Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
WAITING FOR SAMANTHA
 
All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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        And so, our married life began, we residents of 405 East Hamilton, Ann arbor Michigan.  For once, I stood up straight with pride, so pleased was I to have traveled so far from that insecure teenager, fat and shy, that I used to be. Now, here was I, standing on the front porch of the residence I shared with my beautiful new wife, as we boldly faced the future together, and set out upon the adventure of our life. 
          My mother, meanwhile, had moved to a condo.  She still had an income from a few remaining properties, and she also had the proceeds from the sale of the house.  She soon divested herself of a huge hunk of that, being taken to the cleaners for thousands of dollars by an Interior decorator.  Everything in her new living room was blue, and everything in the bedroom was pink.  There was also a small den with a foldaway bed.  The attractive gentlemen, who had so gallantly participated in our wedding, was soon replaced by a crude fat offensive lout, who embodied all the coarseness and vulgarity I had come to detest in many of the male members of my own ethnicity.  Hmm, come to think of it,” male members” does have a double meaning, and, indeed, he was a prick!   It was painful to see the wonderful way she treated him; as if he was some kind of God!  He was actually some kind of Salesman.  Would that she had showered my Pop with such respect and affection.

        
The $250 a month that she allotted me, for this, my final year of education proved to be more than enough.  Our rent was $100 a month, and we could eat well for $25 a week.  That left us $50 for extras, and I still had some money in the bank to feed the kitty.
          Speaking of eating, Eunice now tried her hand at cooking.  I’ll never forget the first meal she made me, an open faced sandwich, consisting of a piece of toast with a lettuce leaf, topped off by a slice of tomato.  Anyone who has enjoyed Eunice’s cooking, now, would find it hard to believe that its origins can be traced to this humble beginning.

Not far from our apartment house, there was a funny little campus eatery, where students often chowed down.  The food was cheap and outrageously sloppy.  I mean that in a good way.  It was just a small inconspicuous place, on a side street, and I just happened to pass it on my way to and from school, each day.  It was called “Blimpie’s.”  Years later, there came to be a chain of restaurants with that name.  A long counter was the only place to sit.  And the fulltime cook was a gregarious buxom black woman, who was a cross between Hattie Mcdaniel and Mae West.  She not only hustled up Blimpie Burgers, fat, greasy, and topped with melted cheese, by the hundreds, every day, but to my delight, there was an abundant supply of Franks Red Hot Sauce, with which they could be smothered.  Thus, even though, open face sandwiches for tea, were not exactly my cup of tea, I never complained, nor, did I go hungry.

One day, we were walking past Blimpie’s, and I said to Eunice, with a look of innocence on my face,  “Hey look at that!  Shall we go in and try it?  I am reminded of the joke about the lady who buys a parrot, even though, the seller explains to her that it formerly lived in a brothel.  When she gets it home, the parrot looks around, and says, “New House!”  Then it looks at her and says, “New Madam!”  Her daughter comes into the room, and the parrot says, “New Girl!” Then the woman’s husband comes home.  She calls him in to see the bird, and the parrot exclaims, “Hi Henry!”  Now, as we walked into Blimpie’s, the cook smiled at me and said, “Hi Mel!”  Not long after that, Eunice mastered the art of making hamburgers at home.

        
Eunice was soon afforded the opportunity to show off her culinary skills again.  This time, was when I ran into my first girlfriend, Marcia Nelson.  Marcia still looked the same, healthy and clean, and not unlike a pleasingly plump version of Doris Day.  The meeting was friendly, and to my relief devoid of any vestige of emotion.  I was pleased to immediately sense that the two years of puppy love that we shared had evaporated, without a trace.  So we could now be friends.  Marcia was one of those young ladies who filled the hallowed halls of universities, back then, pursuing the easiest course of study they could, while they majored in looking for a husband.  Marcia was now beginning her senior year, and, so far, she did not catch one.

