“All Here Are the Same”

Human beings by nature want happiness and do not want suffering. With that feeling everyone tries to achieve happiness and tries to get rid of suffering, and everyone has the basic right to do this. In this way, we all here are the same, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Easterner or Westerner, believer or non-believer, and within believers whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and so on. Basically, from the viewpoint of real human value we are all the same.—The Dalai Lama, “Kindness, Clarity, and Insight”

A Prickly Individual

Alzheimer’s Disease

In 1968, I was hitchhiking on Wilshire Boulevard in West L.A., hoping to get a ride as close to the Los Feliz Theater on Vermont as possible. I forget the movie I was originally intending to see: All I know was that it was a French film.

I was picked up within a few minutes by a guy a few years older than me in a slate gray stick-shift Volvo. Just by coincidence, he was going to see a movie, too, except that his destination was a screening of Splendor in the Grass (1961) with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. After a few miles on the road, I decided to go with him, not having seen the Elia Kazan picture and not being averse to the luminescent eyes of Natalie Wood.

My new friend, whom I shall call Marvin, and I became movie-going buddies. We would see a film and then eat dinner, doing the bubble-gum card trading which with us passed for film criticism. Films were either “great” or “a piece of sh*t”—there was no middle ground. Inevitably, we drifted apart, as we were both pretty stubborn in our views. Marvin moved back East and ran a comic book store in Northampton, Massachusetts. And I went on to do the things I did, working in computer software and marketing and eventually accounting.

About twenty-five years ago, Marvin started coming to the film memorabilia and comics shows in Southern California. We reestablished contact. Then Martine started working for him as a helper: Marvin’s hearing was rapidly deteriorating. His hearing aid was about as efficacious as a banana. Fortunately, Martine was able to interface with the customers while passing written notes to Marvin when it required his input.

This year, Marvin came to the Cinecon show displaying alarming symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. He had forgotten to ship his film posters, which were the big money-maker for him, and instead just sold a few lobby cards, stills, books, and film magazines. He would keep asking me repeatedly what day of the week it was, and then promptly forget what I told him.

He knew something was happening to him. He frequently referred to his requiring a new memory chip. At the same time, he would frequently appear confused and agitated. He even misidentified Dorothy Dandridge in a still from Otto Preminger’s Porgy and Bess (1959). This is the type of mistake which, hitherto, Marvin had never made before; and other symptoms of mental slippage were beginning to appear.

Despite that, my friend was still his opinionated self and took issue with me because I read too many works of foreign literature that were translated into English (he never read anything not in English), and too much history. At the same time he was reading a John Grisham, an author deliberately not represented in my collection of mysteries.

Yesterday, when the show ended, we drove Marvin to the airport and dropped him off at the Delta Airlines terminal. I was relieved to hear from him by e-mail that he got back home safely, if tired. By return e-mail, I suggested that he see his doctor about his memory. With luck (my fingers are crossed) something could be done to reverse or ameliorate what looks like a precipitous decline.

Marvin is a prickly individual to say the least. He lives alone, though he had hopes of linking up with a woman from Northampton whom he knew. Alas, she died last year of taking several medications which didn’t agree with one another. Since then, Marvin has been more despondent than usual.

I’ve known the s.o.b. for forty-four years now, and I sincerely hope that his health improves so that we could continue our contentious friendship..