By sir Taki Theodoracopulos
Drive is the most disturbing of words, at least for those of us who would rather sit than stand, the lazy of this world. I suppose one is born either lazy or active, although useless sociologists and other ersatz philosophers insist that laziness is almost a mortal sin. Personally I think laziness is next to Godliness, but then I am a very lazy person.
I suppose I lack drive because my father was so driven to succeed. His father, my grandfather, was well born in Zakynthos but did little but pursue the fair sex and drink. After his parents divorced, my dad left on his own, came to Athens and by the time he was 21 had made a fortune on his own. After the war, when his thread factories had been blown up, he went to New York and became a ship owner with two million tons to his credit. He constructed hotels, bought and sold companies and was planning a large resort in northern Greece when he died of a heart attack on July 14, 1989. He was up every morning before dawn – like Donald Trump – but unlike the 45thAmerican president, he did not wave his hair nor did he apply man tan. Although he spoiled me throughout, he always lamented the fact that I could – and cannot – get out of bed until the sun is way up near the apex.
The lack of drive comes from having to jump out of bed, take a shower and be ready for inspection from the age of ten until twenty – the school years I spent in America learning to be a useful citizen. They had the opposite effect. The moment I was free, I decided to stay in bed. Although I was a good athlete, and represented Greece in tennis, skiing and karate, I could have been better, much better, had I been more driven. Ditto where writing was concerned.
I had begun fooling around with writing on the Riviera, where my parents had taken me as a 14 year old in 1952, and where I returned as a free man after school in 1957. This is what I wrote for an obscure American paper back in 1964, a piece that was picked up by an Italian gossip columnist who offered me a job: “I feel the breath of wickedness amidst the melancholy of broken dreams. The promontory at the edge has seen sterile Phoenicians, commercial-minded Greeks, decayed English dukes, drunken American writers, gangsters, gold diggers, gigolos, captains of industry, and glamorous courtesans sweep through the shores these last 2500 years.” Mind you, the Riviera is much worse now, but still, even if I say so myself, it was good writing – if a bit purple – for a twenty five year old.
But I lacked the drive to follow up. I remained on the Riviera and Paris and London until finally the penny dropped and I went off to Vietnam to report for the National Review, an American magazine that paid me the princely amount of 12,000 dollars per annum plus expenses. On my way there I stopped in Thailand where I got ill and visited a Chinese doctor. He was a wise old man and very kind. After treating me he asked me to open my hands and he studied them for a while. He then looked at me rather intensely and shook his head. “Very bad,” he muttered. I asked him if he foresaw death in the Nam. “Go ahead, doc, give it to me straight, as they say in he movies.” “Much worse,” he answered. What is worse than death, I asked him. “You have talent but you will never live up to it,” he said gravely, “You are throwing it all away for superficial things.”
A wise old doc he turned out to be. I managed to get bored even in Vietnam, near Hue, where all the action took place. I then reported for Acropolis on the Yom Kippur war in 1973, managed to get into trouble with the Greek press defending the colonels, and finally landed the dream job with the English-speaking world’s oldest weekly magazine, the London Spectator. This was 41 years ago, after a five year stint as Atticus on the Sunday Times. And the New York Post. And Esquire magazine and many others. But I have never managed to write the great American novel nor will I ever do so because I lack D-R-I-V-E. The willingness to wake up and observe the blank space and start hitting the keys no matter what. It’s called drive. Instead, I have a beer and go back to bed.
I recently had lunch with the greatest of English actresses, Maggie Smith, who told me that she suffered from “overdrive” syndrome, an inability to refuse work. Dame Maggie is older than I am, and is considered the greatest actress of her time, both in cinema and the theatre, and her memorable roles are too numerous to list. During our lunch she expressed her admiration at my ability to do little – she reads my column every week since a ling time. “My dream is to stay in bed and just watch the telly, and do absolutely nothing,” she told me, or worlds to that effect. When I told her that my dream was to have written twenty – five books she said that I was fibbing. “You live the greatest of lives, why would you wish to join us prols?” Ah, Dame Maggie was being kind. She is a driven lady who won’t stop until the man in the white suit comes calling. And speaking of that particular gentleman, when he comes calling for me, that is when I will feel driven for a change.
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