Wednesday, September 28, 2011

pulitzers, cookie plates and andre...

Last month, Melissa and I went, for the third year in a row, to our friend Rich's fancy wine dinner in Sonoma. And for the third year in a row, I wore silk in a vineyard under the stars and drank a case of Pellegrino. I would guess 60 or so of us had dinner. It was all very lovely and catered, with lanterns hanging over us and soft breezes. It looked like a scene from "It's Complicated."
After dinner, people started getting up from their assigned seats and moving around to talk to different people. I ended up sitting at an empty table with my new friend Natalie and my old friend Andre. I wouldn't say Andre is really an old friend. I've known him for four years and Melissa will agree with me when I tell you he is easily one of the best, most charming and wonderful people either of us have ever met.
Everytime I go to a party and see Andre, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Anyway, it late and night and Andre, Natalie and I are sitting at one of the many dinner tables. Candles are lit, we keep asking the caterer for more cookies and coffee, everyone else is mingling by the fire pit or drinking wine inside. And Andre asked me what I was reading.
"Oh God, I hate it when people ask me that because I will feel dumb."
"You are not dumb. So you're not reading anything."
"No. I'm reading a book about horrible crimes."
"What book?"
"Popular Crime by Bill James."
"Oh! I love Bill James. I'm a pollster. Statistics are my thing. Bill James is awesome. Tell me about the book."
And during this, people are occasionally coming up to Andre because he is a political genius. He was very nice, but kinda like, "Whatever, I'm talking to Natalie and Beth."
So I tell Andre and Natalie all about the book (which was awesome) and then Andre pulls out his phone and starts reciting all of these words he has obviously noted. Apparently, he's read a book by Bill James and, considering himself a pretty smart guy, Andre was surprised by the number of words used that he didn't know.
Lo these years later, Andre was asking people at a dinner party if THEY knew the words.
We didn't.
"I know, right!" Andre said. "And, it's not like we're idiots."
So then Andre tells this story of when he was living in New York, and he went to a lecture at the New York Public Library, apparently on a blind date. The author giving the lecture, I forget who, was taking questions at the end. And a woman near Andre stood up and said, "I've won a Pulitzer. (pause) And there were several words in your book I'd never seen before."
"I just thought it was interesting." Andre said, "That's her qualifier. SHE has a Pulitzer, so what kind of book is this guy writing if SHE doesn't know the words."
"Right." Said Natalie. "She might as well have stood up and said, 'I'm not retarded.'"
"I wonder how often she starts conversations that way?" I asked. "I have a Pulitzer. And I'd like half a pound of the smoked turkey."
We sat around that table for hours, just us. We laughed and laughed and laughed so hard that at one point Natalie screamed, "Stop talking! Stop talking! I need to catch my breath!"
I just remember looking at Andre and thinking how he made me feel so comfortable and accepted and pretty and smart. He always made me feel that way, he was always so enthusiastic about Necessary Conversation and our blogs and campaigning for the 7x7 thing. But that night, just a month ago, just sitting around that table after dinner, it was magical. It's not just special in retrospect. It felt special at the time.
And it will be my last memory of Andre. Very unexpectedly, he passed away yesterday.
As heartbroken and shocked and confused as I feel, I am so grateful that the last time I spent with Andre was particularly wonderful. In the realm of last nights with someone, Andre and I had a pretty spectacular one...


Sorry. said...

As I was reading, I was loathe to think the story was headed toward the way you concluded. I am so sorry, Andre sounds like a wonderful person.

Clair said...

Wow. I'm so sorry. But I'm glad your last memory is one of laughter.