Bob was now living in the world of art, and I was not. So, over time, we drifted apart. Then, there was a
tragedy of sorts, not fatal, thank God, but painful and ironic, to say the least. One night, Bob stepped into the
elevator in his deserted building, and the elevator was not there. He fell several floors down the empty
elevator shaft, and broke both his ankles, injured his back, and sustained other injuries. I understand he
spent a lot of time recuperating. I do not know the details. For that matter, I can’t remember how I learned
of the accident. Perhaps, he called me. I hadn’t seen Bob in a while, by then.
Enter, our friend, Ellen Kunsel: Ellen received a couple strange and creepy phone calls. This
freaked her out, because there had been a murder in the news, around that time that got a lot of notoriety,
and obscene calls were suspected to have played a role in it. Ellen had a thing about her that seemed to
attract bad luck, like a magnet. She also had a wild imagination. Although, she could not identify the caller,
who, apparently, had made an effort to disguise his voice, the one person that came to mind was Bob
Grosvenor. Eunice had introduced them, sometime before. Ellen believed she was in danger. Well, if the
caller was the person she suspected, I reassured her that he had been recently incapacitated.
A short time later, Sue Schachter, who was not yet married to Al, when Eunice introduced her to Bob, got a
similar call. Similar? Make that, word for word, identical! Before long, Benita Blau got an obscene phone
call that, judging from the content, might have been from the same man. Benita had never met either Sue of
Ellen. None of them knew each other, but they all had met Bob through Eunice, and all three got creepy
phone calls from a heavy breather, whose opening line inquired, “Have you got your panties on? Then,
Eunice got the identical call too! One didn’t have to be Nancy Drew to put together two and two.
Meanwhile Ellen had decided that her caller must definitely be the killer, and vowed to go to the police. I
begged and pleaded with her not to do it, and she reluctantly agreed. Thankfully, none of the four women
heard from the unknown caller again. I would like to believe that it was not Bob, but whether it was him or not,
the seeds of doubt had been planted, and took root. I never felt the need to resolve the mystery, for Bob
never called me again. Not only, did I not know how to contact him, I had lost all appetite to do so. And so,
our once close friendship came to an end.
Meanwhile, Bob and Verta were no longer together. I understand that Verta eventually met another
man, very similar to Bob, and had a second daughter by him. Wikipedia makes no mention of a second
husband. Meanwhile, Verta parlayed all her idiosyncrasies and talents, of which she had plenty, particularly
for embroidering the truth, into a relatively spectacular career. She recreated and repackaged herself as a
genuine southern Gee Chee Girl, not from Philly, but from somewhere in the Low Country of South Carolina.
Eventually, she became a master and authority on the art of Soul Food or "Vibration Cooking" as she called
it in her first book. From a sophisticated American, speaking "European," cooking spaghetti every night in
Paris, she transformed herself into one of the Gullah peoples, a descendant of West African slaves.
Shades of Tabinguila! She has published many cookbooks and acquired her own cooking show on PBS,
and an elusive Creole accent.
Recently a dynamic young lady, Karen Michel who is a popular journalist for National Public Radio,
interviewed my friend John Fawcett and myself. Karen and I instantly became good friends. I don’t know
how the subject came up, but it turned out that Karen has known Verta for years, through their mutual
association with PBS. Karen spoke to Verta recently, and told me she is in a facility for assisted living.
I saw both Bob and Verta, only one more time. And, strangely, both encounters took place on a New
York City bus. Some years later, I was riding the Lexington Avenue bus, from uptown to 28th street, when
Verta boarded the same vehicle. We rode together for several blocks. She was pleasant, and congenial,
but distant. It was not the meeting of old friends, but rather that of old acquaintances. The camaraderie of
Paris had evaporated. She got off the bus, several blocks ahead of me.
Years before that meeting, and not long after Bob’s accident, I was sitting near the back of a Manhattan bus,
when I saw a man who I felt certain was Bob, struggling to get on. This person looked very much like him,
but, at the same time, very different, and very broken up. I guess that was to be expected. Clearly, this
individual was severely handicapped, and might have had braces or crutches; I can't remember which. It
was painful watching him climb the steps and maneuver to a seat. He seemed to be impervious to me.
Secretly, I was relieved. If he recognized me, he didn’t show it, and our eyes never met. Part of me felt the
urge to get up and greet him, but the rest of me was remembering the incident with Ellen and our other
friends, and I didn’t initiate a conversation. Nonetheless, I never took my eyes off him. If I had seen any
trace of recognition, I would have overcome my reluctance, and got up to speak to him. But he never turned
his head, or glanced in my direction. It was as if I was invisible. And that was fine with me. A few blocks
later, I watched as he dismounted the bus from the side entrance, located not that far from me, with great
difficulty. He never looked at me. I never spoke to him. Because of those mysterious, and possibly
unrelated phone calls and the hubbub they created, the deep well of friendship that I once felt for Bob had
been forever tainted.
Now, the autumn nights were growing longer, and that lovely season, in which the temperature in our
loft was comfortable would soon be over. Winter was on the way again, and, this year, I was determined to
tackle the heat situation aggressively. The first thing I did to confront this condition was borrow an idea from
Bob Grosvenor and constructed a heat saving partition, made, not of vinyl plastic sheeting, flimsy and
flammable, but sturdy two by fours and wall board. It sectioned off an area, ten feet deep, at the back end of
the loft. This cold weather enclosure was just big enough to hold our bed at one end, and Samantha’s crib at
the other, with an electric heater in between them, and a curtain hung across the door. Thus, our living area,
the part that I had labeled “Showroom” was now moved to the front end of the loft, overlooking 26th Street
Then, at the risk of seeming to be boasting, I came up with an idea that was absolutely brilliant. One
might even consider it a kind of sculpture. No doubt about it, it was a masterpiece! A triumph of form,
subterfuge, and ingenuity! I guess the idea came about, because I began to keep some empty boxes on
the floor beside our queen-sized bed. We piled them on top of it every morning, so if the Fire Department
arrived, it might not look like we just got out of bed, and I could claim we never used it. That was step one!
The next step was a giant leap! When I was finished, anyone entering the area where Samantha napped
would see her crib, and later on, her child sized bed, at one end, and at the other they would see a stack of
storage boxes, neatly piled up, halfway to the ceiling. Some of the boxes near the front were partially open,
and one could seemingly see the stuff inside. Other longer items, like a broom, appeared to be emerging
from between the boxes. All these items were so neatly organized that I believed they didn’t constitute a fire
safety violation. They were just a storage area.
In reality, the boxes were not boxes at all, but the exterior of an empty shell, artfully built over an armature,
hinged at one end, and attached to the wall beside our bed. Some intricate elements of this work of art took
the form of a canopy above the bed that remained there at all times. It joined up perfectly with the rest, when
the swinging door was closed. And so, without needing to chant the incantation, “Open Sesame,” we swung
the secret door aside at bed time, and closed it up again, each morning. And Thus, we never had to make
the bed again, or fear that our queen-sized secret sleeping area would be readily detected by a New York