In his own way, Sidney Price, born in 1924, was ahead of his times. While all the other dads bought gas mowers, mine had the only electric mower on the block. I longed for the pleasure of pulling on a mower cord and hearing the gas engine start up, and seeing it spew smoke all over the neighborhood – he waited his entire life for an electric vehicle, only to have his health decline so quickly that he had little time to go enjoy his new car. It brings new meaning to carpe diem.
I recall that while teaching me to drive, Dad suddenly said in a stern voice, “Turn off the engine, now!” I had been carefully pulling out the driveway. “What have I done wrong?” I said, and he responded, “You never drive with the car radio on! At all times, one’s complete concentration must be on driving.” Many years later, I was stuck in morning commuter traffic on the way to the Burbank Airport, and got a photo of a Hollywood producer parked on the freeway next to me in her brand new convertible Mercedes – vanity mirror down, doing her lipstick, cellphone in the other hand and computer in her lap, while driving on the freeway! I couldn’t wait to show Sidney.
My dad preached only two things: Be responsible for your own actions, and communicate honestly at all times. This advice has guided me for nearly 60 years. Telling the truth has resulted in some adverse situations, but to this day I regret none of it, knowing full well that he would be proud of me in my daily quest to be truthful.
While I was working in Texas, an an ABC affiliate, Dad invited me to California to meet his fiancee and watch the Kodo drummers perform. I flew out, and after dinner at his fiance’s house we went to the university campus to see Kodo. We got to the theater while the drummers were warming up. I said, “Dad, why are we here so early?” He said, “We’re here to get our usher assignments.”
“But we don’t have tickets to the show? I’ll go purchase some for us.”
“You get a ticket,” he said. “I like to be an usher.”
Several years later, he asked his wife and me if we would like to go see a movie after dinner. When we entered the lobby, there was an older woman who was distressed and teary. My father, the eternal Boy Scout, said to her, “Ma’am, are you okay? Can I help you in any way?” To which the woman replied, “Sir, remember the old days when young ushers would take you to your seat in the dark theater? Well, they don’t do that here anymore.” Out of my pappa’s pocket came a powerful little flashlight, and Sidney Price ushered the woman to her seat. He got enormous pleasure from helping others.
There’s a scene from Dead Poets Society in which the teacher (played by Robin Williams) stands on his desk and says to the class, “You must look at life in different ways.” Myrna Price, born in 1930, certainly had that as her lifetime mantra. She looked at three paper bags for my and my sisters’ lunches and saw three canvas to paint on.
She saw the whole world as a canvas to paint on. And she had a voracious appetite for reading. G-d knows how many books she devoured in her lifetime.
Nothing escaped her improvisations on a theme, including the recipes in Julia Child’s classic French cookbook. For three days, her chicken sauce would simmer on the stove. For three days, our mouths would water, knowing we would eventually be dipping fresh sourdough bread into the golden sauce. And at the risk of rabbinical retaliation, she proudly put her fabulous party hors d’oeuvres over keeping a kosher kitchen. A dinner party at our house without Myrna’s rumaki – chicken liver and chestnuts wrapped in bacon – simply wasn’t a party.
One day, the orchard manager at Casa de Maria retreat center was having lunch at my mom’s house (the original natural history museum in Santa Barbara, on Puesta del Sol). The woman said, “We’re looking for someone to make marmalade from our oranges. Do you know anyone who makes marmalade?” I said, “You are looking at the Goddess of Marmalade,” and pulled out of the refrigerator the glass vat of Myrna’s Magic Marmalade – and off we went to the retreat center to pick oranges.
My mom had another main philosophy of life: Even if you think you’ve exhausted all of your options, you still have at least a million more that you haven’t considered.
Each of my parents was so beautifully unique and special. Blessings on their spirits.