2004 Aug

*** August 7, 2004 ***

Dear Paul, you will forgive me for presuming and for writing to you. We have not been introduced. My name is Juri Estam, I am of Estonian background.

I came across your website because I was seeking photos of Linda Pakri. Perhaps you know, but perhaps you don't - Linda was injured pretty badlly some days ago in a fire in New York. The mails I am receiving from people say she is in critical but stable condition at NY Presbyterian Hospital on 68th St.

Perhaps i should not be intervening at all, but judging by the things you write about her on your page, I thought you might like to know, if you hadn't already heard. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I don't know Linda very well, but well enough that it saddens me to hear she has been struck by such misfortune.

Yours sincerely,
Juri Estam


Hi everybody,

I literally just got the news about Linda an hour ago.

I've changed email addresses & phone numbers several times in the past couple of years, so it's my own damn fault. Rosie Lindau, who I finally talked to, tells me everyone's been trying to reach me but couldn't find me. I'm sorry.

I'm a bit shell-shocked, because the news is brand new to me. But I'm flying to New York this weekend on the earliest plane I can get and I'm planning to visit Linda on Sunday.

I've been reading your emails, which Rosie forwarded to me after we hung up. I realize she's not awake, but I'll just see her and talk to her a little bit anyway. I think she'll hear me. (I know if the situation was reversed, she's one of the voices I'd most want to hear.)

I don't have a 'home' phone at all these days, I'm 100% on a cell, which I'll of course be taking with me. The good news is you can reach me on it any time. The bad news, of course, is that it's in the (323) area code, which I realize is long distance for many of you. But please call me anytime and I'll call you right back so it won't cost you much. I'm happy to talk.

My full contact info is ... Please feel free to give it to one & all. And please add me to any mailing list, etc., for news. I'd be most grateful to be kept up to date.

Juta, Merike, Pia, Ell ... my very great love to you.

Where is Salme staying? Does she have a phone number in New York?

And speaking of phone numbers ... I don't have any for you guys. Please call my cell when you get this and let me know, would you? Many thanks.



hey paul, i know we met many years ago - it really does not matter at this point. i said from, when this happened that you should be contacted and i see someone has- glad for that. Lalli and i went on sunday the day after and were not expecting what we saw since the hospital said there were no burns. they looked like a bad bad sunburn and her nurse said her heel and arms were burnt but their main concern is her internal organs lungs etc. I am so happy that you were finally contacted and located. Gee she has survived now 7 days she will pull through i believe.please feel free to conract me at any time.



The weekend did not change Linda's situation..she is still critical but stable. The doctors/nurses have said that she may be in this condition without major change for two to three months. Her lungs are still being cleaned from the smoke and they are giving her antibiotics to keep away any infection. Will write again when there is additional information.



Hi Rosie,

5am here, and I'm getting ready for bed. I got your note. Thanx for forwarding to Steve & Kathy. It'd be nice to hear from them.

I've got a flight to New York today (Sat) in the evening. It's a red-eye, arrives in New York at 6am Sunday. I haven't spoken to my sister Ann yet, but if I don't get her then I'll just go to a hotel and flop a few hours. I've called Ell Tabur, and she was great. She filled me in on everything & told me it's a good thing I called, since the hospital has put a clamp-down on visits and now nobody can go unless they go with Salme. So we're going to coordinate on Sunday. I hope, though, I can sit with Linda a little while on my own. That is, I hope if Salme wants a brisk visit she doesn't mind me lingering. I'd like to talk to Linda a little. Let her know all is well, and love is nearby. And that if there's anything, anything at all, I can do, I will do it.

I'm still shell shocked a little. One minute I'm fine, the next in tears. The image I can't get out of my head is Linda lying face-down on the carpet while her bedroom is burning; lying there helpless. I hear the crackling fire; see the haze, her black burnt arms, feel the heat. The bright, unnatural flames, lighting up the apartment. It's haunting me something terrible. And I'm powerless to help. I want to kick down the door and pull her to safety and I can't. I feel awful, like it's my fault somehow ... like I've let the world bite Linda while my back was turned. Listen to me - It's absurd, I know, it's nearly a dozen years since I stopped being her husband. But I still feel responsible for her safety somehow. Just goes to show how much of a broad, deep thread there is that connects people in love. Over a decade after our marriage, my heart still quavers for her safety.

And yours. Again, Rosie, I love you. After I get back from NY I'll give you a call - I'm not sure there'll be much point while I'm there, and I hate to use up your cell phone minutes. But maybe next weekend we'll catch up. Want to hear all about Roland, and your life. It's precious to me. It always was, but I sometimes take reminding. I'd like to hear all about everything.

warm kisses
long hugs


Dear Paul,

I am SO sorry for your horrible experience in NYC.

What can I say? I'm sincerely at a loss.

I know in her heart Linda would want your support, and in fact, I believe she knows it is there. It is very unfortunate that there is so much hurt around, and people feel that spreading it out will make it better. Of course it doesn't. Only love does.

As per our previous discussion: when Linda is conscious, perhaps it will be a better time to go.

Don't let others make you feel guilty, as long as you are coming from a place of love.

