Melody Clark, Goddess of California, is hosting me on her podcast Fan Flak today at 3:00. I will explain the Digitize Everything! Project, up to and including the weirdly placed exclamation point. And people can call in!

Be bold! Be daring! Tune in!

The time has come to digitize everything relating to Grayson and Sam Hall, my parents.
I have file cabinets full of all sorts of crazy weirdness. I have a scanner.

We’re not going to do this chronologically. No neat tidy parade of newspaper clippings and play programs and DS oddities all marching in lockstep down the school hallway. Life is messy. This will be just like life.

And so it begins.

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but today is a unique day: It’s my father’s birthday. Today he would have been 100.

He died in 2014, at 93, after as great a run as one could ask. But if he were here now–and had managed to get through quarantine without going mad, highly unlikely for the most social man on Earth–he would have had a few choice words.

Most of them very sardonic. Many of them very bitchy. All of them very funny.

Cheers, Dad. Enjoy.

Note: One of the great joys of Nantucket ’73 finding an audience is that I have heard from people who knew Matt Gaynes in ways I did not. I am promoting these from the comments sections to the front page because they’re interesting and worthwhile views of Matt doing what he loved most—kayaking.
First up, a reminiscence from Martelle Jr:

Dear Mr. Hall!

The passing of George Gaynes has led me to some research about his son Matthew, which made me come across your blog. Thank you for giving me further insight to Matt´s early life, a great effort to share your experiences.

Here is some information you might or might not be aware of, probably.

From 1987 until 1989 Matthew Gaynes had been a member of the infamous Alpiner Kajak Club.

The Alpine Kayak Club is an association of international extreme whitewater river runners, dedicated to alpine kayaking all over the world and pushing the limits of the sport.

The AKC (not to be mistaken with the American Kennel Club) was founded in the Bavarian capital of Munich in 1972 and is mainly run and organized by German members. At the time Matthew Gaynes was one of their most prominent international members who has left traces within this community.

In the mid 80´s, during a longer stay in Austria and Bavaria he had already been part of the local whitewater scenes, paddling with former whitewater slalom world champions Norbert Sattler and Toni Prijon jr. But especially from 1986 until is death in 1989, Matthew had been in contact with several of the German friends of the Club, during trips to Europe and/or meeting up with expedition-members in the U.S. and Canada.

This led to a very special friendship with one particular personality of the AKC, considered at the time as the international ambassador of the club. During multiple international trips and expeditions throughout the world the two of them were one of the most active teams in the scene.

There is a substantial testimonial to this friendship, a compilation of pictures and little stories.

The author at the time was a prominent photographer and author, with several publications in this special interest group, publishing in magazines, holding international lectures, as well as minor publications in the internal little underground AKC newsletter, TIP.

Yours sincerely

Martelle jr.

Actually, I very much remember how excited Matt was to be included in the heady, crazy world of hardcore European kayaking. He spoke of Norbert and Prejon with profound respect for their abilities and achievements, and was delighted (and, truth be told, rather humbled) that they took him seriously.

I have a second reminiscence, this one from B. Wilhelmi. It takes place in Corsica, at Liamone/Fume Grasso. Before I get to that, however, I did a quick search to see what I could find about this location. The description below is from a website by Pat Thoyts, Pat’s Paddling Guide to Corsica. (; Pat, if you see this and want it removed for any reason I’ll be glad to do so.). Pat, obviously an experienced kayaker, describes Corsica as “The finest whitewater paddling in Europe.” He writes of this particular stretch of river rather interestingly:

Fiume Grosso and Upper Liamone. 5km Grade V (VI) 8hr {90}

Access is at the bridge by Bains de Guagno, and egress is at the Pont de Belfiori. One helluva river. The level was about 6 inches above the vague Haas guides “slightly covered rock” mark. It continued to rise while we were on the river. The 8.5 km took 8 hours to complete. Start early or finish in the dark (not recommended). There were somewhere between 6 and 10 portages, 2 or 3 of these looked impossible, others looked to have uncertain outcomes. We made upwards of 20 inspections – don’t spend too long making up your mind. This was a continuously hard epic. At this level the steep boulder fields and ledges produce powerful stoppers and holes. Walking out is impossible, and some of the rapids must be run.

