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Archive for May, 2012

One day my masseuse told me about the Thai woman who was a member of the Health club in the hotel where she worked. The woman always insisted that the masseuse apply intense pressure to her body during her massages.

The woman was in her 60′s and independently wealthy having built up a high-tech business of sorts.

When taking her massage, she always requests three therapists, two women. one for each side of her upper body and a man for below the waist. They would massage her vigorously for one hour. Then the male massage theripast had to mount her for the next half hour and with equal vigor satisfy another of her needs.

According to M, it was very difficult to find a male massage therapist willing to repeat his assignment since they were generally so exhausted by their first encounter that they usually declined to venture it again.

The woman gave the male massage therapist a $40 tip and about $20 to each woman.

The customer told M that until recently she had two husbands, a Thai husband and American one. A few months ago she divorced her Thai husband.

When M inquired as to what prompted the divorce the woman explained that whenever they made love he would move up and down for a few thrusts and then get tired and rest. After resting he would start up again and so on. So, she decided to divorce him.

The woman indicated that she spent a few months each year in the US with her American husband.

M asked how he was as a lover.

“Very bad,” she responded.

I then asked M what she thought about that.

She answered with a question of her own, “Is it true that American men are bad lovers?”

“I have no knowledge of how other American men have sex other than from the stories we men tell one another about our sexual affairs”, I said, “but based upon those stories and an evaluation of my own performance, I would have to guess that, alas, we probably are.”

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English: Westchester County, NY map from 1839.

English: Westchester County, NY map from 1839. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOUIS

From when I was about 8 years old until I was in my early 20s I had a close friend named Louis (pronounced in the French manner Louie), Louis Maiello. Both he and I lived in Tuckahoe N. Y. at the time. Tuckahoe was a small village nestled between the toney Westchester County suburbs of Bronxville, Eastchester, Scarsdale, and Pelham. Most of the people who lived in Tuckahoe were Italians or Afro-Americans who for the most part were dependent on the wealthier suburbs for their sustenance. A few Jews and wealthier Italians lived within the village closest to its borders because most of those upscale addresses had restrictions at the time, prohibiting Jews, Italians, and blacks from living within their jurisdictions. So, living just across the town boundaries was as close as they got to their idea of suburban heaven.

Where Winnie (Winston Churchill who appeared in “Papa Joes Tales” a few weeks back) was destined for success based on name, ancestry, looks, capability, wealth and a host of other things, Louis definitely was not. It was not just the name and family background that separated them.

Where Winnie was tall, athletic, manly looking and white, Louis was small, smaller than I was, skinny and pretty, almost effeminate looking with long eyelashes and coal-black eyes. He also definitely was not blessed with that chalky pink tinged alabaster complexion and throbbing blue veins that marked one as a member of the “white” race at that time. (The white race then usually being limited to Anglo-Germanic-Nordic ancestry. Celts had been recently admitted to the club and Slavs confused things. Jews were not really white, they were after all Jews.  They along with Southern Europeans, Turks, Arabs, and others had just begun knocking at the door clamoring for membership.) Louie was that deep dark dusky color with a flash of gold buried deep beneath the dirt that ranked us at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, along with blacks, Puerto Ricans and Sephardim (Mexicans were not an obsession at the time where I lived on the East coast).

As an aside: As a child the white pink, blue-veined people who lived in up scale suburbs of Westchester County, NY frightened me. Those blue veins throbbing beneath that dead looking white skin always made me think of zombies or vampires. I wonder if those nordic masters of the universe had or have now any idea of how ugly they appeared to many of us. Ironically the worst and most frightening of them was an Italian. He ran the Italian operation of one of the American clients I represented when I lived in Rome. He was a Colonna; a member of the Colonna family who along with the even older Orsini family had run Rome and the Papacy for 1200 years. My client was the first person from either family in those 1200 years to take a job. “Just like one of those upstart Colonnas,” an Orsini was rumored to have sniffed. Anyway, I guess as a side effect of a millennium of inbreeding, all color had left his face leaving only a deathly pasty white pallor. Those ghastly throbbing blue veins remained. He resembled a cadaver more than something living. He was also one of the most despicable human beings I have ever met. That also has something to do with breeding, I guess.

