I tried to see
him, but he wouldn't see anyone. It's hard to imagine what it must have been
like for him, of all people, to have to endure the humiliation of losing his
body so quickly and under such ugly circumstances.
Perhaps he could
have used another gym where another Harvey would have taken one look at his
withering limbs and exclaimed, as he once did to the amputee. "Gee, how
about that?" There was no such gym anywhere in town. We talked once more on
the phone, and then he was dead.
to kid about L.A. with its lack of weather, lack of intellect and plethora of
muscle-bound bimbos—you know, "Only in L.A." Harvey had an intellect
and a body and I'd been lucky enough to see him exercise both.
In the preface to
the published screenplay for Chinatown. I concluded that the motive for the
writing lay in the air:
"So, one way
and another the Catalina air literally inspired me. It brought back my body—the
way it was to taste, touch, smell, and see this city as a child. It made it
clear enough to see the Milky Way at night, and it was quiet enough too. I
remember sitting up on the hill with Hira (my dog) one particular dusk.... The
windward breeze was no more than a whisper, breathy and teasing on the back of
my neck. It fluttered thru Hira's white mop of a coat, thru the high mustard
plant and weeds around us when—it must have been a hundred yards below, not far
from that windsock—I actually heard the raven that spread its wings to set
down, feather by feather with elegant deliberation like a real sharp band
leader staring in the mirror and shooting his cuffs.... It brought me back to
saying, these things, dead and dying that still linger in the air, had more joy
in them than I could have known, and this tepid, deft, adroit, dry breezy
collaborator of mine, rustling thru weeds like a child wearing a sheet, this
air was worth grieving over more than I ever supposed...."
They say the
human body dead weighs a quarter-pound less than it does alive. They don't say
why, but I'm sure it's the weight of the human soul, or the amount of air in a
pair of lungs when they're filled.
So I miss Harvey
the way I do the air. Like it, he awakened my senses to the beauty of
insubstantial things—the scents of the city; the cut of your body arched on a
knife between pleasure and pain, pouring out perspiration; tasting cold orange
juice after a hot shower; or the fun of putting your hands in your pockets and
just walking down the street. He made it all look like more fun, made life
itself seem more alive.
So life without
Harvey is a little like having a permanent cold. The Japanese take a relative
view of immortality. They say you remain alive as long as you remain in the
memory of those who knew you personally, who actually looked you in the face
when you were living. If that's the case, Harvey Easton will live to the very
end of my life, at least.
It only remains
to add a little footnote. One summer night. Bob Horn, the UCLA water polo coach
Wally Wolf had introduced me to, drove me to Belmont Plaza in Long Beach for
the NCAA water polo finals. We went by San Pedro, where I was raised and where
my earliest memories of sport remain. They emanated from a little
paint-spattered Philco radio in the backyard of our house on Eighth Street in
San Pedro, and my father listening to Joe Hernandez call the seventh at Santa
Coming down the
stretch it always seemed to be Kayak II and Seabiscuit, Kayak and Seabiscuit,
battling one another, as Affirmed and Alydar were to do years later. Like
Affirmed, Seabiscuit always seemed to have the edge.