Such a thing as a Prediction

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Relaxing against the south side of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Warmer, yesterday in New York, and with lots of Sun. Furthermore, the weatherman is forecasting warmer days (like this) for the entire week. After all, Friday is the First of May. When I typed that, a song came into my head (no kidding!), or rather the lyric:

On the first of May, it is moving day,
Spring is here, so blow your job,
Throw your job away!
Now’s the time to trust
To your wanderlust,
In the city’s dust you wait, must you wait
Just you wait …

Okay, now we’re going stream of consciousness …

Those are the opening Lorenz (Larry) Hart lyrics to ‘Mountain Greenery’  by Richard Rodgers for a musical revue “The Garrick Gaieties” that opened on Broadway in mid-May 1925. It was their first success as a songwriting team. 95 years later, it’s long been a standard in the American Songbook. It was originally scheduled for a two day performance benefit for the Theatre Guild. 

Broadway history. The Theatre Guild, which was new at the time, was a “theatrical society” with the original purpose of producing non-commercial works by American playwrights lyricists, and composers. Their success was legendary. In its history it produced 228 plays, many of them now classic hits, including plays by Shaw, O’Neill, Saroyan, Philip Barry, Sidney Howard, Maxwell Anderson, and works by Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, the Gershwins, Jule Styne and many others. Its last production venture was the musical “State Fair” in 1996.    

Meanwhile back at the ranch. Things are changing out outside my window besides the foliage. If you use your imagination you can sorta feel like it’s “lessening” or maybe even “lifting.” This now weeks-long experience we’ve been having with ourselves and the world out there, is beginning to lighten. No? 

First of all, I’m seeing more people outside.  And more cars traveling (versus parked) on the avenue. This is not remarkable in ordinary times, but the lockdown stopped everything and everyone. 

Parking, up until yesterday was unencumbered by the Parking Police who ticket the cars on the No Parking sides of the street six days a week (not on Sunday). It was temporarily stopped. What a relief! (The average parking ticket is 65 bucks.)

Despite this ornery weather in a grey and static moment in our lives, Mother Nature has turned up the volume and heralds the beauty that’s good for all of us. A bower of daffodils rich in vivid color and stunning despite being confronted askew by the winds on the avenue.

It all stopped when we went into lockdown. Also I’m seeing from my terrace, a lot more people going mask-less. Blair Sabol in her column today delivers the ups, downs, ins and outs of The Mask as (non) fashion, and what it does and does not do to and for the wearer.

I won’t venture to predict the future of the mask simply because its omnipresence in my life never occurred to me (or anyone else) ever. Many think its future is a given: Yes.  We shall see, although I kind of doubt it if only because we humans eventually lose patience with our accessories, be they for health or beauty.

This Viral Incident (I don’t know what else to call it) has led to thousands of hours or predictions on its future by both the pros, the non-pros and the peanut gallery. No one that I know of, however, predicted any of this would happen in the first place. No one.

Predictions are often interesting but more the work of one’s imagination and consciousness (or desire to lead – up one road or down another). They are interesting and I understand the inclination but there is little evidence that we humanoids are very far seeing (especially if its not printed on a cell phone).

Although I have personally experienced a prediction in my lifetime, and there was one I’ll never forget (in awe and amusement) because it was so out-of-context with my life up to that point. 

Back in 1978, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a writing career. Some friends of mine gave me as a going away gift, a “reading” by Dezia Restivo, a very charming little English lady who lives here in New York, and, indeed, “reads” the cards, and also does people’s numerology. I knew nothing about either but naturally was interested in what she might say about my yet-to-be-experienced move to a new life in a strange land. 

Without going into the process (the shuffling, the choosing cards, the birthdate, etc.) Dezia started with shuffling the cards several times, and then spreading them out in a semi-circle before me (face down). She then told me to choose fifteen (face down) and hand them to her. Which I did.

Lady Sarah Consuelo Spencer Churchill, as sketched by Bob Schulenberg during conversation at her house in Beverly Hills on June 1979.

Holding them in her palm before herself, the way you hold cards you are playing, she looked them over and then as if making a bid, she said, “You’re going to meet a royal woman who wears rose-colored glasses and has houses on three oceans.”

“What?”  Those were her exact words. Royal. Rosecolored glasses, Three oceans? 

This was 42 years ago. How did I remember that? Who wouldn’t? Sounded like an adventure, or something Dezia was making up. Or maybe a movie? It amused me, yes, but really. Always looking at the cards, she also told me a number of other things about my upcoming move, most of which I forgot almost immediately. But the royal woman? In L.A.??

Flash forward to Los Angeles. In early 1979, now living out there, a friend of mine invited me to a cocktail party in Beverly Hills given by an Englishwoman named Lady Sarah Churchill. I had never met Sarah or had the occasion to. I had heard of her mainly because she was a granddaughter of a famous Gilded Age American heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt who married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895, and moved to Blenheim Palace. Sarah’s father and later her brother held the title. Sarah, however, was merely Lady Sarah, not actually royal. And she was wearing rose-colored glasses when I was introduced to her. 

Dezia’s “prediction” actually didn’t come to mind at the moment I met my hostess at the reception, although the living room of Sarah’s house had a wall of glass overlooking the hilltops and out onto the Pacific. I later learned that she had two other houses – one on the Peloponnese overlooking the Gulf of Corinth, and a rambling 1732 house overlooking Montego Bay in Jamaica.

Ordinarily I would have forgotten Dezia’s prediction which you could also call fortune telling because in a way, it was for me. Serendipitously I came to know Sarah well, first, for more than a year when I lived with her in Beverly Hills. Although to really live with Sarah, you had to travel serendipitously every ten days or two weeks to far flung destinations — always heading east and often across the Atlantic. I am not such a traveler per se and almost always refused her invitation to join her. However Sarah’s influence on my life turned out to be enormous in a multitude of ways that have remained in mind and heart with me ever since.

So, there is such a thing as a Prediction, not a Wish or a Fear, and I am grateful.

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