Meeting Jim Salter by James Arnold Horowitz (JAH)



Meeting Jim Salter

by James Arnold Horowitz (JAH)


It's going to be a new year: 2019. I've been retired by health concerns for two years after working thirty-three. Everybody wants me in retirement, but nobody wants to pay me. I've decided not to care. I have a pension, which mostly goes to my doctors's and pharmacy's copay. I've been hospitalized three times in two years, and saved by technology. I've learned that health issues usually don't happen in isolation, they have a comorbidity, which is frightening. Not unlike mental health. Who knew? My health issues also occurred in transition; my mother's death and my kids's progress in higher education and nearly graduating. There's a big difference between working when your kids are sleeping under your roof, and when they're separating, separated, individuating, and autonomous. Also, my mom passed away in the midsized of all these changes. We weren't close, and ha some outstanding issues , which she didn't want to resolve, but I help her hand, having slept over five nights in her hospice room in one of those lounge chairs for visitors. Her nurses helped me. I remember everyday how it felt when her pulse stopped when I was holding her hand. I did my duty for my mother, having given her all the help and social work she needed an wanted during the two years before she died. I did it on my own. Nothing I did for her interfered with my working or family. Thank goodness, my wife my best friend. Otherwise, I would've gotten some heat from her given how much time I was spending with my parents. I've also learned that I have an unbelievably high threshold for tolerating pain, which isn't good, especially when I had pain, but missed having a heart attack, which could've killed or changed me for the worse, by two weeks. In my Father's Day, there wasn't any technology for men like me so instead of surviving their illness they dropped like flies in winter, fat, leaving a legacy of being gone too soon. Since, returning, people want ty clinical social work skills, but for whatever reasons don't want to pay for them. I've limited my helping to church, and that's all. Instead, I've decided to keep reading and writing, by also focusing on my blog, "Art Is Life Rescued By Time," which is correct and James Salter's epitaph.

***

These days people hardly read, and few readers read well, with all due respect. Do you know how difficult it is to rescue life from time as art? Jim did that. At least his work strove to achieve that goal. His readers have the same responsibility. It requires honor and bravery. Jim isn't our friend, although he was easily befriended. Jim was definitely somebody with whom I would have enjoyed making and drinking a Martini. 

"First, use a good English gin-- Beefeater or Tanqueray-- both ninety-four proof, are preferred. The dry vermouth should be Noilly Prat or Martini & Rossi, although you can have decent results with Tribuno or Stock. Vermouth is a fortified white wine that is about eighteen percent alcohol and once openedwill go bad unless refrigerated. Even then it does not last indefinitely, so it is best to buy small bottles.

In a pitcher or shaker put about six or eight cubes of hard ice cracked by hand (place the cube in the palm of your hand and hit it smartly with a heavy spoon). It is important that the ice be cracked so as to present the maximum cold surface to the gin and vermouth-- a martini is and should be a slightly diluted.

Pour one or one and a half small capfuls of vermouth over the ice. Add enough gin to fill, or nearly fill the martini glass. Experience will teach the amount, but about five ounces. Stir or shale until the condense are very cold. A martini that is not absolutely icy is a failure. (The glasses can be placed in the freezer beforehand but this is not essential.

Pour the drink without any ice into the glasses. Icy should fill it almost to the brim. Add an olive-- single, green unflavored, and pitted-- or twist of a {thin (my italics)] lemon peel-- about an inch and a half long [without any pith (my italics)] deftly pinched with the fingers to spray a bit of oily essence -- or a single cocktail onion (making the drink technically a Gibson. The matter of the olive or the onion is important since the flavor is imported to the drink. I prefer B&G cocktail onions and add a few drops of their liquid to the inspired drink.

A martini is a made by hand creation, and it's best to make no more than two at a time. It's also best to drink only one, or things become blurred. As James Thurber commented, 'One is all right, two is too many, and three is not enough.' With the first sip, the drink's perfume and strong, clean taste give an extraordinary sense of well-being that lasts for an hour or more. 

Do not make martinis ahead of time. The remarkable freshness with not be there. I DeVoto's words, 'You can no more keep a martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there."There is a final, unconventional secret. Shake a Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce bottle, then quickly remove the cap and with it, dash a faint smudge of the contents-- far less than a drop-- into the bottom of the shaker before beginning. It adds the faint, unidentifiable touch of greatness."


***

I can’t drink anymore. I will pay a organic premium for a Martini even as artful as the one in Jim's recipe, in addition to its cost. Oh, but I want one, and I want one to drink with him.


***

The first sentence, “All night in darkness the water sped past,” which begins the first paragraph of “All That Is” a metaphor about time, and begins a complicated first chapter, “Break of Day”. The narrator, Philip Bowman, a Navy Officer, describes the men on a war ship, as WWII's ending, heading to Okinawa on a mission, which will result in many war ships sinking and casualties. The chapter begins with the narrator on deck thinking about the ship and its full complement, generally and specifically. The ending tells of the sinking of Japan's greatest lead, battleship, Yamato, killing most of her crew. It's interesting how Bowman, dedicated, determined and steadfast, juxtaposes his ship's crew as a whole, sleeping without foreknowledge of what's coming, with special description of individual crew, like one sailor who left home after getting a girl pregnant, only to fall overboard on two different ships, only to be saved by three. It's as if the ship causing to its destination, wherever the battle will commence, unknown to all aboard is a time machine, which outcome is unpredictable. That's how Jim draws you into his last novel, as if life is a naive ship cruising in a dubious ocean, heading for adventure whose narrator is searching for passion, energy, and lies in the midst of passing time. Death is life's only ending. In between life's dicey, only reading the novel matters. Philip lives through this becoming a man, leaving youth behind. Only God knows what becomes of Salter's readers.

Today, June 10, 2019 would have been the 94th birthday of James Salter. I humbly recommend reading or re reading the first chapter of his last novel “All That Is”. It’s complex and seamless regarding the passage of time in laying a foundation of its main character, Philip Bowman.

There was a party, the night of June 10, 2015 to celebrate his 90th birthday. Nine days later our world lost him at his gym without warning. I’d gone out of my way to meet him once. He was smiling, blue eyes twinkling. James Salter is a great, American writer better than the prizes he earned reflected. He had a late start.

James Salter had two careers, his father’s. He followed his father into West Point under duress from him. His parents are buried there. He made it his own by becoming an Army jet pilot before there was an Air Force. West Point quickened his adolescence into adulthood, and that quickening made him independent. It's that independent streak, which annoyed people who didn't know him well, but it couldn't be helped. His first novel “The Hunters” earned him the grace to leave active duty and write, which he had always wanted to do.

Alone, he told the truth from his perspective. Using the same words we all do he made them his own, as clear as a blue sky at midday. He became a great, American writer, and a finer person than people who didn’t know him realized. I wish he could still be with us. I would’ve tried to personally get to know him better if he'd lived. Reading his work is how we became closer.










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