I introduced her to Eunice, and the meeting was quite pleasant.  The naive thought occurred to me that they might become good friends.  Eunice invited Marcia to come over for dinner.  Little did I suspect that Eunice planned to poison her.  This was a side of my new bride that I had never seen before.   Apparently, open face sandwiches were not the only recipe that Eunice had mastered.  She also knew how to conjure up the world’s hottest curry.   I rather enjoyed it, myself.   But Marcia nearly choked to death on the first bite, and then discreetly pushed the rest around her plate, piece by piece, pretending to eat.  Eunice later confessed to me that this was all a plan to do her in.   Marcia did come back again to visit, but never for another dinner.  Oh, by the way, I came to learn that Marcia did finally find a man, and get married; apparently he was a plumber.  Compared to me, I’m sure he made a better living.
          I hated nearly all my classes, resenting every minute that they took me away from Eunice.  The worst was a course in “The Theater in America.”  It was taught by a professor who thought himself a god.  His claim to fame was the fact that, many years before, Arthur Miller was in his class.  Now, he took full credit for playwright Miller’s fame and success.  Every week, he delivered several lectures to an auditorium, packed with several hundred students.  His premise, which was interesting, was that each play was structured with an introduction, a crises, and a resolution.  We had to read several time consuming plays a week, identify these elements, then, write a personal critique of each play on a 5” X 7” index card.  Eunice copied them out for me, in her dramatically feminine English script, correcting my atrocious spelling as she did. 

I liked few of the plays, and said things, like, “The tears we shed at the end of ‘The King and I’ are the same as those we cry when Lassie dies.”  The cards were corrected by a group of  teaching assistants.  When puzzled, they passed the card to the professor.  I was getting Cs and Ds.  And I could not figure out why!  One day, the teaching assistant, who was the first to correct my cards each week, revealed himself to me, on the “QT,” and informed me that, although, he thought my weekly cards were the most entertaining he read, the professor, himself, had noticed them, and was on my case.  And he warned me that if I didn’t start saying nice things about the plays, the World’s Greatest English Instructor was going to fail me.

The few remaining plays we were required to read happened to be by Arthur Miller.  He had saved the best till last, “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible.”  So, I wrote, sarcastically, what I considered to be an over the top, tongue in cheek parody of shameless brown-nosing.  I boldly said things, like, “As great as Arthur Miller is, it’s clear that his teacher must have been even greater,” thinking it was funny.  Miraculously, with only a few chances left to correct my semester long outpouring of honesty, this sudden turnabout to outrageous mendacity, saved the day.  My grade immediately turned around, and I ended up, getting an” A!” And thus, I learned how to succeed in the hallowed halls of learning, by dishing out vast quantities of disingenuous flattery! 

         
The highlight of our year was a visit from Bob Grosvenor.   In early Spring, when the weather was still cold, Bob bought a broken down old car.  He loved things that were broken down and old.  And he drove it to Ann Arbor.  He stayed with us for a several weeks.  We had a Ball!  Bob was like a breath of spring, a breath of Paris, and a kindred spirit in the alien world of Ivy League Ann Arbor.
          Paris had liberated me from the shackles of conformity.   Now, I felt more distant than ever from the stifling world of my youth, and the pretentious one, around me. The three of us were more out of place in Ann Arbor than we had ever been as foreigners in France.  There were few “beatniks” at the University, and those that emulated that identify seemed embarrassingly phony.  Ironically, having met many of the leading lights of the Beat Generation in person, I realized that they were phony too.  The only difference being that they admitted it, and laughed and joked about it openly.

