An embarrassment of riches

I don’t know whether my good friend and indie film producer par excellence, Al Klingenstein, coined this phrase or not. It feels like one of those catch phrases that’s been there all my life, hanging out in shadows, waiting in the wings, feet shuffling, ready to spring on stage as soon as it hears its cue. The cue, apparently, was a conversation had whilst strolling along West End Avenue, heading home after a Saturday morning work-out, just prior to piling into the “Mercedes Benz of minivans” and road-trippin’ it up to the Woodstock Film Festival.

Al and I were doing what Al and I do: bein’ a couple of armchair philosophers, the smartest and wisest guys we know, puzzling through the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything. And being all about the love.

As we padded along, Al was talking about when he met his wife, Katherine. Well, more specifically, when and how they decided to marry. As is most often the case with such romantic fare, the story was a colorful one—the full spectrum, black and white and everything in between. But he concluded the tale, in TRUE Klingenstein-ian fashion, quite matter-of-factly. He looked ahead, eyebrows raised is if in question, shaking his head—not as if in denial or in trying to convince himself, but rather as if it was a revelation, a surprise to him as much as to everyone else.

“What can I say, man? My life…it’s an embarrassment of riches.”

I looked at him, and what could I say? Nothing. Because Al was right. On the whole, the guy’s life is a rose garden, constantly unfolding, ever in bloom: fragrant, colorful, beautiful.

Here’s the rub, though…I believe his life is that way not so much because he’s the beneficiary of random karma resulting from favorable stellar alignment. I mean, sure, Al’s had his share of good fortune, but so have we all. But it’s not as if his little garden doesn’t have its share of irritating thorns, whose blood lust demands the occasional taste from the finger pricked. I believe his life is that way mostly because he tends his garden carefully and lovingly, and, cliché as it sounds, because he stops to smell those proverbial roses from time-to-time.

There is so much I respect about my pal, Al, but this is what I respect the most. It’s part and parcel—no…it IS his humanity. He’s about the most human guy I know, and a helluva gardener. I’ve learned a lot from him.

In my new life—with my kids, and my friends, and this new career, and in particular, with this “enormous love”, as Robbye coined it—I find this phrase dropping into my conversations constantly. As if, now that it’s made its big entrance, it is ravenous, starved for the energy of the crowd, the glow of the footlights. It is, in fact, quite the big, ol’ ham. And so it pops in for a cameo in nearly every scene of this little production I call “life”. “Ta da! Here I am! Go right on ahead, folks…applaud at will!”

What’s different? I don’t know. Life, to be certain, isn’t the crisis-ridden affair it once was. I get that. I wouldn’t say, however, that it is, on the whole, “easier”. I don’t think life ever is. I don’t believe it is designed that way. I will go to my grave shouting from mountaintops that it is designed to be “worth it”, certainly. But easy..? Not so much. And thank God for that. I mean, where’s the fun in “easy”?

Whereas once I saw primarily thorns, today I see the blooms.

That is the difference.

So…what can I say, man? I raise my eyebrows. I shake my head. My life? It’s an embarrassment of riches.

Thanks, God. Thanks, friends and family. Thanks, kids. Thanks, Robbye.

Thanks, Al.

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