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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

These are gloomy days. Moody skies cover the Enchanted Forest as the winter storms pass over the Great Valley. Threatening they may look, but they leave behind only a ceaseless cold drizzle and little silver droplets on the branches of the trees — the only bright spot in the muted and silent landscape. I assume the storms reserve their wrath for the mountains depositing layers of new snow to the delight of skiers and those who fret about reservoir levels.

My mood is bleak also. There are three daggers aimed at me now. My cancer of course, but also an enhanced threat of infection and a shut down of my ability to pee threatening irreparable damage to my kidneys.

Naida had a bad cold. We walk around the house with masks on, wash our hands constantly and I try to avoid touching places she has touched as though…well, as though a dread disease lurks there — which of course it does. As Rosanna Rosannadanna says, “It’s always something.” And, at my age, that is probably truer than ever.

My daughter Jessica is in San Francisco, thanks in part to the government shutdown and to attend a funeral she is hesitant to talk about. I am very excited to see her. It has been a long time, perhaps two years, maybe more.

(Note: As I type this, I am also watching a movie about Giant carnivorous rabbits attacking a town in the western US. This has got to be the nadir of my existence.)

During the past few days, a lot of the usual annoyances of life sped by — towing my car and the rush to get it out of the pound, confusing discussions with pharmacists and medical professionals, and so on. Naida remains sick, Trump remains not my president, life continues as it usually does until it doesn’t, and I find myself unusually bored. But, tomorrow is another day (Scarlett O’Hara).

On Sunday, my daughter Jessica arrived. She drove up from San Francisco to see me. Seeing her after almost three years made me very happy. It has been too long. She looks well. She’s recovering from a series of concussions she experienced playing soccer over the years. The concussion injury to her brain caused several perception and other problems. We talked about our various maladies and other things. He Who is Not My President’s governmental shutdown has had one good result, my daughter, furloughed by the shutdown, was able to return to California and visit with me.

It is now Tuesday night. What I wanted to write here since that time has passed on from when I thought it important or at least depressed enough to think so. It appears another of my medicines had caused an allergic reaction that resulted in me wanting to simply give up. It has passed.

I don’t often give up. Not giving up has always been important to me. In the almost incessant fights I found myself in during my youth, I would not give up no matter how badly I was beaten. And, I was beaten most of the time.

During my years as a trial lawyer, I asked only to be assigned cases no one in the office would touch because they believed those cases were losers. I still managed to amass the third longest string of consecutive victories at the beginning of a career in the history of New York (while also losing my marriage because of my obsession).

I refused to be daunted by opposition from the medical profession and my own colleagues in setting up NY’s Mental Health Information Service that reformed NY’s mental health hospital system from the horror it inflicted on my mom and innumerable others. It became the model for the nation. That agency still exists today.

There was no option for me other than the approval of California’s Coastal Program as it was expected to be, and the successful establishment and financing of the innovative California Coastal Conservancy no matter the cost to me (another marriage) and to those that worked for me. That occupied 13 years of my life.

The same can be said for the law firm on whose management committee I served and obsessively fought against often unanimous opposition to alter the economic and social mores of the firm for the benefit of the workers, women attorney’s and the firm as a whole by, among other things, demonstrating that the health and profitability of the firm did not depend solely upon the efforts of those with the largest books of business who inevitably end up plundering the firm for their own benefit. The health of a firm depended as much upon the lowliest of paralegals and junior partners and that balanced practice groups are necessary in order to weather the effects of the various business cycles and that those groups adversely affected by a business cycle should not be punished by those groups benefiting from the cycle (e.g., bankruptcy and real estate often operate on opposing cycles).

As a member and later Chairman of California’s High Speed Rail Commission during a period when it appeared to be foundering, I put it back on track so to speak, by pushing through its EIR, changing its tendency for locating its stations at the edges of the cities to bringing them downtown where they would revitalize the communities, developing the concept of the HS network as a backbone transportation system for California whereby multiple regional transportation systems could connect to the downtown stations and service the entire region; and finally fighting against the rapacious efforts of the four of five large engineering firms who sought to control the process for their own benefit and who, I believe, can be blamed for much of the criticism HSR has been subject to since I was removed by Governor Schwarzenegger over the issue.

