Some years ago my husband, then only a few years out of college, was hired as Articles Editor at National Review. NR was still in its 35th Street offices then, just a few blocks from the Midtown Tunnel. [h/t to Anonymous for setting me straight geographically.]
We lived in Queens. On the days when I had to pick Richard up at work, I would have to leave the house at 3:30 at the latest, if I wanted to get to NR by five. The distance between our house and NR was only a couple of miles, but as a wise man once said, distance is irrelevant in New York. It's all about the traffic.
And the traffic between me and NR's home base was fierce. I always felt like some kind of fighter pilot making my way up the Long Island Expressway, dodging taxis and cop cars, tryngn to reach my goal. Then came the Midtown Tunnel, where I felt more like a kamikaze bomber, elbowing my way through the mouth of the tunnel and on to the light of day at the other end.
I would start out calm, telling myself today would be different, but the result was always the same: by the time I got over the LIE, through the Midtown and onto the island of Manhattan I would undergo a complete personality change. I began the journey a woman and ended it an animal, ready to mow down anything that got in my path.
One day as I was pulling up in front of NR's office, my eye on the last parking space on the block, another car beat me to it. AND TOOK MY SPACE.
Well. Naturally I relatiated. HOONK!! HOOONK!!! "YOU #%$%! THAT'S MY SPACE! MINE,MINE,MINE!! MOVE YOUR $^%# @&& AND--"
The car door opened. That unmistakable form - tall, lanky, messy light hair, prominent teeth- slipped out.
DIH slinked low behind the wheel. Thank God, he never saw me.
That was my first live encounter with WFB. There were many others, at close range and pleasant. Bill Buckley was singularly gracious man. I always thought if I spilled somethng at his table or knocked over some precious stemware, he'd immediately smash his own glass on the floor and say in that soft drawl of his, "My God, there must be something in the air tonight!"
Yes he was brilliant, yes he was an icon, yes he changed the intellectual landscape of America. All great things.
He was also kind, considerate, and unbelievably generous. Which are even greater things.
I am sad that he is gone.
Rest in peace, Bill.