Monday, February 16, 2015

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 Ally 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 John Lennon at the time.

pull it to the bumper

Kaz's mother, hospitalized for a hysterectomy, I now the only one with a license in the household, taking him on a hospital visit, seeing her, a heavy set middle age Polish woman, doing chin-ups in bed to rehabilitate was too much for me, excusing myself, suddenly feeling a pain from my knees impacting the floor, the next thing I knew, a nurse was reviving me, I had fainted, never happened before.

Husband Tony, had his work routine using the bus, evenings spent watching 'The Lawrence Welk Show', eyeing the girls, "She can park her slippers under my bed anytime," one comment.

Weird too, the family car was a Corvair 4-door, and had this knack, unintentional, of bumping the front whenever parking, no damage, though irritating Kaz after the first few times.

David had a kitchen gig at some reform hall on the East Side, his mother, now at home recuperating, resting in the backyard, her daughter over, "It's a big help having him here to help with the driving," she added to the introduction, I about to leave to pick-up David at work.  That would have to be the day a delivery truck was parked at the end of the block, obscuring my view at the stop sign, pulling out a bit, a large sedan happens by smashing the front fender.

Repairs covered by insurance, before 'No Fault', the Agent displeased at my conciliatory admission prior, I paid the deductible, though didn't repair my feeling awkwardness.

So sitting around the backyard another summer afternoon, Kaz's mother paging through the paper, eyes fixed on a piece, "Didn't you go to school with a boy named 'Monagle'?", "...Yes,...", she getting my attention, "Says here the family was in a car accident, a head-on collision outside Memphis, ...", my mind flashed on them going West again this August, taking their cousin, Guy.  Stunned by what followed, "....The mom died, the rest are in area hospitals."  I adored Leland's mother, Rene, I sat in disbelief.

In a recent call to Lama, he mentioning "Remember, i told you not to go out West with Leland that time," hinting at premonition, again it never happened, for one thing, wasn't invited.

The furthest drive in the Corvair was Toronto [Ontario],  just to visit, taken aback by the 'Pedestrian Walks', hanging out at a bar downtown, Yonge Street Station, a railroad motif. 

By the Fall term, Leland, the least injured, would return to an empty house, and I would join him there.  Odd too, in tme, Leland and I, and college friends, would eventually take a trip to Toronto, long story, he and his girlfriend hitchhiking back to Buffalo, telling of their ride, "This guy picked us up, took us the whole way, funny though, every time we came to a red light on the QEW, he'd end up bumping the car in front of us."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

working on the railroad

With Lama, never wanting of money, yet sought a part time job, independence perhaps,  Kaz hooking me up with a weekend work, at a small B&B-like structure along the tracks in Sloan, down from the Central Terminal, a diner with lodging for railroad workers, dishwashing and making beds, night shift, got used to hot roast beef sandwiches for dinner,  breakfast at sunrise, recall oddly tasting real butter on toast for the first time.

Lama not pleased, he picking me up in the morning, had to be Easter Sunday, furious, saying he couldn't find me at the appointed time, and had left, steamed about having to return.  He was mistaken, his fury only a symptom, could see days with Lama numbered.

First option was to move back to the Projects, Kaz at my side, found in my absence, the place now roach infested, no way I could stay there, Kaz offering his place, a win-win situation, with his mother in the hospital, no one else in the family, he or his father, had a drivers license; I did.  Moved into their house on Stevens Avenue that day, drums and all, and work a single bus ride up Baily.

Lama later recalling, "I told you I would have gotten you a job waiting tables at the Park Lane, if you would have cut your hair," never happened, though it draws on a Neil Young song.

Work at the RR didn't last much beyond the Spring, some time later reading where Cecil Bloom, the manager there, had taken over food services at Buff State College.

fantasy island, mid-east meets mid-west

So was in Mrs McGill's history class, assignments handed out for class reports on the World's hot spots, mine ''the Middle East', thinking, perhaps not the best fit, since sitting side-by-side with Jewish classmates who lived and breathed Israel, its history, its geography, its culture every day, what could I possibly add.

