Monday, November 23, 2009

Harpo's Birthday

Harpo Marx (Early Days): "We were washed up. We were stranded...I was depressed, and confused, and I had to be alone. I kept telling myself that something good always happened every time I hit bottom. But I didn’t believe it.
...As I walked, a long-forgotten voice came out of my past. Miss Flatto. Miss Flatto, wiggling her finger at my nose and saying, ‘Some day you’ll realize, young man! Some day you’ll realize!’...
I was startled to find I was standing watching an auction sale... I was careful to keep my hands in my pockets, so I could resist any crazy impulse to make a bid, and blow my entire capital of seven cents.
The shelves were nearly emptied out and most of the crowd had left, but I still hung around, having nothing better to do with myself. Finally everything was gone except for one scrub brush, the former owner, hovering in the background, the auctioneer, myself, and an elderly Italian couple. The elderly couple had been there all the time. Either they had no money or they were too timid to make a bid on anything. Whichever it was, they exchanged sad looks now that the auction was winding up.
The auctioneer was tired. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘Let’s get it over with and not horse around. I have left here one desirable item. One cleansing brush in A-number-one, brand-new condition, guaranteed to give you floors so clean you could eat off them. What am I offered?’
The old Italian guy and his wife looked at each other, searching for the key to the right thing to say... they held on to each other like they had done something wrong. I said quickly, ‘One cent.’
The auctioneer whacked his gavel.
‘Sold-thank-God-to-the-young-American-gentleman-for-one-cent.’ I picked up my brush and handed it to the old lady. She was as touched as if I had given her the entire contents of the store. The old man grabbed my hand and pumped it. They both grinned at me and poured out a river of Italian that I couldn’t understand. ‘Think nothing of it,’ I said, and added, ‘Ciao, eh?’ ... which was the only Italian I could remember from 93rd street. They thought this was pretty funny, the way I said it, and they walked away laughing. I walked away laughing too... I couldn’t explain it, but a lousy penny scrub brush had changed the whole complexion of life."

9 comments:

Leslie Avon Miller said...

What a beautiful story! The little gestures of kindness can make everyone feel all the better. Thanks so much for the uplift today!

Kelly said...

Inspiring story!

david elzey said...

great stuff. what's the source on this, "harpo speaks?"

jama said...

I love him! Thanks.

tess said...

Thanks for that!

tess said...

I am most certain the source is Harpo's autobiography, Harpo Speaks.

Cynthia Iannaccone said...

an interesting glimpse into his past,and so relevant now... thank you for sharing this story.

Laura said...

love this.

poemhome said...

Thanks to Leslie, Kelly, david jama, tess, and Cynthia.
Yes, tess is right. The quote came from "Harpo Speaks."