August 2, 2010
Naramata, British Columbia
It is very moving to be here with so many of the people whom Arnold loved and who in turn loved and admired him. We are certainly not here to mourn for him. We are here to celebrate him.
· For who can mourn for someone who had 96 healthy, robust years ended with just a few final months of infirmity.
· For who can mourn for someone with a loving wife of almost 60 years?
· For who can mourn for a pater familias with four children, their associated sons and daughters‐in‐law, 6 grand children, and 1 great grand‐child, almost all of whom are here today?
· For who can mourn for someone with such terrific nephews, nieces, grand nephews, grand nieces and even a few great grand nephews and nieces.
· For who can mourn for someone who flew seaplanes off the Hudson River and crossed the Atlantic in a twin‐engined Cessna?
· For who can mourn for someone who wrote speeches for Mayors and Governors and knew the inside story of President Kennedy comparing himself to a German jelly‐donut, Ich Bin Ein Berliner?
· For who can mourn for someone who lived in both an 8 room apartment overlooking CPW and in the big stone house on the lake?
· For who can mourn for someone who travelled the world with his gorgeous and brilliant consort, visiting the most exciting and beautiful cities of the world, from London, Paris and Rome to Tokyo and Beijing. The less said about Yemen and Congo, the better.
· Who can mourn for someone who gleefully drove a Vespa up and down the West Side Highway. And just as gleefully chased geese on his scooter in Naramata?
· For who can mourn for someone whose parents came from the shetel's of the Ukraine, who was raised in the shtetl's of Eldridge Street and would spend glorious years in Manhattan, in the sunny groves of Palo Alto, and most of all here among the fruit trees and grape vines of Naramata?
· For who can mourn for someone who took a lifetime of pleasure in the foods of the world: bialys, baked cheese, pastrami, and smoked whitefish from Houston Street; Roast pork on a park bench in Chinatown; Pasta aglio olio in Florence; tripe a la mode with a Cheval Blanc in Paris; pig's feet in Berlin; Borscht and Pierogi in a Russian restaurant in LA; butter brickle ice cream almost anywhere; and fresh tomatoes and a dozen ears of corn in one sitting in Naramata?
· For who can mourn for someone who could identify by composer, piece, movement, and even performer over three centuries of Western music.
· For who can mourn for someone who could quote great swathes of prose and poetry in English, French, German, Italian, Hebrew and Yiddish.
· For who can mourn for someone who lived to see the vindication of his life's work and lifelong dedication to liberty, free speech, and the dignity of the common man with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
· And finally, who can mourn for someone who was booted off of the running board of Babe Ruth's car by Babe Ruth himself?
So we come here not to mourn Arnold, but to celebrate him and to console ourselves for our own loss. Carroll has lost a devoted friend and companion; John, Janine and I have lost a father who was both a benevolent despot and an inspiration to live life to the fullest; and the rest of us have lost a larger than life figure willing to share (loudly) his views and give advice on almost any topic.
In closing, I want to read three short passages that capture different aspects of Arnold's life:
John Podhoretz: "Whatever Arnold Beichman had in him, if they could bottle it and we could take it, we would immediately lead lives of energy and purpose, high good humor and great good feeling, and a sense that, though there were very dark forces at work in the world, the world itself was a wonderful place and one should embrace it and drink it deep to the dregs, and then drink the dregs and relish them too. What a life he lived!"
In his professional life Arnold was first and foremost a newspaperman. The life of an academic came later and while he authored numerous books, many with footnotes, his heart was always in newspapers. Here I quote from one of Arnold's early idols, Stanley Walker, City Editor of that newspaper, the NY Herald Tribune, during the 1920s to '40s who Arnold wrote, breathlessly, had once noticed him while he was a lowly copyboy on the HT in high school:
"What makes a good newspaperman? The answer is easy. He knows everything. He is aware not only of what goes on in the world today, but his brain is a repository of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
He is not only handsome, but he has the physical strength which enables him to perform great feats of energy. He can go for nights on end without sleep. He dresses well and talks with charm. Men admire him; women adore him; tycoons and statesmen are willing to share their secrets with him.
He hates lies and meanness and sham but keeps his temper. He is loyal to his paper and to what he looks upon as his profession; whether it is a profession or merely a craft, he resents attempts to debase it.
When he dies, a lot of people are sorry, and some of them remember him for several days."
‐‐Stanley Walker, "The City Editor"
Finally, I will end up with an aria from Arnold's Favorite opera, Tosca. For the benefit of all of you here, I shall read it, not sing it. In English, not in Italian.
stars used to shine there,
How sweet the earth smelled,
The orchard gate would creak,
And a footstep would lightly crease the sand.
She'd come in, fragrant as a flower,
And she'd fall into my arms.
Oh! sweet kisses, oh! lingering caresses,
Trembling, I'd slowly uncover her dazzling beauty.
Now, my dream of love has vanished forever.
My last hour has flown, and I die, hopeless!
And never have I loved life more!
Goodbye Arnold. We will all miss you and remember you for all our lives.
Oh, and, by the way, good luck to God who now has an eternity to debate with Arnold about all the questions that vexed him in life: the paradoxes of the Torah, the nature of good and evil, what was the reason for the mosquito, and what came before the Big Bang.
And from Carroll Beichman, two quotes:
The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the Riverside, into which as he went he said, Death, where is thy Sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy Victory? So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded on the other side.