On the other hand, when I lost (most often a marriage), I usually ran away and started again and again somewhere else. From New York to Pennsylvania, to Rome Italy, to back to the US, to San Francisco, to Thailand, to The Golden Hills and now to the Enchanted Forest. In each place, often penniless, I licked my wounds, struggled with despair, indulged in excess and dreamed of renewal, a new life somehow somewhere, and ultimately I moved on. There was, however, even during these times always something I could not give up on, first Jason, then Jessica and now HRM. I may not always have been successful in their view, but I tried and they kept me more alive and happy than I am sure they believe I have benefitted them. But no more now, they are grown (perhaps not HRM) and despair now is reserved for those times when the pains and discomfort of my various maladies become too much and instead of not giving up, I sometimes long for the peace of oblivion.

Talk about depressing things, the HAC just towed our automobile again. I left them a nasty message and threatened to sue them.

B. UPDATE ON THE MYSTERIOUS ORB.

For those interested in the odd adventures of the Mysterious Orb, it has moved slightly from when it emerged from the bush behind which it had been hiding to show Nikki the way to our house. It has now rolled on a short way and appears to be intending to hide behind another bush to await for whatever the orb waits for next.

It moved from its hiding place behind the smaller bush on the right where it had hidden for a few weeks to the center of the space where Nikki saw it. The Orb has since then moved on toward the bush on the left. Whether it will choose to hide behind that bush or proceed on up the alleyway, I can only guess. I await the next episode in the adventures of the Odd and Mysterious Orb.

The Mysterious Orb —Photograph Taken From Our Garage.

Today about four days after the above was written, the Orb made its decision and is now well hidden behind the bush on the left.

A few days later, during an early morning walk, I passed by the alley where the Odd Orb was hiding. I noticed one of the Turkey Gangs pecking around that part of the alley near where the Orb was hiding. It got me thinking. Do you suppose it is the Turkey Gangs that are moving the Orb around? The birds are big enough to do so. If so, why? Another mystery.

C. OFF TO THE BIG ENDIVE ON THE BAY.

First, we bailed the car out of impoundment. I grumbled and plotted revenge on those I believed targeted me specifically. On the drive home in response to my complaints, Naida said, “I guess we know now that there is a wicked witch in the Enchanted Forest.”

Then we spent some time on our computers doing last minute things. Finally, we and the dog set off to the Big Endive on the Bay. We arrived at Peter’s house in late afternoon. My daughter arrived soon after. We had a pleasant evening reminiscing. Jessica planned to leave on Friday to go back to Washington DC. I will be sad to see her go I do not know when I will see her again.

The next day I met with my doctor and received the first glimmer of good news in at least the past three months. He said that cancer had shrunk enough to bring the possibility of an operation to remove it before the board of surgeons. They then efficiently scheduled all tests and my infusion to occur the remainder of the day.

That night we had dinner at a local Italian Restaurant that I used to enjoy when I lived in that neighborhood years ago. It used to cost about $10 for the same meal I enjoyed that night. Now, that same meal cost me $70. Nothing had changed but the wealth of those that now live in the neighborhood.

Later, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda arrived at Peter’s house for a visit.


D. BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST.

We returned to the Enchanted Forest on Friday. On Saturday I drove into the Golden Hills to drive the Scooter Gang around. While we were driving HRM turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Pookie, I have a girlfriend.” How does one respond to that? I settled on, “Good for you” and high-fived him. Now I worry.

Among the books I have read so far this month was James Lee Burke’s most recent Robicheaux and Purcell saga. The boys are getting old — and they know it. They still, however, act like adolescents while Burke places in their minds the sorrows and sadness of aging heroes approaching their end. Although, the novel takes place by Bayou Teche in Louisiana and Monument Valley Arizona, the epilogue has Dave, Clete and Dave’s adopted daughter Alifair recovering from their efforts and injuries in a motel in Bodega Bay California and traveling up and down Highway One for entertainment.

Alas, I just got word that Lucia’s bar in Sacile, a place I always considered the happiest place on earth, is no more. It has succumbed to the downsizing of the nearby American military base and the Italian economy’s multi-year depression. Lucia is now working as a barista in one of the other cafes in the town. This is all so sad.

I am losing my hair as a result of the chemo. Great gobs of hair flitter down from my head often falling into my food as I eat, making it even more unappetizing than usual. It all amuses me. If it continues I will become the first person in my direct ancestry to go bald in at least five generations. My head looks like it is covered with down.

hemothera

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atrain_130530_2-2

A few years ago I traveled from San Francisco to New York City for some reason that I no longer remember. I arrived in NY on the A train. After a few days, I left it by taking the A train again to Far Rockaway. “Far Rockaway.” It sounds exotic. One could almost imagine emerging from the subway onto a sandy beach by clear blue waters — perhaps there is a boatload of buccaneers waiting offshore to attack. One does not usually associate NY with broad sandy beaches. Actually, it is one of those few major cities with large beaches within its city limits, like Rio. True Rockaway Beach, Jones Beach and Coney Island do not quite conger up the same images in one’s mind as Copacabana or Ipanema, (or even Venice Beach in LA) but they do have their own quirky and gritty charm. In the summer, those beaches were packed with beach-goers and sunbathers like subway cars during rush hour.