Anyway, Louis was not pre-destined for success. At 8 he was thrown out of his house by his sadistic father and forced to live on the streets or on the largess of relatives and friends. For some reason, many of the adults I knew would warn me to stay away from him because he was a bad influence. I did not understand that. He wasn’t mean or violent, in fact just the opposite. Not that he was a do-gooder or anything like that. He preferred leaving people alone, just as he preferred for them to leave him alone.

Nevertheless, many of the bigger boys would bully him mercilessly. He would not often fight back against the bullies, preferring the strategy of avoid and escape to confrontation. I on the other hand always fought back, but usually lost.

Perhaps that is why we became friends. Louie was sort of a kindred spirit; befriending him probably filled my need for acceptance. Not that I was ostracized and shunned like him, but I seemed to inhabit the fringes of my childhood social sets and pushing my way into their center required a greater commitment than I thought the rewards warranted.

He was not a thief either. Oh if you left something lying around he might take it, but I saw that as now more than the occasional incidental stealing we all do; sort of like taking pencils from the office where we work.

Although he was pretty looking, he was not effeminate and was of all of us the one who had the earliest and most prolific sexual experiences. He was very successful at it and with that, as he grew older, his reputation among the other neighborhood boys climbed a bit. It was said of him, that Louie could get laid in a nunnery. I, on the other hand, much to my chagrin, was truly a late bloomer.

Anyway, in our late teens, I went off to college and law school and Louie, as a lot of the dispossessed people from the East Coast at that time did decamped for California. He wanted to become an actor.

He returned a year or so later and moved into a basement flat in Greenwich Village; one of those flats common in NY City then; one room below street level, fully exposed toilet sitting in the kitchen area, no hot water, bathtub with a piece of plywood covering it that served as the dining table and all the rats and cockroaches one could desire.

He was living with a woman who had returned with him from California and who appeared stoned all the time. Actually, I did not know what being stoned all the time ment or looked like since it was still a few years before the rise of hippiedom when we learned all about it. At that time, she seemed to me, seductive. That sort of dreamy look and half-smile that flitted across her face in response to anything I said and the uninhibited movements of her body I interpreted as erotic rather than drug-induced lethargy. I spent one night at the apartment. Louie had gone to sleep. I thought for sure I would lose my virginity that night and out of nervousness I talked… and talked until she fell asleep and I had to wait another year or so for that highly anti-climatic event we, fortunately, experience only once in our lives.

Louie had succeeded in becoming a movie actor of sorts in Hollywood and had appeared in a movie. He told me about what he and other actors had to do to get a part in a movie in Hollywood; how he had to give blow jobs and more to the producers to get the part. While he was telling me this, I noticed that it was the only time I had ever seen Louie angry or ashamed. His eyes filmed over in fear, embarrassment or self-disgust I could not tell. Perhaps he was stoned also.

Nevertheless, I envied him. I had already given up my dreams for a life in the theater, unwilling and perhaps frightened that I would be unable to do the things and suffer the humiliations required to even get a chance to perform.

The movie he appeared in was a biker flick that was Jack Nicholson’s first starring role. Louie played a skinny sex-crazed hanger-on. A role he was well suited for.

Anyway, after that, I sadly lost touch with Louie. He had taken the stage name of James Oliver. I would periodically search the internet for some information about him but without luck. I assumed that he must have died of AIDs or some other form of STD.

Last week while obsessing again about why so few people respond to my Facebook posts I decided that I needed to find more friends. Previously I  had assumed that my posts were simply boring, so I started sharing posts that others had sent me. I believed that if they received a lot of comments on their posts, by sharing them with my other “friends” I would get a similar response. Alas, no. I thought there were only two reasons for this. The first I refused to contemplate and the second was that I had too few friends. So, I went searching for more friends. I decided to click on the village where I grew up, Tuckahoe, to see if I could find a few members of my old gang who I could, for old times sake, con into reading one or two of my posts.

