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ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY. I dont know how I could have dreamed it was a good sign.

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  1. ANDREW ELIOT
  2. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  3. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  4. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  5. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  6. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  7. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  8. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  9. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  10. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY

 

January 9, 1978

 

I dont know how I could have dreamed it was a good sign.

When Andy got back east from spending Christmas with his mom and her tycoon in San Francisco, he called my office and asked if we could meet for lunch. I thought, Hallelujah the millennium, my son wants to make friends with me. This was especially encouraging since next September hell be starting college. And Im hoping to persuade him to choose Harvard.

Gauchely I suppose, I asked him if he wanted to eat at the Harvard Club. He turned thumbs down on that because it was bourgeois. I should have known then that bad news was in the offing.

I met him at a health-food place in Greenwich Village, where, as we ate a lot of sprouts and leaves, I tried to bridge the chasm separating us with all the loving words I could think of. But, as ever, it was he who was the one conveying truth to me.

He brought up next year. I quickly assured him that if he didnt want to go to Harvard I honestly wouldnt mind. He could go to any college in the world and I would gladly pay the tuition.

He looked at me as if I were a man from Mars. And then patiently explained that American education wasnt relevant to anything. In his view, the whole Western world was decadent. And the only solution was to cultivate our spirits.

I told him Id back him up in whatever hed decided.

To which he replied that he strongly doubted it, since his decision was to drop out of the whole family.

I then said something like, I dont get it, Andy.

He then revealed that his name was no longer Andrew, but Gyanananda (I had to ask him to spell it), which is Hindi for seeker of happiness and knowledge. I tried to take this all with good humor and offered that he would be the first Eliot of that name.

He explained that he was no longer an Eliot. That he was opting out of everything my rotten generation stood for. And was going to spend his life in meditation. For this he did not want, nor did he need, any of the so-called Eliot money.

When I asked him how he planned to live, he replied simply that I wouldnt understand. I then explained that my question was not philosophical, but practical. For example, where would he be living?



In the footsteps of his guru, he replied. At the moment this prophet was presiding over an ashram in San Francisco, but was getting intimations from his karma to return to India. I then asked him what he was going to use for money. He replied that he had no use for it. I asked, still more specifically, how he planned to eat. He said that he would beg like the rest of the swamis followers.

I proposed that, since I was a generous soul, he start his begging with me. He refused. Because he sensed I would use it as a string to tie him and he wanted to fly untrammeled.

He then got up, wished me peace, and started to go. I pleaded with him to give me some sort of address, somewhere to get in touch with him. He said that I could never be capable of being in touch with him unless I divested myself of all material things and learned to meditate. All of which he knew I would never consider.

Before he left, he offered me some parting words of wisdom a kind of benediction.

He said that he forgave me for everything. For being an unenlightened, bourgeois, and insensitive father. He bore me no malice since he understood that I was a victim of my own upbringing.



He then walked away, stopped, lifted his hand in valediction, and repeated, Peace.

I know that hes a minor and I possibly could call the cops and have him grabbed for psychiatric observation. But I know hed wriggle out and only hate me more (if thats possible).

And so I sat there looking at my plate of foliage and thought, How did I screw up like this?

 

 

***

 

Im afraid I have some bad news for you, Mr. Rossi. Danny was sitting in the Park Avenue office of Dr. Brice Weisman, a world-renowned neurologist. Having taken enormous pains to ensure confidentiality, he had arranged a thorough examination. Though the doctor was about to put a name and perhaps a fate to it, Danny had known there was something physically wrong with him from that horrible moment in the studio when his left hand suddenly rebelled, refusing to obey the brain that bad been its absolute master for forty years.

The following day he bad returned to the television studio with the rehearsal tapes he had made at home. Then he, Maria, and a single engineer superimposed them at the crucial moment in the previous nights taping when his hand had failed him.

Though Maria was his accomplice in this bit of deception so uncharacteristic of Danny, he had not confided in her completely. He had simply pleaded a busy schedule, impatience, and even television economy for this bit of electronic trickery.

After all, he had joked, Im dubbing myself. Its not as if I had to sneak in Vladimir Horowitz.

The only thing that made Maria suspect something more serious was Dannys persistent questioning about whether the engineer was a trustworthy guy. Did he realize how many times he asked her? What was bothering him?

Indeed, that was what had brought Danny to Dr. Weismans office.

At first the neurologist merely listened impassively as Danny offered his own explanation as to why his left hand occasionally trembled. And that night, as well as in practice sessions thereafter, had seemed to be disobeying his mind.

I mean, clearly its fatigue, Doctor. I suppose it could be nerves, too. I drive myself very hard. But obviously, as you can see from all those little movements you asked me to do touching my fingers and all that theres nothing wrong with me physically.

Im afraid there is , Mr. Rossi.

Oh.

