11/8/09

IN MEMORY OF MY FRIEND ANDRÉ



I was introduced to my friend André in 1986 by a mutual friend who thought we would "hit it off." And, that we did. André was born seventeen years ahead of me and as a result had a worldly wisdom that he bestowed upon me. He was an elegant character with undeniable intelligence and eccentricities, and I adored him. Nine years ago today, in a monsoon of rain, we celebrated André in a memorial service. As you will learn from his former Taft classmate Peter Kilborn in the story below, I inherited André's writings, and I am committed and determined to see that his work gets published.


"Finally the day died altogether, and on the horizon the brightest stars seemed to stand on pins, which proved to be Nice. The Cap Ferrat beacon kept up its one long, two short blinks of reassurance. With the day gone, Freddy fondly recalled his walk on the Cap as if it were already months and thousands of miles away, and as if it needed to be relived right now to fill an empty spot inside him. Freddy was lonely.

He felt at times like this, that his newly adopted world was really an empty balloon and not a definite structure. The balloon was going to be filled, but filling it would take him the rest of his life; he could not tell by its present shape what it would become, or even its eventual color and, as inchoate as it was, he was not sure that this mystifying balloon did not have a built-in slow leak.”

--Hotel Olive Trees, a novel by André de Riano

André de Riano was the autobiographical Frederic Ives and the Franco-American from New York we knew as Tom Ryan. Scourged by cancer, he died at 61 of a stroke or heart attack in his brownstone apartment on stately Marlborough Street in Boston’s Back Bay. He was found when his good friend Barbara had the landlord break open the door.

André left a knee-high stack of manuscripts--five novels and numerous short stories. None had ever been offered to publishers. In Hotel Olive Trees, he writes of 19-year-old Freddy, a hard-drinking, aspiring playboy and beneficiary of a bottomless trust fund. Freddy was a graduate of “St. Jonathon’s,” a boys’ boarding school in New England. He had been admitted to Harvard, but “eager to rid himself of the burden of his virginity,” he set off for Paris and the bare-breasted beaches of the Côte d’Azur.

At Taft, André formed the Current Events Club and wrote about world affairs for the Papyrus. He won the French prize and was accepted at the University of Virginia. Classmate Gil Allen, who expected to see him there, says he never showed up.

Instead André chose Paris and briefly attended the Sorbonne. From there, he roamed the sybaritic haunts of southern Europe, settling for a while in Salvador Dali’s town of Cadaqués on the Costa Brava of Spain. Back in the States, he tried New York, Hawaii and New York again. By his mid-forties, he had moved on to Boston and all these years, he labored at his novels, his “doorstoppers” he called them.

André’s apartment, strewn with paper and books and thick with the odor of cigarettes, was unnavigable, so he never entertained at home. On my trips to Boston, we would meet at the Ritz, and he would lead me off to the city’s best restaurants. Every time, he wore a blue Taft School blazer. Taft was the taproot of his youth, and perhaps he never outgrew it.

André left the manuscripts and his Taft blazer to Barbara. Barbara organized his funeral at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill. After the service, the mourners gathered at the Ritz, André’s afternoon haunt.

With André on Newbury Street in Boston, 1986

This past autumn, I poured through piles of paper and assembled a manuscript of André's early poetry, written between 1957 - 1963. In celebration of André's early travels, first love and heartbreak, the manuscript is titled, Voyages Nostalgiques. I've submitted the manuscript to the 2012 Honickman First Book Prize for Poetry Contest. This endeavor was made from love—both his and mine. ox

11 comments:

  1. Thank you, Barbara. Who will ever forget that deluge during/after Andre's service? My new Yves St. Laurent wool coat was never the same -- perhaps it had something to do with the soggy 8-hour trip back to France that same night.

    Like you, I will never forget Andre. He was an extraordinary person, especially for the way he did things. We met at the end of the 60's in a bar in Lech, Austria; we immediately recognized ourselves as family and only ever met up three times again.

