Issue 107, Summer 1988
The moment I hated most at Thurston’s came toward the end of Winston Fiefs tribute. I had tried to talk Margot out of having the service at Thurston’s at all. Moose didn’t belong in one of those fashionable horror shows at James W. Thurston’s, “The Memorial Chapel,” which are treated in the next day’s Times like Met openings or muscular dystrophy balls at the Waldorf. Moose had given up on New York. He despised that crowd. I put it to Margot that services at Thurston’s were like big parties publishers give for hot authors at Four Seasons —big winners and burnt-out cases scouting each other, new outfits on display, envy on the loose, nothing to do with a figure like Moose. Who would get the best pews? God, look at that hat of Cynthia’s, has St. Laurent gone bonkers? That would be the level of the text. But Margot is Margot.
The room was Thurston’s largest. The design of the pews and indeed the mode of the place as a whole were right enough for Moose —decorous, understated. New Englandish, more or less Congregational, almost in the spirit of the simple church he loved so much on Greenfield Hill. But you could count on Margot to have the last word. Her final affront to Moose was to smother him, where he lay in his brass-handled box—Margot had told me the casket was Thurston’s four-thousand-dollar number —in gladiolas. Moose hated them. I remember once his calling them the Pekinese dogs of the gardening world. He said they literally nauseated him, and I believed him; it was part of Moose’s make-up to have powerful somatic reactions to flowers, as he did to many other things — pets, colors, good and bad news, and the sight of a strange woman’s bare shoulder. He spent half his life having goose pimples.
As I entered, about fifteen minutes early, I could see that the room was going to be packed to overflowing —a flock of fickle ego-trippers who had forgotten how cruelly they’d snubbed Moose back in the fifties, now suddenly titillated by his horrible death, all turning up: celebrities, jet-setters, writers, politicians, musicians, business types, and ex-radicals now wearing three-piece custom-made suits. A queer gazpacho. Having suffered my own loss so recently, I was feeling low anyway, and the sight of these people who thought this the best ticket in town that morning took me down a further notch.
Margot had given the Thurston’s ushers a list, and they put me in the second pew on the left, right behind three of Moose’s four wives, all in a row. Maria, poor thing, was absent in the death of her own choosing, but the three survivors were there, chatting away like catbirds, Margot impeccable as hostess to those other two bitches, as she refers to them. I felt hot. This was not good enough for Moose; with all his weaknesses, Moose was a serious man.
Margot had Grischa Wallenstein play the viola for a while, a stately Bach chaconne —just right to choose the deep-toned instrument that is usually subordinated, almost too big to tuck under the chin, and Grischa, on slight acquaintance, seemed to have understood Moose, because he made Bach sound somehow akin to Hawthorne and Melville and Dickinson. That would have been enough, just that music, with its strange controlled leaps from string to string, from constraint to constraint, but also from heartbeat to wild heartbeat.