Rest now,


Dear Paul ... I'm so sorry about your NY trip ... when we chatted last friday you already had a flight booked so what more could i say ... let's talk soon ... with love, Merike


hi paul,

i heard your message this morning. when it came in it was 1:30 a.m. and i was sleeping.

i have heard via pia & ell about your visit to new york and about being banned from seeing linda by her mother. i am sorry you flew all the way out here and were unable to see her. i believe your concern and intentions were and are good. you probably know this, but the reason salme won't allow you to see linda is that she is still very angry with you over how things ended between you and linda and she doesn't feel that under the circumstances you have a place at linda's side. to my mind this is between you and linda and no one else, but at the moment she is unable to speak for herself and salme is responsible for her well-being and so her decisions must be respected. my suggestion is that you keep posted via email as to linda's condition and then once she's conscious you can be in touch with her directly and work things out over seeing her. she will be convalescing for months and months, so you will have plenty of time to be there for her.

speaking of seeing her, i did go to see her last night and i thought you might want to know my experience to help you stay posted with where she's at right now. instead of letting your imagination potentially run wild. when i said "hi linda, it's tiina" she sort of tensed up for a second. i'm not sure if it was in response to me or just an involuntary muscle spasm. but it was nice to see her move. she looks better. still very bad. but better. the raw parts of her face have scabbed over so to my mind that's a good sign of healing. her forhead is red but it seems not so so very severely burned. her arms weren't wrapped in the gauze bandages as they had been last week, but rather in ace bandages (i don't know the significance of that change) and one of her legs was just bare, the other had a gauze wrapping. the swelling of her head has gone down markedly. still feeding tube and respirator and i.v. the nurse wasn't very forthcoming with information. she just said linda was stable and "doing fine today". which is good news. it's very much going to be a day by day process. i came away feeling hopeful and much less scared than when i saw her the first time.

also, thanks for asking about me in your message. the short story is that for the most part life is going quite well for me and i am happy. i hope the same is true for you.

i hope this message helps.

bye for now.


Dear Tiina,

It was very nice to hear from you - and thank you for the kind and thoughtful words.

I'm actually feeling much calmer with each passing day. Merike Teene and I talked last night, and she also gave me insight - very specific insight, via particular remarks - into Salme's feelings. Hearing these things, I felt the tension drain off. I'm not going to go into a big song-and-dance, Tiina, but please believe me that Salme's anger is based on misunderstanding. I wish I could put her heart at rest about things which it pains me to think are causing her anger needlessly. But she's dug in her heels and currently won't even talk to me. So all I can do is wait for a better time - if one should arise. I hope it does.

In the meantime, Ell gave me to understand that nobody could visit Linda without Salme's approval, and so I began to imagine that any trip to the hospital would cause a scene or a fight. And I thought, I don't want that. Linda's not even awake, for heaven's sakes. Let her sleep. Let her dream and heal. I'll come back another day. I felt burned, and angry. But I'm letting it go.

I'll be back when Linda is awake - and one nice thing about that is, perhaps I'll see you! -)

In the meantime, it was good to hear you describe Linda's condition, Tiina, and I'd be very grateful to hear more anytime you feel like writing. I have no eyes and ears there now, but yours are, I think, very acute. Would you do me a favor and send me a note from time to time? I'd be forever in your debt....

Much love, Tiina. I look forward to hearing from you again. Until then, best wishes,

-) Paul


Hello everyone/Tere kõikidele!!

Sorry I have not written, my computer had technical problems and I was not able to access internet or e-mail. Thanks to my smart friends I am UP again! Linda's condition has not changed. She was bathed today to clean some of the burn wounds, but her condition is still critical but stable. I promise to write when there is any change. Have a good weekend.



I got your phone message. Believe me, in New Jersey you try to keep very regular hours. (nothing going on here! he he) These days I'm not up at 2 a.m. any more.

...I saw Linda only once. That was the day I went to LaGuardia to pick up her mother. She was remarkably calm and collected. But when she's alone? Who knows.......

I find it incredible that she didn't let you see Linda!!!!!!!! Although there honestly was no point in your flying over just now. She's completely out of it. Even Urve realizes there's no point in her hurrying back from Estonia at the moment.

And don't ask me to describe how she looks. Suffice it to say that I've heard about people recovering from even worse accidents. But I've had no experience with such serious matters (knock on wood).

When I was there she was still on the respirator with the bed shaking to keep her body fluids in motion. Some container was collecting gook from her lungs. You're better off not having seen her like this. Let's give this horror a couple of months, and then see what happens....

Till next time!


It with deep sorrow that I advise that my daughter Linda died on Sunday, August 10, at 12 Noon. Her memorial service will be on August 16, 2003 at l:00PM at Chas. Peter Nagel funeral home, 352 East 87th Street (between 1 & 2 Avenue). After the ceremony, you are invited to the Estonian House, 243 East 34th Street to celebrate Linda's life.

Salme Pakri


Dear Jaan,

...I've been adjusting to the news about Linda. It comes in waves, and I get very sad, then I buck up. It's just awful she's gone. Awful.

I won't come to New York for the funeral; I don't feel like dealing with Linda's mom. Salme has a lot of bitterness about her own marriage, and I have sympathy for that; maybe it's hard for her to believe that Linda and I had some nasty bumps in our life together and yet worked them out in a friendly way. Whatever the reason, she was cruel and unfair. So I don't want to see her.

Instead, I'll mourn Linda in my own way, from here.

Please know that my spirit is there, Jaan. If you go to the funeral, my thoughts are hovering nearby. And please, by all means, say hello from me to anyone who knows me. I look forward to seeing them all again sometime.

Much love,


Oh Lord, Paul. Personally, I still think you should come. Hell with Linda's mom. She wasn't privy to Linda's private life. I know for a fact that Linda appointed Urve her executor (and vice versa) if anything should happen to her. Apparently, they can't find any such documents! Then again, Tiina had dinner with Linda the Monday before it happened and Linda had said it was about time she made up a will. So she may not have put all that in writing yet. Sad.

