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Two Guys Part II

Posted March 3rd, 2011 at 10:50 AM by chas

“And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t go back
We can only look around at where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”
--Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game (The Blue Album)

“And in the end, the love you make
Is equal to the love you take.”
-- The Beatles, The End (Abbey Road;
Last serious line of their final album)

Gurdjieff taught that unless we take ourselves in hand, which is the Great Work of a lifetime, we are captive to our individual psychology, and that most humans from the great men of history to the silent majority have little control over what happens in their lives or what they feel about it, being captive to unconscious fears and desires. The Buddha taught that we actually are free, but not realizing that, celebrate our chains instead. Or was that Karl Marx? Great, long, irreplaceable friendships end; and like everything else, we’re not sure afterward just what happened.

Down in Scott’s basement, where his Mom always served my favorite vanilla oreo cookies, we two would get folky, and I’d be introduced to platters like Joni Mitchell’s powerful Blue Album. I’d read and criticize things he was writing, and we’d discuss the morality of Captain Kirk and The Federation of Planets. Didn’t he seem to violate its Non-Interference Directive every show? Once when we were all over at his place, we three and Cousin Jim even came up with a scheme to hook a Volkswagen engine to a raft and sail down the Mississippi River! The wide ranging, long conversations of teens ready to conquer the world, or at least make a separate peace with it, were important as much for the sharing as for the content. We were growing up in a bewildering age, where things were changing too fast around us, and we were changing internally too fast also. Luckily, I had a couple of pals to discuss things, and at least share our bewilderment and the odd contradictions we saw in—well, practically everything. It was the later Sixties, man, and the nature of reality seemed to be increasingly up for grabs!

I’d read in a library book that one way for a jobless and moneyless kid to help out his folks was to volunteer for extra chores. In the days before personal electronic devices (the portable tape recorder had just become available, and that was the cutting edge), I’d volunteer to wash dishes for my Mom on Saturday night. After dinner I’d plunge my hands into warm dishwater suds while radio DJ Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) would host ‘Sad Time.’ Oh no, not Sad Time! But my hands were wet, and I couldn’t easily change the station. He’d play all the old corny teen tragedy songs one after the other, which always had to do with haunting themes. There was the song about falling in love with a perfect girl one night while walking by the cemetery, who then turned out to be a ghost who had died the year before. Then there was the one about the boy who died in a race car accident, his last words vowing eternal love for his girl friend (‘Tell Laura I Love Her’). You get the idea. By the time I was finished with the dishes, I’d gone through the Romeo and Juliet wringer myself. Whew! Back in my bedroom at night there was only once more the radio, with its limited commercial AM play list ringing out all up and down the dial. And yet, today when the old songs make a rare appearance, especially in the night, perhaps when I’m at my Dad’s house alone while he’s being hospitalized, they evoke great nostalgia for those times, when there were fewer choices, but we all shared them together.

At the end of high school, Frank and I took two car trips, one to upstate New York and one to Niagara Falls, where we enjoyed the freedom of the road and the chance to discuss life away from the adult world that usually ruled us. We went soaring in gliders up in Elmira, New York. The amazing feeling of sailing a boat where nature itself is the power is even more intense in the three dimensions of the air! Where I asked my pilot to keep it slow and steady, he had his do acrobatics, and took the stick for a while. Back home, a model flying blimp he made back home caught the attention of artist Salvador Dali, who he visited while demonstrating it. Eventually, one day he just let it fly off into the unknown.

During my college years away in Wisconsin, I’d come home occasionally and see my two guys once in a while. At night I visited Scott, who had taken a job for a while as a high school janitor at night. I’d drive over and we had the run of the place, where we make up and play our own war game of a dystopic future, according to his manuscript I became an old sage, and got to marry an aging Joni Mitchell. We spent on term at the same time at Stony Brook University as graduate students, he in English and I in History. I would graduate with a Master’s Degree, and he would move out to start tutoring at The Writing Center at La Guardia Community College in Queens.

One day Frank announced that he was getting married to a woman I’d met once or twice that seemed totally unsuited to him in every possible way. His and her parents both objected (don’t they always) but he badly needed me to be best man in a hastily arranged ceremony to be held without their support. This surprised me, as Frank was the elder son in a large and close family. I’d taken his sister to my junior prom in high school, and his brothers were all high achievers, one in electronics who went on to move to Japan and prosper there, one in various money making schemes typical of a kid and teen, one fun but too young to judge yet. Well, friendship is about standing up for each other. And as usual, the other person, even when one of my best friends, didn’t ask my advice. Then the whole thing blew up somehow, and Frank and I never got together again, except once when he put in an appearance years later for my 40th birthday party. Was he so embarrassed about it that he needed such distance? I’d never know. I heard later that he married a woman who had many younger brothers and sisters to care for. So he became the head of his own pre-made family. No closure; no explanation. Gone with the wind.

Scott remained part of my adult friendship group. After graduate school we roomed together in my return to Brooklyn, where I had been born. He also got married, and did not ask my advice, saying at the time specifically “I want your support, but I don’t want to discuss it—I’ve made my decision.” As someone who has never been married or even lived with a woman, I shouldn’t be critical, so I only report the bare facts that the marriage was a stormy one that ended in a painful divorce. Since all of our other friends were too fair to take sides later, I took his up against her, as the Only One In His Corner. His two children are young adults today. He became an untenured adjunct professor for many years. Scott was the kind of teacher that students love and confide in, but administrators are jealous about. After a great trial over many years of being screwed over by faculty and administrators in several schools, a common plight in Academia-- which is a corporate world no nicer than any other one--he actually achieved his Ph.D., hence his nickname here. His home was always a brownstone of support, where students would come and go for advice, and friends drop in for the domesticity of meals and long conversations, with kids and pets running up and downstairs. He lived in Brooklyn close by for many years, until finally forced out by rising rents. Scott’s several novels are very good, but apparently not what today’s publishing scene supports. Many educational contributions he’s made are part of textbooks and articles. Like Doctor Who, the immortal British science fiction hero, he remains traveling in various dimensions, seeking the Key to Time.
Total Comments 2


Sylvano the Wasabus's Avatar
It's funny how friends change and take different surprising paths over time. Once so much together- grown so far apart. My best friends now are all women and my children.
A good friend from 25 years ago contacted me recently- but we had nothing to say to each other and that made her angry. I'm not sure what she was looking for...
Posted March 3rd, 2011 at 02:16 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus Sylvano the Wasabus is offline
Taeblewalker's Avatar
Another great read, Charley! I never knew some of the things here, in spite of all the conversations we've had.
Posted February 10th, 2021 at 11:26 PM by Taeblewalker Taeblewalker is offline
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