Ok, that understood, Matt Gaynes and B. Wilhelmi ran it. Mr. Wilhelmi tells the tale:

Corsica 87: The Liamone/Fiume Grosso Incident

Matthew and I paddled along the Fiume Grosso, the big tributary that leads into the Liamone after a few miles. We came up to the first difficult rapid. It is a tricky ledge hole that requires full attention in order not to tip over. I ran it and continued floating along in the flat water, watching Matthew’s run. He was slightly off balance and got tipped over, had to roll. He looked like a complete beginner. I was roaring in laughter. Unfortunately he had slammed his already damaged left wrist into the rocks while rolling up and was writhing in agony with his scratched fingers bleeding. He had heard my laughter and was obviously pissed off.

He ignored my presence for another mile.

Three weeks later, Matt had long left Corsica, I ran the Liamone again with other friends of mine. Carelessly floating into that particular ledge hole I tipped over and, rolling up brutally scratched the fingers of my left hand. I could hear Matthews imaginary laughter.

Today, almost 30 years after, the remaining scars remind me of that little episode.

Hairball kayakers, indeed.

I’ve been looking for a way to introduce broccoli rabe to my boys. They’re teenagers now, and their tastes are more developed than when they were short and “yum” and “yuck” were binary, and not part of a continuum. They eat all sorts of weird things now, quite a few of which fill me with awkward pride. But still, there are a couple of items that I haven’t gotten around to introducing for one reason or another.

Broccoli rabe is one of them.

I love the stuff. It’s a variant of broccoli that tastes as if it had spent millennia cracking through compacted soil, nutrient-poor and predator-rich, with ocean brine for rain. Everything about it suggests it evolved to fight its environment, not blend in to grow into fat miniature trees like its bland, heady namesake.

It’s bitter. And in cooking it, you can either give in to that bitterness, steam it and serve it plain; erect barriers to contain it, as in orecchiette pasta with rabe and sausage, which surrounds it with bland pasta and cheese and salty, spicy meat; or play against the bitter by pairing it with something sweet.

Raisins can do a lot. So can balsamic vinegar. But we use raisins in other dishes (cous cous! Lentils!). And I, for one, am glad we have reached the other side of our cultural infatuation with balsamic vinegar. It has its place, but its place is not in everything, and for a while there it was entirely inescapable.

So in the supermarket this afternoon, specifically anointed with the task of picking up a veg for dinner, I came across some beautiful heads of broccoli rabe. And then, an instant later, I was confronted by an absolutely perfect-looking yam.

Okay, I thought, let’s do this.

Vaguely Thanksgiving-like Rabe and Yam

1 pound broccoli rabe
1 large yam
Olive oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon salt
Chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries, sweetened or not
Pomegranate seeds, would be interesting
Salt and pepper, to taste

Set two large saucepans on the stove. Fill one three-quarters full with water and set on high heat to boil.

Trim the thick, woody stalks off the rabe. Discard or save in the freezer for soup, if you do that sort of thing. I used to more than I do now. Set the trimmed rabe aside.

While waiting for the water to boil, put some oil in the second pan, keep the heat very low, dice the shallots, throw in the oil and let them melt into translucence.

Grate half the yam and add the grated yam to the shallots. Stir. Slice the rest of the yam into thin, potato chip-sized pieces. Toss those in and stir.

By now the water in the first pot should be boiling. Add the salt, and then the rabe. Boil uncovered for three minutes.

In the second pot, add chicken or vegetable broth to cover the potatoes and shallots. Bring them to a boil, then cut the heat to a simmer.

After three minutes, the rabe should be bright green and the stalks should pierce easily with a fork. Remove the rabe from the boiling water (either by dumping into a colander in the sink, thus losing the water, or by scooping the rabe out with a porous ladle or other utensil that will get the rabe out while leaving the hot water in the pot, where it can be used for making pasta or rice or some other crazy thing) and add the plants to the potato-onion-broth mix. Stir. Cook down gently, stirring so the bottom doesn’t burn, until the broth has reduced and the mixture can hold its shape in a spoon.

Chop the dried cranberries roughly, just to open them up, and add them in the last couple of minutes, along with a couple of grinds of salt and pepper to bring the flavors to the front. If pomegranate seeds are in season, they would be interesting in place of the cranberries, and would make the whole thing that much more festive. Don’t chop them, though—they’re a mess and take forever to clean up.

