Carrie Fisher is gone, and I’m sad.
It’s not because of her Star Wars roles or her books, though we have nejoyed both.
It’s because of five days we spent as guests at John Denver’s ranch in Aspen, Colorado.
The event was a “human potential” seminar run by a fellow named Marshall Thurber, and it happened just after the publication of the first book I’m written under my own name, Fuller’s Earth, a day with Bucky and the Kids.
Buckminster Fuller, that brilliant poet, mathematician, inventor, and designer, was an icon of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the self-educated scion of a family of Boston Brahmans known for their patronage of the arts [Margaret Fuller, that brilliant writer (she was America’s first woman book critic), women’s rights movement pioneer, and a member of Boston’s famous transcendentalist circle was a great-aunt].
The event was organized by Marshall Thurber, a lawyer and real estate developer who runs a network of movement to teach business skills with a emphasis on developing cooperation skills to better the human condition.
He was also a mentor to Tony Robbins, the infamous self-help huckster who soared to fame by holding seminars culminating with firewalks [that is, until people started to get burned]. He later held seminars in the White House for the Clintons and their staff]. Robbins was also there that week, and did his firewalk thing — pitched as a near miracle, but easily grasped by folks with a knowledge of physics, and yes, I walked the coals that week].
Two other folks with Bucky Fuller connections were also there that week. Allegra Snyder, Fuller’s daughter, and Amy Edmondson, his last student and his chief engineer, and now Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School.
The seminar was, as Fuller’s daughter whispered to me, “just a bit too California woo-woo,” filled with self-affirmation declarations and singing. and I had no specific role other than to serve as a catalyst, so I got to hang out.
Thurber also made the mistake of bring out the staff of Fuller’s World Game, a very socialist endeavor with the aim of devising the fastest way of bring an equitable share of the world’s resources to all of its inhabitants. They made what to Thurber’s mind was a great mistake, “a downer”, by very graphically revealing what would happen to the planet in the event of a nuclear was by tossing plastic disks representing the area nuclear weapons would destroy onto a vast world map. This was when the Cold War was at its peak under Ronald Reagan and the year Soviets very nearly launched their missiles when their early detection system malfunctioned and war was averted because of the reservations of a single Soviet air force officer.
Very quickly Carrie Fisher, Amy Edmondson, and I started hanging out, talking, laughing, joking.
I was the elder of the group, then 37 and ten years older than Fisher and 13 years older than Edmondson, but somehow we clicked,.
I don’t remember the details of our conversations, only that we were uniquely sympatico. What I do recall vividly with the several hours the three of us spent dancing and laughing way into the wee hours under one of he vast tent structures Denver had built on his ranch for gatherings such as Thurbers.
Fisher was wry, witty, profound, silly, exuberant, and able to see the world with a faintly cynical detachment, and very, very human.
That night of dancing was perhaps the happiest time of my life.
I never saw either woman again.
When I returned to California, my spouse of one year was very jealous, but she had nothing to fear. And it was that lack of sexual tension which had, perhaps, enabled the brief, intense, bonding of that week in Colorado, a memory I cherish.
So I bid a fond farewell to a remarkable and singular person, a woman of deep passion and conflicts, exuberant, thoughtful, and compassionate, a woman who gave me one of my fondest memories.
Goodbye Carrie, you are missed.