Sunday, June 10, 2007

Words for Anton Segal

Also Harvard-class-of-1992-purposed, my apologies, but it seems to me that there's something in the nature of this occasional writing that's weakened when you take out the references specific to the audience. Here's Anton's memorial website.


I was fifteen when I met Anton, and almost at once I was just devastatingly in love with him. Strange to say, he seemed to feel the same about me, which I found extraordinary but of course also completely delightful! We were going out long-distance our whole senior year of high school, and in fact I doubt I’d have come to Harvard in the first place if not for Anton—my high school teachers firmly told me that I should go to Yale because Harvard was anti-intellectual…

We broke up shortly after making our college decisions, and in the ensuing years we only ran into each other now and again. What’s strange and moving to me now is how strongly present the seventeen-year-old Anton is to me all the time. When Kurt Vonnegut died this spring, I really felt as though Anton was just there out of the corner of my eye making some more or less disrespectful wisecrack about the genius who wrote Cat’s Cradle, one of Anton’s particularly favorite books at the time I knew him. I read a quite wonderful book recently, American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China (in short, skinny American kid drops out of Princeton in the early 1990s and goes starry-eyed off to China in search of the kung fu training at the Shaolin Temple—mishaps ensue…) and it was so much the kind of book I imagined Anton writing that I sort of felt like we’d just slipped over for a moment into an alternate universe where Anton got exactly the writing career he’d been working towards.

After Anton died, I went through the copious hoard of letters he’d sent me that senior year of high school in which we were conducting our desperate passionate stressed-out young-person’s correspondence. There were all sorts of gems, but I thought what I’d read you today is Anton’s list of possible yearbook quotes, from January 1988. It gives you a strong sense of Anton, and also a terribly strong flavor of 1988, a formative year I’m sure for many of us!

January 1988. Anton's list of possible yearbook quotes:

"Life is a pool table, after the breakshot" (Nietzche)

or how about "So much depends on a little red wheelbarrow glistening with rain water among the white chickens" (Massive Misquoters of America)

or "Enter life at your own risk" (Duncan (?))

or "Life is not a spectator sport" (Reebok Advertisement) or "Root Beer" (Alan)

or "Is it live--or is it Memorex?"

or "Holy Shit, Batman!" or "If life is just a waste of time, & time is just a waste of life, let's all get wasted and have the time of our lives" (Katie (?))

or how about quoting the Warning on a box of Valium? That could be neat.

or "I saw Mikhail Gorbachev having sex w/ Mr. Zulman the other day in London, when Bruce Jenner ran by and the Crunchberry beast swallowed them all whole" (Warren Xevon (spelling?))

or "Aw, Fuck You" (Big Bird, Oscar, & Snophalopagus, all in unison)

or "A Woman is a hole. A man is a stick" (Max) or "Don't tell me what kind of day to have" and "Happy Trails" (my nefarious English teacher)

or "It's a rubber, a condom, a building, a condominium" (someone doing pictionary) or "I did it my way" (The Sex Pistols)

or "Don't drink and drive" (Everyone) or "I'm on Hayes' Street" (Taxi commercial) or a Bartles & James quotation or...

The original list goes on a bit longer, but I like the string of dots this one ends with, the sense of possibility and energy and excitement. Like our other lost classmates, Anton made great use of the time he had, and those of us lucky to have known him will not forget him.

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