With Bob there, we kidded around a lot, and took a lot of photographs.  Many of these never became prints. They remained only as negatives for 55 years.  Now, rescued and revealed by the computer, this chapter and the next may turn out to be mostly pictures. 
Bob had a sense of humor.  He never thought much of my attempts at painting.  Well, I was not that impressed with his work either.  Here he subtly offers a critique of my then latest endeavor.  I fiddled around with this canvass all semester.  At one point, still unfinished, it hung in the local coffee bar.  Sipping expresso was big at the University of Michigan, where, unlike New York State, one could not drink alcohol until they were 21.
With Bob behind the camera, there could, at last, be photographs of Eunice and I together.
And we had fun dressing up, and clowning around.
         We introduced Bob to a girl I met in art class.  Her name was Connie.  She was the only genuinely free spirit that I encountered at U of M.  Like my friend Jolie, who posed for figure painting, the previous summer, Connie was a Bohemian to the core.  She became a good friend, and we all went out flying kites together.
          What I found most intriguing about Connie was her candid honesty, and the fact that the pot induced rut that she was trapped in was a stunning lesson to me.  Smoking marijuana was a serious offense in those days.  In spite of that, Connie managed to always be turned on.  Meanwhile, she had become seriously concerned that she felt she needed to be stoned to paint.  She could no longer work sober.  When she was high, she felt her work was great.  But what troubled her was the fact that, the next day, when she had sobered up, the art that she had done the day before, looked like crap!  So she had to “turn on,” both to do it and to view it.  Reality, and her art as well, had become dull if she was not smoking pot.
         One day, Bob accompanying me to my speech class.  We got hysterical, nearly rolling on the floor with laughter at the pompous pretentiousness, and sanctimonious intensity of a visiting debating team.  All chance of stopping proved impossible, so we spontaneously took ourselves out of the room.  Once in the corridor, our howls of hilarity could still be heard, echoing through the hallowed halls of learning.

I was convinced that this incident had earned me a failing grade, but actually, the instructor wrote me a letter at the end of the year, telling we that I was the most effective student he had ever encountered in his years of teaching public speaking, and wishing me success in life.  I can't begin to convey how much that compliment meant to me.  My first few speeches, had been delivered, shaking with stage fright and fear.  That problem improved only slightly in the ensuing year.  My professor suggested that I could overcome my anxiety by joining the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, of which he was an enthusiastic member, and appearing on the stage.  Obviously, he’d heard me fumble through a dozen speeches, but he had never heard me sing.  A wandering minstrel I?  No way!

In retrospect, I believe I can now understand why he complimented me so generously.  I guess, relative to the others, my speeches, although, nervously delivered, were slightly more interesting than most.  A year in France had given me a few experiences to share, and better still, some exotic props.  One speech that I remember vividly, made good use of them, and was consistently one hundred percent “me.”  Our beautiful French doll and Polichinelle were with me in an antique leather hat box.  I began the speech by drawing a large chalk circle on the blackboard, then adding a smile and two dots for eyes, and announced, “Man can Create Life!” Anyone who knows me, can see just where it went from there.  I ended up proving the point by introducing the class to my two companions in the box. 

         
The final presentation was a play, performed on the Victorian Toy Theater that I had been constructing throughout the year.  The production was “The Flying Dutchman,” with yours truly doing the voices, and moving the tiny actors across the stage.  The theater was completely electrified, with footlights and scenery, bathed in colored gelatin blue moonlight.   

After a brief explanation of what a Victorian Toy Theater is, and a little of its history, I launched right into this: “But hold!  This is the final speech, I’m told. And thus, the time I shall not waste upon such stuff.  Of speeches we have had enough!  So off the lights, without delay!  And let’s proceed, then, with our play!  The Flying Dutchman is its name.  The scenes and characters are the same as those that graced the London stage in The Great Romantic Age.  The play, itself , was writ by me, as also was this poetry, like the electric candlelight, in the spirit of authenticity.  No longer then shall we deter!  Maestro, play the overture!"

The production culminated with a storm at sea, in which the ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman, sailed across the scene, with waves churning, and lightning, flashing, as the villainous Vanderdecken, dramatically went straight to hell, through a trap door, center stage.  As he sank out of sight, he delivered this speech:

         
Once again my phantom ship doth summon me to return to watery grave.  There shall I lie for a hundred years, entombed.  But centuries for me fly by, as swiftly as yon waning moon.  As quickly as the life of man that, like a brightly falling star, doth flicker and burn out too soon.

