by Mike Resnick (for Foundation’s Friends)
What kind of man was Isaac?
Let me tell you a story that took place in 1987.
I was in Westchester County, New York, to toastmaster a convention known as Lunacon. I got there a day early, and walked to the train station, where I planned to take a train to Manhattan, do a little shopping, meet my friend Barry Malzberg for a late lunch, and get a ride back with him.
Problem was, there were dozens of trains to choose from, and no one had given me a schedule. A little old lady—she must have been in her seventies—took pity on me, asked me where I was going, and since it turned out we were both waiting for the same train, she offered to ride with me and let me know where to get off.
We got to talking during the train ride, and I mentioned the reason I was in town, and she replied that she didn’t know much about science fiction, but she had always wanted to meet the world-famous Isaac Asimov. And, without even knowing for a fact that he would be there, I told her that if she showed up on Saturday night, I’d be happy to introduce her.
I got off at my stop, went about my business, and thought no more of it—until 7:15 Saturday night, when the little old lady entered the hotel, walked up to me, and told me that she really only half-believed that this stranger she met on the train actually knew the celebrated Dr. Asimov, but since she only lived a mile away she thought she’d wander over and hope for the best.
As it happened, Isaac had come to Lunacon. In fact, he was sitting about 40 feet from me, flirting with some luscious and admiring young ladies, when I approached him to make the introduction. I figured he’d give her a quip and an autograph and then go back to pinching voluptuous bottoms, as was his wont . . . but instead, when he found out that this withered old lady had walked a mile through the snow to meet him, he made his excuses to the young ladies and spent the next hour charming my guest, even insisting she sit with him during the Jack Chalker Roast that I had been imported to emcee. You could tell by her face that he had more than made her evening; hell, the way he charmed her, he made her whole decade.
When she excused herself for a moment to call home and tell them she was staying for the roast, I walked up, thanked him, and told him that as a token of my gratitude I wouldn’t insult him from the podium that night. He looked truly hurt, and insisted that not insulting him in front of all his friends would be the greatest insult of all.
And that’s my fondest memory of the most approachable world-famous man it’s been my pleasure to know.