George Gaynes was a wonderful man, and an old family friend. Longtime readers of this blog will recognize him as Matt Gaynes’ father. Most people know him from his film and television roles: John Van Horn, “The Tongue,” singing Some Enchanted Evening from the street to Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie; Commander Lassard in the Police Academy movies, crusty Henry Warnimont in Punky Brewster; Frank Smith, the mob boss threatening Luke and Laura on General Hospital, and—perhaps his finest work—Serybryakov in Luis Malle’s film of Andre Gregory’s production of Uncle Vanya, entitled Vanya on 42nd Street.

But in many ways, George’s life was infinitely more fascinating than a cold collation of his film credits. He was a tireless storyteller, and he had fantastic stories, all true: born in Finland when it was part of the Russian empire, his birth recorded in the old-style Julian calendar, George survived a great many things that would have humbled a lesser man: a mother who remarried and divorced with avid rapidity, and who ultimately became the toast of French café society between the wars; a brutal slice of World War Two involving escapes, internments, and an overall sense of duty to fight for what he believed; the loss of a son. But through it all there was fundamental love, quick and splendid humor, tremendous backbone (a quality his son and daughter both inherited) and a capacity for great and tender kindness. He was a gentleman, with old-school European manners underlying an impeccable and abiding moral code.

I knew the family because I grew up in the same New York apartment building, and their son, Matthew, was my age and my best friend. I have had the pleasure of staying in touch with George, Allyn Ann Mclerie (his wife, an actress and star in her own right), Matt and Iya and Iya’s daughter Niki over the years.

As an elderly man, George wrote a brief autobiographical essay to set the record straight on the story of his life. Upon his death in February, his daughter Iya asked me to give it a slight edit for brevity. This was handed out last week at the memorial service in Santa Barbara celebrating his life; I publish it here with Iya’s permission.

The words that follow are George’s, the story is George’s. My edits are, as they should be, invisible.



by George Gaynes

This document is intended to convey to my survivors and to the press, the real story, albeit in an abridged form, of my origins, my life, and my career. It is not intended as a panegyric for my accomplishments, nor is it a self-congratulatory account of my achievements. Just a story, the main thrust of which is to inform whoever has an interest on the subject of my life with exact details, both personal and professional. So, here are the facts.

This document is for filing purposes at the present time, to be trotted out upon my demise if deemed necessary for an obituary. In fact, I would request that it be consulted. In other words I am acting as my own public relations agent.

I was born George Jongejans on May 16th, 1917 (May 3rd, per the old-style Julian calendar) of a Dutch father, Gerrit Jongejans and a Russian mother, Iya Grigorievna Gay, in Helsingfors (now Helsinki) Finland, where they had met. My father, from a middle class family in Alkmaar, Holland, was working for the American Tobacco Company in Finland. My mother was the daughter of a prominent Saint Petersburg artistic, and aristocratic, theatrical producer, writer, and actor named Gregory Gay. He was divorced from his wife, Anna Novikova, also an actress, who was descended from a prominent Eastern Russian family with Tartar origins in the Golden Horde. Both had worked in the Imperial Theaters. Anna Novikova had remarried to an Imperial government functionary, George Wouitch.

The latter had been assigned to the then Grand Duchy of Finland for government duties. Finland declared its independence during the two Russian revolutions that year. There was fighting in Helsinki, and my mother had to dodge bullets when going out to buy milk.

A year or so after my birth my mother and father moved to Holland, where my mother stayed through the end of World War 1. The marriage proved incompatible very early; in 1920 my mother moved to Paris, where her mother and stepfather had preceded her. She sent for me some weeks or months later. In 1923 my mother married an Englishman, Sir Robert Abdy, Bart.; this marriage lasted for six years. During that time my mother established herself as one of the reigning beauties of Paris and international café society, a social swirl that continued through the ‘30s.

In 1926 I was sent from Paris to an English private elementary boarding school in preparation to becoming a proper English public school boy. I even successfully passed the entrance exam to attend Eton. However, in 1930, after the divorce in 1929, my mother followed the advice of a school friend from her all-female Swiss finishing school and put me in a high school (collège) in Lausanne, Switzerland. There I lived in a pension with a Swiss family for seven years. In 1937 I graduated from junior college (gymnase). I had been singing throughout my school years; my voice had changed into a bass baritone register, and as it had become my intention to follow a theatrical career, I went to Milan, Italy, to study music and opera.

