Sunday, February 10, 2008

Et in Arcadia Ego

I'm not sure when I started scanning the Sunday obituaries. I've been mocked for it, since it's supposed to be the mark of an elderly person. But why not visit mortality at least once a week? -- when I remember to, that is, since I'm not methodical about it. Oddly enough, if there's no such thing as a Sunday paper by the time I'm elderly, provided I last that long, I'll have to give up this little ritual as an old man.

Some people have remarkably long obits, perhaps for remarkable lives not otherwise noted in any way. Or maybe they're just long-winded obits. Hard to know. I scan for age: 74... 86...95...29 (yikes)...84...81...46 (uh-oh)...78...105 (wow)... and sometimes try to suss out cause of death among the younger ones, with the biggest giveaways, if the cause isn't stated, in a final line like this: "In lieu of flowers, please donate to the American [Dreadful Disease] Foundation."

The paper also runs a column of noteworthy deaths of the week, and I noticed that the one of two surviving US WWI veterans, Harry Landis, passed on recently. I didn't know there were any. Now there's one, Frank Woodruff Buckles, aged 107. The very last doughboy. The nation salutes you, sir, or it should.

Actor Barry Morse also died last week. To me, Morse isn't Lt. Philip Gerard, though I'm retrospectively familiar with the part. I even recall, or at least heard about it later, that my elder brother Jay's high school band practice was turned loose early so that members could see the last episode of The Fugitive if they wanted. Anyway, to me Morse is Prof. Victor Bergman. In the end, Space: 1999 was a fairly dopey show, but the introduction has always been one of my favorites. It was usually the best part of the show.

Associations like that are just accidents of the timing of one's birth. Other examples for me include Raymond Burr, not as some unbelievably successful lawyer who can walk, but as Ironside, a cop who cannot; and Guy Williams, not as El Zorro of Alta California, but as the lackluster John Robinson, overshadowed by a poltroon and a robot.

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