Progress Report

And he was preparing to cry out to
show that he wasn’t dead.
—Solomos, The Woman of Zakynthos

NYR: It is good to see you up and about again, Mr. Stravinsky.

I.S.: Thank you. But I am not “about” very much. The problem of locomotion was in fact one of the reasons I left New York. Since the streets there have become more like parking lots than thoroughfares, and since I am unable to perambulate myself anymore, and would in any case be let out only on a very short chain, I was practically marooned in my hotel. A litter or sedan chair would be the only method of conveyance for me now at least in mid-town.

Otherwise I might have stayed in New York. Such a clean city. And everybody so polite and amiable. And always more and more of those “relating” buildings filling the sky. And the students learning so many useful things about explosives and arson and barricades. And all those confidence-inspiring candidates for mayor. Mr. Mailer was my candidate. The city should secede, and be re-annexed, if at all, as the fifty-second state—following the moon, of course, as the fifty-first.

I returned to Los Angeles for a few weeks, although wondering how it could last even a few more minutes. The usherettes on the flight out were dressed in “the Spirit of the Revolution” (of 1776!), but the route—over Utah, where nerve gas killed thousands of sheep last year; and Smithereens, Nevada, where the atomic blasting is now measured in tens of kilotons; and California, where poisonous methyl parathion is used for crop-dusting—reminded us of more recent and forthcoming wars. Nerves are destroyed in Los Angeles, too, I hardly need to add, but purportedly from “natural,” not noxious, causes.

NYR: What did you do in exurbia, Mr. Stravinsky?

I.S.: Lived dangerously. I was twice in hospitals for tests, and you know how risky that can be. The second time, incidentally, I was asked whether the “Russian Orthodox Church,” noted as my “Religious Preference” on a former registration card, meant that I was Jewish. I explained that this would not necessarily be the case and added that a branch of the institution in question was only two blocks up the street, which would have been useful information if, as seemed likely, worst came to worst. I was thereupon invited to refile as a Catholic, but resisted, the advantages in that having diminished, in my view, since St. Christopher was dropped last spring. Finally I was put under “U” (Unknown) “because the computer can only program Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.”

Dangerous, too, no doubt, was the nearby murder epidemic. Yet at the same time you can hardly help admiring the way Hollywood people make the most out of their murders. Thus a press agent for the husband of the slain Mme. Polanski managed not only to mention several of the prizes won by his employer’s latest film, but also to puff …

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