I can detect a peripheral tremor in your left hand. Theres also some discernible bradykinesia meaning it moves slightly slower than your right. All of this indicates basal ganglia dysfunction. In other words, some kind of damage to the motor area of your brain.

You mean a tumor? Danny asked, his fear exacerbating the tremor in his hand.

No, the doctor said calmly, your CT scan shows no evidence of one.

God, thats a relief, Danny sighed. Then how can we fix this damn thing so I can get back to work?

Weisman paused and then answered softly, Mr. Rossi, I would be less than honest if I told you we could fix your condition. In fact, we can only hope that it progresses very gently.

You mean it might spread to my other hand as well?

Theoretically, thats possible. But when someone as young as you presents this sort of unilateral tremor, it usually remains on that one side. And, you may be relieved to know, the loss of function is very, very gradual.

But youre a doctor, dammit. Why the hell cant you cure this sort of thing?

Mr. Rossi, much of the working of the brain is still a mystery to us. At this stage of our knowledge, the best we can offer are medications that mask the symptoms. But I assure you, we can hide a tremor as small as yours for many years.

Will these drugs let me play the piano? he asked.

Dr. Weisman took off his glasses and began wiping them with his tie. Not that they really needed cleaning. But this way Daniel Rossis face would be out of focus when he told him the worst.

And he began with a kind of verbal anesthetic.

Mr. Rossi, may I tell you, Ive always admired you as an artist. And what I find most remarkable about your talent and what will help you in what I know is going to be a difficult situation is your versatility.

He paused and then consigned Danny Rossi to a living death.

Im afraid you wont be able to play concerts anymore, Mr. Rossi.

Not at all?

No. But your right hand is fine and very likely to remain so. Youll be able to continue conducting with no problem.

Danny did not reply.

And the best consolation I can offer is something I learned from one of your own TV programs. Giants like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven all started as performers, but are remembered today only because of what they wrote. You can throw the energy you once spent at the keyboard into composition.

Danny hid his face with his hands and began to sob more intensely than he had at any time in his life.

Dr. Weisman could not offer any further comfort. For he had no inkling of what his words would elicit from his patients psyche.

Danny suddenly leapt to his feet and began to pace the room. Then he shouted from the depths of his grief, addressing the neurologist almost as if his diagnosis had been an act of hostility. You dont understand, Doctor. Im a great pianist. Im a truly great pianist.

Im aware of that, Weisman replied softly.

But you dont get my point, Danny retorted. Im not that brilliant a conductor. And at best my composing is second-rate, derivative. I know myself. I cant do any better.

Mr. Rossi, I think youre being much too harsh on yourself.

No, goddammit, Im being honest. The only thing Im any good at is playing the piano. Youre taking away from me the one thing in the world that I can really do well.

Please understand, the doctor responded, Im not taking it away from you. You have a physical disorder.

But what the hell caused it? Danny demanded furiously.

It could be any one of a number of things. You could have been born with this condition, which has only now surfaced. It can also be the result of diseases like encephalitis. Its even been known to be induced by certain medications.

What sort of medications?

I dont think that would apply in your case, Mr. Rossi. Ive looked very carefully at the list of drugs you gave me.

But I lied, Dr. Weisman. I omitted a few. I mean, with my schedule Ive come to rely on all sorts of stimulants to get me up for performances. Can they have caused this?

Conceivably. Is there anything else that you ye neglected to mention?

Danny now let out a feral roar. Jesus Im going to murder that fucking Dr. Whitney!

Not the notorious Beverly Hills Dr. Feelgood?

You mean you know him? Danny asked.

Only from the damage Ive seen in the patients his cocktails have brought to my office. Tell me, did his vitamins make it difficult for you to sleep?

Yes. But he prescribed

Phenothiazine?

Danny nodded mutely.

And how long has this been going on?

Two-three years. Could that have

The neurologist shook his head in frustration. That man should really have had his license revoked. But Im afraid hes got too many powerful patients protecting him.

Why did he do this to me? Danny shouted again in frantic despair.

Dr. Weismans answer was somewhat sterner than his previous remarks.

In honesty, I dont think you can blame it all on the wretched Dr. Whitney. In my experience, his clients have been at least marginally aware of what they were getting into. And you are a highly intelligent man.

 

Daniel Rossi walked the twenty blocks to the Hurok office in a kind of trance. He had not learned anything he hadnt already known subconsciously. For long before hed heard the dread pronouncement he had sensed the catastrophe the doctor had confirmed.

But at this moment he was shocked beyond feeling. And he would take advantage of this temporary numbness to perform the painful act the doctors diagnosis now required.

His abdication from the keyboard.

As soon as they were alone Danny told Hurok that hed done an agonizing reappraisal of his life, his lifestyle, and what he had accomplished. In balance, hed decided that he should be spending more time on composition.

