Gary Orleck’s book is a tribute to a remarkable friendship that he made with a remarkable man – Maurice – and the essence of it revolves around, but is not limited to, a trip to Europe that they shared in 1968. Maurice is a friend like no other: generous with extensive funds; charismatic and confident; smooth with the ladies and, for a young man of Orleck’s limited world experience, the best travel companion.
This memoir describes incidents from Orleck’s “bromance” with Maurice, from his initial introduction to him at school through the memorable trip and beyond, to the days where their contact was not as frequent, their lives inevitably going their separate ways.
There is much to like here. Orleck’s recollections of this time are detailed and honest (“God bless Denmark!” in particular made me laugh after Orleck discovers the delights of an open marriage) and what I really enjoyed is that he still, after all these years, manages to convey the sense of wonder and privilege that he experienced by being a part of this journey with his friend. All throughout, Orleck is enthusiastically sharing what to him was a truly surreal and otherworldly tour, full of glamour and vibrancy, that opened the eyes of a sheltered individual to what could be obtained with confidence and a bit of front.
Maurice comes to life in these pages as someone who is exciting to be around, enjoying the finer things that life has to offer with ease, but there is an edge too to the way that he chooses to live his life, which does not always sit easily with Orleck.
There are more darker moments too like intimidating border crossings and police pursuits as well as the later chapters of the book where Orleck discusses Maurice’s family: Maurice was an Iranian Jew from a very wealthy family whose riches were coveted by the rising powers in Iran, powers who were determined that that wealth would be theirs.
But generally, they are few, the overriding feeling one gets from reading it that Orleck loved this man and this trip, and is grateful for having lived it. Brushes with royalty and celebrity permeate the pages and the sixties’ atmosphere of heady partying and freeness of spirit make this a lighthearted read for the most part, heightened by the depiction of technicolour brilliance for which this period in history is most renowned.