Friday, July 29, 2016

A Place to Lie Down

-- By Tom Phillips

New York is a great place to make money, and art, friends, and trouble -- a place to write and talk, to compete in the marketplace of ideas.  For all these reasons, it's not a great place to die.  To die in New York -- this is my fantasy -- is to feel like a loser, a dropout, a runner falling by the wayside while others speed on.

Most of my working career was spent at the New York headquarters of CBS.  There, high-powered executives duked it out to become president of this or that division, and ultimately the whole company.  The game was to destroy your enemies and cultivate your allies, until the winner stood atop the mountain, the jewel they called the Tiffany Network.  There, of course, he became the target of vicious attacks until he too fell by the wayside.

Only two men ever survived at the top -- William Paley, the company founder, and the current kingpin, Sumner Redstone.  And the price of their survival was the delusion of immortality.  A biographer quoted Paley in his late eighties, in failing health, demanding of a friend: "Why do I have to die?"

Redstone goes further.  According the The New York Times, this 93-year-old bare-knuckle billionaire -- though he can barely stand up or speak -- plans to live forever.  This is the premise of his fight to keep control of the company.

I was never president of anything bigger than our co-op apartment building, and while that job failed to kill me, it did not grant the illusion of immortality.  Life will end -- I just don't want to feel like a failure when it does.  So I'm looking for a place where dying is part of life.  Lest my friends despair or my enemies exult -- I'm not expecting to die, or even move, any time  soon.  Still, at 75, one needs a destination.