When I go, I’d like to go, as Montaigne said, “planting my cabbages,” which is to say either swept away by the one I love or, that failing, by the sure knowledge that I have swept away the opposition in a last rally at East Hampton Indoor.
Death is kinder, Montaigne says, if it creeps up on one, so that by the end it’s just a half of a man or a quarter of a man that dies, something, he likens to a rotted tooth finally falling out, having reached, without effort or anguish, the natural terminus of its time. I, though, am not as philosophic: When part of a filling fell out the other night, the first thing I did the next morning was call Perry Silver’s office.
The intimations of mortality didn’t last long. I was taken in posthaste. We’ve become good friends, the dentist and I, though he does most of the talking. And soon, I was ready to resume the struggle against entropy by ordering a cup of coffee and a French cruller — at half price because I’d arrived at lunchtime — at the Sag Town coffee shop in Sag Harbor.
And there I read in The Express what I would say was the greatest obit ever written, about John De Poo, a man so talented and so screamingly funny that in thinking of him my eyes welled up.
Soon after, at The Express office, I was telling them De Poo stories, beginning with the one about how he’d gotten the word around that the Carriage Trade Garden Patio restaurant in Key West, where he’d been working, had asked for a permit to feature nude waiters — news that led to a Miami Herald interview in which he told a reporter that while he didn’t object to the change, he wondered where he’d put his pencil.
“But, look,” he said as we neared the end of a conversation at the Durhams’ in Amagansett in 1973, “don’t forget to put in that my philosophy is: ‘Somehow the woods are more beautiful for my having passed by.’ ”
Indeed they were, and are.
Thus fortified by thoughts of the life-loving De Poo, I asked our 90-year-old dog if he wanted to take a walk, and, wonderful to tell, he assented. We walked from the office all the way to the bank’s extension, he, smiling all the way, taking the lead at the end, just in case I’d forgotten the goal was biscuits.
“A big withdrawal,” I said to the tellers as I reached for three — two for Henry’s having gotten that far and one for good measure. Because it was a beautiful day and because it bore with it fond memories.