Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good night, sweet princess...

Indulge me. This message isn't about libraries or information overload or perceptions of anything but sadness. Molly Ivins died tonight.

I only met her twice: once at a book signing in Chicago, once when she spoke at a Public Library Association national conference (more on that later). But she was a national treasure, and I think of a lot of us who knew her mainly through her work are grieving tonight.

She wrote with wit and love, delightfully skewering the rich and providing solace (and the occasional kick in the butt) to the less fortunate. She was our most acute observer of George W. Bush, at least from the president's left; she had known him for decades and understood him well. If we missed her for nothing else, we would miss her insights into the man she dubbed "Shrub."

About that PLA conference: I was director of PLA in the mid-1990s, the guy who kept the seat warm between Joey Rodger and Greta Southard. At our conference in Atlanta in 1996, Molly was the closing speaker. She was supposed to fly in that Saturday morning on an early flight from Austin. A car and driver would meet her at the airport and bring her to the convention center where she'd meet a few of us for coffee, and then speak at noon. Now remember, almost no one had cell phones then. We waited and waited. No Molly, no car, no way to find out what the hell had happened. By 11:30, I was nearly comatose---there were 2000 people in the room already, and I had no one to speak. My friend Jim McPeak, who was keeping vigil with me, offered to find me a size 26 dress and a wig so that I could do the talk in drag. At 11:50, the driver showed up, full of apologies. The flight had arrived, he was at the gate with his little "Ivins" sign, but no one approached him. My heart sunk. Had she missed the plane?

Traffic was backed up for blocks around the convention center. Jim took off for Lane Bryant. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a taxi pulled up, and out jumped the unmistakable figure of Molly Ivins. "Do y'all know where the librarians are meetin'?" she drawled. "Ms. Ivins, please come with me," I answered through clenched teeth. She had some half-baked excuse for why she didn't make connections with her driver, and she had only one question: "Where can I grab a smoke before this shindig starts?" We found a lounge, she wiped out a cigarette, and we made it into the ballroom with minutes to spare. And then she delivered an absolutely flawless address.

Y'know, in August 1977, Groucho Marx died three days after Elvis Presley. Dick Cavett said that it was the only time in his life that Groucho's timing had been bad. I feel the same way about Molly Ivins' passing: we only have 720 days of the Bush administration left. How are we going to really understand them without Molly there to interpret for us?

5 comments:

The Fool said...

George,
I can add nothing to expand upon your eloquent tribute to Ms. Ivins. She was indeed a national treasure and I will miss her commentary very much. In some ways I feel that she's been cheated. Cheated from seeing the criminals who now occupy the White House be brought up on impeachment charges. When that day dawns perhaps we can all give a tip of the hat to Molly. By George, she deserves it.
Thom

Chrystie said...

I'm with you.

Rosario said...

For those of us who are Texans (the real kind, not the pseudo-Texans who occupy certain white houses), Molly Ivins has been a beacon of hope for much longer than we care to remember. Indeed, she will be sorely missed.

Bruce said...

George,
Molly Ivans will be missed, perhaps not by the Current Occupant (to use Garrison Keillor's spot-on appellation), but by many of us who relied upon Ivans to tell the truth, but keep us chuckling through our tears. Thank you for your kind and very real Molly-esque tribute.
Bruce Newell

Michael Casey said...

Very nice post. She was an amazingly talented person and I'm going to miss her sharp wit.