Recalling a passage, might have been Barth, describing Buffalo and environs, "where the Eastern Seaboard butts up against the Mid-West", entertaining the notion 'If a 'Mid-West' in America, what corresponding area might constitute its 'Mid-East'?', thinking a region, perhaps extending from the Niagara Frontier  and Western New York to the Great Smokey Mountains [TN].

All the signs are there.  As it happens,World Zionists in the early 1900's had considered New York's Grand Island as a possible location for 'The Promise Land, Israel'.  Today, a freeway runs the short distance between the island and Niagara Falls, named the (Robert) Moses Expressway.  Bethlehem Steel lies just south along the lake shore, a bit further, Eden (NY).  And a Gold Dome can be found downtown. 

A sizeable and influential Jewish population resides in the suburbs, while the first Muslim-American Television Network, 'Bridges TV', was headquartered in Buffalo, at least until its founder, Muzzammil Hassan, was found guilty of beheading his wife [2011].  Typical of the Uu*, I've recognized since Revelations, often mixing the good, the bad, the sublime, and the ugly. 

And did I forget to mention, the 'Mid East' Peace Bridge, spanning the Niagara at its headwaters, Lake Erie, joining Buffalo and Canada, once getting through Customs.

So my brother recently returned from a trip to the 'Great Smokey Mountains' [TN], staying in an A-Frame vacation rental, there in the living room, as it happens, a sleigh, originally from Buffalo, reported that it appeared in the Queen City's Christmas parades around the Turn-of-the-Century.

Once in Santa Rosa, would hear of the book 'Grand Avenue', and a new drug, rhyming with 'Niagara'.

rally 'round the flag, weathermen

So Leland, seemingly spur of the moment, refuses to say the 'Pledge of Allegiance' in class, wanna say, objecting to the words 'under God', and is promptly sent down to the office.  At his house the next day, impressed his mother backing-up his right to do so.  Rene, Belgium born, a nurse by trade, strong believer in civil rights, not at all religious or God-fearing.  In fact, only time hearing her invoke the name of the Lord, was driving us to school, the car in front taking its time at a traffic light, "What are you waiting for, the 2nd coming of Christ?!!".  Funny, recalling the family car, a red Rambler American.

Years later, visiting Leland in SF,  he in a 'where are they now' mode, "And do you remember Kevin O'Connell from Bennett?..."  Vaguely recollecting, he a year or 2 ahead, bonding with Mrs McGill before class.  She, our history teacher that year, feisty patriotic woman, "Clear your desks, we're gonna have a quickie," her expression for a 'pop quiz'.

Got a sense of Mrs McGill's patriotic fury one day, she spotting out the class window a couple of UB students handing-out pamphlets, "Just look at them out there, indoctrinating our high school kids with communist propaganda!"

"Kevin O'Connell? ....from Bennett? ....", back to Leland, "...He's now a TV weatherman in LA."  That true, reading his Wiki Bio, as is sub-hosting for David Letterman, who got his start as a TV weatherman (in Indianapolis).  It took Revelations to see the irony, the 'Weathermen' (or 'Weather Underground') soon surfacing after HS as a radical Left-Wing faction of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society).

Funny too, classmate Zsolt, here (USA) after escaping Communist Hungary, ending-up at McGill University [Montreal], wanna say editor of their poetry magazine, and yet another irony, once writing him a letter, drawn to a 'multiple choice' format, now thinking back, on some subliminal level, 'Was that meant to be a quickie?'.

In researching, read where 'under God' was added to the Pledge in the early 1950's, "...during the Cold War, as a way to differentiate the U.S. from the concept of communist state atheism." 

"All life is a set of interconnecting wheels,' so says the Eck Master.  Had a Zolten as a neighbor here (Santa Rosa), tutored Hungarian, til passing away.

[photo: Bellamy Salute, Minersville WV vs Gobitis', 1940]