voice, and a keen eye for bullshit. Several times I dusted off something he once wrote about Kelsey Grammer, that hypocrite p.o.s., and I paste a chunk of it here:
Grammer doesn’t live anything like a Republican-approved lifestyle. He lives the life of the sort of big city liberal Republicans affect to despise. And as far as I know he’s quite happy with that life and has no plans to change it. He’s not about to move to any place Republicans regard as part of the “real America.” He’s not leaving Hollywood or New York for Topeka, Biloxi, or Wasilla. He’s not about to give up acting to start an oil company, become a hedge fund manager, or a cattle rancher. I don’t know if he goes to church and I don’t care, but it’s pretty hard to imagine him in the front pew at St Patrick’s, although it isn’t hard to imagine him leading the choir at the nearest Baptist mega-church—but that’s Frasier I’m seeing bouncing around in a purple robe and singing it joyfully. Grammer himself? Religion doesn’t seem to be something he’s given much thought lately, an odd thing for a Republican these days.
Now, I don’t believe that any Republican should have to go live in Topeka, Biloxi, Wasilla, or anywhere else on Sarah Palin’s short list of places that count as the real America. But I do believe that happy and contented East and West Coast elitists like Grammer—and conservative members of the punditocracy in Washington—should stop talking as if they believe that the lives lived in places like Topeka, Biloxi, and Wasilla are more “authentically” American than lives lived in Brooklyn, Brookline, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, or San Antonio and that the people in the one set of places are more American than the people living in the other.
And it’s probably too much to ask, but could they acknowledge that the lives they live in the most decadent parts of decadent Blue America have been made possible for them by liberalism?
Oh, fuck it all.
Here’s a picture of us in Stratford — David, Adrianne, Alan with me behind the camera, in the days when you had to buy a special camera to take panorama photos. I’d estimate this as the late ’80s. Justin Bieber’s hometown, although he hadn’t been born yet.
And as long as we’re doing photos, a couple more. We had snow Tuesday night, a rare more-than-flurries late-April snow, and the juxtaposition of bright spring sun, flowering trees, emerald-green grass and snow was a little disorienting the next morning:
Wendy says hi. Later that day, I took her for a mani-pedi. I don’t think she was saying hi here.
I think I might need to eat pizza tonight. I sure as hell ain’t cooking. The hell with that, tonight.