Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Art Buchwald is Dying

I suppose that the majority of people who read this post won't know anything about Mr. Buchwald and would be unable to understand what importance his life (or death ) could possibly have. Art Buchwald was a newspaper columnist who wrote columns for the Herald Tribune and (later) the Washington Post. His career has spanned a period of 58 years, starting with his first columns in what was then the Paris Edition of the Herald Tribune and currently his contributions to the Washington Post. I was stationed in Paris for five years of his Herald Tribune career. We drank in the same bars, ate in the same restaurants and knew many of the same people. (Remember "Harry's" Art?)
Art Buchwald, like his contemporary Jonathan Winters, who paralled his career in many ways, was a Marine veteran of WW II, a "bon vivant" and a monumental ball buster. Art talks about himself as a funny man, a guy who was blessed with the ability to make people laugh and made a deliberate decison to be a funny man at the age of eight when he realized that he had the gift and it was one worth having. I discovered my own "talent" when I was six or so. Ten years after Art, but I was a delayed "prodigy", born 10 years after Art and Jonathan. We all "did our time" in the "Corps" and notwithstanding a real pride in our survival, we knew that we weren't real Marine material- not like Ollie North or Ira Hayes but we also understood that because we had all come through the same rites of passage, we were brothers, part of the "few good men" that comprise the Corps. Like it or love it but you can never leave it, it's part of you, like your own skin or your family.

Art has decided not to undergo the dyalisis that his doctors have told him could lengthen his life but instead to end his days in a Washington hospice where friends come to visit and he can finish his days in peace and happiness.
It's real"death with dignity"and I admire my friend greatly. I hope I can do it myself when the time comes. He's eighty- I'm still eight years behind. Just like WWII, by the time I was old enough to join up, it was already over.
Here's to you Art and you too Jonathan. The only thing we have to fear are the men and women without a sense of humor.

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