Monday, February 1, 2010


Dearest You,

You told me this joke:

After a plane crash, a man washes up on a desert island and he is alone for many days. One day, he sees someone swimming in the water and he jumps in and swims out to find that it is a woman. And not just any woman, but Cindy Crawford. She is nearly drowned. He pulls her to safety and when she has coughed up a lot of sea water, she gratefully kisses him. One thing leads to another and they become lovers. Days go by and the man is happier than he's ever been, but there is one thing missing. Cindy can sense this and so one day she asks how she can make him happy. He asks her to dress in his clothes and go around to the other side of the island. It seems weird, but because he saved her life, she's willing to do it. She dresses in his clothes and heads off to the other side of the island.

The man waits for half and hour and then, he, too, heads around to the other side of the island and there he finds Cindy dressed as a man. They sit down and he turns to her and says, "You'll never guess who I'm fucking."

You told me a lot of jokes and most of them had the word "fucking" in them, but this one is the only one I can remember in its entirety.

You called me "babe," and once told me I was more of a "dame" than a "lady."

When we worked together, you bought me lunch nearly every day until you realized that in a week's worth of lunch amounted to the price of a bike for your daughter. After that, I mostly brought my lunch or we went Dutch. No matter who paid, we always spent the first few minutes at a restaurant scanning the menu for typos, racing to see who could come up with the first mistake and then challenging each other to come up with more.

We spent a little time working and a lot of time looking for things. We looked for awnings for your house, English antiques and toasters. We spent a lot of time admiring the Dualit toaster, which was over $200. You really liked toast. We once drove way out into the Valley to look at a Porsche. We looked for just the right kind of paper on which to print a mocked up certificate of "Jewishness" for an office mate who'd recently converted. You called this kind of aimless comparison shopping "berbering" a verb you made up after the extended period you and your wife spent searching for just the right berber carpet.

Once we went to the zoo. You had a membership card because sometimes you took your daughter. It was a nice day, but the zoo was empty. We bought popcorn and walked around. We looked at the giraffe and stuck our heads up into the plastic viewing bubbles in the prairie dog enclosure.

You often remarked that you were around the same age as my own father. You often remarked that it was strange that I could have a father your age and you could have a daughter who was not yet in elementary school. It was all about timing, I guess.

Your timing was a little off, I think. You were a great writer. You were very, very funny. You were writing shows about nuclear families and dogs that could talk, but people wanted to see shows about young people living together and sorting out their love lives.

Now, it's changing again. I read in the paper that "old is the new young." There are mature people on television again. Meryl Streep is a leading lady at 60. It all timing.

Your daughter must be in high school now. She may even be waiting for college acceptance letters. I wonder if the two of you berber for things on the weekends. If she shares your love of old movie musiclas. I wonder if she's inherited your sense of humor. I wonder if she and I would be friends.

A couple of years ago, I read a piece you'd written for the LA Times magazine. It was a story I knew well and you'd written it almost exactly as I'd heard you tell it. You had a dozen or more stories that you told often. These stories distilled your life into amusing bites, each one carefully crafted to generate the most laughter; each one a little time capsule. These stories stay with me, each one as vivid as a slide projected on a screen.

I tell my own stories. You are starring in this one.

There is one typo in this piece. Can you find it?