Our friend Alison Gordon died this week and the shock of it is only beginning to hit. The depth of the hole she left in so many people’s lives is hard to describe.
I was a friend, not an intimate but we told each other intimate things. It was always great to park fears and problems with Alison because you knew they were safe with her. What you said would never come back to bite you in the ass. She described the word trustworthy. A woman who loved gossip but knew a whole lot more than she ever passed on..
We went to the opera together for years until we deciced that part of our lives was over. It had become too expensive. Neither of us know a great deal about opera but we had years of fun exploring singers, inane plots and discussing the performances we’d just seen. We both wept at exactly the same spots in La Boheme to hell what anyone else thought.
One of the great gifts she gave friends was her annual New Year’s Day Levee. It was always proceeded by a witty beautifully crafted invitation and no one that I know of ever turned it down. You met everyone you wanted to see in that year. But only if they were funny and smart, really smart. So rooms full of smart, funny politicians, writers, musicians and journalists of every stripe made for a marvellous way to start the year. It gave a sense of confidence that things weren’t really so bad if all these people, these terrific people could come together.
She stopped doing it a couple of years ago. Going out with a bang, she explained. More like a pang for the rest of us. So she and I decided we would go out for lunch at that time of year. The rallying cry being the same for all our lunches and dinners: “Let’s treat ourselves the way we deserve to be treated.”
We saw each other last on December 30th hoping it would be a better year to come. We met at Pangea (close to the subway easy to get to) partly because it doesn’t have thumpy music and we could hear each other talk and well, of course, we deserved a treat. It was also where Noodles used to be. A place we spent way too much time in during its heyday. This set off a waterfall of anecdotes about good and bad behaviour.
I remember there were oysters but not so much the taste as the pre order talk of liking West coast oysters better than East coast. I had no idea she was an afficianado . But that was Alison. We didn’t have an organ recital about all our aches and pains it was just not part of the conversation as we hacked our way through lunch (and helped eat each other’s desserts).
If I had known that was going to be the last lunch, the last long talk, the last anecdotes of her times with Desmond her beloved great nephew, I would never have stopped hugging and kissing her. But it was winter and it was cold.
I forgot to tell her a whole bunch of stuff I had meant to. I wanted to ask her more questions about this and that. Much is being made of her work as a baseball writeer and her novels but no one is mentioning her e-mails. They were keepers just like all the rest of her writing. She didn’t toss them off casually. Every word counted and they were moments to savor so of course you’d try to write half decent ones back.
I counted on her to keep me totally informed when out of town which she did with glee especially with political shenanigans. But I never heard her say a mean word about her friends. She glowed with a pride in them.
She was jaunty. She dressed that way and she had that style in her e mails. The last one she sent just before we left town described one of her scary visits to hospital like a story that belonged to someone else. “But I’m home now with Miss Molly curled up on my bed.
I’ll see you when you get back from California. You are a lucky dog.”
I am. I knew Alison.