Not Quite "Good Night Gracie"A column article, Riding Shotgun by: Don McGregor
I wrote these little pieces after having to leave my wife Marsha in hospital walls in the City after driving back to Brooklyn.
Some people will understand this, others might not, but it was a way of saying good night to her, even though she'd never see the words. Jason asked about giving them a place where the words and emotions would be less transient. So here are my "Say good night, Gracie" observations.
By the way, George Burns did write that he and Gracie never actually said, "Say good night, Gracie", with Gracie saying, "Good night, Gracie."
It never occurred to them, though he admitted it would have been a natural thing for her to say.
Writing about George and Gracie makes me think about me and Marsha, being apart from her, so the reference seems emotionally appropriate.
IT ISN'T JUST THE SUDDEN SIGHT OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY OR THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE THAT MAKES MANHATTAN UNIQUE.
... Driving toward NYU Medical in Manhattan last night to see Marsha, I've just come out of the depths of the Battery Tunnel from Brooklyn, and managed to make the immediate turn onto the tunnel that shoots you out onto the East Side River Drive.
The river flows in dark, mystic currents to my right, but you only have a glimpse of it, an awareness of its nearness, because the lanes on the Drive are a virtual dodge-em cars melee -- cars that seem designed for a computer game more than real hurtling metal and fiberglass.
Almost immediately, to the left side is a four story high building, the walls painted as a gigantic bill board. The top two stories read, in two story high yellow letters: IF YOU DON'T LIKE GAY MARRIAGE and right beneath the two lower stories read: DON'T GET GAY MARRIED.
And suddenly, despite the dispiriting reason I have to be in the city this night, I'm reminded why I love this city so much. What other city would post a 4 story high declaration, where every driver on the FDR sees it, but there's no agitated anti civil rights groups or homophobic mobs collected, shouting their rage and woes.
The traffic just keeps zooming by, playing dodge 'em cars. The people keep going about their own lives and business. Really. What other city? Go check it out if you don't believe me.
You can't miss it.
But I do miss Marsha.
Reading this I had this flash thought that this might be Jim Shooter's Personal Hell. It's history, folks, just check out the comic gay time-line at http://www.gayleague.com/wordpress/lgbt-comics-timeline/the-1980s/
I'm about to head back into the city to see Marsha.
Missing her is my own hell.
BEFORE OUR LIVES CHANGED RADICALLY, I'D INTENDED TO SEE IF I COULD POST THE TEARING UP THE WORK FOR HIRE CONTRACT AD DONE FOR THE VARIABLE SYNDROME.
With a large blade above my head. This ad and the gun ad I'm sure endeared me to the Comic Book industry, in the late 1970s, which is noted for their sense of humor.
I'd been asked about the Work For Hire Contracts due to a lot being written about them because of the Ghost Rider trial and the Kirby family's lawsuit.
The lengthy piece on the Work For Hire Contracts appeared in the original INVESTIGATING DETECTIVES INC. It was written at the time it happened, so I am not relying on memory. There are still some autographed copies available on donmcgregor.com. Or some can be found on Amazon. It also includes the birth of our son, Rob, which I know Marsha will be glad still is around, since it was cut in a subsequent printing.
And how profoundly that Work For Hire Contract would affect us.
Guess whose hand is represented in the photo that really wielded the power?
YOU CAN NEVER TELL WHAT'S FACING YOU WHEN YOU DRIVE FROM NYU MEDICAL BACK TO BROOKLYN AT NIGHT, INCLUDING IF THE UNDERSIDE OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE BEING RAKED BY AN IRON CRANE STICKING UP OUT OF A TUG-BOAT.
The hardest part of leaving Marsha at the hospital is when I'm at the elevator doors, looking back at the doors sealing us from each other.
Traffic was light last night getting over to the FDR, and it seemed like it would not be a difficult drive back. Until getting in the right hand lane to use the Brooklyn Bridge, not far from the DON'T LIKE GAY MARRIAGE - DON'T GET GAY MARRIED sign. The line of cars were bumper to bumper as Bob Seger sang to me, "What do leave in, what to leave out," lines that always make me think: Do you put it all out there if you ever write about what happened to you in comics in the last 3 decades?
Then there are the mother-fuckers on the road who try to race by the waiting lines, get up to the single lane leading to the labyrinthine ramps onto the Brooklyn Bridge, and weasel their way into the line, snarling everything up.
I've often surprised there isn't more blood splattered on well-pounded Manhattan and Brooklyn streets, at this junction. People who have done the right thing, waiting patiently for an hour and these mother-fuckers are the cause of all the waiting.
I finally managed to drive onto the ramp. bumper to bumper. It had taken a good hour to get there.
Red lights were flashing in the middle of the Bridge.
Crimson glaring warning in the darkness.
Scalding hurtfully into the night sky, and in the dark currents of the Hudson river below.
When you are in the middle of this, you have no idea what happened.
You just know, whatever it is, you are caught up in it.
There's no particular way out.
Ambulances, fire trucks, police cars blocked lanes on the bridge.
Down below, Coast Guard cruisers flashed more lights.
On landings somewhere near the BQE, where cars line like mechanical lemmings heading for the Verranzo Bridge, or the Battery tunnel, or Cadman Plaza, or the Prospect Expressway (and you better know which lemming lane to get into or you will not go off the right cliff, ever!) there are more city vehicles, more red lights, lights on cranes stabbing darkness, seeking something somewhere.
Coming from Brooklyn, during daylight, when you reach the area of the Battery Tunnel and the BQE, you can drive up a single, twisted lane that seems almost deserted, to come onto lanes of traffic, cars, trucks, buses, angling for lanes they are not in.
The first thing you see as you come off the upward inclining ramp is a giant Blue Gorilla statue, with a huge red mouth and vampire fangs, right out of a Dick Sprang Batman comic.
And then the gorilla is forgotten as you come into the mish-mash of traffic, all deciding where they need to be.
You are still driving upward and in daylight you suddenly see all of Manhattan spread before you.
The Empire State Building, near where Marsha is, but you're still a long ways from getting to what you can see.
And the Chrysler Building.
And that building that looks like an ancient Egyptian golden spire.
Some of the most famous bridges in the world are to your right.
To the left somewhere is the Statue of Liberty.
If you're driving you see it for an instant and it is lost.
Driving back at night, as you come off the BQE, especially when the foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge have apparently been shaken by collision, you are in the thick of hurtling traffic.
Metal lemmings with headlights in a hurry!
You must keep getting in lanes to your left.
All that view is behind you.
You never see it.
More lanes merge into the mix.
You lose your guts for one second in this and you are in serious trouble.
There is only one lane that will take you to the Prospect Expressway.
If you don't know it is there, or if you can't get across the a half dozen lanes over to it, you will end up in Staten Island or areas of Brooklyn you never heard of.
I'll make the drive again.
Don McGregor is the writer of Killraven, Black Panther, Nathaniel Dusk and a slew of other classic comic books. Order a copy of The Variable Syndrome and other comics from his website or his outstanding Detectives, Inc. at Amazon.