Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Anatomy of a Relationship

Mercer and Spring. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Very mild weather, temp in the 50s. It was almost June in January, so let’s see what’s left of the New York winter.

There was a booksigning last night at Doubles for George Gurley and his new book – maybe his first book. It’s called “George & Hilly; The Anatomy of a Relationship.” As perceived in the context of couples therapy.

George is a young guy but already a seasoned journalist in New York. He’s one of the best interviewers I’ve ever met, because he’s interested. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s rare and it’s everything.

He’s got a quirky kinda Midwestern style, farmboy hayseed; and sharp as a tack. It’s not the kind of book (title-wise anyway) that would interest me in the least. First of all, I’ve been there, and done that. So long ago it’s a distant, immaterial memory.
George Gurley is inscribing a message to me in a copy of his book, "George and Hilly; The Anatomy of a Relationship." Click to order.
I’ve had quite a bit of therapy in my adult life. Nothing to compared to a lot of people I know including my ex-wife; but enough to know what it is and what it can/could do for me. I liked it for what it delivered. There was “group” which was confrontational therapy started by Daniel Casriel, the doctor who started Daytop Village.

Dr. Casriel published a book in 1972 called “Scream Away From Happiness.” Seriously. I learned a lot from Casriel’s therapy. Then there was Dr. Radl, Lucia Radl a tiny little Czech immigre, older, probably 70s to my 30s; an Adlerian psychiatrist. Who was scary but sensible. There was Barbara Sher who’d been a group therapist for Casriel who was excellent in getting you to set things straight in your head. And Werner Ehrhard – no matter what they say, you could leave the EST training with some self-knowledge that made a difference. And beyond there was Al-Anon, the 12-step program for relatives/whatever alcoholics. Al-Anon, in my opinion was the best of them, but then, I’d had all that prep. I even went to a relationship therapy session. Once. We were divorced after that; there was no reason to go back.
I turned the camera onto the room looking for Hilly who'd just be proposed to. That's Barbara de Kwiatkowski on the far left, talking to Sharon Hoge and Cece Cord. Vicky Ward is making a point with Bettina Zilkha who seems to agree.
The three -- Vicky Ward, Bettina Zilkha, and Ivana Lowell turn to say hello.
A better closeup. Christine Biddle with author Michael Gross ("Unreal Estate").
So now you know about me and how I feel about George’s book. Except. I like George. I met him about 12 years ago when he did a piece on me for the New York Observer. JH and I had just started the NYSD and this was a good thing, as far as we were concerned. George was working at the Observer. He’d go around to parties with a little recorder in his hand and ask you dumb questions about the party. Dumb, yes, but funny. George is a funny guy. A dry humor.

Midwestern, low-key; a literary descendent of the great humorists from the earlier part of the 20th century. Finley Peter Dunne who wrote a highly popular column that was a political screed (in a dialect); Fred Allen, a very famous humorist  on the radio in the 30s an 40s and who died young; Robert Benchley, another man of his time – sophisticated, witty, a bit of a tipsy-dipsy, but warm and likeable, and sometimes wise. George isn’t exactly like any of the above but still, like all of them in his common sense way of looking at the absurdities of civilized life.

George & Hilly.
He met Hilly (Hilary Heard) quite a few years ago. I think they’ve been living together for several years. She is in the PR business and one of those women who is cheerful and friendly and impossible not to get along with. I have a feeling she thinks George is very funny, which he is. I’ve never asked her but I could tell from having observed them and hearing her talk about him when he’s not around that she thinks he’s funny. And she likes that.

He started this as a column a few years ago in the Observer about the two of them going to couples therapy. So I figured George had found a way to capitalize on his relationship with Hilly.  After all, a writer writes about what he or she knows.

It probably could make a good series. Or a movie. If you’re in your twenties, it’s probably an eye-opener, aside from being funny. Male or female; you get both sides. If you are in your 50s you might also fall off the chair laughing at what strange birds we are. George has got something here.

The party started at 5:30 and I got there a little after 7. Wendy Carduner was at the door – the place was packed. She told me George had just “proposed to Hilly” on bended knee (surrounded by photographers). This was no accident, of course; this was New York playing itself in the world of authors and artists and actors and such .... They’ve been together for so long now, we’ll have to concur that Hilly is a partner on this voyage. Full partner.

George’s father was there – in the picture. Katherine, George’s mother, told me that they hadn’t seen each other in 25 years. “He’s a very cool guy,” she said of George’s father. I never got to talk with Mr. Gurley but you could see it was a pleasure to see his son on this occasion at this so New York party; book party.
George with his mother and father, Katherine Bryan and George's father, George Gurley Jr. The couple had not seen each other in 25 years.
Terrible photographer, losing control of his digital but gives you an idea although Katherine looks like she's warning off the photog. Actually she was making a joke about the photographer and what a flake he was. George seemed to agree with his mother.

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