Of course, Linda's mother has it all wrong! About you. And about Urve! I understand Urve is now persona non grata as well!!!!!!! Supposedly, according to Tiina, Aino Bennett accused Urve of being the cause of Linda's "drinking." How's that for a laugh?.....

I know Linda was on affable and friendly terms with you over the past years. I KNOW THAT! The people close to her know the truth. The others don't matter.

It's so hard to lose a real soul mate. Linda and I related on levels that I have never related to anyone else on. I ALWAYS TOOK HER SERIOUSLY! AND SHE ME! That's so wonderful to find in this world.

Yes, I am devastated. True friends are few. She was perhaps the one who comforted me the most on that horrible morning my mother died -- a cold, dreadful, rainy January 1st earlier this year. She had the heart to listen to me and comfort me for a full two hours over the phone on the MORNING OF JANUARY FIRST!!!!!! That's extraordinary. Linda was always heart. She did her best to deal with the pathetic reality of this world, but inside she was just heart. She had to "medicate" herself perhaps to be able to deal with that horrific reality. As we all do in our own ways......



Hi Paul,

I'm in shock. I was feeling so optimistic about Linda's recovery...

I'm worried about you. How are you? I would call you but I don't have your phone # at work.

If you want to talk I'm at work for awhile yet, ----------- or you can try my cell, ------------. Or I will try calling you tonight. If you don't want to talk, I understand. I couldn't even write an email before now.

Thinking of you and sending you lots of love,



Hi Rosie,

I'm okay, not terribly good, but better than I thought. I lay in bed today and wept and wept quite hard, not like I've really ever done for anyone. It felt a bit better. But I'm also reminded of my father's funeral, where I cried a lot, and eventually it gets exhausting. Crying isn't bringing them back, so you eventually go upstairs & get drunk or talk to relatives or something. I feel the same is coming. Not quite there yet. But maybe soon.

I've taken the day off work - night, actually. Normally I'd be asleep right now & go in later; but I can't seem to drop off. That's when I cry. So I finally gave up & called in sick. Now I'm sitting here trying to read, trying to do something, but everything feels just empty and awful. I may go out later, I don't know. Thanks for the phone call offer; I may take you up on it. Good friends are the best thing I can think of. I feel better hearing good voices.

I suppose I'm still in shock, like you. I had gotten into the mental groove of Linda's long, hard road to recovery. It didn't occur to me it could go any other way; at least not without warning. I thought if she were going to die at first we'd hear she's gotten an infection or something. This sudden news just hit me like a stone.

And a world without Linda is just inconceivable to me. I had deep, old, cherished mental pictures of her and I in our dotage, meeting up every once in a while to trade war stories. In the end, I always saw her at my funeral, not the other way around. I suppose I thought she'd handle it much better, being so much more mature and worldy-wise than I think I am. It's mind-boggling, the sheer wrongness of it all. She can't be gone and I'm left. She can't be.

I don't think I'm going to the funeral. I'll have my own little private wake here. Salme would be there, and I don't want to see her. Tiina Aleman and I were talking about this this morning. Urve - Linda's absolute closest, best friend, bar none - has also been getting stonewalled by Salme & Ell. It's awful. But I need to grieve right now; not deal with that. I have enough of Salme's actions on my brain to last a lifetime. So instead I'll mourn here on my own, it'll be purer and simpler that way. And I'll let Tiina and Jaan Kuuse and others go for me. They can tell me how it was. That'll be fine. I don't need the reunion. I'll have my own little wake. I'll see the ol' gang some other time.

I'll call you later on. Or if you don't hear from me today that just means I'm sleeping & I'll try you tomorrow.

so sad,


Hi Paul ... i am so very very sad ... please tell me this is all just a bad dream!

Cannot go to NY this Saturday ... need to go ahead with my original plans and go to Portland to be with my mother, brother, nephew, and uncles for both emotional and health reasons. Will do a memorial for Linda there with my family and her many west coast friends.

I find solice in knowing Linda was happy and content when she last went to sleep ... she did not suffer. Linda is in my heart forever!

Today while doing my qigong and taichi under a tree in the park with a lovely sea breeze there was a black butterfly perched on the fence watching me the entire hour. After our practice was over she let me get close enough to see her living beauty and to talk to her but flew away directly into the sun when I put my finger next to her hoping she'd accept it as a perch....

with LOVE always,Merike


Middle of the night and I'm just feeling so awful, Rosie. I just want to die too it feels like. Can't seem to stop crying & make peace.


Hi Rosie,

Tom the Cat - who Linda and I adopted in 1985 and who's lived with me all these years since - has died. Age eighteen. And talk about timing: He passed away on Saturday morning at about 9 or 10 a.m. ... which would be almost exactly the same time as Linda's funeral in New York. Strange and sad, no? It's getting a bit numbing.

Rather than bury him, I took him up into Griffith Park, which is quite wild in places, and laid his body out, so he could return to nature. He always liked being outside.

Someday, Rosie, when I have money at last I would love it if you would go with me to Kunda to see where Linda is buried. I'll need help finding the grave, I suspect, since my Estonian hasn't improved much since the days of Steve & me doing Xmas tapes.



Dear Paul,

I am so sorry. I know how much Tommi meant to both of you...and how much Tommi meant "Linda" to you...it was obviously meant to be. God works in strange ways...perhaps Linda needed Tommi to help her make her way...it's crazy sounding, I know. I feel bad because you must feel so alone. But you are not.

I want to say so much to you, reminisce about Linda, about her sitting in the kitchen while we recorded, always supportive, laughing, being THERE.

