Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Donuts with Kuralt

A few minutes ago, I was in my kitchen nursing my most recent bad habit - stress and insomnia. Some nights I have so much worry going on in my head that I can’t quiet things down enough to lay myself to sleep. My wife, as sweet as her pleas to come to bed are, hasn’t found the right muzzle for all the head chatter that’s making her a bedroom widow.

So, there I was, in my kitchen eating pistachios, and then suddenly, in the middle of dissecting another pistachio shell into two equal halves, a spirit ( a man) stepped in and said “hello.” Of course, as a medium, I don’t usually get startled by this type of intrusion, however, this time, I was pleasantly shocked. After all, it’s not every night that I get a kitchen visit from Charles Kuralt. Then again, I remembered the first and only time I met Mr. Kuralt, and the hour wasn’t much more reasonable then either - 5:35 A.M.

It was a frigid Sunday morning in New York City. I’m going back to February, 1994, 13 years ago. My girlfriend at the time, Misty June (no, she’s not a dancer), was working as a nurse at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital on Manhattan’s West side. This particular Sunday morning she had the six A.M. shift, and I was her chauffeur of choice.

There’s a diner on 57th or 58th street near the hospital, and Misty and I stepped in for some coffee and donuts to take the chill off. I remember being totally groggy and half awake when I heard that distinctive voice. If I ever had a “greatest generation” cultural hero, here he was, standing right before me.

Mr. Kuralt was saying something in Spanish to one of the diner employees. Taking advantage of the fact that I speak fluent Spanish, I made a little joke that Mr. Kuralt took note of. He asked me where I had learned my Spanish. Once I told him I was from Argentina, boy oh boy, did he start talking. Of course, Mr. Kuralt had been around the world a few times and then some, and he knew so much more about Argentina than I did.

All told, we stood at the counter talking to Mr. Kuralt for about 10 minutes. If it had been up to me, our talk would have gone on for hours. However, he had his Sunday Morning show to get to around the corner at CBS studios, and Misty had IV drips and bedpans waiting for her at the hospital.

As Misty and I prepared our departure, we wrapped ourselves in our NY winter survival gear, and Mr. Kuralt insisted on buying our coffee and donuts. When we tried to politely refuse his generosity, he told us how happy we had made him just talking about his travels in South America. This, my friends, is a memory I cherish forever. Charles Kuralt telling me how I had made him happy just talking. Wow!

Ralph Grizzle, one of Mr. Kuralt’s biographer’s, wrote that, “Kuralt enlightened by seeing the good in us - not because that was all there was to see but because he chose to.”

I think I needed this reminder. If I choose to see past the stress and anxiety that’s keeping me up, I might be able to see the good, too, and hopefully, I can return to my dreams, the ones sleeping right there next to my wife.

Thanks for the donut, Mr. Kuralt. Again.