101, Like a Fever
|Charles Henri Ford. Crete, Greece. Summer 1980. Photo by: Indra Tamang|
It has been a century plus six years since Charles Henri Ford was born in Mississippi on February 10th, 1908. If he were still alive, he would probably call himself “101,” like a fever, because he always claimed that his birth year was 1913, erasing five years off his age. Both Charles and Ruth liked to give themselves a little discount on age, in order (they thought) to appear younger. But as much as he might not like to admit it, Charles’s true age today would be 106, not 101.
His windows in the Dakota still look down over the park and everything is the same, while at the same time, all is different. His rooms are full of boxes filled with letters, papers and art. Reading some of his letters, many of them sent to his sister Ruth, reminds me just how full and exceptional a life Charles led. And reading the letters makes me feel he is still here, and that everyone he mentioned in those letters is still here too, because in the letters they are forever still here and living life as he described it. Charles was always doing so much that the way he lived could have been called “feverish,” with all that he was creating and observing. But it was the kind of fever that feels very good, like flying.
From one letter that Charles wrote to Ruth from Paris in 1931, these quotes:
“Jean Cocteau I haven’t met because he’s ill most of the time from smoking opium. And he’s recovering from a typhoid attack he got in Toulon this summer.”
“Djuna’s ‘A Little Girl Tells a Story to A Lady’ is in her book of shortstories, A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES, and is the favorite one of mine. I told her what you said about it being about a lady with a little idiot daughter and she said you were very clever.”
“Day before yesterday Jacques Bossard (you will like him) had me to lunch and begged me to go on a small house party at his father’s chateau in Brittany. But I refused because it’s just too far (10 hours on the train) and I have had enough traveling for some time to come.”
“The last word from Miss Stein was that she would return to Paris late in October.”
His letters are full of such thoughts and bits of news. He wrote to Ruth many, many letters over his long life, all of which Ruth kept.
In honor of his birthday, I want to announce a little series of chapbooks I plan to make containing writings and artwork by Charles. You’ll hear more about that in time. For now, I want to wish him a very good rest after his long fever of a life, lived to the fullest. As Charles said in that letter, “My dear, I could write more but I want to get this off on the next boat and the maid is waiting to take it out before it’s too late.”
Charles Henri Ford
10 February 1908 - September 27, 2002
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2013, all rights reserved.