From 1937 to 1940, when I made my operatic debut at the Teatro della Triennale in Luigi Dallapiccola’s one act opera Merlin, I lived in Milan, returning intermittently to my mother’s home in Paris. World War II hit its stride in May 1940 with the German invasion of Holland, Belgium and France. As a Dutch subject my residence in Italy became insecure, and I left just the day before Italy’s declaration of war on June 10, 1940. I headed through Switzerland back to France, but Paris had been taken, so with difficulty I joined my mother in Vichy, where she had gone for health reasons. We took off together for Biarritz and the Spanish border. With her British (by marriage) and my Dutch passports we attempted to leave for England through Spain and Portugal. This proved unsuccessful, and we crossed to Monaco, where we resided for the best part of two years, always trying throughout that time to find some way to leave for England.

Finally, with the total occupation of France by the Germans in 1942, we each separately found our way on foot across the Pyrenees into Spain, where she and I were subjected to some months of internment. In 1943 we were able to get to London through Gibraltar, courtesy of the British Embassy in Madrid.

I got to London first, joined the Royal Dutch Navy, was assigned to the British Navy, and took part in the invasion of Sicily, as well as actions in Italy, Albania, Greece, and the invasion of the South of France. In 1945, after the German surrender, I spent a year in the German seaport of Emden as part of the British occupying forces.

My mother got to London after I had already left. There, she joined the Free French Forces, was assigned to an American medical unit, and landed with them in Normandy on D-Day. Her language skills were invaluable as an interpreter, and she ended the war in Paris with the Russian Soviet Medical Mission.

Returning to Paris in 1946 I resumed my operatic training, and was engaged in 1947 at the Mulhouse, Alsace, followed by an engagement in Strasbourg the following year. Lazslo Halasz, founder of the New York City Opera, heard me in audition each one of those years and brought me to New York for the City Opera 1949 fall season. As company basso, my most prominent role was Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Virgil Thomson, then music critic at the New York Herald Tribune, found me “the best Leporello of the decade.”

That same year, the producers of Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera The Consul, Chandler Cowles and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., cast me in the role of Mr. Kofner in the original production at the Barrymore Theater.

The following year, 1950, by an arrangement with the New York City Opera, I was given the opportunity to play the role of Jupiter in Cole Porter’s Out of This World at the Century Theater, courtesy of the producers Saint Subber and Lemuel Ayres. The same thing happened the next year with Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolf Green’s Wonderful Town, in which I played the lead against Rosalind Russell and, later, Carol Channing. During a rehearsal for Wonderful Town, the director, the legendary George Abbott, advised me to change my name to one more appropriate to a Broadway performer; though I was still under contract and performing at the City Opera during this period, the experience of being part of Wonderful Town offered possibilities that opera could not. In the midst of a medley of names floated by the assembly, Leonard Bernstein took with particular enthusiasm to George Gaynes, a partial anagram of Jongeyans, the phonetic simplification of Jongejans I was then using. I opened with Gaynes on the marquee.

During this season I fulfilled my contract with the New York City Opera at the same time I was appearing on Broadway. I worked in both to the fullest extent I could; standbys took over in each when I appeared in the other. I believe such a shuttle still remains unique in the annals of Broadway and opera in New York City.

In 1953, during the run of Wonderful Town, I met my future wife, Allyn Ann McLerie. We married at Christmastime that same year, and remain married to this day. Allyn Ann is a Broadway and film star with a very fine career behind her. We had two children: a daughter, Iya, born in 1955, and a son, Matthew, born in 1958.

The opera work faded into the background and finally ceased altogether as I became more heavily involved in nonmusical theater, films, and television. In 1967, André Gregory invited Allyn Ann and me to Los Angeles, to join the Inner City Repertory Company, a nontraditional integrated theater group subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. We opened with a landmark production of Moliere’s Tartuffe. The Company only lasted one season, but we became residents of Los Angeles, and worked in a great many films, plays, soap operas and other television shows. For many, my most memorable television show remains the series Punky Brewster with Soleil Moon Fry in the 1980s. But I continued to do theater whenever I could, joining Claudette Colbert in the Jerome Chodorov comedy A Company of Two, both in Los Angeles and on tour.

The 1980s also saw the Police Academy series; I play Commandant Lassard in all seven, thanks to the original director Hugh Wilson and producer Paul Maslansky.