But one short century from now, if Earth and Heaven do remain, then I from Neptune’s Kingdom I shall return, to sail the Seven Seas again.  See my ghostly galleon, come sailing ore the sea.  Hear my crew of demons, with silent voices call to me.  And so ye mortals ere you die, think a little while of me.  And in your daily hum-drum lives, include a bit of fantasy.  And never let your heart become the slave of cold reality.”  
          Bob returned to New York, with our Magical Egyptian Chair in his car.  That would be one less precious thing for us to move.  And, when he got there, he married Verta.  Thus, she became Verta-Mae Smart Strawbridge Grosvenor, adding a couple more surnames to her growing collection.

       
  Now that Bob had gone back to NYC, our lives fell back into the former pattern.  School was coming to an end in the late spring.  Like the football games, I didn’t bother to go to “my” graduation ceremony, mine and several thousand others!  My heart was simply not in it.  And, like those other Saturday afternoons, there were better things to do.  Going back to school for me had been, largely, a way of staying out of the military.  Now, with a new baby that would be no longer necessary.  With all the extra art credits I had collected in my wanderings, I could have, no doubt, cut a deal to get a jump on a Master’s Degree.  But that held no interest for me.  Degrees in art are meaningless, either you can do art or you can’t.   No amount of credentials can fool the eye.  My BA Degree was mailed to me in a large envelope; I never opened it.

         
One enormous benefit of being a student was the fact that the University of Michigan was willing to pay for all of Eunice’s upcoming medical expenses.  And so, we waited eagerly for the baby to arrive, and our queen-sized bed was as good a place to wait as any.  Here Eunice and Fish Face get ready for the big event.  Fish Face is somewhat reluctantly modeling the baby clothes that Eunice crocheted.
And here he is, fabled cat of lore and legend: “Puss ‘n Booties!”
Poor little Fish Face!  It pains me to admit that the arrival of the new baby will not be a happy event for him.
          While we were waiting , a couple of old friends paid us a visit.  One was My best friend from Pratt, Harley Wolfe.  He just dropped in for a day, on his way to his hometown, Columbus Ohio.  This was the first time that he met Eunice.  They instantly became good friends.  None of us realized, then, that Harley was destined to be the baby’s Godfather.  Eunice’s friend and former roommate from Paris, Benita Blau visited us as well.  These friendly faces were so welcome. They told us that the world we planned to return to, as soon as the baby arrived, was still out there, waiting for us in New York.

         
And so, the wait continued.  Here is a lovely photograph of Eunice, my sleeping beauty.  Could she be dreaming of the baby that is growing inside her, or the unknown future that was growing ever closer?  It was April in Ann Arbor.  So much had taken place, since the previous April, just one year, and half a world away.
          Although, Eunice and I went everywhere together, she did not remain a prisoner of our apartment, when I was in class.  She occasionally went out and did things on her own.  And, in her travels, she made a friend.  How this unlikely friendship came about was always a mystery to me.  I saw it as evidence of the kind of accepting, all inclusive person Eunice was, then, and continues to be, today.  She became the close, and, perhaps, only friend of a young lady, named, Connie Probst.  Yes, another Connie. This one was, in many respects, extraordinary.  She was a music major, in her fourth and final year at U of M.  And she played an instrument in the school orchestra, the cello, I believe.  Connie was also legally blind.  She had only the slightest vestige of peripheral vision.  Watching her attempt to read was heartbreaking.  She had to don a pair of inch thick glasses, hold the printed page about an inch away from one eye, and turn her head to one side.  This slow and visibly difficult process enabled her to discern one word at a time.  Nonetheless, she had successfully completed four years at the University, and miraculously managed to play in the orchestra, entirely by ear, committing the entire score to memory.

