Welcome, Mr. 2014. If you turn out as good as Mr. 2013 did, we”ll get along just fine.
Throughout last year I got happier and happier. In fact, it keeps getting better and better and at times I think there must be something very wrong with me. But I should not dare fate, nor the gods, because one’s fortune can change more quickly than an Italian government.
What it comes down to is that the mystery of joy does not pose a problem for me. I treat it as a constant rather than a fleeting experience. Is it a Norma Desmond-like delusion? I don”t think so, because joy is not only a way of life, there is also a trick to it: anticipation. Can anything top the feeling just before an assignation with, say, my latest crush Amber Tamblyn? (I have never met her, but now that I”m a Hollywood star…Seduced & Abandoned…just read Deborah Ross.) Like the poet said, “Never such innocence, never before or since.” Or the marvelous feeling and uncontrollable joy of overcoming the odds of old age at a sporting event? Taking the six-foot-eight Bo Swenson out at the judo world championships late in 2012 made my day for all of 2013. My daughter’s engagement to a wonderful Englishman brought even more pleasure, and I didn”t even have to sweat for it. A great drunken afternoon in London and the bacchanal that ensued throughout that night was as good as it gets, and leading up to Christmas, my party in New York at the Waverly Inn, my New Year’s Eve blast in Gstaad, and the dinner for Andy and Mandolyna three days later rounded up a perfect season.
So is joy derived purely through drunkenness, partying, and the occasional sporting victory? Of course not: Joy is a state of mind. We all know bad drunks”there’s nothing worse”and people who turn weepy the moment the grape hits home. Drink for me is like a bazooka blast, a trumpet call to start acting silly perhaps, but joyfully. Why else should one drink, except for the effect? And there are so many other joys to experience without being in the company of Dionysus: The small American town dreamscapes of drug stores, fishing holes, and sunny Sunday mornings in church as depicted by a Norman Rockwell illustration. An old village green with thatched cottages of the English countryside seen early in the morning mist while returning from a dance. The gentle yet profoundly moving foibles of the Greek past as recounted by an oldie in a Spartan village square. The civic virtues still in play, however rare.
There are too many joys to list, and to hell with those who see only the brutish philistinism that has become so prevalent; all they need to do is either fall in love, get drunk, or both. Sex also helps. The other is to read the Paddy Leigh Fermor biography about the life of a writer and war hero who never stopped enjoying life as well as bringing joy to others. Typically, Somerset Maugham called him a middle-class gigolo for upper-class women, but that was vintage Maugham, the most underrated writer today, but with an Evelyn Waugh-like distrust and envy of men who were very good-looking.