Just before this photo was taken we had been talking about KPFA radio, where Eleanor took over as director of Drama & Literature, while I was away for a year helping KQED-FM get started. We talked at the bay side café shown in the photo, until a seagull plunged down from above into the water and floated away, apparently deceased. More talk, then another seagull fell and floated out toward the first. Nothing could stop our conversation until a third seagull joined the first two. Eleanor remarked "There are three seagulls floating away. They seem dead. Did you hear shots?" A fourth finally got us to our feet and we called for the manager. A young waitress appeared. We pointed to the outgoing gulls and asked for an explanation. "They live on the roof and they die on the roof, and every once in a while one of us has to go up there and sweep them off." Satisfied, Eleanor and I sat down and resumed our lunch and talk. As she glanced at the gulls I took this photo. It was her birthday.
That was Eleanor. Nothing edged her off course for long. She was formerly married to Stanley Kunitz, former US Poet Laureate. While he was in Berkeley giving classes and lectures, Eleanor offered to interview him for KPFA, provided no mention was made of their former marriage.
I recorded them at her Berkeley home (later destroyed among 3000 others in the great Berkeley hilltop fire). The interview was all about poetry,
nothing else. She avoided the marriage with style.
After the fire, having lost everything, Eleanor never lost her smile, but
lost her will to live and died soon after. A few weeks ago I was sitting at that same table, same restaurant, and a seagull fell down and floated out. It's true!