Monday, March 30, 2015

the fixer




May have been a first movie date, Debra taking me to 'The Fixer' [1968], John Frankenheimer dir.], a period piece around 1913 Russian Empire, the Bellis Trial, a Jew wrongfully accused of the murder of a Ukrainian boy, and 'Blood Libel' a motive, Alan Bates winning best actor as Yakov Bok.

 "Gee, were they prejudiced against Jews way back then?", Debra whispering during the film, sounding surprisingly like a na├»ve little girl.  She had mentioned, to my disbelief, in school, classmates believing Jews had horns.

Flashed on that years later, by then divorced, at work Halloween Day, walking back to a workmate's cubicle, RobinFeagas, he already resembling the Zig Zag character, sitting there with suction cup devil horns affixed to his forehead, thinking so minimal, yet so perfect. 

Odd too, thinking back, since pot played such a part in my relationship with Debra.  As odd, the movie title, realizing 'FIX' code for 'F-9', my apartment number in the Projects. 

And was 'horns' a clever reference to rams horns, the 'shofar', blown for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  Or to Cape Horn, around the tip of South America at Tierra del Fuego, oddly enough, Robin owning a Renault Fuego.  Odd too, the Cape of Good Hope, around Africa, bares Debra's niece's name, Hope.





Not much recollection of the movie itself, save for a scene, Yakov slips into the royal chambers of a woman one night, shuns away, as if taboo, when discovering signs of her having her period, thinking maybe some Jewish thing.  Reading where 'Blood Libel' a centuries-old false allegation of Jews sacrificing Christians, especially children, as part of some Passover ritual.



Thursday, March 12, 2015

ice station debra



Myron was in town that winter break, looking for something to do, thought to head to the airport, recalling the hub of activity when dropping Debbie off, got there, and the place that was a beehive a day or 2 earlier, now sat empty, never dawning on me, it was Christmas Eve, anyone going anywhere were already there.


Without a lot of options, we headed downtown to catch a movie, playing that night happened to be 'Ice Station Zebra' [1968], Cold War confrontation in the Antarctic, featuring football's Jim Brown in his first movie role.  Apparently the film a favorite of Howard Hugh's, who, in later years, stayed-up viewing it every night.  Too reading running back Jim Brown an idol of OJ Simpson, who was brought to Buffalo in the NFL draft [1969].


And a here-to-for odd pairing of seemingly trite events at the time-- One had me lying on the floor in front of the TV in Myron's apartment, he stepping out to check-on laundry, him mom stepping-in, "Why don't you sit on the couch?", I barely uttering, "I'm OK," before her boyfriend Mikey rushing in from the bedroom, yanking me up in a single swoop, throwing me into the hallway, leaving me stunned, "What just happened?!"

Was that same week, Myron and I finding ourselves at Strinka's one night, Althea bartending, empty save for one or 2 others, the usual for me, vodka & OJ ('screwdriver'), when one of the customers, a disgruntled vet, confronted Myron & I, yanking us by the collars, pushing us out the door, across the street, down the icy path, all the way to Dairy Queen.  Again left with the thought, "What the hell was that about?!"

Since Revelations, seeing that's how the Uu* works, 'skilfully curled' parallels playing-out--

A film about Cold War confrontation, first assaulted by Mikey, a Russian, then by a US serviceman.  The couch too not without symbolism, it was there sometime prior, I stumbled upon one of Myron's mothers paperbacks, on WW II's Eastern Front, embedded photos showing Nazi's rounding-up stripped village women in a field.  Add to that, just having met Debra, who was Jewish, and 'Mikey' typical of how those from Long Island might refer to someone named 'Michael'.

So was New Year's Eve, when stopping by Myron's place, a bit apprehensive, Mikey sitting at the kitchen table, as if nothing every happened, eating from carry-out pizza, Bocce's or Pico's.  Buffalo has the best pizza.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"You're not from Amsterdam, are you?"


"You're not from Amsterdam, are you?", that was my line bumping into an attractive Jewish coed, on her way into the Student Union as I was on my way out.  No way she could know what I was referring to, was stood up for a movie date by a UB girl the week before, she happened to be from Amsterdam, NY.  Though odd it would play-out that way, Amsterdam the 'City of Canals', home to Anne Frank, in the '60's a legal haven for sex & drugs, and getting a mention in the film 'Pulp Fiction', for putting mayonnaise on their French fries.

