Of course, if you live in Orient, Long Island, it’s not unreasonable to assume that west of the causeway between Orient and the rest of civilization there’s nothing worth discovering. I can run around happily a whole week in the “Village” without a compelling urge to explore the world out west, and that includes hectic Greenport with its crowds of ice-cream-cone-licking tourists.
Days I don’t check my emails. The computer remains idle, fattened with hundreds of incredible offers of cures for baldness or obesity, promises of get-rich scams and ways to transform me into an irresistible gigolo. If that’s not enough, there are the deals from faraway lands. Letters signed by individuals with impeccable Anglo-Saxon names and miserable English grammar who desperately want to share with me their recently acquired millions they can’t collect without my help, or so they say.
My insularity can be wisdom or folly. Quiet walks with your dog is a fine occupation. Missing out on a special event is plain dumb. For instance: I was invited to a reception at the Statue of Liberty on Sept. 22. The host, Mayor Bloomberg, and his guest, Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France. Mind you, I was invited along with members of a group to which I belong. It wasn’t just me and the mayor. I would have loved to attend. The invitation came by email and telephone call, neither of which I had checked. When I did, late on Sept. 21, I heard something about the Statue of Liberty but the recording wasn’t clear. First thing Thursday I called an RSVP number. “Sorry, too late. You had to be at the ferry terminal at 8 this morning …” Will the president be at some other function, I asked, as if meeting with me was on the president’s list. “He’s leaving before noon …” That was it.
Next day in The Times (no, the other one), I read about the gathering at the statue and “a crowd of journalists, cultural figures and various illustrious French expatriates breakfasting in a tent while a jazz band played …” I could have been having breakfast under the tent, too. I was invited, remember? Instead, that’s the time I was walking my dog, Nina, and picking up after her in plastic blue bags, 10 cents each. No mayor or president in sight, no jazz band, just the awful roaring and screeching of traffic up First Avenue. Ah, the gift of the French people to the United States, the island where it sits, the salty ocean winds wrapped around it. The winds of Orient are great, too. But there was no consoling me for days.
We don’t admit it easily: Being in the company of important individuals is exciting. The absurd satisfaction to tell our friends or even a stranger on the street, “Guess with whom I was yesterday?” It feels good to have a chance to brag a little. It doesn’t happen often. So when it does, go ahead, tell the world. To tell my dog, Nina, I shook hands with the president of France, with the mayor of New York, yes, me, your loyal walker, cook, groomer, companion, chauffeur and massage therapist. But I didn’t. You’ll have nothing to tell the other dogs on Willow Terrace, nothing to bark about. It was the 125th anniversary of the statue. I’ll have to wait another 25 years for the next celebration. By then I’ll be a statue myself. If I’m lucky.
I would have liked to blame everyone and everything for my missed opportunity. Why didn’t my sister tell me to check my messages? I was at her house that day. Why did I go to the supermarket to buy “stupid” paper towels, and why did I waste two hours looking for books on Las Vegas? Was it Nina’s fault? Or did the other dogs in my life distract me? Ida Mae, Hilda, Beauty Belle. No, no, no, I was the only one to blame. That’s adding insult to injury. A sense of failure prevailed. Nina was jumping around joyfully, unaware of my misery. Bloomberg, Sarkozy, Robert De Niro … Yes, he was there, too. That hurts. Please don’t show me the complete guest list. It was painful enough to find in the chaos of my emails, but too late, the invitation, “The Mayor of the City of New York cordially invites you to celebrate 125 years of Friendship between France and New York City, with remarks by the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, Thursday, September 22, 2011, Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island …”
Peace came with memory of another recent event that neither the mayor nor the president had a chance to attend, no matter their wealth or their power. It had happened on Sept. 16. A few weeks before, I had entered the date in my pocket diary. I would not have missed it even if the president had called. Actually, I’m glad he didn’t … Well, let’s not talk about that.
It was not the Statue of Liberty. It was the Mattituck-Laurel Library. It was at 7 p.m. It was called “A Fine Romance.” It was not Mayor Bloomberg. It was Lauren Sisson, soprano. Accompanied by Patricia Feiler on the library’s recently acquired Steinway. A crowd of nearly one hundred. And 16 songs interpreted with great feeling, humor and sensitivity by Lauren along with witty asides. George and Ira Gershwin, John Lennon, Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, among others. “Love Is Here To Stay,” “Grow Old With Me,” “Two Sleepy People,” “You Make Me Feel So Young”… One hour of delight, Lauren glowing and elegant in a long dark dress. Lauren Sisson happens to be senior associate editor of The Times (yes, this one). She is a talented artist as well. By the end of the evening everyone in the audience was smiling. And I’m smiling now on this early day in October.
Sorry, Mayor Bloomberg, sorry, President Sarkozy, sorry, Statue of Liberty, you were not invited. But I was.
Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected]