release his grip right away, but continued to appraise me, his face just an inch from myown.“Splendid face, splendid face,” he said.“You should see it up close,” I said, trying to avoid squirming. He laughed andreleased me. He went back to Don and threw an arm around his neck in a championship-wrestling hold.“Don, my boy! Good to see you,” he said, planting another kiss on Don’s cheek.He pulled Don into the dining room and I followed. We sat down on some plush chairsand I stashed my backpack in a corner. Don took off his antennae and drinking straw.“Well, what can I get for you, Don?” said Lenny. “Anything, anything at all.Food? Dope? Love?”“Only a dope would give him love,” I said, wincing at this inexplicably pointless joke even as I said it. Why in the world would I say such a stupid thing? Lenny winced,too, and then looked puzzled, repeating my words slowly, as if trying to decipher somehidden meaning in them.“Only... a... dope... would... give... him... love. Hmm... Is there something I’mmissing?” he said. Don said something or other to change the subject, and Lenny’sattention turned back to Don.“So how’s our friend Doug?” asked Lenny. “Still as unsatisfied as ever?” Wetalked a bit about Doug’s book
Gödel, Escher, Bach
, which Lenny was a big fan of.Lenny had met both Don and Doug at Indiana University in Bloomington recently duringa weeklong workshop in which he was conductor/composer/teacher-in-residence. Lennyexpressed concern about Don, whose mother had just recently died. (Lenny didn’t seemto want to pursue this topic too much, though.) The topic of conversation changedconstantly and erratically, with Don and Lenny doing most of the talking. Which wasfine with me. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask me any questions. I had never even seen
West Side Story
. I couldn’t sing you a single theme from, say, Beethoven’s 2ndSymphony. All I could think of was the old proverb “Better to keep one’s mouth shutand be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I’d already opened mymouth twice, once to admit Lenny’s tongue into it, the second time to utter that stupid joke. Maybe if I kept it closed from now on, he would assume I was smart like Don, but just shy and socially inept, like Kafka or Wittgenstein. Or Beethoven.Lenny couldn’t sit still. He was constantly standing up and sitting down again,and constantly lighting yet another cigarette. The maid came in several times to ask if hewanted to talk to so-and-so on the phone. There was some question about why the barber hadn’t come today as he was supposed to. It turned out he had come, but an hour late,after Lenny had already left the apartment for an appointment. Lenny complained abouthow hard it was to get a barber to come to your house on time. I tried to imagine what itwould be like to be able to truly sympathize with that problem.Lenny left the room a few times, which gave us the opportunity to look around a bit. There was a harpsichord in the dining room, and a grand piano in the living room.On top of the piano were several framed and autographed photos
John F. Kennedy,Aaron Copland, various musicians and writers. I wondered if Lenny had kissed any of them. Well, Copland yes; Kennedy, probably not. Just a handshake, no doubt. He probably kissed Jackie’s hand, though.