But I'm exhausted. This has been such an emotional drain. Linda; my brother's internment; now one of my dearest friends is in hospital with a serious heart ailment; my cousin is in ICU in a very bad state; I just want to sleep - escape - you know the feeling.

On a positive note - I believe that there is going to be a memorial in TOronto, and I would like to sing a song - I'm thinking "Straight from the heart". That is a song that she was there for and that involves you, Steve and me. If this thing happens (and I've volunteered to help organize it), I will make sure I sing something.

Another thing: you know how Estonians put ADS in the esto paper re: their mourning of the passing of a loved one. Would you like it if I put one in from you, me and Steve? I've been thinking about it...perhaps we could address it to our "muse", and of course I could add something for you as her life partner of many years. Let me know. I can't believe I'm asking you this question. I can't believe she's not on this earth anymore. FUCK.

Did I tell you that Artur was soooo glad to know you had tried to visit her and was very sorry you weren't able to?

Oh, Paul, life hardly seems real right now. Did you get my phone message last week?

Please take care of yourself, and I would be happy to accompany you to Kunda...

much love


Dear Paul . Its Rosemary Madill from Phone calls to J.D. Salinger. I am very very sorry to hear about Lindas passing . Phillip Cairns and I loved her so. He called me tonite with the news. He will email you from his part time job ,he doesnt have a computer at home. I enjoyed the photographs on the site you put up for her.Always such a sweety, beautiful smile eh! I will check out more of your home page too.

Its strange you know but Linda has been on my mind off and on over the last year or so and phillip and I were talking just very recently about trying to get ahold of you both,maybe thats why phillip looked you up on the internet. Please e-mail me and let me know how you are making out . We should all try to keep in touch.

...I look forward to hearing from you . God Bless and give you peace. Love your friend Rosemary


Dear Paul

My wife and I were saddened and devastated when we received the news from Salme on Thursday. Our son did a search and found your site

Did Linda ever mention her English friends of many years ? If you would like me to tell you how I encountered the Pakris - please let me know

Our hearts are broken, as is yours

Tony Nickson













Dear Urve,

Thanks for your note! I hope all went well with the animation festival. Was it fun? And a little crazy? That is, of course, just the way Linda would have liked it.

I have felt like a spirit-brother of yours these past many weeks because of Linda's suffering and the love I know you have for her. I *still* walk down the street and have to stop because I'm suddenly filled with tears. When we were married we were very happy, and after our divorce we became happy again. I miss her terribly. I know you do too.

Linda talked about you very often, and we always agreed that some day it would be fun for her to introduce me to you and your husband. I know she loved you very much - and, even more, needed your companionship to help her feel grounded and happy in the world. I often thought that, in this respect, you took over from me! I was Linda's partner-in-crime and safe-harbor all through the eighties. You did the same for her afterwards.

Now, in this weird world, with Linda so strangely gone, please think of me as your new friend. Please call me or write to me in the future whenever you like. And of course, I extend this to your husband as well. You are both, from what I have heard, very good people. I look forward to meeting you next time I'm in New York, or if you ever come to Los Angeles.

My love and good thoughts are with you.

best wishes,

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Tony,

I hope you had a Happy Christmas and that this year brings you lots of luck and good fortune. I've just gotten home from New York State and am settling back into my normal life here in Los Angeles. That first week back at the job is the hardest!

I wanted to write to you and share some stories of Linda as I knew her.

When I first moved to Toronto it was the fall of 1979 and I was just 20 years old. I was moving to the big city from Galt, Ontario, a small city about 100km to the West. When I was growing up in Galt I discovered that I liked acting in plays very much, and by the end of high school decided I wanted to become a professional actor. It's still what I do today.

After two years at University I decided that the ivory towers of academia were not for me. Thus it was that, in September or October of 1979, I moved to Toronto with a few meagre belongings and about a thousand dollars to my name.

I took an apartment in the Northwest corner of town and spent the next few months knocking about, looking for a way to introduce myself to Toronto professional theatre. I considered taking acting classes, but they all seemed expensive and a bit hucksterish. I had my first professional photographs taken. I tried, and then dropped, several jobs. I was basically aimlessly bashing around, getting nowhere fast, when one night I uncharacteristically found myself going to a pub alone for a drink. I never do that sort of thing; I'm not a big drinker really. But this night I decided to break the mold.

While I was sitting in this little bar on Yonge Street I overheard a conversation at the next table. Two guys were talking about someone "crying onstage." It sounded like an acting conversation. One of them presently rose to go to the men's room, and I seized on the lull to introduce myself to the other. He turned out to be a young, clean-cut fellow with James-Dean-esque good looks by the name of James Falcon. Yes, he said, he was an actor. I opened up a little to him, telling him about my plight - feeling stuck as an outsider in Toronto show-biz circles. He said he knew a theatre company that was good and I should call them and audition. He gave me a name Sky Gilbert. And a number.

So I called this number and, a week or so later, I went and met Sky Gilbert. He was a stocky, baby-faced fellow in his mid-twenties with black curly hair and an infectious laugh. He said he was doing a play based on the writings of Patti Smith, an experimental piece, would I care to be in it? I agreed happily. In a stroke I was in my first play in Toronto.

The play was called "Art/Rat" and we performed it in a run-down movie theatre on Bloor Street called Cinema Lumiere in the month of February, 1980. Nothing about that show was auspicious in the least; the theatre was homely, the other actors seemed as frightened as I felt, and the depths of Toronto in wintertime only added to our wet-footed misery. But little did I realize that from this play emerged a great deal of my fate for the next ten years. Including Linda.