And in 1982 I had the good fortune to be cast as the fatuous soap opera star in the film Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Charles Durning and Jessica Lange, directed by Sidney Pollack.

In 1991 I joined André Gregory’s Uncle Vanya project, in which a group of actors gathered at the New Victory theater in New York in long-running public rehearsals. The result of this collaboration was ultimately filmed by Luis Malle under the title Vanya on 42nd Street. It was Malle’s last film; he died a year or so later.

In 1995 I played the role of Judge Samuel Sewell in Arthur Miller’s film version of The Crucible. The role, not in the original play, was written for the film.

Allyn Ann, throughout the years, kept on working as well, notably in various projects with Robert Redford, and in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. My son Matthew, a champion kayaker, graduated from UCSB with a degree in physics; he was killed in a road accident while on a kayaking expedition in India in 1989. Iya, who has a law degree from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, has held various posts in Santa Barbara city government; her daughter, Niki, has had two daughters, making us great-grandparents.

With best regards,

George Gaynes

Né Jongejans

“Hurrah, hurrah! The third of May!

Outdoor fucking began two days ago.”


…That said, there are two new Grayson Hall items up at eBay: a wide-brimmed summer straw hat in excellent condition, and a pair of “bunch of wine grapes” earrings. You can check ’em out here:


I grew up in New York City, very much a city kid. When I joined the cub scouts the only sleep-outs we ever had were on the 7th floor of the 92nd street Y. We’d build a fire in the fireplace and turn up the air-conditioning and tell ghost stories and fall asleep in our sleeping bags and in the morning pack everything up and trundle downstairs and take the subway back home.

My mother’s father, who spent his life in Philadelphia, had been a professional gambler and bookie—on his death bed, he griped about the parimutual betting act of 1937, which had put him out of business—but after the government forced his hand, he and his brothers opened a used car dealership and repair shop. My mother’s parents were estranged, though never divorced, and whenever my mother needed a car, he would give her one from his lot.

And it always broke down.

This extended after my parents married and I came along. For a portion of every summer, we would get a car from Grandpa to take a vacation.

And it always broke down.

We never got a car that didn’t. Even the summer of ’73, when my mother, Matt Gaynes and I were in Nantucket (mom was doing a John Guare play, Marco Polo Sings a Solo; the exploits of Matt and I that summer are chronicled elsewhere in this blog), we were in one of Grandpa’s cars when we took the car ferry to the island and drove all over the island and took the car ferry off the island, and on our way back to New York found ourselves driving through a horrible rainstorm when Matt Gaynes remarked that this car, of all the cars he’d seen my family drive, had never broken down.

Whereupon, as if on cue, it promptly did. We managed to push it under a bridge and waited, sopping wet, for two hours in those pre-cell phone days for the cops to come, call in a tow truck, and get us someplace with a phone.

The minute I went to college my parents finally bought their first car, a big-ass ‘70s Monte Carlo, a no-joke 17-foot long, 4000-pound blue two-door monster with a majestic sweep of steel from the rear wheel well to the headlights, an 8-cylinder turbo-boosted engine under a hood the size of a drawbridge, a trunk big enough to comfortably house a Shetland pony, a full-on couch in the front, and a cramped back seat with no legroom and a fake little rear window you couldn’t open or close.

This car was a beast, the kind of car America will never make again. The ideal customer Chevrolet had in mind when they designed this thing was someone who liked to drive really fast, and if they crashed into anything they’d destroy it and walk away without a scratch.

They’d obviously designed it, then, expressly, for my mother.

I have stated elsewhere in this blog that my mother loved to drive. I always thought she was a superb driver; it turned out others didn’t think so, but they were wrong. I once saw her miss an exit and simply turn off the highway, rip over 40 feet of grass and gravel to the service road, all without the slightest pause in conversation. She drove fast, with one arm and a constant stream of chatter. We had some of our deepest and heaviest talks clipping along at 75 miles per hour on speed-limit-55 roads. And when she got pulled over, which she often did, she would charm the shit out of the officer, and sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t, but it was always worth a try.

If you were going to drive as fast as my mother, the occasional ticket was just the price of doing business, in some respects akin to the ante one threw in to get into the game.

