Merry Christmas! The podcast countdown continues! The 7th most downloaded episode from 2013 was my conversation with Willard Spiegelman, but it’s an episode that almost didn’t happen!
#7 – The Magnificent Seven – Reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing: these are the activities organizing the life of Willard Spiegelman, author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness! We talk about his wonderful book (go read it!), his addiction to ballroom dancing, how to find joy in the day-to-day world, why he hates book clubs, how he turned me on to one of my favorite novels, who his Desert Island Poets are, and, again, Harold Bloom (sigh). (1/22/13) – mp3
Here’s the story of the one that (nearly) got away. I interviewed Willard on his birthday in late December 2012 at his apartment in NYC. He was going to head up to Connecticut earlier in the day, but stayed on to record our conversation. We had a great time talking about his recent book and all sorts of topics. About 20 minutes into the recording, I noticed that my backup recorder’s battery was dying and the recorder was about to shut off, but what did that matter? After all, the main recorder was going just fine.
It began to snow heavily while we talked, and my drive back to NJ was a bit of an adventure — largely because of the other drivers. Willard had a tougher go of it, as . . . well, here it is in his words:
It has been a memorable birthday. First you. Then, I got on a train at Grand Central. The plan was for Ken to pick me up at Old Saybrook and take me to a wonderful CT country restaurant. We ditched that. First, it started to snow. So we agreed to cancel the reservation. Instead he would pick me up and bring me home for a delicious dinner. He called when I was on the train to announce that the street had not been plowed and he wouldn’t be able to get me. So I got off at Old Saybrook. Fortunately, an Amtrak train was late, so I hopped on that for New London, 20 minutes away, where I planned to take a cab up to the house. No cabs. No buses. No nothing. So I did when any self-respecting child of the ’60s would do. (First I tried to walk, but that was too loony even for me.) I hitchhiked. First time in 40 years. Within three minutes a nice young man who works as an engineer at Electric Boat picked me up and dropped me off at the top of the hill. I walked down and found Ken who had lost his cell phone in the snow. We found it. Then we helped to push some hapless neighbors whose car had drifted into a snowbank. Now I am enjoying a martini and understanding why people move to Florida.
So you can imagine my embarrassment/humiliation when I had to tell him that the main recorder managed NOT TO RECORD OUR CONVERSATION. No, seriously. The memory card had no sign of that file anywhere. I spent $100 on a data recovery program to scan the crap out of that SD card, but it was to no avail. The conversation was lost. And, as I mentioned, my backup recorder conked out maybe 20 minutes into our 70-minute conversation.
And THAT news is what Willard got when he finally got to their home in CT that night. Happy birthday.
Lucky for me, he was a good sport about it, and willing to record another talk. But with the ephemeral nature of great conversation, many of the topics we touched on that first time could never be recreated. That’s Virtual Memories for ya!
Check back tomorrow for #6, Boxing Day fans! I give thanks to all my guests for the great conversations, and I thank you, dear listeners, for each and every download! Have a merry Christmas, if that’s your thing!