My wife and I have two friends in Santa Barbara with whom we have breakfast whenever we are there. They're men of the arts, old in years but not in attitude. One was a publisher in New York. The other is a writer — books, movies, television — and raconteur. He is Felix to the other's Oscar. They're perfect gentlemen never failing to ask about our children and our endeavors.
But when the formalities of civility are complete, the sport begins. If there were an Olympic event for competitive storytelling, they would both be gold medalists. They know or knew or knew of everyone in the arts in America and Europe for about the last hundred years.
One will be discussing an old film or Broadway show and the other will jump in with, "Not many realize that the director of that show also was the man who wrote 'Guys and Dolls.'" Or, "You know, of course, that actress was from Bulgaria, where she was married to a count who was a perfect beast. When she left him, she took nothing but her suitcase."
It's entertaining hearing them one-up one another, but also a little sad. They are the last men I know who know these things. Their knowledge will not be lost to humanity when they die — there's always Google — but it will be lost to me. The life of it. The spontaneity. The savoir faire.
We sit at a table at the beach and they carry on a lively banter that I enjoy the way one does watching children on a playground, all that joy and laughter. I told them when we were last together I should be recording their exchanges for posterity. What I think I meant was that I should try to stop time, with the sea birds circling over the sand and people ambling by as our friends tell their stories and make me feel that their time, and mine, will never be old.
With a Perspective, I'm Mac Clayton.
Mac Clayton is a writer and lives on the Peninsula.