Friday, December 31, 2010

May you always stay...

I met Charlie Lubutsky on a June morning in the mid-1980s, drinking coffee on the steps of Café Pergolesi. I was with my friend Cindy, an aspiring actress. She was in character that day, pretending to be the daughter of an earl who disowned her when she fell in love with a penniless gondolier. That was why she said to Charlie Lubutsky, a total stranger, “Giuseppe, my love, we must remain in Venice until my father relents. But we still have each other, my darling!”

When Cindy accosted people like that they usually stared at her like she was nuts, or laughed and walked away. Charlie Lubutsky did neither of these things. He looked up, squinting because the sun was in his eyes, and then he got to his feet, took her hand and pressed his lips to her palm. He said, “As long as we are together, madam, I care for nothing else.”

It was easy to see that Charlie Lubutsky was something special.

Cindy and Charlie became best friends. It turned out that he was a musician, like Cindy, and the two of them used to get together to play music.

One night when Charlie Lubutsky was driving home from work he crashed into a big rig that was making a left turn onto the highway. The fog was so thick he never even saw the truck that killed him. After Charlie died we found out that his real name was Robert Nelson. When he moved to town he had invented a new name and a new identity and left his past behind him.

And no wonder. Robert Nelson was a traveling salesman who was married to a fanatical fundamentalist Christian. But Charlie Lubutsky was a gentle man with merry eyes who painted houses for a living. He played the guitar and wrote songs that were sometimes beautiful and sometimes silly. It was just like him to call himself Charlie Lubutsky.

His crazy wife and all her crazy fundamentalist relatives came to town for his funeral. They hadn’t been able to find him while he was alive, but in death they somehow tracked him down. They held a service for him in their church, even though Cindy tried to convince them that wasn’t what he would have wanted. So while the prayers droned inside the church for Robert Nelson, Cindy sat outside on the steps with her guitar and sang “Forever Young” for Charlie Lubutsky.

10 comments:

BK said...

How ironic and yet beautiful in that as pretending he was someone else, Charlie was truly himself. May we all recognize our true names and callings in this lifetime.

And Tai, you have a gift with words that I rarely see any more -- and as you know, I see a lot of words. Quite amazing, really.

Reverend Shawn said...

Thank you for this beautiful affirmation of life ... too bad I wasn't the pastor at the church, I would have invited Cindy in and allowed her to honour Charlie and his life, rather than lament Robert and his deaths.

As always Tai, you offer the right words at the right time ... peace and blessings to you and to Cindy too !!

Debbie Loh said...

Came across your blog when I was searching for "Gymnopedie". Love your writing :) Will come back :)

AMGallegos said...

Such a beautiful sad story. Thanks Tai.

bookfraud said...

I haven't visited in some time, but I am so glad I did today. A beautiful and amazing story, one that will probably haunt me for quite some time...

Zitrone said...

I just discovered you via Critter Farm and am delighted by this story and your writing. I will be looking for you in the future.

Querulous Squirrel said...

I love the idea of starting off fresh with a new identity. I have wanted to do so many times in my life, but finally I just started a blog instead.

Farmer Jen said...

Good post. Through your writing,I like Charlie and his gentle ways. I too, like Zitrone, found you through Critter Farm. I'll be back.

John said...

Dang, Tai! How many people do you know?

This is a wonderful Brief History. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Tai said...

Thanks, John. Dang! Actually, you might have crossed paths with Charlie, in Santa Cruz all those years ago.

Jen and Zitrone, I'm delighted to have visitors from the enchanted Critter Farm. We don't have donkeys or llamas (yet), but there are plenty of smaller critters waiting in the, uh, wings.

QS, the opportunity to play with a persona is one of the great things about a blog. A person can become anything; even a dazzling squirrel, for instance.

Bookfraud! I am always so happy to see you, and even happier to hear that you are haunted. You know what I mean.

Thank you, Aaron. I hope you are staying warm and well in the Great Icy North.

Hi Debbie, and welcome. All the way from Malaysia!

Rev, that's a beautiful sentiment. If only all people-of-the-cloth could be as compassionate as you are.

Thank you so much, Jeevan. It's true, sometimes we have to cast off our identities to find our genuine selves….