Anyway, with me packed off safely in college, the first thing my parents did after they got the car was started to rent country houses in upstate New York with friends. (At the time I was mystified: if we’d had access to the country when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have been learning about plant lore on 92nd street; now, as my peers become empty nesters, I can see it as a well-deserved return to and indulgence in adulthood.) The small towns south of Kingston, New York have a great many very nice stone houses, and gradually the urge to rent gave way to the urge to buy. They started out, in the middle ‘70s, looking for a small stone house to purchase on the west side of the river. They ended up, in 1978, buying Wildercliff, a large clapboard wood house on the east side of the river. (It turned out that under the clapboard was brick, probably made of local mud and a kiln onsite, which is how they did things in 1799. But brick was unfashionable and thus was covered with wood. Having a brick house covered with wood made rewiring anything rather complicated.)

The house was on the river, on a plateau high above the railroad tracks. It was close enough to the local train station that mom could be sitting on the porch having a glass of wine, see the train pass heading north, get in the blue beast and meet the train at the station, about four miles upriver. This was how she would pick up my dad, when he would come up at the end of a week of writing One Life to Live.

While this was delightful when it worked, the Amtrak trains speeding up the river from New York were often off-schedule, which is polite Amtrak talk for being late. Mom liked sitting on the porch and waiting for it when everything went like clockwork; when it didn’t, her legendary impatience kicked in. She realized she needed an intelligence system to inform her of the arrivals of trains about which she cared. To that end, she began chatting up the two young men who ran the Rhinecliff train station, both of whom were named Walter. They were gay without being a couple; they both knew Mom from Dark Shadows, and pretty soon she had them eating from the palm of her hand.

They would call her when Sam’s regular train was late, and call her again when it was five minutes from the station. If she had friends coming up, they would call when those trains were near arrival. They would have tickets printed and waiting so she could sweep into the station and cut to the head of the line. And at all times she treated them like the world’s sleekest and finest groomed sea otters behind the grillwork of their little cage.

One time, she spent the afternoon with friends in Hudson, an hour upriver from Rhinebeck, where we lived. Invited for dinner, she longed to stay and have Sam join her, but the drive was inconceivable. So she picked up the phone (again, all this was pre-cell phone), called the station, and told whichever Walter answered to radio the train to tell Sam Hall not to get off in Rhinecliff, but to go on to Hudson. And sure enough, they did it: Sam, minding his own business after a week of plotting the lives of Asa Buchanan and Dorian Cramer and Victoria Lord, was suddenly mortified to hear the train speaker crackle into life: “Passenger Sam Hall, do not get off in Rhinecliff, repeat Passenger Sam Hall, do not get off in Rhinecliff. Your wife will be waiting for you at the Hudson station.”

It made him want to curl up like a roly-poly bug and disappear under his seat, but he got off at Hudson and was met at the station by the group of friends Grayson had cajoled into joining her and immediately handed a glass of wine and that made it all better.

Another time, Amtrak was experimenting with offering free dinners in First Class. (This didn’t last long; Amtrak was many things, but it was not an airline.) Sam, who would reserve a first-class ticket so as to be assured of having a seat on the Friday afternoon train, would routinely forego the free dinner, as better food was awaiting him at the house. One day, mom was lounging in the station with the Walters, when one of them piped up with the complaint that the passengers got free food on the train, but the Amtrak workers never got anything like that. Mom, because she always held in herself the incalculable power to change things she thought unfair, decided to fix this. So the next Friday when Sam called her to tell her he’d be making his regular train, she put in a request. Were they still offering free dinners? Could he pick one up and bring it up to the station house for the Walters?

Bring his free dinner up to the Walters?

Well, Mom said, it would be great if he could bring two, but he probably couldn’t. (She’d’ve pulled it off, but that’s another story.) Yes, when they asked him if he wanted the free dinner, he was to say yes, and then bring it with him up the stairs to the station house when he got off the train.

So he did. Presented with a menu, he ordered the chicken, because he thought it would be more splittable. And when the tray of food arrived, he asked for it to go.

The conductor looked at him, incredulous. You want to take this off the train?

Yes, I want to take it with me when I get off in Rhinecliff.

The leftovers?

No, the whole thing.

But nobody’s ever asked that before.

Well, Sam asked, impatient now at the idiots in front of him and at my mother for putting him into this position, I own it, don’t I?

Well…yes, the conductor admitted.

Well, when I get off the train, I want to carry it with me. Whole. Uneaten. Exactly like this.