When the train emerged from the tunnel and into the sunlight over a section of outer Brooklyn or Queens (I never could remember which it was out here near JFK) we rode above the rows of brick attached homes and trees, lots of them, and passed Aqueduct Raceway. I left the A train at Howard Beach and boarded the AirTrain, taking it the last mile or so to the terminal at JFK.

Boarding the car with me were two New Yorkers dressed in SF Forty-niners shirts on their way to SF to see the Niners play the Giants. One of them was a large pear-shaped man with a pencil thin mustache and wearing a Joe Montana shirt. He announced to everyone in a very loud voice that he was a Niner and Joe Montana fan for all his life no matter what his friends and coworkers thought about it. In an accent that could only be from Brooklyn, he told several of the other passengers that he was a scraper, someone who scrapes the paint off bridges in preparation for repainting and that this was only the second air flight he had ever taken.

So while listening to the two of them express their excitement and their plans about what they wanted to see when they get to SF (Fisherman’s Wharf and the Crookedest Street), I pleasantly passed the time until we arrived at the terminal where I boarded the plane and left NYC behind.

The Niners lost that game.

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Songkran

Songkran (Photo credit: Lim CK)

The dread Songkran holiday began today. Although originally a festival welcoming in the new year at which time a person gently poured fragrant water over the Buddha images to cleanse them and bring good luck, it has turned into a loathsome frenzy in which gangs roam the streets drenching each other and the unwary with buckets of water thrown from the backs of pick-up trucks, or expelled at great velocity from hoses and giant water guns. I hate it.

Today also was the Little Masseuse’s day off and she wanted to spend it “looking around” at the temples near the royal precinct. She often enjoys her days off just “looking around.” I frequently join her. Sometimes we go to the mall and just, you know, “look around.”

English: People in a tuk-tuk get targeted duri...

People in a tuk-tuk get targeted during the Songkran festival in Thailand

We set off and thought we already were rewarded with the good luck that was to be ours for our pious intent to visit the temples when the driver of the courtesy vehicle for the hotel next to our apartment agreed to drive us the half mile or so to Sukhumvit the main road where we would catch the bus to the Royal Palace area. Alas, the vehicle was a converted Tuk-tuk, those ubiquitous three-wheeled vehicles that patrol the streets of Thailand. It was open on all sides. We had gone no further than about 20 yards when the vehicle became stuck in traffic and was immediately surrounded by hoards of revelers who drenched us with water from just about every possible means of violently propelling a liquid.

Soaking wet, we got on the bus to take us to the temple compounds. As I sat and thought dark thoughts about the crazed revelers I could see filling the streets as we passed, a woman of about LM’s age approached her and began bragging about the two-legged mobile ATM that she had also snagged and asked LM if she did not also think he was handsome. LM insisted that I turn around and look at this handsome American and so I did and saw a tall emaciated bald individual slightly younger than I with a sepulchral look and washed out blue eyes to whom I would not apply the word handsome. I thought it somewhat endearing that these two middle-aged Thai women at their age and appearance were so pleased with their ATM’s.

We arrived at the Palace area and stopped at a shrine in the middle of traffic round-about. LM purchased some orange carnation-like flowers in a wreath and some joss sticks from a table at the side of the shrine. She laid the flowers at the base of the shrine, poured some water over them from a nearby bucket, lit the joss sticks and dipped her head in prayer. While she prayed, one of the attendants at the table that sold the flowers picked up her floral offering and returned them to the table for resale. I have always marveled at how miraculous it has been that throughout history religions could create flourishing economies out of nothing but belief in the unknown and unknowable.

We then walked over to one of the temple compounds themselves. On the way there I realized that I had left my wallet in the apartment and told LM that whatever we spend today it was going to have to be on her.

We walked on a bit further when suddenly the sole of LM’s shoe fell off so we had to attach it with rubber bands scrounged from those lying on the sidewalk that had been thrown away. They had previously secured plastic bags in which the sidewalk vendors sold various liquids. LM was obviously frustrated and annoyed and said to me what amounted to “why is it that my ATM has to be so often out of money?” Why indeed? I often ask that question myself.