After all, he reasoned, who remembers Mozart as a pianist or even Liszt? But what they wrote abides forever.

Also, I think I owe it to Maria and the girls to spend more time at home. I mean, before I know it theyll be grown up and gone. And I wont ever have enjoyed them.

Hurok listened patiently and did not interrupt his virtuoso. Perhaps he was consoling himself with the thought that many great performers in the past had opted for a premature retirement. And then, after a few years absence from the intoxication of applause, had returned and concertized more actively than ever.

Danny, I respect your decision, he began. I wont try to disguise the fact that Im distressed because you have so many wonderful years ahead of you. All Ill ask is that you finish out the two or three commitments left on this years program. Is that reasonable?

Danny hesitated for a minute. After all Huroks kindness to him, the impresario at least deserved the truth.

And yet Danny could not bring himself to tell it.

Im really sorry, he said softly. But I have to stop immediately. Of course, Ill write to all the orchestras concerned and give them my apologies. You might He hesitated. You might invent a kind of sickness for me. Hepatitis maybe.

I wouldnt like to do that, Hurok answered. All my life Ive tried to be above board in my dealings, and its much too late for me to change. Ill just look through my schedules and see if I can fill your dates with artists of your caliber.

With an undisguised look of sadness on his face, he began to shuffle through his papers. Suddenly he gave a wistful little chuckle.

What is it? asked Danny.

Ive already found one pianist whom I can substitute for you in Amsterdam young Artur Rubinstein, age eighty-eight!

Fearing he would be unable to retain his composure much longer, Danny stood up to leave.

Thanks, Mr. Hurok. Thank you for everything.

Look, Danny, I hope well stay in touch. In any case, Ill be at the premiere of your first symphony.

Thanks.

He turned to go. The old man then called out to him as an afterthought, Danny, if its facing audiences thats the prob tern, you could still record. Look at Glenn Gould and Horowitz. There are so many brilliant performances still locked up inside you.

Danny simply nodded and walked out. He could not say to Mr. Hurok that the pianists he had named still had the use of both their hands.

 

At 2:00 A.M. Danny was sitting at home in the near-total darkness of his third-floor studio. A gentle voice interrupted his solitary anguish. It was like a small candle at the end of a long shadowy cave.

Whats wrong, Danny? Maria asked. She was in her nightgown and bathrobe.

What makes you think theres anything wrong?

Well, for one thing, youre sitting in the dark, so youre obviously not writing. For another, I havent heard any real music for hours. I mean, thats unless you consider a million repetitions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star real music.

Mozart wrote a whole series of variations on that tune, he replied without conviction.

Yes, I know. Its a favorite encore of yours. But I dont hear any variations, Danny. Thats why Ive come up. You know Ive never interrupted you before.

Thanks. Id appreciate it if you stuck to that policy.

Im not leaving until you tell me whats wrong.

Nothings wrong. Just leave me alone, please.

He was inwardly glad that she disobeyed him and came over to kneel by his chair.

But when she reached out to take his hands, he withdrew them quickly.

Danny, for the love of God, I can see youre going through hell. I know you need me now, darling, and Im here. I want to help.

You cant help me, Maria, he answered bitterly. Nobody can.

For the moment he could say no more.

Its your left hand, isnt it? Look, Ive known something was wrong since that evening in the studio. Ive passed your bedroom late at night and seen you sitting by the lamp, just staring at it with a kind of panic.

Theres nothing wrong with my left hand, he answered coldly.

Ive seen it tremble at dinner, Danny. And Ive watched you try to hide it. Dont you think you should see a doctor?

I have.

And?

He did not respond verbally. Instead he began to weep.

She put her arms around him.

Oh, Maria, he sobbed, I cant play the piano anymore.

And then he told her everything. His tragic journey that had begun at Dr. Whitneys and ended with Dr. Weisman.

When hed finished the story, for a long time they did nothing but cry in each others arms.

Finally she dried her own tears and grabbed him firmly by the shoulders.

Now you listen to me, Daniel Rossi. As terrible as this thing is, it isnt fatal. Youll still have a career. Youll still be involved in music. And most important, youll still be alive to be with your family. And most especially with me.

I didnt marry you because you could outplay Liszt. I didnt marry you because you were a star. I married you because I loved you and I believed you when you once said that you needed me. Danny, darling, we can get through this together. Maria kept holding him as he leaned on her shoulder, sobbing softly.

And, unlike all those audiences that clap and then go home, she would always be there.

She stood up and took his hand. Come on, Rossi, lets get some sleep.

They descended the stairway arm in arm. And when they reached the second floor, she did not let go. Instead she drew him down the corridor.

Your bedroom? he asked.

No, Danny. Our bedroom.

 

 


: 2015-08-05; : 7;


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ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY. We get our New York Times a day late up here in Maine so I didnt learn the terrible news until today | ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY. It was ego-crushing time today
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