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I Run to Win


From the May 5, 1969 issue of New York Magazine.

Some time ago, I made a basic decision about the way in which I was going to live the little of life available to me. The idea was to place myself in the presence of only those people who give off the warm, friendly vibrations which soothe the coating on my nerves. Life never was long enough to provide time for enemies. Nor is it long enough for people who bore me, or for me to stand around boring and antagonizing others, or for all of us, the others and me, to get into these half-friendly, half-sour fender-bumpings of egos and personalities and ideas, a process which turns a day into a contest when it really should be a series of hours serving your pleasure.

So I gave up jobs which made me uncomfortable. I wrote a book and sold it for a movie without seeing one person involved. I began avoiding any bar or restaurant where there was the slightest chance of people becoming picky and arguing. I reduced conversation, even on the telephone, to the people I like and who like me. One night, my wife had a group of people for dinner and I was not sure of the vibrations around me at the table so I said, “Excuse me, I have to go to bed. I have paresis.” It worked wonderfully. I began to do things like this all the time and I wound up doing only what I liked when I liked doing it and always with the people I liked and who liked me.

"Do you want to go out to dinner tonight?” my wife asked me.

“Where?” I said.

“Well, I don’t know. We’ll go with my sister and her husband.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t think he had a good time with us last week and he might be a little cold tonight. I’m afraid he might strip my nerves. I’d rather just stay home.”

“All right,” she said.

So we stayed home. During the night I said hello on the telephone to Jerry Finkelstein, Jack O’Neill, Burton Roberts and Thomas Rand. We all talked nice to each other and I could feel the coating on my nerves being stroked and soothed. On Sunday I went into the office in my house and I spoke to nobody and saw nobody all day. So it was one of the most terrific weekends.

The first phone call on Monday morning was at seven o’clock.

“He’s asleep,” I heard my wife mumble.

“Wake him up?” she mumbled.

She kicked me and I reached over for the phone.

“Somebody named Joe Ferris,” she said. “He needs your correct voting registration for the petitions., What petitions?”

I sat up in bed, with the phone in one hand and my head against the wall and my eyes closed.

What petitions?” my wife said again.

I knew what petitions Joe Ferris was talking about. I knew about them, but I never thought it would come to the point of an early morning phone call about them. You see, when it started, I was only in this thing for pleasant conversation with nice people. “Hello,” I said to Joe Ferris. I was afraid he would send cold waves through the phone.

“I’ve got to be at the printer with the petitions this morning,” Joe Ferris said. “So what I need is the exact way your name and address appears on the voting rolls. We don’t want to have any petitions thrown out on a technicality. Because they’re going to be looking for mistakes. Particularly when they see how much support you and Norman are going to get. That’s all I’ve been hearing around town. You and Norman. I think you’ve got a tremendous chance.”

“I’ll get the information and call you back,” I said to Joe Ferris. He gave me his phone number and I told him I was writing it down, but I wasn’t. Maybe if I forgot his number and never called him back, he wouldn’t bother to call me anymore.

What> petitions?” my wife said when I hung up.

“Nothing,” I said. I put my face in the pillow. Well, to tell you what happened. I really don’t know what happened, but I was in a place called the Abbey Tavern on Third Avenue and 26th Street at four o’clock one afternoon, when it was empty and I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody I didn’t know, and Jack Newfield came in. Jack Newfield is a political writer. He writes for the Village Voice and Life magazine and he does books and we got to know and like each other during the Bobby Kennedy campaigns last spring. Anyway, I’m having coffee with Jack Newfield and he says, “Did you hear me on the radio the other night? I endorsed you. I endorsed Norman Mailer for mayor and you for president of the City Council in the Democratic primary.” I did two things. I laughed. Then I sipped the coffee. While I did it, I was saying to myself, “Why is Mailer on the top of the ticket?”


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