Id been making pictures out of the country almost exclusively for
almost four years. I was able to get all the work I wanted guest starring in TV, but
features in California, somehow, were verboten. The best offers I could get were for
substandard movies that I wouldnt lend my name to.
The marriage had begun to unravel when we settled in back at Benedict
Canyon. Hiro took care of the house and our German Shorthaired Pointer, Cappi, during our
many absenses. Pat just couldnt take charge. Hiro would ask what she wanted him to
do and shed say something like, "I dont know, I guess just what
youve been doing."
Hiro came to me one day and asked, "What am I supposed to
do?" I told him Mrs. Jason was in charge of the house now, and he recounted his
several conversations with her. I told him to take it easy for awhile, Id let him
know if anything special was needed. I waited and waited, but the longer it went on, the
more defeated shed seemed by her inability to take on the responsibility of even
doing the marketing.
One night, almost a year later, we were lying in bed watching TV and
she said, "You know, we really should break up before we start hating each other. I
know Im beginning to hate myself."
It took me a little while to fully appreciate that statement. The sex
was great, the life was good, we had friends to dinner often (but I did the cooking), and
she had finally done a sit-down dinner for twelve that would have wiped out the greatest
chef of Europe. It took her three days, and afterwards she collapsed for a day, but I was
proud of her. I repeated, over and over, that shed outdone me by fifty miles (and I
It didnt help.
A week later, after several quiet discussions, I suggested that she get
a lawyer. She said it would be too expensive to have two lawyers. We had a friend, an
attorney, who often was at the house. We went to see him, asked him to sit fiduciary.
After our pleading that we couldnt trust anyone else, he accepted. He asked Pat,
"What do you want?"
She answered, "Nothing. This man has been cut to pieces by three
other women. I have a small income, and there are just one or two items Id like to
have. The rest of the things belong to the house."
My answer was that she could have anything she wanted. That was the sum
of it. We went home and had dinner.
The divorce was quiet. Neither of us were happy about it, but we both
knew, reluctantly, it was necessary. After four times at bat, I decided marriage was not
for me, that there are some people who just are not suited for it, and I must be one of
The USO had contacted me about doing a tour of Vietnam to visit the
troops. It was early October and one place I didnt want to be that Christmas was
alone at Benedict Canyon, so I signed on for twenty-one days in Nam. I was checked into a
hotel in Saigon with a lot of other people doing the USO tours. I was wearing new style
fatigues and jungle boots.
The army assigned me a young captain, Glen Robbins, from the engineer
corps as escort officer. He couldnt have been much over twenty-four. We traveled to
a different location each day, from the Delta in the extreme south to the DMZ
(demilitarized zone), which was only a couple of hundred yards separating the two warring
sides. My captain and I would land at a camp in a ten-seater plane that hip-hopped all
over the place, picking up and dropping off personnel. About nine-thirty in the morning,
Id check into the Commanders hooch with my suitcase, take a chopper to an
outpost where Id jaw with the troops for a few hours, get picked up by chopper and
do a few more outposts, and be back at the main camp for a shower and change of clothes by
Id have evening mess with the enlisted men and wed shoot
the breeze for a while. I opined that army food hadnt changed in twenty-five years.
After dinner, Id meet my captain and wed go to the local
hospital for about three hours, where hed wait while I visited the wards, including
the burn wards and amputee wards. I made sure not to miss one bed. Coming out of those
rooms, the smile on my face that I would use to buck everyone up would turn to racking
tears as I hurried around a corner. More than once I gave up my dinner. But Id cry
myself out and the captain and I would then head to the Officers Club where I
usually managed to get roaring drunk with a bunch of nice kids wearing captains bars or
gold leaves on their shirt collars.
My captain would pour me into bed and we were up at five in the morning
and off to the next place. Every four days we were flown back to Saigon for a day and to
get our laundry done. Combat! was the most popular show on Armed Forces television
in Nam and the guys really enjoyed talking with someone theyd just seen on the tube
or from a 16mm projector the night before. Im glad I was able to help lift morale a
My career went apace. I worked as much as I wanted to. There was also
plenty of time for fishing and hunting. I settled into the comfortable life of a working
bachelor. Actually, Id never enjoyed myself so much in my life. I looked back on my
marriages as learning lessons in disaster and wished Id been smart enough not to
have gotten into any of them. Well, Id learned, and it wasnt going to happen
again. I was having all the fun with none of the responsibility. Along the way Id
meet an absolutely beautiful and wonderful woman who, after a time, demanded exclusivity
from me. If she couldnt accept me as I was, I politely bowed out.
In the atrium outside the front door, and just inside the wrought iron
gates, Id built a small pond on the edge of which was a carved stone statuette that
recirculated the water by way of a pump. The tubing had become stopped up with algae and
Hiro had said hed flush it out if Id get it to the kitchen sink. I unhooked it
and as I stepped down from the tiled pond rim, cradling the two-foot form in my arms, I
fell. My hand hit the edge of the brick walk as I cradled the head of the statue.
I sat up and looked at my right thumb. It was bent forward at a
ninety-degree angle, about a third of the way up the nail. I could see lots of pieces of
bone. With my left hand, I pushed it back up straight and holding my hand above my head to
help stem the bleeding, rushed into the bathroom where I ran it under cold water. Then I
knotted a handkerchief with my teeth and left hand and tied a tourniquet around my wrist.
I called my doctors office and said I thought I might have
chopped off part of my thumb but I wasnt sure. Hiro drove me to the office. I had my
hand held high and had put a small towel over it. They rushed me past the waiting patients
into an examining room. A minute later the good doctor walked in and as he did (I must
have just been going into shock) I whipped the towel off and sang, "Da-daaaaaa."
I didnt lose the thumb, but it took almost two months to heal.
One day, I asked the doctor why the damned thing still hurt so much. His answer: "You
have more nerve endings in your thumb than in all the other fingers on that hand combined.
If your thumb was in the middle of your arm youd hardly feel a thing."
I said, "Ill give you five thou for you to transplant it
there right now."
So, now Ive got a slightly mangled right thumb that serves as a great reminder to
me about how imperfect I am in so many ways.