It was no secret that I had little respect for the University.  The art department should have been mercifully put to sleep.  But nothing that I knew about the cruel and absurd administration filled me with as much rage as what they did to Connie.  They allowed her to embark on a four year course in music.  And when she had completed the four years successfully, they refused to grant her a degree!  Why?   Because she could not see well enough to read music!  She had failed to complete a freshman class in music reading.  Yet they allowed her continue for the entire four years, as a music major, believing that, with her skills in circumventing her visual handicap, she would graduate.
Connie lived alone, in an apartment of her own, with two cats, one of which, I recall, was called, Cicero.  She also had a boyfriend, who we got to know.  Whenever he was coming over, Connie would visit us, and Eunice would make her up.  She could not see well enough to apply eye makeup, or style her hair on her own.  The transformation that Eunice brought about was dramatic.  She also gave her lessons on how to be alluring.  Here we see the results of Eunice’s tutelage.  I remember one sad occasion when Connie came over and proudly showed us that she had applied her own makeup.  Oy!  There was eyeliner all over her forehead.  It would have been funny if it were not heartbreaking.

         
Two nights before Eunice gave birth, we went  to a drive-in movie, with Connie and her boyfriend.  We saw, and Connie heard “A Journey to the Center of the Earth."
          The next day was the Fourth of July.  And all signs said that Eunice was going to give birth, that day.  We were certain that our baby was going to be a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the Fourth of July.  And so we sat out on the back porch , a second floor balcony with steps, leading from it to the one above, and the ground below.  There was a narrow railing around it, upon which sure-footed Fish Face, ran precariously, without falling.  We sat there in the growing darkness, listening to the fireworks exploding in the distance, all around us, and counting the contractions, that were increasing in frequency.

          Of course, we didn’t know what gender our child would be.  In those days, there was no way of telling ahead of time, and Surprise announcements of  “It’s a girl” or “It’s a Boy!” were still awaited eagerly.  We had studied books on “What to Name the Baby,” for weeks.  I forget what boys name we chose.  It might have been Sam, after my dad.  My choices for a girl’s name would have been an utter disaster.  Would you believe Giselle or Titania?  In later years, our daughter became a rather large lady, and that name would have been as unfortunate as the sinking of a certain ship, with a name that sounded similar.  It was my cousin Janet who suggested “Samantha.”  I thought that it was pleasant and I liked the sound of it. With my hopeless spelling, I also thought it was spelled with a “C”!  When I finally realized that it actually began with  “S,” and was, in fact, my dad’s name, Sam, that settled it!  If the baby were a girl, her name would be Samantha!

          As the hours passed, we realized that our baby would not be born on the Fourth, after all, but almost.   A little before midnight, I called a taxi, and we headed for the University Hospital.  They allowed me to stay with Eunice, until the last minute.  As I walked along beside her gurney, which was being wheeled towards the operating room, she had just one thing on her mind, her makeup!  Was her eye liner all right?  She instructed me to forage in her handbag, find the bottle and the brush, and while the attendant obligingly stopped the cart, I touched it up. 

Now I was directed to the waiting room, and the all night wait began.  Would you believe that there were ashtrays in the hospital waiting room, large heavy affairs, each, balanced on a weighted base?  All night long, I smoked and smoked.  And somehow, I managed to knock over a massive ashtray.  It came crashing down, forever damaging the big toe on my left foot. To this day the nail is still there but not attached to much of the area beneath.  That lasting evidence of the occasion was minor, indeed, compared to the damage done by years of smoking .

The wait and Eunice’s labor lasted more than twelve hours .  Sometime the following day, the Doctor came in to the waiting room and told that she was OK, and I was the father of a baby girl.  Then I went to see Eunice, and then a nurse showed me the baby.  I was absolutely stunned.  The infant that the nurse held up was the spitting image of my father.  Little Samantha looked exactly like Sam did, at the very moment that I watched him pass away.  He had come back again!  Clearly, this was a case of reincarnation!  I was shaken.  I never thought my dad was handsome.  Although, he was only in his forties when I was born, he always looked like an old man to me.  And poor little Samantha looked exactly like him. 
          The next day was the Fourth of July.  And all signs said that Eunice was going to give birth that day.  We were certain that our baby was going to be a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the Fourth of July.  And so, we sat out on the back porch, a second floor balcony with steps, leading from it to the one above, and the ground below.  There was a narrow railing around it, upon which sure-footed Fish Face, ran precariously, without falling.  We sat there in the growing darkness, watching him, and listening to the fireworks exploding, in the distance, all around us, while we counted the contractions, that were rapidly increasing in frequency.