What I didn't know then, but learned later, was that Linda and Sky were very good friends. They had both gone to high school together in Toronto and now, a few years on, were both attending the University of Toronto in the theatre program. When "Art/Rat" finished, I resumed my life of loneliness, unsure what to do with myself next. But a week or two later, in late March 1980, the phone rang, and it was Sky again. He informed me that he had another play he'd written, which was to be performed soon in a festival of experimental plays called "Rhubarb! Rhubarb!" at a venue called the Theatre Centre. This particular piece was being directed by his friend Linda, and she needed an actor to round out the cast. Was I interested?

I said yes!

And so, somewhere in early April, I made my way to a small street just off Bloor to the West of Yonge, called Bedford Road, and to a house where Linda's apartment was located. She had given me instructions to go "round back" and knock on the door. I did. There was no answer. I knocked again. Still no answer. I banged loudly, then peered through a small glass window. There, dimly, I could see a kitchen and about ten feet beyond that, a bedroom. In the bedroom I suddenly saw Linda - stark naked - jump up from bed and begin scurrying around! I quickly withdrew from the window and waited, trying to look demure. She answered the door presently, and we introduced ourselves.

Linda then looked pretty much as I always will remember her; she had pale blue-white skin, a slightly crooked nose, blue eyes, a thin-lipped mouth, and a curly cascade of yellow hair. I immediately thought she was very pretty, but having just seen her naked I also made an extra effort to keep my mind on business. I don't believe in mixing romance and acting much; it usually leads to trouble. It's ironic, then, that Linda and I ended up falling in love. We both resisted it for quite some time.

Her apartment on Bedford was very homey and sweet. She had a cat named Liisu, who was shy. Off the kitchen was a bedroom and, to the left, a living room. We went there and sat on the couch. I noticed that the decor was a combination of creative touches and restlessness. For instance, she had a kind of card table set up as a desk; this was messy. But then, nearby, on the wall was a pretty conte drawing she'd done of a small bunch of flowers, with the words "Uus Lill" written beneath. It was very dainty and framed nicely. I asked what the words meant, and she said they were Estonian for "Fresh Flowers." I then asked what Estonian was, and as you can imagine that led to a whole new conversation.

While Linda explained Estonia to me, I watched her more. Over the years I came to recognize a lot of both Artur and Salme in Linda's character. The Artur side of her would be focused, bright, authoritative, sometimes even peremptory, and good-humored. The Salme side would be self-doubting, intuitive, a bit nervous, a little obsessive. In conversation Linda would say something, then laugh nervously about it. I found it very sweet.

In the coming weeks we worked on the play together and got to know each other better. The piece - called "Phone Calls to JD Salinger" - was performed in April or May of 1980, and then, once more, closing night arrived and it was time to go home and back to my solitary life. But this time things weren't quite so solitary. I had joined an acting class by this time, which gave me a new circle of friends in Toronto. So while I didn't see much of Linda in the days after "JD" ended, I wasn't lonely. But still I thought of her.

One night I decided that enough was enough, so I called her on the phone. I asked her if she was free to go with me to a play. She said no, very nicely. I said okay, and hung up. Well, I thought, that's it; no interest there. Then, a day later, the phone rang. It was Linda. Was the offer still open, she wondered? I said yes. So we went to the play. And that's how we started dating.

At the same time, I was hired for the summer by a small theatre company which was located, as it happened, fairly close to Linda's apartment. So it became a natural thing for us to meet up after rehearsals and go for coffee. By the end of the summer, we were living together on Bedford Road, and in October I asked her to marry me.

Typically for Linda, she said no. Then, a week or so later, she said yes. We both laughed about this a good deal later. The hoops she made me jump through!

Our wedding took place in March of 1981, and it was very lovely. We were ecstatically happy together, and remained so for many years afterward. In fact, you could say that Linda and I never really fell out of love; we simply reached a point where we couldn't share a joint married life anymore without it cramping us. So in separating, we continued a loving friendship that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. But in the beginning it was just pure love. I remember one night lying in bed together, just holding each other and sighing from time to time, so happy. Another night I lay on my back and said to her, "At last I feel like I have a star up in the sky." And she cried. It was lovely.

We laughed a lot too. One of my fondest memories, in fact, is Linda's laugh. I loved to tease her and she loved to be teased. In many of the pictures I have of her on my website (http//www.ptrob.com) you can see her smiling or being goofy. We were like a couple of kids together.

I remember one year we went to the Canadian National Exhibition, a kind of big fair with rides, held at the end of each summer in Toronto. We went from ride to ride like two five-year-olds. At one point we tried to kiss while riding something called the Tilt-a-Whirl, and of course we ended up banging noses instead. We were that silly.

By 1982 we had moved from Toronto to New York, where what I think of as our real life together started. We formed a small theatre company and brought together many friends in some very, very fine small productions of wonderful plays. I'm very proud of those years, in fact, and still think that the shows we did were among the finest I've ever seen done anywhere. We had many adventures along the way, too. I recall driving to Boston in a rented van in a snowstorm one winter to give a performance of "The Awakening," a play we were interested in then. Linda was clutching her map and navigating, while I steered the overgrown metal beast through slush and snow as best I could. When we arrived four hours later we had to unpack immediately, which was exhausting. But we loved it too, of course.

I remember the night some friends of ours opened a play on Broadway, and we attended. It was so magical. Or another time when we took a trip to a farm in Pennsylvania owned by an Estonian fellow named Ralf Sams. The farm was done up as a big guest retreat, with bedding in the barn and a big bar there too. The next morning Linda stood looking around at the green hills and dales, the barn, the distant river, looking like a startled elf. We were both such city dwellers we weren't used to all this nature!