Apparently it was meant to be, because we clicked, learning from our first encounter, first name, Debra, overlooking the clever reference to her large boobs, she and her mom would go to the custom bra shoppe, "We need the ones with wires for support."  Only now seeing the obscure reference to the movie 'Puppet on a String', a spy thriller taking place in Amsterdam.

Last name, Lefferts, family had changed it, understandably so, from Lipschitz, though my housemate on Montrose Place, MichaelVeteramo, would be sure to show the new name equally open to ridicule.

"My cousin wrote 'Puff the Magic Dragon'," Debra offering a tie to fame, "He lives in San Francisco, their side of the family changed their  name to 'Lipton'."  Thinking now, it had to be after the most popular brand of tea. 

As it had to be 'Puff', the one song by Peter, Paul, & Mary that sounded like it was targeted for kids, not to mention a brand of Kleenex.  Though from hearing the trio live, introducing the song, "When we sing a song about 'pot', we'll tell you."


Debra was from the Island, as it happens, Plainview, thinking could they have come-up with a more generic sounding place name.  "...on Montclair Road", she added, immediately seeing the coincidence with my last name, though then, thinking it only a coincidence.


Her birthday, December 6th, easy to remember, the day before 'Pearl Harbor Day'.  Surprised too, to learn the GI first to sound the alarm of a Japanese attack that day in history, is local to Santa Rosa.

And growing-up, she had a pony, Spot, again thinking, how adorably generic, and cutely tied to kids' stories, 'Dick and Jane'.  Not to mention, Steinbeck,  'The Pearl' from Junior High, first book assigned by Lama, and recalling Link, for his English class, going with his 'The Red Pony'.

All this garnered from my first week with Debra, who then, with Christmas break upon us, had to return to Long Island, or 'Lone GuyLand', as the downstaters would say, making fun of the Buffalo accent.  I drove her to the airport, finding the terminal bustling with all these Jewish girls heading home for the holidays.

Monday, February 16, 2015

strange thing about 'Iron Butterfly'



Besides the Iron Butterfly's name being an amalgam of contrasts (inspiring the likes of Led Zeppelin), a weird mystery surrounds the disappearance and death of the bass player, Philip Taylor Kramer, who joined the band around the time Debra and I relocated to DC [1974].

Kramer went on to get a degree in aerospace engineering, of all things, in night school, no less, working on the MX Missile for the Defense Department, fractal compression, and facial recognition.  Forming a company, Total Media [1990], with, as it happens, brother of Michael Jackson, Randy, though going bankrupt, continued work on 'faster than light' communications.  (His father, Ray, had been engaged in a long running family effort to discredit Albert Einstein's theories.)

Valentine's week 1995, Kramer drives to LAX to meet investors, there making a flurry of phone calls, including one to 911, "I'm going to kill myself," disappearing shortly thereafter.  Thing is, his father relaying an earlier conversation, Kramer being paranoid, people out to get his ideas, the son saying, "If I ever say I'm gonna kill myself, don't you believe it, i'm gonna be needing help."  Oddly worded, given 'suicide'  often tagged as 'a cry for help'.

Memorial Day weekend 1999, photographers shooting old car wrecks in Decker Canyon, near Malibu, happened upon Kramer's Ford Aerostar minivan, with skeletal remains shown to be the former bass player.  Ruled a suicide, Iron Butterfly drummer, Ron Bushy, mentioned plans of he and Kramer getting together around the time of his disappearance to discuss upcoming tour dates, and leaving a $3 IOU to cover airport parking, didn't make sense.  Never there to meet his guests, Mr. & Mrs Martini, something happened in the 45 minutes at the airport.

Kramer's mental health had apparently been slipping, stating that the World was going to end due to a supernova, that his father, a professor of engineering at Youngstown University (OH) was really a god, his wife, Jennifer, was Mother Earth, and after reading 'The Celestine Prophecy', asked her only eat 'colors of the spectrum', not eat meat, and not wear black. 



Some claim he developed a 'Star Trek Transporter', pointing to the electrostatic copier as proof, when not seeing the connection, told to "Stop acting stupid," a back-handed compliment, of sorts.



potsdam & rochester's lucky street



It's funny, not thinking of it at the time, when Olga, Myron's sister, trained in classical piano in the Russian tradition, went off to college, she would pick Potsdam (NY), learning later, the 'Potsdam Conference' was where the East-West Heads of State, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman met to decide the fate of post war Germany.  The Upstate NY town has 3 schools- Clarkson, SUNY, and the Crane School of Music (part of SUNY), thinking probably the latter.

There, at a Spencer Davis Concert, she me Bert, a student at Syracuse, SUNY School of Forestry, "The campus nickname for them are 'stumps'," Olga laughed.  And learning Bert had lost a finger in a machine. 

