This is a lil ole ode to Tony.
Tony was the subject of an article I wrote this fall for a magazine class. (Remember when I was in school and actually doing homework?! Yeah me too; it was like three weeks ago. I have now graduated. Also, I’m engaged. Time flies when you haven’t written a blog post in 10,000 years.)
Anyway, I randomly got connected with Tony through the collective efforts of my aunt and mother (What else are aunts and mothers for, I ask you?) and was verrrry interested in writing a profile on him, because he learned architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin (Wright’s home in Spring Green, Wisconsin), and how cool is that? You don’t meet a Wright student every day, or at least, I don’t.
But then I met him and wanted to write the story for a completely different reason: He is the best/most adorable man alive. Plus that man is a positive treasure trove of fascinating stories. The first time I met him, it was a casual meeting and so I didn’t bring a recorder or notebook, and he poured forth story after hilarious/touching/insightful story (including the surprising story of how he ended up at Taliesin in the first place), and the journalist inside me was dying a slow, melty death.
But then he agreed to let me interview him, so I drove to Taliesin and literally just listened to him for four hours. And it was wondrous.
But what’s tragic is that he has so many stories, and so few of them are written down -- I could only fit a few into the article, and I have audio of about twenty more. He doesn’t have kids. Where will his stories go?
So here’s my New Year’s resolution that you can totally steal: ask people, especially older people, about their lives. Why not? It’s fascinating, and when someone listens to you intently, it’s a hugely dignifying experience. Maybe even write it down or record it. It’s the easiest thing to download free recording apps on your phone.
(This is totally a cheater resolution, because I ask people about their lives all day erryday #reporterlyfe. But I could do it more in my personal life, too.)
Here’s a little piece from the article about Tony:
When (Tony showed up at Taliesin), he instantly knew he wanted to stick around close to the magic room. And he said so. He was told to wait and take it up with Wright.
“You’d be a little daunted in the White House asking for an interview with the president, but you can get away with a lot at 19,” Puttnam says.
Puttnam waited; Wright returned. They went to Wright’s office and sat down. Then, Wright ran down Puttnam’s deficits, he remembers.
“Can you do carpentry or masonry?”
“Have you worked on a building?”
“You know, young man, I have to be very careful who I admit here,” Wright told him. “If you put all the mouths in the fellowship together,” he went on, joining his fingertips to form a large O, “You could drive a dump truck through it every day.”
Puttnam was bluffing all the way, Puttnam says, smiling as he remembers, and having a good time with it, too. Wright wasn’t a hard man; but he also wasn’t above making the newcomers sweat a little.
By the end of the interview, Wright simply said, “Well, you’re going to have to duck around here.” The ceilings in Taliesin are low, and Puttnam was over six feet tall.
“And I took that as admission and got out,” Puttnam says.