The Class of '73

11 April1996

PAM VENABLE Grey is loving being a circus clown, but, in case it grows as tiresome as her previous positions as a banker, a film producer and a white water river guide, she has applied to NASA's astronaut training program.

WILLIAM KELLY doesn't enjoy being away from his family as much as he is, but he would hate himself for traveling any less than he does, "and my wife and kids would never let me forgive myself, even if I could, if I traveled less just to make our lives a little less difficult. They have all been out on the road with me and seem to think that what I do is worth the inconvenience it causes our family. What I do is load my baby grand piano into the back of our truck and hit the road. I take the piano into the most remote places I can find-- small towns throughout the country-- where I find some strapping YOUNG men (whose backs haven't gone out yet) to help me unload it into the local school or church or general store. Then I put on my white tie and tails and step out in front of an audience of culturally-starved people and I perform, live and in person, a classical concert. It's wonderful how, with only a few hours notice, so many people come. And most of them are in their Sunday best for the occasion. Elderly farmers and muscle-bound cowboys, firemen and teachers, grocery clerks and linemen. And the children. You wouldn't believe how hungry people are for something alive, even if it's as "dead" as Mozart or Beethoven. For some of these people, it's the only time they will ever hear this music at all, for some it has been a lifelong passion but enjoyed only on recordings. And for the kids, it might be the beginning of a love affair, as it was for me when I heard Rubenstein at Carnegie Hall. God knows, I'm no Rubenstein, but he never let me come up and touch the piano after he played. He never hung around and drank coffee with my parents after a recital. And, he never played in Elk Creek, Wyoming. In fact, the last live performer who was booked there was Lily Langtry and she never showed up. They're still talking about that. I showed up."

MARS GIFFORD Loomis and Steve have finally finished remodeling their turn-of-the-century, Iowa farmhouse which has prompted these musings: "It was with no small sigh of relief that we waved goodbye to the last of the workmen and called the moving men to deliver most of our possessions from storage. Alex was particularly looking forward to rediscovering the wonders of his Fischer-Price kitchen. Steve was almost as excited about unpacking his pots and pans into his new, custom kitchen. I just wanted to unpack my books and alphabetize them. My menfolk are what they eat; I am what I read. So, anyway, we were all waiting at the door to greet the men bearing our possessions, our memories, our achievements, our stuff into our new home. "Boxes are boxes. They look as at home or out of place in an Iowa farmhouse as in a Chicago penthouse. It's just a matter of unpacking them and putting things away. But furniture is another matter altogether. When Steve was the hottest young litigator in town and I was the wizard of the futures market, we bought ourselves a twenty-second story view of the lake and called BECKY LEMKE to design it for us. It took eighteen months, but she did such a wonderful job that the furniture was selected to be a part of the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection and, in time, was mass-produced so much that Becky's gotten very rich and I've gotten more than a little bored with seeing my living room advertised by chain discount stores on late night television from coast to coast ("buy the sofa and the table and get the chairs for free!"). And more than a little bored with worrying if the kid's going to spill grape juice on a work of art. A work of art that's hell to get up out of when you're really tired after E.R. "So, I accepted, with Steve's delighted help, that we are middle-aged and just want to be comfortable. I called Becky and she arranged for her works of art to move to someone else's city digs, where they belong (and at a profit). And then Steve and Alex and I headed for one of those chain discount furniture stores right here in Iowa. We walked past the knock-offs of our old stuff, past knock-offs of other works of art and went to the back room where our aging hearts' and backs' desires awaited. A whole room full of La-Z-Boys! We tried every one out, for fit and ease of operation. We studied the fabric choices with an eye to stain resistance. We wrote a check for two full-sized and one kid-sized chairs. Twenty-four hours later, the three of us were reclining in familial happiness. Comfort is a wonderful thing. And, y'know, they're not half as ugly as I thought they'd be."

Ours are twice as ugly as we thought they'd be, Mars, but we don't notice anymore. Poll update: of those who have responded to the query, "Whom do you hate more, Florence Henderson or Shirley Jones," 42 to 7 you agree overwhelmingly that Florence Henderson is the more loathsome. I couldn't be more surprised.

To contribute, send email to me, Maggie Tombach Sherman, at... ... PLEASE!!

To Archive of Notes from the Cliff Class of '73