Spencer Davis' 'I'm a Man' a hit song on the radio, keyboard player, Stevie Windwood, a mere 14 at the time. Winwood, in time, would go on to Traffic, and Blind Faith.  Olga and Bert, now married, with infant daughter, Lana, would move to 'The Flower City', Rochester.

Joined Myron in helping move his sister's stuff, from Fillmore Heights to their new flat in one of Rochester's older neighborhoods, weathering a 'white-out' on the New York Thruway en route.  There, unpacking, setting up furniture, Bert noticing from the pattern, the crib cushion upside-down, "Let's fix this, otherwise it'll cost us a fortune in therapy bills later on," he joked.

On the stereo, Iron Butterfly's 'In A Gadda Da Vida', known its drum solo, and a young classically trained lead guitarist (Erik Brann), an anthem of sorts for the times, ultimately drawing Leland and i to the Fillmore East in NYC.





Before leaving Bert and Olga's Lucky Street residence, left a house warming gift, a number '3' address plate, actually a gift to me from Leland that Christmas, something to do with me talking in my sleep while on our trip West.  Funny thing, looking-up #3 Lucky Street location for this post, not found on Google maps, as was the case researching Monroe Street in San Francisco; Rochester, as it happens, is located in Monroe County.

Monday, February 9, 2015

ub orientation



Orientation was the opportunity for incoming students to familiarize themselves with the campus environment, housed in a residential dorm for the 2 days, representatives of college faculties, groups, and societies manning tables, soliciting members, fraternities clustered around the Fountain, banners with their Greek letters, one with a rowing crew boat on display; it all seemed so ivy league.



My room, located in Tower, a high rise across from the Student Union, there meeting my roommate, Mike Wolf, Long Island Jewish, as were so many of the out-of-towners, like they had to find a State School as far away from their parents as possible.  And they had that 'downstate hip-ness' to them, save, oddly, for one area- music.  At a time when music was ruled by British Wave bands or the likes of the 'Doors' and 'Jefferson Airplane' on this side of the pond, sitting the cafeteria, lunch conversation centered on Motown, they raving about seeing the 'Temptations' and the 'Four Tops' live in concert.


My participation in activities was disrupted, after joining a touch football game on Tower lawn, fracturing a finger when slapping down a pass.  First stopping by the campus clinic in nearby McDonald Hall, they sending me over to the ER at Meyer Hospital.  There in the waiting room, Denny & Madelyn show-up, thinking, must have listed them as 'Emergency Contact' on some form, since I never called them, and they sat their patiently as I was x-rayed and fractured finger reset, over and over, the pain unbearable.  This at a time, recently married, Madelyn expecting, about to relocate to New Mexico, Denny stationed with the Army there.  And, as it happens, my fracture, a first for me, was to my ring finger on my left hand.  Go figure.

It was late by the time we got out of the ER, Denny & Madelyn dropping me off outside the UB Student Union, just as a bus pulled-up, on it, spotting Mike Wolf, my roommate, holding-up my hand in a cast, as if to say 'Do you believe this.'

Around this time a group of us having drinks at the Beef and Ale, a nearby college pub, a guy sitting across from me, apparently a new pledge for a Frat, "So they [fellow members] abducted me from campus, threw me in the back of a car blindfolded, drove me out to the middle of nowhere, where they left me to get back on my own," thinking at the time, this must be their way of bonding.  And might have totally overlooked the seemingly trite exchange, if not later in life seeing it as a possible metaphor for this existence.



It's funny, driving a VW Bug while at UB, and at a time when bumper stickers the sign-language-of-choice for self expression and activism, mine had a single simple decal, a Greek letter 'omega', the sign for 'resistance'.


fillmore redux art


Lama, over my years at Bennett, made inroads into the Administration, to where he was tasked with re-doing the curriculum for City schools, directing teams of available teachers, working out of Fillmore Junior High, kept open over the summer months for the project.  I was hired as a 'graphic artist' with the Phys Ed group, my role, to do illustrations for their part of the final document, which, if I recall, had me hand drawing figures swimming from original drawings of figures swimming, essentially the art of copying, thinking, perhaps a way to get around potential copyright infringement, who knows. 

Strange too, spotting Lama leaving work one afternoon, attired in an army surplus fatigue jacket , hair and beard left to grow out, so resembling, I thought at the time,  John Lennon.  Weird part is, John Lennon wouldn't adopt this look til sometime later, after meeting Yoko Ono.