I was both pleased and surprised to find, James Oliver alive and well living as a 70-year-old artist in Taos New Mexico. According to a news report accompanying his profile, he had continued his “Hollywood” lifestyle becoming one of John Lennon’s favorite carousing pals and had actually made it into one or two of Lennon’s biographies. Tiring of the bright lights and the big city he had moved to Taos to live life as an artist of local renown.

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19th century map of Southern Italy, featuring ...

19th-century map of Southern Italy, featuring the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the islands of Sardinia and Malta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Giuseppe, (often shortened to Pepe or Pepino), translates from the Italian to the English as Joseph. Joe or Joey are the English nicknames usually associated with Joseph. There were a lot of Joes in my family. There was Joe, Big Joe and Little Joe, Uncle Joe, Joe the Minister and Joey. I was Joey.

In the Southern Italian tradition one named the first son after the paternal grandfather hence my name, Joe. The second son was named after the father. My father’s name was Giacomo, James in English although for most of his life he was called Jack or Blackie. My brother’s name, of course, is James. My grandfather’s younger brother’s name was also James. My uncle’s name, the second born of my grandfather was Joe. The maternal grandfather only got the second name of the first-born son. My middle name is Eugene. That is the name of my mother’s father. Maybe his name was also bestowed on the third son. I do not know, I only have one brother.

How they name female children in Southern Italy I do not know either. Probably they name the eldest Maria. My sister is named Mary. My mothers eldest sister’s name was Maria. Her brother was named Joe (the minister). My grandfather’s eldest sister was named Mary. On the other hand, my father’s only sister was named Marcella. Go figure.

This could have made family gatherings even more confusing than they were. However, another Southern Italian tradition came to the rescue. Boys were given nicknames. Thankfully we used the names described above, otherwise, I could have been named “Joe the Meatball” or some such, like the mobsters in the movies. Girls did not have nicknames as far as I know.

This tradition, like all traditions of immigrants to the United States of America that were considered odd, was discarded by the first generation in our efforts to assimilate. Those traditions that remained were either, culinary (pizza and pasta), docile, like religious festivals, adaptable, like the supposed emotionalism of the Italian or heroic, like glorification of Italian gangsters. So be it. I named my children Jason and Jessica like everyone else at the time. I doubt that they are even translatable into Italian. My relatives in Italy refer to them as Yason and Yessica.

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A photo of Thai actor Mitr Chaibancha at a shr...

A photo of Thai actor Mitr Chaibancha at a shrine in Jomtien Beach, Pattaya, Thailand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mornings during my stay in Jomtien Beach Thailand, I walked along the beach from the seawall supporting boat ramp to the dead tree in the surf and back again, a distance of a little over two kilometers or so.

I generally trudged along head down scanning the flotsam and jetsam thrown on the beach by the night’s tides hoping to avoid stepping on some bit of rubbish that may puncture my foot and possibly cause me great pain and lead to some awful tropical disease.

It addition to the normal dead fish, bits of seaweed, severed crab claws, fragments of shells, plastic bottles and the like I noticed the recent appearance of a great number of large translucent blobs of beached jellyfish among the litter. They looked like sputum left by a gang of semi-drunk giants on their way to or back from an evening in whatever night spots giants go to in the Outskirts of Hell to do whatever it is that giants do there.

I  also began to notice among the mornings detritus a significant increase in farang (European) tourists. As the monsoon rains wind down, high tourist season begins.

Although the beach appeared more crowded, it probably was not because there are a greater number of people on the beach, but on account of the fact that the westerners take up so much more room than Thais. Also the tourists appear to crowd close to the water in the sun while the Thais sensibly prefer to stay back in the shade under the umbrellas and the trees.

I do not subscribe to “W” nor do I read the “Style” section of the Huffington Post, but I have become aware of a significant style change in beach wear.

The more gargantuan the man the smaller the tiny black Speedo” style brief he wears until among the most adipose endowed it almost disappears altogether into the many creases and folds of his flesh. These men generally lie on tiny towels or beach chairs exposing their skin to the sun, but for some reason never losing their pallor.

Pattaya Beach, Thailand. A view to the south t...

Pattaya Beach, Thailand. A view to the south towards Bali Hai Pier and Jomthien Beach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other-hand the younger more fit males stand by the water’s edge flexing and preening and turning bronze. Interestingly these younger men seem to eschew the black mini-bikini briefs wearing instead traditional colored briefs or trunks. They also never seem to sit or lie on the sand unless accompanied by a young woman in which case they spend their day sitting on a towel or beach chair and pouting

The women on the other hand all seem to wear what I have only seen before in some of the pornographic photographs dutifully sent to me by my male friends and which I, in turn, dutifully  send on to other male friends within two days, fearful that to do otherwise would result in some of my appendages rotting and falling off.

Anyway these appear to consist of some thread connecting three tiny pieces of brightly colored cloth placed not so much conceal but to expose, leaving covered only those portions of the anatomy that would otherwise break the seamless expanse of milky flesh.

It appears that there is some universal rule in operation here. The younger shapely women lie face down on their towels and unloose the upper string for some reason certainly not because it in any way could impede the ray’s of the sun. The lower portion of the set, of course, disappears completely into the natural cleft of the buttocks making it appear as if someone was lying stark naked on the sand.

The older, more generously proportioned women on the other hand remove their tops entirely and inevitably lie flat on their backs providing to the gentle caress of the sun and the refreshing touch of the breeze to that which the hand of man probably has not roamed in a decade or two.

Now you may think there goes old Papa Joe the misogynist, but that is not so. I have my own self perception problems with my body. When I stand before my mirror in the evening I am acutely aware of my drooping male dugs and wonder what my size would be for one of Kramer’s male bras (C cup at least).

When I dress for my walk, I try to cover myself from head to toe with only the tips of my toes and my arms below my elbows exposed to the sun. As a result my lower arms have turned to that khaki-olive shade of my youth when the pink kids that lived over the hill in upscale Bronxville would call us who lived in the ghetto village of Tuckahoe, “White N***ers”. But not to our faces, because if we heard that, some of my more excitable friends had the tendency to turn the Bronxville boys blue-veined pink faces, black, blue and red.

English: Tuckahoe Metro-North Train Station in...

English: Tuckahoe Metro-North Train Station in Tuckahoe, NY. Category:Images of Metro-North railroad stations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now my parents fearful that I would be misled by my black and italian gangsters in training friends, sent me to a private school to get away from all that and to get a good education so that I can have more options to f*ck up my life. What I actually did learn, was that while yes, my Sicilian and Afro-American friends were quick to resort to violence when faced with real or imagined slights or for financial gain, my new more upper class school chums while manifestly less physically violent, exposed me to the real meaning of sadism.

But I digress, my beach attire consisted of a straw hat and a pair of ski goggles. Yes ski goggles. Why in Thailand there would be a store that sells ski goggles I cannot even try to guess. Anyway, I wore them because they had an adjustable strap to keep them in place, and they were large enough so that I could wear my prescription glasses under them and thereby avoid the expense of buying prescription sunglasses that I will lose anyway. I also liked the way the high ultra-violet protection of the glasses turn the color of water in the pool while I am swimming laps allowing me to zone out even more when the endorphin high hits thereby diminishing the insufferable boredom of swimming laps. Of course, I then would begin smashing into the edges of the pool, or bumping into other swimmers or swimming endlessly in a circle. But that is another story.

Anyway, I wore a long shirt, a vest in which I carry things like my phone, passport, cigars and the like and of course I covered my legs with long pants. Over my shoulder I carried the bag in which I carry my computer.

I was miserable, sweating and generally hated anyone I saw on the beach enjoying themselves.