    Be my cousin, I thought, as I wrote him "Cousin."
    "Ma Chere Cousine," he wrote me back, and the correspondence continued several decades until his death.

    Why we love is a mystery, but somehow we know it when we come upon it. It doesn't matter if the sun is out or if it is raining -- take the metaphor as far as you care to -- it doesn't matter a whit. What is important is unconditional acceptance of the person and everyone dear to him/her.

    As you are to me, Barbara. Thank you again for remembering our Andre.

    Love,

    Dorothy

    ReplyDelete
  2. And, as you are to me too, Dorothy.
    oxo. Barbara

    ReplyDelete
  3. Although I do not remember much about him, I know that Andre was a big part of my childhood. All of my family loved him and I know that I loved him too. From all the stories I've heard, he seemed like a great and fabulous man and affected everyone in his life. I never knew that he was accepted into Harvard, but I knew he was a very accomplished man. We miss him. xoxox Emily
    By the way, I have his Taft uniform belt!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Em, you always got very dressed-up when we met him for lunch. He adored you. Hang on to that belt darling! I love you. xx Auntie

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mike GonzalezNovember 10, 2009

    I sit here in my study, at home in Bethesda, Maryland, late at night, listening to fado. Sad, sad songs by Amalia Rodrigues. Andre would have scoffed at my apprehension.

    Barbara has asked me to write something about introducing them, and though I told her Sunday morning I'd do it right after the christening, I've been postponing it. So, more than 48 hours after the request, I finally sit, my purpose fortified a little by single malt, putting pen to paper, metaphorically.

    I was the friend who introduced Barbara and Andre, and those days I spent with them in Boston would be best described in the Latin phrase, Et In Arcadia Ego. I was also an Arcadian.

    With them I ran, through the restaurants and bars of Boston, mad dashes of fun, now more than a quarter century ago. The cold, wind and snow of Boston would hit us after we emerged in full merriment from our carrousing, ready finally to go home. Barbara, so pretty, her face framed by her golden curls, laughing out loud. Andre, knowing that he could stare ridicule in the face and make it scurry away, would pucker up, giving her pecks on the cheek.

    The fun we had. As I looked back on it, I never once said to myself, "wow, I never knew they'd hit it off like this." It was more, "why didn't I do this sooner?"

    Soon, I shipped off to Paris, in the eventually failed pursuit of a career as a fiction writer, in an apartment in the 2eme arrondissement. I had a great year trying. Andre tried helping me on the phone, but it wasn't the same thing as having him patiently critique my short stories back in Boston.

    After I came back to Boston it was time to get serious. I became a journalist and never looked back. I miss telling Andre that I once dined with Amalia Rodrigues in Seoul, spent a night in prison in Panama and got lost in Serbia as I exited war-torn Kosovo. It's the kind of stuff he would have loved to hear. So now I sit here in Bethesda, typing these words about my friends Barbara and Andre, whom I shall never cease to love.

    The family is finally asleep upstairs. The children have finally stopped coming down. It is late, and I am finally looking back.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Mike. I feel the snow on our faces full of laughter and wonder. You got it all so right. I love you always. Barbara

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beautiful Mike....in a nutshell!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I so pleased to read this and understand more about André and your friendship. I hope you do get his work published one day Barbara. From what you've shared with us he was such a talented man.

    Beautiful piece written by Peter.

    xx oo

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear DT Deb, He was indeed. And he was eccentric and smart, and fun and lovely! I love Peter's piece, too!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Barbara...
    How very sweet of you to honor your friend so. Sweet memories keep one alive, how fortunate for each of you to have shared so much.
    Blessings...xo
    Renae

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Renae! Thank you so much for reading. I love putting Andre's work out into the universe! It keeps his spirit around, always!! ox

    ReplyDelete

I love reading your comments. And, I thank you so much for visiting!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails