Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26th on the Beach

My friends and family met at a beach in Alameda to mark the anniversary of my ALS diagnosis, My friend Linda ended up at the wrong beach but what she wrote of her time describes the scene better than I ever could. She wrote:

The afterglow of the sunset was astounding,…The pampas grass became my shield from the wind as it swayed gently in the breeze while I took in the quickly changing dance of color before my eyes. Tide pools left behind by the receding bay reflected iridescent swirls of pink and orange. Flaming red rimmed the edges of the mountains in the distance until monotones drowned out all color. In a more brutal reflection, the monotones strangle all color from existence, but we know life goes on under the surface, and life replaces death with limited exponential frequency...

The only addition I would make to Linda’s description was how magical all my loved ones looked skipping rocks in silhouette against the sunset, their figures like shadow puppets against a pink and gold scrim. I am usually the type to be right in there – part of the action – but tonight I got to watch. It was sweet.

My family members and I spoke but for me the most gratifying speech was Maclen’s which I’m somewhat reluctant to print since it’s so incredible I may seem like I’m bragging but is so well-written and amazing I must kvell. A mother’s prerogative.

I close with his words which is ultimately how this blog will end when I’m no longer able to write it in any fashion.

Here’s Mac:

The theory of relativity says that if you flew a spaceship around the earth fast enough for long enough, everybody on earth would have lived fifty years of their lives in the time it took you to live a few years. How can one possibly sum up the life of a person who crammed eighty years of joy and eighty years of pain into 46 years? Carla Ann Zilbersmith, who I am privileged to call my mom, yes, I said the word, was not a singer, nor was she an actor, nor a director, nor a writer, nor a comic, nor an improvisor, nor a professor, nor is she a lady on death's door. She is an entertainer. She is a Bard. She is a professional human being.

Can you explain Wedding Singer Blues in a sentence? How about War and Peacemeal, can you find a genre for that? The works are like the woman, Sui Generis, and compelling to the last. People wonder how she is able to be such a faunt of creativity, and the answer is that every day for her is a performance. Not in the sense that she hides anything from anybody, so much as that we all wear masks when we associate with people, and she feels that, as long as we're all giving a performance, it might as well be fun as hell. Her artistic works are so full of contrasting humor, poignance, and philosophy because that is what her life is full of. Conversations with her have made junkies clean up their acts and have made straight-laced suburbanites loosen their tie.

But the way she has made the biggest impact in the lives of so many is that she is a mentor and a friend to so, so many. This is because she is rapport incarnate, and knows what people want to hear. It is because she cares about others more than herself, often to the point of folly. It is because she allows people to act in a way that they don't feel comfortable acting around anybody else. For somebody who lives life like a play, she sure knows how to make a person break character and talk about what's really on their mind. When Carla Zilbersmith walks into a room, a bus, a party, or any other area in which there are numerous people, she will make friends, learn stories, and make people think. Growing up around her was like growing up around a celebrity, not only because she has more friends than anybody I have ever encountered, but because she had a way about her that made people who didn't know her feel like they did. Whether on stage or in her life, Carla's aim was to please. Not because of the adulation which she received for all of her endeavors, though there was a significant amount of that, and not for the massive amounts of love that she generated, though there was a lot of that too, but because she likes making people happy.

Why would a woman like this get a disease like this? Random fucking chance. But this is not a tragedy. Tragic, is what you call somebody who lives to 60...70...80...90 and never for a DAY lives the way that Carla lives nearly every day of her life. Tragic, is those of you who let this event stop YOU from living the way Carla lives every day of her life. Tragic, is the fact that, the less Carla Zilbersmiths there are in the world, the less people are going to be called on their shit, the less people are going to be changed, and the less people are going to learn to really live their life. The odds are that Carla isn't the only one here who isn't going to reach fifty. Sound depressing? Well, it shouldn't be. We need to start playing by our own rules, the way my mom has for 46 hilarious and tearful years, because we shouldn't need a crisis like this to trigger us to live our lives, nor should we need a human being such as Carla Zilbersmith to trigger us to live our lives. So let's keep living it, let's keep living it, really living it. The help that Carla has received from her legions of friends has done nothing short of restoring my faith in the human condition, but do you want to know what you can do that will help Carla the most? Use humor to take arms against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, use love to combat uncertainty, find happiness wherever you can, and, most importantly, live your life until you can live no more. My mom does.


Anonymous said...

maclen a soul
wise beyond his years
astounding maclen
maclen astounding
prophethic wonder of existence

Anonymous said...

Maclen is HOW OLD? His insights into is obvious you and he have the same HUMANITY genes. I am shaking my head that Maclen is as young and wise as he is.

Between the two of you you allow us to see 360 degrees around our lives. You two remind us all of the joy and sadness, the wonderment and introspection we all need to be playing better parts on this Earth. AND...I don't want to leave out LAUGHTER in what we need to bring to one another. If we can't bring a laugh than perhaps a warm smile to those around us.

I am outside of your close circle of friends, but it doesn't stop me and others from selflessly loving you all. I too try to be transparent to those around me. It makes interactions with others easier. I think that is what I pick up from your blog. You are show your humanity like a lighthouse's beam.

Thank you dear Carla...dear Maclen...dear muses. I try to support Carla in my words, thoughts, and energy. Thanks for you blog...and when it becomes a video blog...I look forward to hearing your words and seeing the passion in your eyes.


I passionate supporter of yours...

Anonymous said...

So beautiful. Love, E

Anonymous said...

Mac hasn't let the tiniest bit of your wonderfulness escape his notice. He's internalized it, and amazingly, added to it. You deserve the best tribute ever written Carla, and I think you got it.


Andy K. said...

What a beautiful tribute -- and every word of it true.

And what writers the two of you are! Geez!

(Maclen, you didn't hire one of those guys who does "as told to" autobiographies for sports heroes, did you? If not, yr. amazing.)

Love you both,
Andy K.

Anonymous said...

Mac just brought me to tears. I don't think anyone can sum you up any better than this, and be as profoundly correct.

Thank you for helping me live my life to the fullest, because no one as given a shit about that as much for as many people as you have.

Megan Lynch said...

There are so many impressive things about the kid you've raised, but for some reason the fact that he knows "sui generis" at that age is what sticks with me.

I really don't know how to respond intelligently to such a moving blog post so I'll just say:

Have a great time in Australia!

Anonymous said...

Every word so beautiful and true.

I keep wondering how Mac has managed to pack 50 years of insight into 16 and than share it so generously. This is such a profound and profoundly loving appreciation. (Not to mention spot on. "Rapport incarnate"-- I'll remember that for a lifetime.)

I feel re-arranged to read and re-read this gorgeous piece.

Thank you Mac for this gift to all us, and for taking us with you at the speed of light.

With love,


Anonymous said...

Finding your blog was such an unexpected gift. In a Christmas dream my mother-in-law told me: Live the life you've got. You and Maclen are sterling examples of what she meant. And it's all we can do, any of us! Thank you both for your generosity of spirit.
~ Francia

Anonymous said...

Carla and Mac,
Thank you for sharing this part of your lives with us.
I know someone that is going to be one of the people who lives to 60...70...80...90 and never for a DAY lives; Mac you are absolutely right, it is tragic. I wish I could take some of that time that will be wasted on someone that does not appreciate the gift of life and give it to Carla.
You both deserve it.