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celine-dion-ny-01may17-01

A few days ago, Gun Girl called inviting me to join her for dinner at a restaurant she likes nearby. She offered to pick me up at my condo at 7 PM that evening.

Following my late afternoon nap, I showered, shaved, powdered and scented myself, brushed my teeth, swirled some mouthwash, put on a new pair of pants and a just laundered shirt and waited.

At about 7:20 she called and said she had gotten into an accident with a motorcycle at a street corner close to my condo and asked me to assist her. I left and walked to the intersection of the street she mentioned and Beach Road. I did not see her and called her cell phone. She said that she was actually at the corner of the street a few blocks down from Beach Road but that she was getting things in order and no longer needed my help. She asked me to go back to the condo, promising to call when she had finished. I told her I would wait for her call at Cafe Le Mar instead.

I walked back to the restaurant and sat at the bar, ordered a coke and watched a music video of Celine Deion in concert. She would often stop between songs and speak to the audience for a very long time. As she spoke, the audience would alternately, cheer, laugh or cry. I had no idea what she said since I do not understand French.

She impressed me as a remarkably ungainly woman. She moves with all the awkwardness of a 13-year-old girl.

Her songs all sounded eerily the same. The same breathy two or three notes over and over again.

After watching and listening to her for over an hour, I thought I had gone insane.

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15ea33340811aa9ce448577ee8e6c728--christian-cartoons-funny-christian

It is interesting that in the iconography of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) death is most often imagined as a demon; “Lucifer Light Bringer” being the arch-demon.

Lucifer Light Bringer was a demigod (angel) who like Prometheus (another demigod) committed the universally unforgivable sin of gods everywhere for bringing knowledge to the human race. For this they were to be punished for all eternity; Prometheus by being chained to a rock and having his liver clawed out daily by an eagle; and Lucifer by having his light put out and being forced to live with that monstrous big boobed bitch Lilith while spending the rest eternity dipping the souls of the damned, head down into barrels of boiling piss.

It seems that what the gods intend us to learn is that on earth as it is in heaven, no good deed goes unpunished.

This is probably why so many of our Abrahamic brethren suffer so:

The Jews with their unreasonable sense of guilt, probably for inventing the insane god that they did. But cheer up my circumcised brethren, the pagan gods were no better, except that they were superior at multi-tasking; being able to drink wine and laugh, while roasting humanity on the rotisseries of life.

The Christians with their utter terror of their totally insane and vindictive god

Muslims with their hatred of anyone not forced to suffer like them under the not so benevolent hand of Allah.

The history of the Catholic Church and Christianity can be summed up as the battle between those who believe that God intended the spoils of life to go to those whose lives most demonstrate a willingness to do almost anything to achieve success in this life (e.g. Augustine and Jerome who believed, it is not the good you do that makes one blessed but the strength of your blind fervor.) and those who now and then actually do a good deed or two. Unfortunately, that dank cesspool referred to as the Catholic hierarchy all too often gave lip-service to the latter but idolized the former.

The Gnostics understood the truth behind the symbolism when they maintained that the Abrahamic god was the prince of evil and that Lucifer Light Bringer and Prometheus were the avatars of the God of Light destined to ultimately end the dread reign of this spawn of Loki.

Of course, there are always exceptions, Maimonides, Hillel, Francis of Assisi, Rumi are some. I would like to add one of my favorites Omar Khayyam to the list. After all, he did say that the primary goal of life is “…a loaf of bread, a glass of wine and thou beneath the bough…” but that is going too far I think.

By the way, what is it about Islam and alcohol (they invented the word for god’s sake)? After all, their history is filled with alcoholic poets and drunken califs and sultans.

Did you know, that there once was an Ottoman sultan so distressed that his supply of favorite wine in his cellar was running out, he allowed himself to be persuaded to begin a war to conquer the country (Cyprus) that made his beloved vintage, after the Cypriots, egged on by the Pope (of course), threatened to sell no more of their wine to the Islamic heathens.

