I was early, an alien in a now familiar world. It seemed somehow appropriate as I approached the Hart Building, that there were two skies at Paramount: the real one, brown and hazy and the bright pristine "on a clear day you can see forever" one, standing on the lot like a giant drive-in movie, to make life on screen look real, or maybe to look as unreal as our perception of it.
We met before we met, in the manner of children - curious, apprehensive and eager. For when I peered around the edge of the door that separated us, leaning to the left just enough to catch a glimpse of the man before we were introduced, there, leaning to the right, just enough to catch a glimpse of me, there he was peeking around the door frame. In a kind of species recognition salute, we raised our hands and smiled, unstartled and, it seemed, mutually relieved. Someone introduced us, or didn't. My poster of Einstein was on his wall. The sun was shining - or wasn't. We looked at each other for a long time.This was our first conversation:
Me: You're not shy, are you? You look shy.
Him: I think I can be.
Me: Oh dear.
Him: Are you?
Him: Okay. I won't be either.
The second time we meet, he says, "You haven't asked me one fact about myself."
"Do you want me to?" I ask.
"No. Not at all. Let's just talk - as we are."
I begin to launch into another subject.
"But why haven't you?" he interrupts.
I start to remind him that this a portrait, not a biography, but he knows that. He wants the real answer.
"I don't think you are facts," I say. He looks at me with a pleased, incredulity. "There is a passage in The Little Prince which I read as a child," I tell him. "It made sense then. It continues to make sense." I quote the paragraph as accurately as I can:
Grown ups love figures. When you tell them you have made
a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential
matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound
like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?"
Instead, they demand: "How old is he? Does he have any brothers?
How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?"
Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything
Delight spreads across his face. "I think I am going to love telling you things," he says.
His voice sounded like tomorrow.
The game he loved best was being.
He collected ideas.
Harrison Solow, 1991
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance