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Memories of Cynthia

She’s been on my Wall of Fame in my apartment hallway all these years, so I don’t have to remember only in my mind’s eye what Cynthia was like. The photo on the wall was a publicity shot taken (gasp) when she was 18. She looks straight at us, guitar in hand, the sly smile reminding us to be wary of this girl who is at the same time so enticing, drawing us in with her beauty and her promise of music to come.

The contraries of Cynthia, how I loved them. If you said it was white, she’d say, “NO. It’s black.” She loved to argue in her throaty voice with my former husband Paul. His intellectual opinions were a challenge to her intellectual opinions—on any subject. When she lived in Princeton first on Maple Street and then on Williams, the three of us would have at it, around her kitchen table or ours, her back porch or our back terrace, wielding forks, knives, spoons to make a point, eating totally delicious food cooked by Cynthia (roast chicken on a Sunday evening) or by me (a shrimp soup once that Cynthia pronounced absolutely awful and she was right), gulping down gallons of table wine, arguing the merits of Hemingway, feminism, Colette, pacifism, Granada, fado, cocker spaniels, unicorns. The one thing we never argued was the folly and the horror of America’s war with Vietnam. You could always count on Cynthia to contribute to a peace-making organization (like Negotiation Now) or to get out and march in rain or in shine, snow or staggering heat. And it was Cynthia who joined me in kicking up a protest against the way Princeton University wielded its power when it sold off the local community movie theater, the Garden Theater, on Nassau Street to the big biz boys—in this case United Artists. Not only did that sale eliminate independent movies and replace them with a two-year run of Jaws (good movie, but two years???) but it represented a sell out of the center of town. Cynthia always put her protests into action and we had a good moment when we went together to the Borough Hall Council meeting and unfurled like a roll of toilet paper one thousand protests signed on postcards we’d taped together , so many that we encircled the entire room to the utter bafflement of its members. Cynthia LOVED it. And I loved her. Still do, of course.

Betty Fussell, NYC, June 17, 2009