Way Back When Pt. 2

My new roommate is not in the room, but he has staked out a bed. There’s a saxophone case in a corner, by the desk he has staked out. I unpack my suitcase.  My trunk comes upstairs. I stow that.  Still no roommate.  I think I’m hungry. I go downstairs to the snack bar, there on the ground floor of the Castle, at the back. There’s something called a “cabinet” on the menu board. I order a milk shake and an egg salad sandwich on white bread. (Are we getting the picture here? Is this person’s gestalt coming into focus?).  The milk shake turns out to be ice cream-less milk and chocolate syrup. (The “cabinet” turns out to be what the West Coast calls a milkshake; lots to learn; like “scrod.”) The egg salad sandwich sits in the pit of my stomach.  I somehow manage to not throw up.  This sets a pattern for my first two years at Brandeis–sheer terror coupled with pride at not throwing up, with some sleep-terrors and almost-pneumonia thrown in.

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Way Back When Pt. 1

September 1957. My new stepfather was a banker named Ray Gevrez Scott. He dropped me and my new stepbrother Richard (headed for MIT) in Boston after our cross-country road trip from California. Pre-interstate. Sharing the driving. Cheap motels. Landscape passing. Bad road food. Five days of Heaven. I mean, for me, the best two words in the English language are “Road Trip.”

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The typewriter was a gift from my mother. Must have been from her alone, after the divorce, because I have no memory of a typewriter back in the junior high day of writing dialogue about Caesar on Ides Eve. And I know there was no typewriter with me in Europe in 1952. I would definitely remember typing on the freighter during that three-week voyage to Le Havre, would probably have sat ostentatiously at the mess table during the typhoon, strapped myself in, and typed. There was no typewriter in my boarding school room at the Ecole Internationale de Geneve, nor during the summer travels to Scandanavia in England and France, nor during the winter term in the rented apartment. There was, however, a piano there for me to practice on. Several Mozart sonatas still come at me with steam heat and the strong smell of dead, wet, brown leaves.

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