The Estonian presence in Linda's life was a mixed thing. At first, when we met, it wasn't much there at all; and it was easy for me to assume that "Estonian" was for her a deep-background ethnicity, something that didn't really matter in her everyday life. In fact, when we did our first play together, it barely came up at all. Only later, as we dated, did I slowly get to realize that it was a bigger part of Linda's life than at first I realized. But even then, it was a balance that was always in flux. The fact is, Linda was ambivalent for a good many years about her heritage, which I think is common for children of first-generation immigrants. In her twenties she wanted to assert her own identity, her own personhood, and so she rejected her "Estonian-ness" and made as though she were just any other North American gal.

So at first our friends were mostly just other theatre people, fellow Canadians of whatever stripe. We did plays and got to know them and they us, and we had a good time. But then at other times the Estonian connection would come up. Friends would pop up with names like Hillar and Elmar and Epp and Juta, and I'd find my tongue wrapping around unfamiliar vowels. The real test for me, of course, came in meeting her parents. I think the first time I met Salme and Artur was probably Thanksgiving Dinner in 1980. Linda and I went together to their house on Sloane Ave. in North Toronto for the meal.

I found it a very different experience to what I was used to. For one thing, I'm one of three kids, and so at holidays our family gatherings are loud and conversational. By contrast, Linda and Artur and Salme were a quieter bunch. Also, although I don't wish to speak out of turn, there was a sense of separation between Artur and Salme even then. In my family, my folks loved each other very much and enjoyed each others' company hugely. Here at the Pakris, however, I could tell that Artur took little interest in Salme's doings, while Salme's attempts to make things seem united between them felt strained. I promise, I tried not to think these things because I was a guest and wanted all to be well. But it was unavoidable.

Still, things could be fun in this milieu. The following spring Linda and I made a trip for the first time to her parents' cottage in the lake district north of Toronto. It's a very lovely part of the country, with rivers and lakes and canals literally every kilometre or so. The Pakris's cottage was located on the banks of a river, and here I saw for the first time what a formidable fellow Artur really was. The riverbank in front of their cottage, for some hundred and fifty feet, had been sheathed in a series of steps made out of concrete and stone. Artur, I was told, had created this himself, teaching himself how to mix the concrete. It was a very impressive sight, made all the more awesome by the thought that Artur had created the thing while in his 70s. I'm still impressed by that. What an extraordinary man.

It being the countryside, Artur and Salme seemed more relaxed, and so we all had a lot of fun. I don't know what they thought of me, but I found I was coming to think more warmly of my in-laws. I think the feeling was mutual. Salme at times seemed to dote on me; and Artur once went to his bedroom and brought out all of his old ship master's licenses to show me. Linda later told me he had never done that, not even with her. I would help do the dishes later, which Salme enjoyed, and we'd chat. I was conscious of trying to give them both equal time, equal respect.

When Linda and I moved to New York these visits became less frequent. But we usually managed to fit in at least one visit per year.

In New York, Linda's interest in things Estonian slowly began to re-emerge, possibly because now without her parents around to push it she was free to discover it on her own. We developed a circle of friends based at the Estonian House, a big old stone building at the corner of 34th Street and 3rd or 4th Avenue in Manhattan. There's a bar there, and a large performing hall, and both led to many nights of fun. Eventually Linda became an active participant in the annual Estonian Cultural Days celebrations in April; and in fact a couple of times we both contributed (myself acting IN ESTONIAN, god help me!). This was a lot of fun, and I think Linda really enjoyed the limelight, the hustle and bustle, and the sense of accomplishment that went with being part of the New York Esto scene. In time, in fact, it began to become her chief interest. The idea that she and I would both keep working in mainstream professional theatre kind of waned; while it remained my dream, her new one seemed to be more involved with being a happy doyenne of Estonian arts and letters. In the end, in fact, this created a bit of conflict between us. It was one of the ways we grew apart.

As a grown up girl Linda was funny, big-hearted, and loved to laugh. She was also very generous. She would give you the coat off her back at a moment's notice. In our marriage, I felt we balanced each other nicely. Sometimes she would lack courage, and I would supply it. Sometimes I would lack insight, and she'd give it to me. Like any marriage, we felt often like a very special club of two that no one else could possibly understand. One example: Linda and I liked to say "Thank your lucky socks," as in "You'd better thank your lucky socks that you have your health." I have no idea where it came from, but it's a dear memory now. Or again when Linda and I went out together in Estonian circles I would often forget who I was talking to because of the strange names. She she would hover near me and whisper in my ear things like, "The woman coming over is Elva, who helped us get those costumes last year," or "That guy is Peeter Raudsepp, who published the Esto Journal with our picture in it last month." Well, one time we were at a friend's wedding, and a woman stepped forward at one point in the ceremony to sing a tender ballad. While she was singing, Linda leaned over and whispered, "That's the woman who booked our tickets to California last year." Suddenly the contrast between this banal piece of information and the sublime singing hit both of us, and we were possessed in the giggles. We found ourselves literally snorting and writhing in an attempt not to laugh. Oh, dear, it was exhausting!

Sometimes we'd talk in the infant-level Estonian I understood. Our pet names for each other were "Musi," which is the Estonian word that means both "kiss" (noun and verb) and "kissable" (adjective). So if you call someone your "Musi kene," that's calling them your kissable little-one. That was my favorite name for her. Linda called me "Musi rull," which means, I believe, kissable breadroll. Sigh. I know these are silly, but they're the stuff love is made of. In fact, years after we separated and divorced, Linda would still commence a phone call to me by going, "Oh! Hi Musi! It's Linda!" And I'd call her Musi, too, without thinking.