         
Of course, we didn’t know what gender our child would be.  In those days, there was no way of telling ahead of time, and Surprise announcements of “It’s a girl,” or “It’s a Boy!” were still awaited eagerly.  We had studied books on “What to Name the Baby,” for the previous several weeks.  I forget what boy's name we chose.  It might have been Sam, after my dad.  My choices for a girl’s name would have been an utter disaster.  Would you believe Giselle or Titania?  Our daughter grew up to be rather large, and that name would have been as unfortunate as the sinking of a certain ship, with a name that sounded similar.  It was my cousin Janet, who suggested “Samantha.”  I thought that it was pleasant, and I liked the sound of it.  With my hopeless spelling, I thought it was spelled with a “C”!  When I finally realized that it actually began with  “S,” and was, in fact, my dad’s name, Sam, that settled it!  If the baby were a girl, her name would be Samantha!

        
As the hours passed, we realized that our baby would not be born on the Fourth, after all, but almost.   A little before midnight, I called a taxi, and we headed for the University Hospital.  They allowed me to stay with Eunice, until the last minute.  As I walked along, beside her gurney, which was being wheeled towards the operating room, she had just one thing on her mind, her makeup!  Was her eyeliner all right?  She instructed me to forage in her handbag, find the bottle and the brush, and while the attendant obligingly stopped the cart, I touched it up. 

Now I was directed to the waiting room, and the all night wait began.  Would you believe that there were ashtrays in the hospital waiting room, large heavy affairs, each, balanced on a weighted base?  All night long, I smoked and smoked.  And somehow, I managed to knock over a massive ashtray.  It came crashing down, forever damaging the big toe on my left foot.  To this day, the nail is still there, but not attached to much of the area beneath.  That lasting evidence of the occasion was minor, compared to the damage wrought by years of smoking.

The wait, and Eunice’s labor, lasted more than twelve hours.  Sometime, the following day, the Doctor came in to the waiting room, and told that she was OK, and informed me that I was the father of a baby girl.  Then I went to see Eunice, and a nurse showed me the baby.  I was absolutely stunned.  The infant that the nurse held up was the spitting image of my father.  Little Samantha looked exactly like Sam did, at the very moment that I watched him pass away.  He had come back again!  Clearly, this was a case of reincarnation!  I was shaken.  I never thought my dad was handsome.  Although, he was only in his forties when I was born, he always looked like an old man to me.  And poor little Samantha looked exactly like him. 
        Several hours later, I was back at the Hospital.  Eunice was looking radiant, and so very happy.  And the baby, my God , how she had changed.  Now, she actually looked like a baby.  It was, as if, a miracle had taken place.  The hallucinatory feeling that I was looking into the face of my father, as he appeared at the very instant that he passed away, had passed away.
Eunice needed to get some sleep, so I left, intending to do the same.  I walked back to the apartment, stopping to ravenously devour two Blimpie burgers on the way.  All the while, I was thinking, if  Samantha was going to look like Sam, she should, at least, have been a boy.
The next day, we all came home from the hospital.  My mother was there for the occasion.  Eunice remained radiant.  Leila scrutinized the baby.
         Here is a captured moment, Eunice, getting out of her formal clothes, the new grandmother trying to cope, and Fish Face, frolicking on the bed, where he had spent his entire short sweet life, for the last time.  We, now, made a mistake, one born out of superstition and stupidity.  It was a decision that I have never stopped regretting.  Someone told us that a cat might suck an newborn baby’s breath.  We were so eager to be good parents that we weren't taking any chances.  So, Fish Face went to live with Connie and Cicero.
The reports that followed were both sad and funny.  To put it bluntly, Connie’s apartment was a mess.  Poor vision does not make for good hygiene.  The place was, in fact, so dirty that the kitties couldn’t decide what was, and what was not, the kitty litter.  Every day, Connie would call up with an hilarious update, although, she did not think that it was funny.  It was also melodic.  The little phrases that she put together had a certain ring to them.  I have never forgotten some of the classics, like, “Cicero shit in the shower,” and “Fish Face peed on my pillow!”

