The Class of '73

29 February 1996

I have very sad news to report. ALAN HECHT died last month after a long battle with AIDS. He spent the last years of his life as a self-described "squeaky wheel, trying to irritate the powers that be into confronting the health crisis looming ahead of us and into acknowledging the social crisis that seems to prevent timid leaders from taking the actions necessary to begin to find cures for the diseases of body and soul which, if left untreated, will surely doom our pursuit of the fragile freedoms of life, liberty and happiness."

From the day that Alan arrived at Cliff, the same day we all arrived, his closet door was opened to all who cared to look inside. And what a treat it was for those who did; Alan defied the laws of nature by always having enough closet space. There was room for poetry and physics, James Brown and Brahms, three-piece suits and dashikis, deep-sea fishing and the Tango, and always for a new addition to his most valuable collection-- people. One at a time or by the hundreds, even thousands, when he spoke to people he connected with them; he made them forget that they hated, tolerated, were curious about or afraid of "men like him" because he made them realize that there were no other men quite like him. There was only one Alan Hecht. If Alan had a mission in life, it was to restore the words "gay", "dike" and "queer" to their proper places in the English language. It's a shame he didn't have more time; he might have pulled it off.

Maybe Alan's death has nothing to do with it, maybe it has, but I found myself wondering last night... why don't women spit? Why don't women feel the need to go around the channels at every commercial in search of something better to watch than the program they (and their companions) have been involved in for forty-five minutes? Why can't women understand that eggs and cereal are breakfast foods and are unacceptable (no matter how much loved in the morning) as dinner? Why can't women concentrate so completely on a television program (any program, even one so terrible as to drive a person in search of a better alternative at the first opportunity) that we can't hear a polite question the first three times it is posed, concentrate so thoroughly that we drive the person who loves us most to use a shrill, exasperated tone in order to get our attention?

It's not that we could do these things and choose not to (as I have heard suggested some evenings by guests on Montel Williams); it is that we simply cannot. No more than we can not remember the name of someone who hurt our feelings thirty years ago, the words to "Till There Was You", the feeling in the pits of our stomachs the first time we read "Wuthering Heights", or our best friend in seventh grade's phone number. We are different. If I've learned nothing else from marriage and a son, it is that. The male of the species wants to be loved and admired and successful and generally in control of his environment-- all things that require other people's cooperation, if only as an audience; the female, I think, just wants to be happy, something that really only requires a decent old movie and a pan of brownies. Maybe that's why history is filled with the accomplishments of men-- religion, science, war, technology, the remote control. It's not that women haven't done just as many great things, we just haven't felt obliged to tell anybody about them, except maybe our best friends, late at night, between spoonsful of ice cream, running up an enormous long-distance bill.

From MARGARET LASLOW: "Being a single mother was never my ambition. When I read ERIN (vonZIEGLAND)'s letter, I wondered if she had any idea of what she was doing, taking on motherhood by herself. I guess she must and that she will do fine. She always enjoyed doing things differently. I never did. I never wanted to be noticed for anything except doing things right. Now I'm trying to do divorce right. It was so propitious, the way Daddy's doctor ordered him to take it easy just a few months after the final decree, that I wonder if there really was any medical emergency. Daddy set it up so that I was doing him and mother a favor by learning the business. Of course, it's been my salvation. Financially and psychologically, I have been saved by a used car lot. For people who tend to see the irony of things-- you, Maggie, and Mars and Marla-- this must be quite a moment. For me, it's just life. George has been a real shit (see what happens when you spend your time with used-car salesmen?) about child support, so Laslow's Cars & Trucks will, if I can keep it going, send yet another generation through summer camp and college. Oliver is helping at the lot. He's an aspiring filmmaker (or videomaker, I guess) and convinced me to let him make a commercial. I'm the star. It was enormous fun doing it, but I'm still embarrassed when someone sees me at the supermarket and, instead of asking me about the Children's Hospital Thrift Shop (which I used to run as a volunteer), hollers an enthusiastic greeting of: "Deals on wheels!" It's the slogan Oliver and I came up with and it's working; business is way up. In the vernacular of us slimy, low-class used car salesmen, fuck you, George."

Well, Margaret, there are definitely some accomplishments even the most demure woman must tell everyone about-- heartiest congratulations on a survival well done!
To contribute, send email to me at... ... PLEASE!!

To Archive of Notes from the Cliff Class of '73