To the end of her life I think Linda struggled with joy and its opposite, sadness. She could be happy and confident, but at other times she could also be very quiet, sad, and self-effacing. I remember one time she was telling me about her new boyfriend, a guy named Andres that she knew for a few years in the mid-90s. One day many months later I said, "Hey, whatever happened to that Andres guy you were dating last year? You haven't mentioned him much lately." "Oh," she said, "he died in Estonia a few months ago." Linda hadn't mentioned this to me, though, because she didn't want to cloud our conversation with her personal sadness. Even though I, as a loving friend, would of course have welcomed the chance to let her unburden herself. It was only with much coaxing and cooing on my part that I got her to talk about it, open up, let things out a little. She could be like that, though. Like she didn't feel she deserved to take up her friends' time with her own burdens. I always thought that was a shame. She brought so much fun into others' lives, it's a shame she didn't let others prop her up, now and again.

Linda smoked a lot and drank a little too much, too, from time to time. I think like anyone with a big, big heart, she felt considerable heartache in her life, and it wasn't always comfortable, and so she'd dull it away. I only mention this to give a rounded picture of Linda as a grownup. There were many things I loved about her, but once in a while, late at night, I'd also get one of the "other" kind of Linda phone calls - the ones where she'd been drinking a bit, and was as a result either over-bubbly or just plain so confused that you couldn't really have a sensible conversation. She'd love to drink a bottle of wine and get on the long distance phone for hours; in latter years her phone bills must have been astronomical sometimes. But you know, even for all that, her good-heartedness was always there. I can remember her calling me sometimes and, when I realized she was a little high, I'd get annoyed, and she'd detect this in my voice, and get abashed, and then I'd feel bad, so I'd be nicer, and then she'd laugh, and we'd end up having a nice phone chat for an hour or two. I suppose my main beef with Linda's drinking is that she was such a lovely person when she didn't drink that there was no reason for it. But she craved the relaxation and the courage and the fuzziness, I suppose. I don't blame her.

I last saw Linda here in Los Angeles just about a year ago. She'd flown out here to visit some friends. We went to a bar and had food & drink with some of my actor pals here. She liked them a lot, and they liked her. She felt I was onto a good thing, and was optimistic about my future; I was always grateful for that. Linda's confidence in me often was all the confidence I could muster. Linda looked exactly the same, too; still the cloud of yellow hair, the blue eyes, the beautiful skin. I was worried because I'd gained some weight over the years & thought she might think I was too fat, but she charmingly said she didn't even notice. At the end of the evening we went back to her hotel, and I said goodbye at the door. I wrote her an email about a month later and said how magical it had been to see her again. She wrote back, and said it was the same.

That would be about the last time we talked.

* * *

Linda always spoke of her days in England with fondness, and it was, for a time, a place we planned to visit together one day. Even after we separated I thought I'd probably call her before finally going to the UK, because it was my hunch she'd have a lot of friends there and it would be fun to look them up. She told me about her days in Frimley Green, and going to school there. About being in the Girl Guides. She mentioned going on trips to sea with her mother as guests on Artur's ships. She showed me pictures from those days too - pictures which have probably, alas, burned. I'm sure in all those photos there's one of you, so I've probably seen your face at some time or other. But of course, I don't think I'd remember it now.

Still ... who knows? Someday maybe I'll finally make the trip and get to meet you in person. It would be a pleasure.

This is very long, so I'm going to send it off now and maybe write some more at a future time.

Again, I hope you're well, Tony, and that the new year brings you many smiles and good things. I'll be thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way.

warm regards,
Paul Robertson


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Dear Paul!

Thankyou for your last e-mails. I always enjoy hearing from you and being in touch with the shows you're in.

A couple of month ago I was seriously considering flying to LA, as then I could have seen you on stage, but unfortunately those plans had to subsequently be revised.

I was reminded of your innate talent and unremitting theatrical and musical gifts last week, when I had the pleasure of having lunch with Rosie Lindau. I was in Toronto for 10 days helping out with my parents. My dad just moved into an estonian nursing home, where Rosie now works as activity co-ordinator. Rosie's a great person for this job - she's a humanitarian who keeps her sense of humor and doesn't let anybody get the better of her.

Rosie talked about when she last saw you 2 years ago. We also reminisced over past times spent in New York.

Rosie asked if I would forward her your e-mail address, which I am going to do, if you have no objections. She'd like to be in touch with you.

Following a huge output of energy in March/April with the estonian cultural days' program I've basically been keeping a low social profile. I go to my favourite yoga class once a week and sometimes get together with the estos on friday nites at the house on 34th street. I often get requests from people like Urmas Karner, Ell Tabur, Andres Mannik, Tiina Aleman, Andres Juriado, Valdar Oinas and others to extend their very best wishes to you. You definitely left your mark on the estonian new york community! Rosie remarked many times how great it was to work with you in NYC.

Paul, you definitely must keep pursuing what you do best. LA must be the most difficult city to live in for a serious actor. Constantly reminded of mega-star lifestyles I imagine it has to be ever so hard not to start comparing oneself with others around you.

Remember, tho - with you, there IS no comparison. You are unique. As an actor you embody a special talent for getting inside a character and showing their vulnerabilities without judgement. You can get an audience to laugh, but you're actually better at getting them to cry.

I'm thinking about you and very much sending you a ton of happy positive energy.