         
To let all the commotion settle down, we spent two more lovely weeks in Ann Arbor.  Here is a favorite photo of Eunice, the new mother, relaxing on the bed, with the child that was conceived there.  Sunlight is pouring through the window.  And happiness is a newborn daughter.
Eunice spent her remaining time in Ann Arbor, learning to take care of Samantha.  What a pleasant time that was, those joyous days, before we packed up all our worldly things, and left this idyllic life behind.
     I especially like this photo.  Eunice does not.  She believes it does not capture her best angle.  But this is the woman that I fell in love with, the way she always looked to me.  Her serene smile often reminded me of Leonardo’s vision of Saint Anne.
And I love these photos as well. The umbrella in the background conveys the fleeting impression that Eunice is caressing a small bat child.  An adorable little devil.
         Our brief remaining weeks of summer finished with an art show in Ann Arbor.  I can’t remember the details of how I came to set up there.  Some of the so-called art that I had done in the past year was on display.  All of it was of a passing era, one soon destined to be obsolete.  And tiny Samantha, was no longer looking like my father, but she was also not yet pretty.  Nonetheless, it would not be long, until she became beautiful.
          In this final image, I had finally finished the large painting that had hung around all semester.  I fiddled unenthusiastically with it for weeks.  My teacher Mr. Wilt, the same kind man, who tried to save me from his own fate, by warning me to leave the University, four years before, had recently pointed out that my paintings were always flat.  He was right.  So, I added an American flag, a symbol that I always loved, receding on an angle, to create a feeling of space.  Yes, I had learned something about painting, after all, too late.  This was the last painting that this young would-be painter would ever paint.
         We rented a U-Haul trailer and attached it to one of my mother’s Cadillacs, which she let us borrow for the trip.  Now the moment of reckoning had arrived.  This pampered kid, so filled with monetary conflicts, was going to have to make a living.  I welcomed the reality of the need.  This was the real thing; the opportunity to earn my way in the world, without hypocrisy or make believe.  It was a curious situation to be in, to be required to succeed, when, in my heart, I didn’t want to earn too much. 

My mixed emotions could be summed up by an incident that took place on the highway, one that Eunice still relates, and has never allowed me to forget.  Driving my mother’s Cadillac, with the huge U-Haul trailer, fastened behind, I stopped to get gas, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The attendant who filled the tank, remarked, “Nice car you've got there!”  I hurriedly assured him: “It isn’t Mine!”  That embarrassment, at any signs of affluence has been the story of my life.

        
And so, in late July of 1960, we continued on, to meet our destiny.  I’d had enough of being too big a fish, in too many small ponds.  If I was going to make a living, it would have to be in the biggest pond of all, New York, New York.
         Then the curtain fell, and while I tried to improvise a tune on the recorder, Harlequin and Columbine danced before the footlights.  Then, Harlequin said a few closing words that summed up the entire year of  speeches, of which this was the final one.

          “
And so my friends, our play is done.  We tried to please you, everyone.  And if at us you chanced to smile, then, our efforts have been worthwhile.  We’ve been together half a year.  And now, the end ,too soon, is here.  A hundred and eighty speeches we have heard.  And now, the final curtain has come down.  And it remains for me, a humble clown, to say the final word.  So come my lovely Columbine! let us trip it merrily, ore the footlights, two by two, and bid our gentle friends, “Adieu!”

I really got into this class, this chance to communicate.  It was not unlike the mysterious force that compels me, now, half a century later, to record these recollections.  I would write out a few notes ahead of time, and then, practice the speech, out loud, in the basement of 405 East Hamilton.

         
These happy days with Bob, and the fun and memories of Paris he brought with him, were too soon over.  We had such fun, playing like kids