or: The Secret Life of Walter (Witty)*
Contribute your own thoughts or read what others have said.
Walter led a life as adventurous and often mysterious as his books. We welcome your comments on both here.
Be sure to click through the links at right to read the extraordinary memories and deep appreciation that his many friends and fans have posted to date.
* Thanks to Jean Heller for sharing this brilliant headline to her article describing Walter’s “Trailer Trash” book tour.
Walter once told me, after years of silence, that I was the first of the five women he loved most in the world. (I would like to meet the other four!) We reconnected a sort of correspondence on that slim footing and, in one e-mail, were discussing the Big Bang theory in laypeople terms.
Original W.S. text:
My own theory is that there was this one tiny little spot, smack dab in the middle of the endless emptiness, a spot smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, and that at some point, finally, that spot decided to understand itself, and, BOOM, you get your Big Bang, and you get your universe expanding over millions of years, and you get life, and you get intelligence, and at last you get consciousness. Consciousness is what the universe uses to find out how things are going. The universe works very slowly.
That’s my theory, and it’s all mine, as John Cleese use to say
I loved that interpretation and made it into a poem, in loving memory, because it seemed in that way.
there was this tiny little spot,
an accident, really,
at the center
of the endless emptiness
we call the universe.
The universe works very slowly,
but one day
the spot decided
to understand itself.
A Very Big Bang.
the universe expanded
across unimaginable space, and,
amongst other things,
life came into being,
with some various intelligences,
and, at last,
is what the universe
uses to find out
how things are going.
That’s my theory,
and it’s all mine,
(as John Cleese
used to say).
Wow. Just wow. We know one of the other women was Susan Grober. No clue as to the rest.
I’m guessing his two wives are in the list!
Okay, so now we know four. I suspect the fifth would be Sarah Caudwell. He always spoke so fondly of her.
Sweet. Thanks for sharing. Hello to Susan Grober. Hello to the two wives. And hello to Sarah Caudwell, of whom W. spoke so fondly. Sisters, right? Sweet.
WHY (Walter Hailed by Yiorgos)
Τhere is no answer. There is no why either, in this game called Go. Helped by his brother Mark, in Zen-like conditions, described by Jill, Walter took the leap on February 26 of this leap year.
“How time flies when you’re having fun.” Walter thought it would make an outstanding epitaph. We were challenging each other to come up with markers for our graves. I thought mine would be “I wish I were someone else who wished to be me.”
Α different challenge made us become friends the first evening we met. Walter was coming back to Portland from a cabin where he had been writing and reading, mostly Nabokov. I had come to Reed on a scholarship from Greece, under military rule at the time, a few years after Walter had dropped out.
“You will like each other right away,” one of my housemates said. She was supplementing her pre-med fellowship working as a go-go dancer. Our third housemate, Sarah, was also going to be away.
I stayed in to wait for Walter. Gimme shelter must have been recorded already. There was no food in the house, but I had two bottles of Jameson, smoothly lubricating my Beckett-induced Hibernophilia.
“Do you think the two of us can drink the whole bottle?” Walter and I challenged each other. So, we drank both bottles. By the time my housemates were back, we were scurrying around looking for bottles of cheap wine, whose taste improves miraculously as whisky chaser.
On and off, for decades, Walter and I spent time together in the same place, under or over the same roof, in Oregon and in New York. Not in Greece, where he visited often and lived with Lelli. I was away when he was there, which is here now for me.
I think Ireland was the only place where he did not manage to visit me, even though it was proclaimed a joint destination that first evening we met. I also never managed to visit Santa Fe while he was there, not even for his wedding to Caroline.
However, my role was catalytic for his wedding to Lelli, as I introduced them to each other. The premises were simple. I mean the premises Gregory and I rented in Portland after we had to move out of a house that was going to be sold.
The new house was multistoried and narrow and had a large yard to grow vegetables in the back. There were many closet-sized bedrooms and I invited Walter, who was passing through Portland, to stay in one of them. You had to be careful on your way to the bathroom in the morning, as his feet were sticking out into the hall, crammed with cowboy boots.
I also invited Lelli to stay in that house, after a sentimental falling out on a return trip to Portland, where she had been one of the few Greek friends I had in the States before I moved to New York. An Oregon Greek friend of Lelli and mine was Tom, who had a passion for films long before he started working with Wim Wenders, as I reminded them years later in New York.
So, Walter and Lelli got married and the two of them and Gregory and Tom and I moved to a house with large bedrooms on Stark Street. My Irish friend often took pity on us and brought food she had cooked. We all cooked, but Lelli was too quick to clean the utensils, all of which Walter used no matter what he cooked.
His exposure to Greece had preceded this. I was happy to see my surname adopted by a crazy old man in a cameo appearance in Walter’s Aegean Affair. His first destination was the island of Karpathos, where the trickster Prometheus had spent some time before Zeus arranged for an eagle to eat his liver every morning for stealing fire from the gods to pass on to pyromaniac humankind.
I wish I could find postcards Walter used to send me at Reed from Karpathos. His Greek vocabulary had increased. He had an ear for the most obscene folk sayings, which he peppered his postcards with in a Greek script, tremendously improved since the time we practiced together before his trip.
I am certain some of his most learned readers are mail-room and female-room devotees on both sides of the Atlantic pond. I miss him very much.