By Dan Valentine
I checked my e-mail this morning. There was a message from my bestest friend, regarding a piece I had written. Two words. “Zehr gut!” Her dad was German, died when she was three. She has one remaining photo of him.
“Zehr gut”. I had to Google it. Wikipedia: “Germany has a 6-point grading scale to evaluate the performance of school children.”
“Zehr gut!” “Best possible grade!”
Thanks, Professor. I needed that.
We communicate by e-mail. My cell minutes ran out months ago. Back in mid-December, in fact.
A “good” friend of mine in Salt Lake used up much of them.
When I was in Nashville, he’d call on a regular basis. Usually from a bar. We’d been friends for quite some time. Going on 30 years. Ever since I first took over my dad’s column.
He’d call and ask, “How are you doing?” Then he’d shout (to whomever was in the bar.) “It’s Dan Valentine Jr. Got him on the phone.” As if anybody in the bar knew who in hell Dan Valentine Jr. was. Or cared. It had been some thirty years since my last column.
I’d say, “I’m homeless. In Nashville. I need a place to stay. Till I get on my feet. Can you take me in?”
When I had the column, and afterward, when I was living in D.C. and New York, I was welcome to stay at his place whenever I was in town. Once, I got in a cab at the airport, gave my friend’s address, and the cabby said, “Oh, you’re going to Valentine’s place.” Funny.
When you’re famous/rich, friends “want” you to stay with them. Oscar Levant, the great musician/wit/brains behind “An American in Paris,” sold his home and stayed with different friends the rest of his later life. Christopher (“The Sound of Music”) Plummer sold his home long ago and just stays the night/week with assorted friend. It helps to be famous/rich.
But, anyway, my friend would call. I’d tell him I was homeless. I need a place to stay. (He’s the proprietor of a very successful shop downtown.) It was Christmastime. He’d say, “This is our busy season.” Then, “We’ve got our house up for sale.” Oh, if he was calling from the shop: “Here, talk to the wife. But don’t tell her your homeless. It would upset her.”
Wouldn’t want to do that!!!
One night he calls while I’m tramping through sleet and snow. “How are you doing!”
“I’m doing fine, blah, blah. I’m going to make it here in Nashville if it kills me, blah, blah, blah.”
I soon came to the realization, it could very well kill me.
He calls another day. I plead with him to take me in. He’d been drinking. He’s a happy fellow when he drinks. Aren’t we all! He says, “Sure. I’ll tell the wife.”
I call him the next day to make arrangements. He’s sober. “It’s our busy season,” he says. “We’ll going to Vegas at the end of the month,” he says. “But,” he says. “Sure,” he says. “Uh,” he says. “You’re welcome to stay with us. You can get a job somewhere.”
Needless to say, I didn’t go there. Had a change of heart. Thanks but no thanks. He used up my last minutes leaving messages on my cell. Going, going, gone.
But just before they ran out, with just one or three minutes remaining, I got a call from my bestest friend. “I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days. Why haven’t you been answering the phone?” Then: “Come home. I bought a house. With a pool.” (She swims.)
Nicer words I’ve never heard. Except for maybe the two words: “Zehr gut!”