Radios crackled, secondary conductors were summoned, conversations were had. Finally it was agreed that Mr. Hall could take his dinner with him.

And so he did. When the train stopped in Rhinecliff, he got off with his workday Hunter’s World bag dangling from his shoulder, carefully carried the tray of cold chicken up two flights of stairs into the station house, and presented it to the Walters.

Who were in shock. They had just been kidding. They had never had the slightest expectation that anybody would actually do this.

By the time my father saw my mother, he was absolutely furious. The Walters, however, said the chicken was very good.

One more story: One night, when mom was doing a play, she took the last scheduled Amtrak up the Hudson river. The blue Monte Carlo had by then become the car they left at station parking when they both were in New York; it was after midnight when she arrived at Rhinecliff. She was tired, she was grumpy, and she wanted to get to the house and sleep.

The Walters were not around that late; the station was closed. Mom trudged up the two flights of stairs, took the door to the street, went up more stairs, and looked around the parking lot for the blue Monte Carlo.

At last, there it was. It was a cold night, and she had trouble with the key, having to wiggle and jiggle it for an absurdly long time before the lock finally gave and she opened the door and got in.

And there next to her was a book she’d seen around, and she thought to herself: Oh, I haven’t read that, and I’ve been meaning to.

Whereupon she realized she’d just broken into somebody’s car.

We’ve had auctions, we have given away carloads to the Northern Dutchess Hospital Thrift Shop in Rhinebeck, NY (Gucci raincoats! Martini glasses!) and HousingWorks in New York City (an air conditioner!), and we still have all sorts of things that were actually owned and worn and used by Grayson and Sam (with emphasis, clothing-wise, on Grayson).

So we’re opening an eBay store.

Now: I was once contacted by a friend who saw that someone on eBay was selling clothing he claimed was owned by Grayson Hall. I went over to check it out, and didn’t recognize any of it– it was pretty generic. So I e-mailed the seller, identified myself as Grayson’s son, and asked about the items.

It didn’t go well. He responded to my inquiry by attacking, and attacking, and ATTACKING, until I eventually just backed off and let him stew in his own vituperative self-created fake memorabilia hell.

So: in order to prove that everything we sell is authentic:

Every item sold at our eBay store will come with a canceled check from 1972 or 1973 signed by Grayson Hall (or, if you prefer, Sam Hall, as I also have some of those). These checks will be crimped with an embosser to provide a further test of authenticity. And I will keep a record of check numbers and other identifying information tying the sale to the check, and vice versa.

The store is called Universe of Hall (I’d like to thank my son for that name) and can be found here:

The first item is up now. It’s a set of 7 really attractive large yellow cups and saucers (and a sugar bowl and creamer) that would be a complete 8 but for Grayson breaking one, under innocent circumstances, one autumn morning in Rhinebeck many years ago. There is an eighth saucer, chipped and reglued, but the cup was a goner, swept up and tossed.

I’m going to keep putting stuff up, hoping people find it interesting or unusual or attractive or useful, or just want to own something that was owned by Grayson or Sam. There will be inexpensive items and some things that are probably worth a bit more. If you have any questions about any of it, feel free to get in touch and ask.

Have fun with it– that is, in fact, the point.

Okay, folks, this is the tricky one—this is the one that’s going to hurt. On Saturday, June 27, some of the nicest of my parents’ stuff from Wildercliff will be auctioned off:

Though there will be interesting oddments of Grayson and Sam’s Hall’s collected weirdness in future auctions, this is the one with the most, the best, the big pieces that I will be sad to see go. But the thing is, to keep all this stuff, I would need, umm, two houses. And, well, we don’t have that.

One can bid through the internet; our stuff is lots 662 to 709. Half is furniture, which will probably be expensive; half is Majolica ceramic pieces, which will probably not. My parents collected it (you can tell the ones my father bought because he had a thing about monkeys) and it’s beautiful stuff, but it really doesn’t fit our lives. Two adolescent boys + delicate pottery = multicolored shards of broken monkey bits in vacuum cleaner bags.

In 1983, my parent’s house was featured in Architectural Digest magazine. In 2010, a blogger I didn’t know wrote a blog piece in which he said nice things about the rooms, and published the pictures. If you care to see the furniture in context, that blogger’s kind post can be found here:

We’ll get back to the carefully written nonfiction once this is all finally over and done.

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