The good Christian nations, fearing that these vines would be lost to the true church should the sultan achieve his goal, united, as they had almost never been able to before in history for anything, and kicked the Sultan’s ass at the battle of Lepanto, beginning the slow steady decline of the Ottoman Empire and of Islamic civilization that continues today.

It was just about at this same time, back in old Europe, recently recovered from the plague, that a few priests, among them Luther, Calvin and Wycliffe, decided to take the lunatic god at his word. Recognizing that the fruits of life seemed to inure to those most willing to climb over the corpses of anyone who stood in their way, these divines declared that since that is what usually happens in life anyway, it therefore must be the will of God. They also maintained that such success must be some indication of favor from the Most High and therefore as long as he (and it most assuredly must be a he) took the psychotic god into his heart, he would also be first among the elect when he, to the relief of his victims, finally died.

After all, God must be displeased (as he was displeased with the children of Israel once they stopped winning their wars of extermination) with the miserable of the earth and the poor as he was with the Southern Eastern European migrants to the US during the last century and the South American and Africans of the past few decades, since he made their lives so unbearably wretched.

Our fundamentalist brethren, ( and if truth be known, the Catholic hierarchy) cheer this insight to this day.

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Dunes at Sandy Neck Beach, West Barnstable

Dunes at Sandy Neck Beach, West Barnstable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was one of those remarkably beautiful mornings. So as I sat in the cafe sipping my café latte and gazing at the yellow sand beach and the stippled water reflecting the almost empty blue sky, of course, my thoughts wandered off to ruminating on death and dying.

This is not such an odd juxtaposition at my age, especially when recently I began to wonder if my preference for drifting through life requires some adjustment when faced with the inevitable decline of my physical and mental faculties over the next decade or so.

On the other hand, as I so well know, the end may occur while simply standing on the sidewalk looking forward to the future. Or, as the Great Dane mused whether “..to take arms against a sea of trouble..” is really worth it.

This led me to think about my grandfather who bore the same name as I. People called him, “Big Joe,” “Old Joe,” “Pepino” or just “Joe” as the situation required.

I often think about him because I believe, the great dark shadow cast by him stunted the growth of all members of the Petrillo family caught in its gloom.

Big Joe approached life as something to be beaten into shape with his fists or accepted with neither emotion nor regret. When he was a young man he killed another man for calling him a guinea. Convicted of manslaughter, he served about a year in jail. After his release, he fought his way to head one of the first and certainly the largest construction companies in the US owned by an Italian immigrant at that time. When during the Great Depression caused him to lose everything he did not complain and eventually went back to working as a common laborer.

In his nineties, he lived in a nursing home. There, he developed the obsession that were he to lie down on his bed he would surely die. So, every night he sat upright in his chair facing the door to his room ready to fight death to the death so to speak. No, there was no going silently into “that dark night” for old Joe. He was prepared to beat death into submission were the caped skeleton so foolish as to walk through that door and into his room.

One night when he was about 85 years old and working at night directing traffic in the parking lot of one of his son’s restaurants on Cape Cod, he called me on the phone. He said he might be arrested and thrown in jail (not for the first time in his life). When I inquired as to what it was that made him think this, he told me that evening he directed an automobile with two young men and their dates into a parking space. The young man driving ignored him and parked instead closer to the entrance to the restaurant and got out. Grandpa (as I called him) went up to the driver to remonstrate with him and ask him to move his car into the space where he had directed him to go.

The young man responded by saying, “Get out of the way old man,” and pushed “Big Joe” aside.

Shortly thereafter the ambulance took the young man to the hospital suffering a broken nose, the loss of a few teeth, a couple of broken ribs and various contusions and abrasions as they say in the legal trade. I  later learned that the young man remained in the hospital for two weeks.

“Don’t worry grandpa,” I laughed, “If you are arrested, I will take the case, put you on the stand and ask you one question, ‘How old are you, Mr. Petrillo.’ Besides, I suspect the young man will be too embarrassed to press charges.” I was right, he did not.

