Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Memory of Joe

One of my dearest friends in Los Angeles was Joe Margon. He was a fellow teaching assistant, but his journey to that place was very different from the norm. He was in his forties and had left an interesting life and career (he evaluated books and plays for Warner Brothers to see if they would translate into movies) to become a lowly graduate student with the aim of eventually teaching classics in a university. How he did this with a wife and two children, I never knew. I wish I had a photo of him. I can see his face with its big grin clearly in my mind’s eye, and remember the general impression he gave—a grey, rumpled teddy bear. I loved spending time with him and he was a valuable window for me, young and English as I was, into the life and culture of America. His was the rarified air of the arts. After all, his wife, Saritha, was an artist and his best friend, Howard, was married to a woman who had been married to Mel Ferrer before—or was it after?—he was married to Audrey Hepburn. (That’s about the closest I got to Hollywood.) Joe was serious in his pursuit of a degree. We kept in touch for a while and later I heard he had accepted a position at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I heard about him from time to time from mutual friends, eventually hearing of his death. No surprise that he was as much loved in Santa Barbara as he had been in LA.

So why do I always remember Joe at this time of year? Well, Joe loved baseball and part of my introduction to life in the USA was Joe’s paean to the national sport. He loved baseball intellectually and aesthetically, as perhaps only a son of Brooklyn can. He talked of timing and the chess-like machinations of the runners and the coaches. I tried, Joe, I really tried, but I couldn’t quite get there. But every year as we get to the play-offs and the World Series, I watch baseball, hoping I’ll get to see the interesting innings and that some of your enthusiasm will finally rub off.

And if the Tigers ever get their act together again I’ll work on understanding baseball with all the zeal we used to put into those Greek prose compositions.

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