Thursday, June 14, 2007

With Love and Sympathy for Alice's Sister

Playwright and director David Mamet remembers Chris Kaldor
5:00 p.m.

Patrick O’Brien wrote “When have you ever known a village reputation to be wrong?” The town of Cabot is, in the forty-some years I have known it, as close as one might come to a nineteenth-century village. There is the town green, and there are the three stores, Mike’s Garage, Larry’s grocery store and Harry’s hardware store.

The hardware store is the same, four-post-porticoed General store structure which still dots Vermont. It was the country store in photos one hundred twenty years ago, and so it remains. The New England tradition made its proprietor the de-facto mayor of the town: his store was the post-office, bank, coffee shop, informal retreat of the Elders, emporium, and font of that local entertainment, gossip.

The village reputation is known to all: who is fair, and who is dissolute, who can be relied upon and who must be merely tolerated. The village is the opposite of our current American transiency, and, as such, a living picture of the morals of an earlier age. Village inhabitants do not choose their leaders lightly, for no one has either time for or interest in fools, nor for the dubious entertainment of cross-weighing the lies of the professional politicians.

The office of Town Clerk (that is, of Mayor) of Cabot was held for more than 15 years by my friend Chris Kaldor. The town of Cabot trusted him to protect its interest in the schools and the streets, the lights, and tax-rolls, and in short, with the legitimate concerns of government.

The town elected him time and again,, they trusted him, as they had given him a good view, and had come to know him, in his years, as the owner of the hardware store.
He came from Annapolis twenty-some years ago, with a young wife and child, and bought Bunchy Cookson’s store.

His customers and their families had been patronizing the store for generations, and Chris, sitting behind the counter, going in the back to find a bolt or mix a can of paint, or tell or listen to a story, suited them; and when he chose to run they elected him Town Clerk, and would have kept electing him as long as he chose to run.

This week he died.

I’d been with him in California last Tuesday, and, on Monday I was called to say he’d passed away, after he’d flown back to Vermont. I was his friend for twenty-some years. I remember him (as last week) on various movie sets, where he’d come to play a part, I remember him behind the counter at Harrry’s Hardware, I remember hunting with him in the snow, and coming upon him, sitting on a stone wall, still as a statue, a part of the woods.

Many of us remember his gift with and love of words, not a few of them unprintable; but I am struck to recall that my over riding memories are, to the contrary, of him listening. People talked to him at the store, and they talked to him as Town Clerk, because he listened; and, when he replied, it was to-the-point, commonsensical and kind. We saw him frequently perturbed, occasionally angry, but no one ever saw him thoughtless, cruel, or false.

He took all of his responsibilities to heart—as a husband, as a father, as a Town official, as a son, as a friend; and Cabot quietly adopted him and he became a pillar of the town. Without show or fanfare, as a matter-of-course, he spent his life trying first to determine, and, then, to do the right thing.

David Mamet


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