10 August 2011

Guido & Mark

Bon vivant par excellence:
Guido in Litchfield, July 2011

Years ago, Guido Organschi gave me my first whisky. I was a freshman in college at the time, and his younger son had brought me home to Litchfield for a visit. I sat in the living room, Guido handed me a glass — exactly as if I were a grownup — and I, unprepared for the shock of hard liquor, shuddered upon impact. “Smoooooooth,” I said, trying helplessly to disguise my innocence.

It was smooth, in fact, though the quality was lost on me. That didn’t matter to Guido: his mission was to expose me to good things. Years later, he’s still plying me with delights, and his most recent gift to me, a bottle of Irish whisky, is so good that I am, yet again, at a loss to thank him properly.

The living room in question.
Maybe we ought to hang a commemorative plaque.

Litchfield is largely inaccessible to people who don’t have a car, and on this occasion I was again indebted to Mark Dennis, who has been throwing excellent food and wine at me for almost as long as Guido has, and who drives me into the Connecticut countryside for periodic visits.

Sitting on the deck at Guido’s house, I was struck yet again by the friendship between Guido and Mark: whenever it enters into their heads to get together, they do it. If Guido’s younger son, Alan (the first to link us all), or any of the rest of the family and friends can join them, so much the better. Good company is as essential to both men as good food and drink. But they are perfectly happy to proceed independently of us all, ignoring the generational gap in a way that, when I was a boy, I wouldn’t have thought possible.

Mark, contemplating what he’ll do to me if I don’t put down the camera.

Like Alan, Mark was my college classmate. While we were still at Brown, Guido and Mark pegged each other as kindred spirits. Together, they’d explore Federal Hill in Providence, sampling the bona fide Italian specialties in little groceries and restaurants. Mark was already on the path to becoming an expert in wine — he used to carry a little notebook in his front pocket, to record his impressions of the wine, and those of his friends, as well.

Marcus, the archetype of the big brother, still makes me feel
as if I’m a pesky 12-year-old.
Now that I’m 50, this is quite an agreeable talent.

The correct response to Mark’s insistent “What do you think of the wine?” was never “It’s good; I like it.” No, we must rise to the occasion: “It’s round on the palate, square on the jaw, smack in the face.” Or somesuch.

Guido never to my knowledge took notes on anything he served up to any of us, but the affinity for the finer things has been the basis of this grand friendship between him and Mark, spilling out and benefiting all the rest of us. Moreover, they’re models for us, not only in their tastes but in their bond. Age doesn’t matter to friends, and distances can be surmounted, so long as you care enough to make time for the good times.

So now I lift a glass in celebration of two friends — and thanks to them, I’ve got some very nice beverages to pour into that glass.

Maureen, a relatively recent but most welcome addition to our merry band. Like Guido, she’s a photographer. I cringe to think what she’ll make of my efforts.


Eric said...

Dear Lincoln,

I just received word that Guido Organschi passed on March 14 of this year, at the age of 93. Guido mentored me when I was very young man, and I knew him well until leaving Litchfield in the early 70's. He and my father were extremely close for many decades.

Guido introduced me to the art and passion of photography.

I just thought you'd want to know that he was gone.

William V. Madison said...

Thanks so much for sharing the news. We'd heard, but since I've been finishing my book, I haven't had a chance to write about Guido. I feel all the more fortunate to have known him, and grateful to Mark for making sure we had opportunities to see each other over the years.

I went right out and bought copies of Farrell's Studs Lonigan for each of us: Guido had been urging us for years to read the book. Now it's too late to discuss it with him, but at least we can know we're still guided by him.