Anyway, one night midway through his 98th year, a kind-hearted nurse, after giving him his medicine watched him doze off. Believing that he must, at his age, be uncomfortable sleeping upright in a chair, she lifted him up  into his bed. They found him dead the next morning.

That is the way it is with old man death, he may not be strong enough to wrestle you into your grave but close your eye for a moment…

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Keating Hall in winter.

Keating Hall in winter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I walked in the blazing heat of the Bangkok sun to the health club today; heels striking the pavement heavily, shoulders hunched, head down checking the sidewalk in hopes of avoiding falling through a hole into one of those inky black and disgustingly dangerous sewers that were at one time canals. My neck jutted out parallel to the ground like that of a turtle or a chicken as I walked. Plodding along, I, as old men often do, ruminated through the parched grasses of memory. I surprised myself by finding I had become fixated on Winston Churchill.

No, not the balding, rotund, cigar smoking, alcoholic, bigot who many believe won World War II single-handedly despite the death of millions of allied soldiers and the unlimited aid of American industrial might, as well as the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of mostly non-white colonial serfs who gave up their lives at the request of the Free French generals in order to liberate a nation most of whose population had settled down happily and comfortably under the tyranny of the SS. No, not him, but Winston Churchill (of some number, I think III) a scion of an American offshoot of the legendary British family who attended Fordham College with me back in the late 1950s and early 60s. (This was also the period when the current President of the United States of America attended that university. He was neither among the brightest nor most distinguished members of the student body. In fact, to use one of his often used phrases, “He was a nobody.”)

Fordham was a Catholic, Jesuit run university at a place called Rose Hill in the Bronx at the edge of a large Italian ghetto. Winnie, as he was called, enrolled at this second-rate Catholic university instead of ivy-coated halls of Harvard or Yale to which his ancestry and wealth entitled him because his fanatically Catholic mother insisted that he bide his time under the watchful eyes of the Jesuit order before receiving the rewards due a Churchill.

There was no question in anyone’s mind, least of all Winnie’s, that he was destined for great things. In addition to his name and heritage, he was clearly one of the five or six smartest students at the university. He also was tall as befitted a child of the nordic-germanic races as opposed to us much shorter Celtic and mediterranean types that peopled the campus. He was blond, blue-eyed and handsome in a pretty sort of way. The only blemish on his appearance that I could recall was his blade thin nose that erupted from his face like a knife after slicing through a round of camembert. For someone who came from a race of either bulbous or beak-like probosci, Winnie’s nose simply appeared unimpressive to me. His nostrils were so narrow I wondered how he got enough air through them to survive. I half suspected that he had a bottle of compressed oxygen secreted nearby and would now and then slip out for a nip like a Bowery denizen would nip at a bottle of Thunderbird encased in a brown paper bag.

However, what mostly set Winnie apart from the rest of us, and if you would have asked me at the time the rest of humanity, was his abiding belief that what was good for Winnie, was… well, all that really mattered. Now, this did not mean that Winnie was mean or callous; no not at all. If an old woman walking in front of him on the sidewalk tripped and fell, Winnie would not hesitate to stop and help her up. And in response to the old woman’s expression of thanks, flash his broad smile as though her gratitude was his due. Of course, if the old woman tripped and fell into a puddle of mud, he would most likely walk right by. Wouldn’t anyone?

Anyway, in our senior year, many of us took the LSAT examination required for those of us planning to go on to law school. That year they introduced an additional day of exams directed at testing our general knowledge. When the results came back I scored 800 out of 800 on the general knowledge portion of the exam which was the highest in the school (Winnie was second but far behind me) and obviously no one in the New York had gotten higher since that was as high as the scoring system went.

Now I scored so high on this exam not because I was particularly smarter than anyone. I was not. My scores on the other two days or the exam proved this since they were barely adequate to get me into a second-rate law school. No, it was that my reading regime and obsessions with factoids gave me an advantage. That and the fact that this portion of the exam was multiple choice and I firmly believed that anyone that could not get at least 90 percent right on a multiple choice test, even if the test were in a foreign language that you did not understand, was mentally deficient.