All the best and big hugs,
Linda xxx


Dear Musi,

I'm rather breathtaken to have such a loving email arrive out of the clear blue sky. Especially today, when for some reason I'm having a kind of lumpish Monday. Can't seem to get myself out of first gear; way too much engine power going on way too little speed. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising. A couple of weeks ago "The Sea Gull" ended at the Odyssey, and then we had a night of scenes (three nights, actually) at the same theatre (very well-attended); and since then zippo. So lately I've been that most awful of things, an actor 'at liberty' who also doesn't have a clue what's coming up next. It's been making me (as you can well imagine) stir-crazy, nuts, restless, and depressed. So you see, with your usual good sense of cosmic timing, a cheery letter telling me I'm wonderful couldn't have arrived at a better moment...!

I was delighted to think you almost made it here to see me act in something, but that'll happen one of these days, by one hook or crook or another. Chris Bartleman was in town, though, and managed to come see "The Sea Gull." I was delighted and pretty nervous too; I honestly don't think he's seen me in a play since ... when? Toronto? New York? At a minimum, 15 years. But it all came out well. The Odyssey Theatre is big and rather beautiful, but operates on the 99-seat plan (ie Showcase Code); so it's a peculiar hybrid; sort of like a non-paying Stratford Festival. Big, beautiful stages - three of 'em - but no salaries. (Sigh - what else is new?) I think Chris was both pleased and surprised and even a little impressed though. Well what the hell ... so was I a lot of the time. "The Sea Gull" was performed in a lovely space and was quite effective. I'm rather proud of it. Nice cast, and made some good friends too, I think....

I'm delighted to hear that you had a chance to visit Rosie, and knowing that Artur is in her care makes me feel a whole lot better. I'm sorry he's reached that point - it must be odd for someone so restless and hale much of their life to see themselves inarguably winding down. But then, Artur's also been a very spiritual man, I think; I would imagine he has less trouble than some reconciling himself to the cycles of life. (I'm sure he's where your own deep sense of spirit and mystery comes from.) Please tell him (and Salme too) that I think of them both often. I think of Artur in particular every time I read something about seafarers, naturally. Sigh. He must wish he was out there now.

Thanks too for passing along my email - I'd love to be able to chat with Rosie. I well remember seeing her two years ago, how she was distinctly more mature, yet beautiful and good to be around.... And of course I'm delighted that she so fondly remembers all our New York nuttiness. So do I. So do I.

It's odd that these days I live within a stone's throw of Steve, Kathy, Mo, Sue Mosher, and others, and yet I never see them. I mean, never; it's as if they dropped off the planet. I remember way, way back, when Steve was leaving New York to start working on "Suds," and how close he and I were then; so close that I cried when he left for San Diego. I felt silly at the time; now I see I was right. It was the end of something. I see now you can never underrate these things. When in doubt, it's better to cry. You may not get a second chance.

But then, when one friend leaves, another arrives.

Curious that there's a whole circle of people I know out here who you don't. It seems as if that's not right, somehow; as if you *should* know the people I know (even all these years later). I know if you ever do come out and there's ever a chance for me to introduce you around, I won't have to explain too much who you are. They've all heard about you already. -)

Please keep me posted if you ever do come this way. It would be delightful to see you in person again.

I'm glad to hear you're recovering well from Kultuuripaevad. And I'm glad to hear the ol' gang remembers me fondly. You know, I had no trouble whatsoever picturing each of the names you mentioned. I hope Urmas (& Karin) and Ell and Andres (Mannik) and Tiina and Andres (Juriado) and Oinas and the rest of the bunch are well. Please send them my love. I can hardly wait to darken the Estonian House door again someday. Maybe if we finally get it together to have another Xmas in New York, I'll come a few extra days early. Or hell, maybe I'll just come and visit? It's not like it's crossing the Alps, after all.

Your kind words of encouragement are simply - I'll say it again - wonderful. I don't know how to respond in kind, except to say that I can only admire and love (as I always have, always will) the unique, beautiful woman who took the time to think of me in such a generous way. I will always feel privileged and honored that we were married; that we were such a great team; and that such a beautiful, funny, talented girl as you ever cared for me so much. I kiss you, Musi. Thank you for thinking of me so well.

Never fear that I'll give up at what I'm trying to accomplish; but I *am* human, and I do lose heart now and again. You're right; living here it's hard not to compare yourself with others, with success. Lately I've been trying to say to myself, "Take your eyes off the horizon and just keep them on your feet. Take it one step at a time." Wise words, if not always followed. Sometimes I go out and act and people say nice things but then I get home and doubt it all. I wonder if I'm good enough, unique enough, charming enough. Times like that, it's a tremendous relief to hear someone who knows you well - and has no reason to coddle you - say "now cut that out." So again, thank you. I'm very grateful.

Stay in touch. I return your good thoughts and good energy a thousandfold.



Dear Paul,

Thank you for your letter of 6/25 My heart melted at reading your words. I know we've split up, but hearing from you always reminds me of something positive, something good...

We actually did have an enormously great thing going with Arts Club Theatre at Our Lady of Vilnius and earlier on Christopher Street. Thru the 80's our joint producing activity made a whole bunch of projects happen!

That is a part of history that nobody can ever take away from either of us. Thank you - together we managed to kick ass and produce great stage-work!

I'd really love to see you. Maybe a brunch or something. I have a flight booked into LAX Thursday Nov.22nd at 12.04. Leaving Tues. Nov. 27 12 noon back to NYC. Would you be around these dates?

I keep seeing you in my dreams.

Let's get together for a bit. I'd love to spend some time with you.

Linda xxx