Old friends and new friends and a beloved city and more than one beloved haunt in that city and new images and old references and illuminated readings and bittersweetness. All in two days. Welcome to my life.
This week I received many gifts of inspirational moments during two days of NYC meetings set up to ponder Ponedel. Dorothy Ponedel, makeup artist and object of some theatrical creativity of late. “Chance is the fool’s name for fate” as used and misused in The Gay Divorcee as a reflection on happenstance versus belief and being open to life’s possibilities. “If I had caught you, I would have had you!” — the ultimate line in (usually omitted in print editions) Grimm’s Fairy Tale #218, “The Lovely Feast” — presented to us by a children’s book editor friend when asked for her favorite story or fairy tale. And finally, about finding our people, our tribe, our moments and the sudden inspiration of two old friends walking the streets of midtown Manhattan burst into strains of “It Only Takes a Moment” from Hello Dolly.
Chance is the fool’s name for fate. In the movie The Gay Divorcee (1934) based on the stage play Gay Divorce (1932) there are wonderous performances in major and minor roles. Eric Blore as a resort hotel waiter is featured in a prior post — “You know I hate to leave you like this. You torn with doubts and me with my duty undischarged.” More word play occurs with “chance” and “fate” in a series of malapropisms based on the quotation that begins this paragraph. This quotation, a phrase from a simplistic (we are made to understand) musical comedy script is offered by our story’s song and dance man (Guy Holden, played by Fred Astaire) to his hapless attorney friend (Egbert Fitzgerald, played by Edward Everett Horton) who is attempting to help a client arrange a divorce involving a “paid correspondent” (Rodolfo Tonetti, played by Erik Rhodes, and pictured here). Tonetti is not a gigolo with an agenda but a man conducting business: “Your wife is safe with Tonetti: He prefers spaghetti.”
Because you must have shenanigans or there would be no drama moving this lovely musical comedy forward, this code phrase (“chance is the fool’s name for fate”) is crafted into a wild array of malapropisms by Tonetti as he seeks to identify his assigned partner. “Give me a name for chance and I am a fool.” “Fate is a foolish thing to take chances with.” “I am a fate to take foolish chances with.” “Chances are that fate is foolish.” “Fate is the foolish thing. Take a chance.” This weekend I was reminded that this last version is closest to my truth: take a chance.
If I had caught you, I would have had you. Brother of my heart, childhood family friend (and it might be true that I have known him *his* entire life, certainly I’ve known him since diaper wearing days) Hayden and his lovely partner Katie are visiting New York from their home in northern California, and we join forces for an evening (including time at the Algonquin) and a jammy party sleep over (I crashed at their temporary stay apartment) and some adventures including a visit to an editor friend of mine with an office on the 72nd floor of the Empire State Building. (Warning to friends: if you offer things like “come see the view from my office on the 72nd floor of the Empire State Building”, expect me to take you up on that.) While visiting editor Juliana, she shared with us her favorite story/fairy tale: the often omitted basically terrifying Grimm’s Fairy Tale #218 (in my edition): “The Strange Feast.” Yes, it’s about a blood sausage and a liver sausage and a “monkey with a big wound on his head” (egad!) and the most basic of instincts culminating with “i would have had you” (said the blood sausage to the liver sausage). I choose to think of this as a pursuit of a desperately sought goal or something rather than blood lust. But I adored that we shared someone else’s passion by reading aloud a copy of the tale provided to us (because that’s how we roll) over wine and a meal at a little restaurant on Madison.
It only takes a moment. And finally. And always. We spoke of finding our people. Our tribe. And how the recognition, the discovery, is instantaneous if you pay attention. It only takes a moment. And it took fractions of that moment for two musical theatre loving, middle aged kids and one indulgent partner, while walking down the midtown Manhattan streets festooned with holiday decorations, to burst into song. A video clip link from the 1969 movie version of Hello Dolly is included below. A few snippets of lyric that inform this romantic’s heart to this day are printed right chere:
It only takes a moment
For your eyes to meet and then
Your heart knows in a moment
You will never be alone again
I held her for an instant
But my arms felt sure and strong
It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long.