Nevertheless, I was sort of pleased with the results. Not pleased enough to tell my mother, but pleased enough to hope some of the young women around campus would hear about it and think that I was interesting enough to date. This was the end of the 50s after all. Alas, it never happened.

As I contemplated my forlorn hope, I received a message from the Dean of Students requesting I come immediately to his office to discuss the results of the LSAT exam. Now, I do not remember how the message was delivered. This was after all before computers and mobile communication. I guess it was the usual method of communication available at the time; another student shouting at me as I walked across campus, “Hey Joe, the Dean wants to talk to you about the LSAT right away.”

So off I went with the hope of some official recognition that would intrigue the girl of my dreams.

Now, it is important to understand Jesuit management as laid down centuries ago by the order’s founder Ignatius of Loyola, a frustrated Basque ex-soldier who because of an injury suffered in battle could no longer do what he knew best, kill people, decided to apply his soldierly skills on behalf of the Pope and make war on people’s minds. His management system required that the head guy (it had to be a guy) must be beloved. So his job was to say in public only things that made people happy and made them love him. His second in command had to be the prick and do all the dirty work. It was essential that the prick was deeply loathed by everyone so that the head guy looked even better by comparison.

At Fordham, as far as I knew, the second in command was the Dean of Students (actually I may have his title wrong it may have been the Dean of Discipline, but whatever). The Dean of Students was a prick.

I entered the Dean’s office. Although outside it was a bright spring afternoon the office was gloomy, curtains drawn. A small lamp on the desk provided most of the light. The dark almost black wood furniture in that gothic style that Catholic religious of the time seemed to like so much filled the room. Winnie was there, sitting in a chair off to the side in an elegant upper-class slouch, his knife nose pointed towards the ceiling a few feet behind the Dean’s desk. His face absent its usual slightly supercilious smile, his blue eyes blazing with annoyance or anger or something else that I could not guess at.

I took a seat before the Dean. The chair was one or those uncomfortable, tall-backed, wooden chairs with twisted columns holding up a cross-piece of dark reddish-brown wood about a foot above my head. The wood slat had a lion’s head carved into it to go with the claws on the base of the chair’s legs. A similar larger set of claws held up the Dean’s desk.

The Dean a man of average height, with a round face and eyes that peered out at you through slits. Slits not so much like the epicanthic narrowed eyes of Asians but simply slits through which one could not see the eyes behind, only blackness. He wore a black cassock and a shawl of some sort. He leaned forward and asked in a low nearly inaudible voice, “Do you know your marks on the General Knowledge section of the LSAT exam?”

“Yes, father,” I responded.

“Who do you think you are,” he continued in that same low voice? “I know all about you. You never come to class. You do not complete your assignments. Your grades are barely even mediocre. What right do you have getting a higher mark than those students like Winston here who work so hard?”

Now, Winnie did turn in his assignments and I did not. That is so. But if truth be known, his attendance record was not all that better than mine.

Anyway, I did not get to say anything, because with a flick of his hand the Dean dismissed me.

“Thank you, father,” I mumbled. I got up, passed Winnie who now had a broad leer on his face and I left the room.

I felt neither good nor bad, neither humiliated or angry, but only concerned about how I was going to go about meeting girls now…. After all, I was barely more than a teenager, the Sixties actually did not begin in earnest until at least 1965 and no one really smoked dope except musicians.
(to be continued)

(NOTE: I wrote the above, I am sure you all recognize  as entertainment. Although the events were as described, Winnie as I knew him then was far more complex and sensitive than I describe him here, as I hope so was I. The Dean of Students, however was a prick and will always be a prick.

As long as I am on the subject, why is it OK to call a man a prick but not OK to call a woman a cunt? Who decides these things anyway? I am sure that in the all girls Catholic schools of the time the nun counterpart to the Dean of Discipline (or Students or whatever) was a cunt and was so referred to as by any student that had run afoul of her.)

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