Monday, May 22, 2017


The impact of making postcards of my little street corners was incredible.  Once someone got one in their hands, they would ouuuu and ahhhhhh, then ouu some more. I guess the general public feels more in contact with something you can send through the mail than something you can hang on a wall. 
For once in my life I had been enterprising.  David Bruce proposed a good deal.  If I made a series of seven – one thousand cards of each – he’d charge me a franc a piece  or 7,000 francs.  I got Max, Fausto and Colette to each order 500 at 2 francs a piece.  The Javels promised to buy a small quantity and Las Cassette and Le Relais were fairly interested.  So my costs were 80% covered.  A friend who was married to a notoriously rogue lawyer lent me the difference.
The cards got around.  Ladies in my club used them for Christmas cards.  Max, my favorite bar stop sent out over three hundred to his clientele for New Year’s.
I thought it ironic that these cards were giving me fame. It made me think of a barmaid on Second Avenue who painted copies of Norman Rockwell magazine covers with obscene innuendos.  Once a man talking to both of us asked how could one tell is someone was a true artist.  I raised my eyes upward for a moment of contemplation with such a complex question and was about to give my reasons when the barmaid beat me to it.
“If they have a card they’re a real artist,” and she pulled hers out.
So now I had a card – lots of them.  I sent a couple of sets to my mother right off and called a few days later to see if they had arrived.  She was thrilled. It had been hard for her over the years to follow the ups and downs of la vie d’artiste.  I had gotten angry at her in August when she said “Well, you never should have left your job in New York.”  She must have spent hours in the Hallmark Card shop a few weeks later trying to find the perfect birthday card.
All my life I’ve been proud and impressed With the effort you put into doing your best.  And with every year there seems more To appreciate, love and admire you for.  Happy Birthday!
A few days before Christmas my sister Irene called me at three in the morning.  She had received the postcards and, oh, was it really that time there? She was often confused if it was later or earlier, having to call her son on the West Coast from time to time.  We talked for 45 minutes, which was the longest conversation I can ever remember.  Her Christmas card the year before was signed “Irene and Bob” after the printed message.
My brother Johnny called me Christmas day.  The whole family was eating at his house.  My brother Walter was visiting from El Salvador with his wife and two kids.  Everyone said “Hello, Merry Christmas, and we like your postcards.”  They could have done it in unison.  My mother sounded a little tired.
I talked to her again two weeks later.  With a lot of news about a cold spell in New England I decided to give her a call.
She seemed a little lonely.  Her best friend Rose, next door had lung cancer.  She said she probably would die the next day.  She usually is very prudent about keeping the conversations short, considering the long distance rates. I felt her trying to delay a good-by. Finally she said, “this is going to cost you a fortune.”
“I love you,” she said emphatically.
“I love you, too.”
Three days later I cooked dinner for The Cathedral Club.  I got rave reviews.  I was totally exhausted coming home on the metro.  I had made 600 francs for two days work.  It had come off very well.
I thought – tomorrow I’m going to write a long letter to my mother and tell her all about the meal and how much fun it was to make.
I got a call at three in the morning from my brother Johnny.
She had died that morning.

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