she missed the best party

And boy would she have loved it. A couple hundred people at her memorial, all singing her praises. A journalism scholarship in her name from Lehman College (More info about where to donate from WNYC. There is a clickdown menu for how to direct your donation; choose Elaine Rivera scholarship). Meanwhile, Rose, who helped produce the event fabulously, also wrote a pretty brutal piece about alcoholism among Latinos for CNN. Here is the obit I wrote  and the (somewhat repetitive) text of my speech:
“Hi, it’s Elaine!” She said it as if we would be totally surprised, like we didn’t have caller ID. “Any bochinche?”
    I met her when she was working at the New York Bureau at waspy Time magazine.  She mostly championed underdogs. They mostly didn’t. I am Elaine’s WASP friend. She taught me not to flip my hair. I have had a crick in my neck ever since.
     She had so many friends. I like most of them. But, like, not the steelworkers she picked up in Yankee Tavern and brought to my house to throw up. They probably offered her a ride.
    Elaine needed a driver, a cook, a handyman, an accountant, a cleaner. Life was just too hard otherwise. Dolores, she called herself. Sorrows. “I suffer," she said.
     She must have, although the Elaine I met was incredibly cheerful. She loved a party. Sparklers from the 99-cent store, flowers from her favorite flower lady. Every birthday a cake.  Every year a calendar. I will be finding confetti around my apartment until I die.
    She called drinking an occupational hazard of journalism. But she blamed herself. I blame her too. I blame Yankee Tavern and her other watering holes.I blame her search for community, for belonging. She won’t be making that trip up the coast of Maine. Or writing that book about Malcolm X. Without the calendars she gave me how will I know what day it is?  Except that each day will be another without Elaine. But, hey, thanks for getting us all to the doctor’s!
     The takeaway: Write a will, write a book, celebrate everything—even death— and love everybody while you can.
     In her cups, Elaine always insisted that I sing Warren Zevon’s Gone with the Hula Hula Boys:
   I saw her leave the luau with the one who parks the cars.
And the fat one from the swimming pool they were swaying arm in arm.
     I can hear their ukuleles playing down by the sea.
    She’s gone with the hula hula boys. She don’t care about me."
       Aloha, Elaine.


biologist said...

wonderful, Claudie!

kate's bluff said...


Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

powerful woman...powerful words about her...wish I could have heard you sing...I love your voice