Upon arriving at the Temple grounds LM purchased some more of the orange flower wreaths and disappeared into a temple building while I waited in front of another building in which a traditional Thai dance accompanied on traditional instruments was in progress. The dancers were dressed in elaborate brocade costumes complete with the tall spiked golden headdress. I guessed that they as well as the musicians were all in their 50′s or more but were proficient enough in bending back their fingers and toes and rolling their eyes to attract a good number of camera-wielding tourists eager to preserve their efforts for all eternity in electronic pixels.

We then went to a group of large open-sided tents where LM sat me on a park type bench, all wood slatted and wrought iron, and went off on a tour of the flower and sundry tables. I sat facing into the tent. I could see the backs of a large number of kneeling Thais and through the other side of the tent, I could see a construction site.

LM arrived back carrying what could only be described as a small-sized metal pizza dish on which were more of the orange flowers, some other floral bulbs whose name I do not know, some more joss sticks, a bit of brightly colored gauzy material, a few packets containing gold leaf, a bottle of what looked like clarified butter and a larger bottle of something that looked like olive oil. She asked me to hold the pizza plate while she took one of the wreaths and some joss

English: Picture of Chinese Joss Sticks - Joss...

sticks and joined the other Thais where she knelt before a low table on the other side of the tent and deposited the flowers, that were immediately gathered up by the attendants. She lit the joss sticks and placed them in receptacles full of sand. They too were quickly gathered up before they had a chance to burn all the way down. I was curious about what they planned to do with half-burned joss sticks but was too shy to ask.

LM returned and beckoned to me to follow her. We walked to another building. It was a small temple surrounded by a little plaza encircled by a polished stone balustrade. I was left to lean against the balustrade and guard the pizza dish while she took the rest of the flowers and disappeared into the building.

Looking around me I noticed, in addition to the hundreds of worshippers and piles of empty pizza dishes, a number of objects that looked quite phallic like. On several about waste high platforms, a four or five-foot column rose from the center of each. On the top of every one was a representation of the ubiquitous floral bulb whose name I do not remember and refuse to look up in Wikipedia. Around these poles people were affixing the gold leaf, tying the diaphanous fabric or pouring the clarified butter on them.

When LM returned she joined in pasting her gold foil on several of these phallic-like objects. She then wrapped one with her gauzy colored fabric and began to pour some of the clarified butter on to another one of them. She stopped, called me over and asked if I would pour it over the top since I was tall enough to reach. I gladly accepted the assignment and happily began pouring the contents of the bottle over the tip of the glans. Noticing my exuberance LM pulled me away warning me against pouring out the entire contents on just one.

Anyway, after emptying the contents of the bottle on to several of the columns, we abandoned the pizza dish and taking the remaining bottle of what I thought was olive oil went to a pavilion that had a number of lamps burning. Into each LM poured the contents of the bottle until it was empty.

Having completed our temple duties, we decided to return home. But first LM purchased some more flowers. There were not “flowers” as we think of them in the West, composed or brightly colored and delicate petals. They looked more like green patties of play-dough on a stick, embedded with acorns. The image of floral beauty inculcated into our consciousness by the romantic and mostly drugged poets of the 19th Century apparently was not carried over to Thailand. They are also edible, LM mentioned.

And so we set off for home. After a long bus ride, I took a short trip the final half mile to the apartment on the back of a motorbike where this seventy year plus body clutching the play-dough flowers in one hand and straw hat in the other prayed that a gang of Songkran thugs would not attack while I was in such a precarious position. The driver, either understanding my concern or sharing my dislike of the water wars, maneuvered through back alleys and deposited me at my apartment building safe and dry.

So to all of you, I wish you too, a happy Songkran and may the penis of your choice be covered on gold, tightly wrapped in gossamer and bathed in clarified butter.

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Louie (stage name, “James Oliver”) left New York City and Tuckahoe for LA. On March 8, 1964, I wrote in my diary:

“Lou did not get married. Susan, his girlfriend decided to go back to California the day before the wedding. Lou was distraught. He decided to return to California also. Not to follow her he says, but because New York has suddenly become lifeless for him. He said he needed a new life.”

And so he left a week or two later and that was the last I ever saw of him. Years later he ended up living as an artist in Taos. I located him through Facebook as I was troling for new friends and was exploring Facebook members connected with Tuckahoe, NY where Louie and I grew up. I sent him an invitation to contact me. I received no reply. Soon thereafter his site was removed.

A reporter for the local Taos newspaper recently wrote of him:

“James Louie Oliver is one of the most fascinating people you might ever meet. He’s an artist, a former stage and screen actor, builder of model airplanes and one helluva storyteller. You’ll see what we mean when Oliver makes an appearance Friday (March 30), 7 p.m., at Bareiss Gallery, 15 State Road 150, north of El Prado.

Oliver will read from his writings, ‘Howie’s Chair’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe and the the Shoeshine Boy,’ and he will also display his intricately detailed assemblages and handcrafted model airplanes.

Oliver was born Dec. 17, 1937, in a coldwater flat on the Bronx-Mount Vernon border in New York. Growing up, he says one of his first jobs was as a shoeshine boy, something he told us about in a story we did on him in April of 2011. He also worked in his grandfather’s barbershop, sweeping up hair and doing anything that was needed. His face goes dark, though, when he talks about the abuse he suffered as a child, but he doesn’t dwell on it.

I grew up old, but I’m younger now,’ he says with a touch of humor.

He studied for and did quite a bit of stage work in New York. This also led to film work in Hollywood.

Cover of "Hells Angels on Wheels"

Cover of Hells Angels on Wheels

My first movie was ‘Hells Angels on Wheels’ (1967) and I played a guy named ‘Gypsy.’ And Adam Roarke was in it, he passed away, and Jack Nicholson too. It’s an underground film. Then I did a TV show where I met Johnny Barrymore. We became very good friends before he passed away. That was another motorcycle TV thing that starred Ben Gazzara called ‘Run for Your Life.’’ ”

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I have taken most of the following from one of two diaries that have survived the many disruptions and along with copies of “The Fred Harris for President Handbook” that I wrote for that ill-fated quixotic campaign in the 1970s and my daughters PhD thesis from Harvard have lain mostly unopened and unread, a few feet from the many beds I have occupied over the past 40 years. I was prompted to open them after writing the previous post about Louie, who I have not seen since 1964, in response to discovering on Facebook that Louie was living apparently happily as an artist in Taos, New Mexico.

Thursday, February 20, 1964.

LANFORD WILSON, JEAN-CLAUDE VAN ITALLIE, H.M. ...

LANFORD WILSON, JEAN-CLAUDE VAN ITALLIE, H.M. KOUTOUKAS, ROSALYN DREXLER, IRENE FORNES, LEONARD MELFI, TOM EYEN, PAUL FOSTER, 1966, photo by GLOAGUEN. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Tonight was very interesting. Lou called and invited me to see his new apartment in the Village. I went there. It is a hovel. He told me all about how nicely he intended to fix it up.

An interesting young man named Leonard Melfi arrived. He is a young playwright, currently writing plays for Cafe La Mama.

We spent the next several hours drinking and talking. Lou described at some length his overactive sex life, including his current affair with a young actress and also the four other women he had gotten pregnant.

Leonard and I then went off on a discussion about the Janet Wylie murder that occupied the headlines of the NY newspapers for almost a year. We both closely followed the news reports about the killing. He had known Janet and appeared to have additional information not reported in the papers. We decided that the murderer was most likely the third roommate. The police, however did not consider her a suspect.

He and I discussed our fascination with murders and the process of identifying the murderer. Much more exciting than solving other types of puzzles we agreed.”

Monday, April 27, 1964, I wrote:

“This weekend the police produced a suspect in the Janet Wylie murder. His arrest upended all the theories Leonard and I had developed. He was the only remaining option unaccounted for in our theories. The murder was a completely random event. The suspect was someone who just wandered in and surprised the girls. Although when we were developing our theories we touched on this possibility, we rejected it as just too far-fetched.”

Note:

La Mama Theater by David Shankbone

La Mama Theater by David Shankbone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leonard Melfi was one of the most important American playwrights of the 1960s when experimental theater was the rage. His works were originally performed at Ellen Stewart‘s La Mama. He became a raging alcoholic and died alone in a SRO hotel on NY’s Broadway and 93rd Street on October 24, 2001.

Janet Wylie and her roommate, Emily Hoffert, two young professionals, were murdered in their Upper East Side apartment by an intruder on August 28, 1963, in what the press called The Career Girls Murders. The suspect taken into custody referred to above was a black man, George Whitmore. It later turned out, investigators erroneously arrested and forced a false confession from Whitmore. Richard Robles a young white man was ultimately apprehended in 1965 and charged with the crime. Nevertheless, Whitmore was imprisoned for many years until he was eventually released. Robles, now 68, was convicted and remains in prison.

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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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