Columbia University in the City of New York was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. Columbia is the fifth oldest university in America and the oldest living school in the State of New York. As a graduate of Columbia, you never tire of reaching back into history to pull out instances of living and of educational memeing and of the loving of a life that remains to haunt you today — because way back when is always more perceptive and pleasing than the now and again.
I was delightfully fortunate to be able to purchase a large cache of genuine Columbia University photographs. Columbia has a certain reputation in the history of America as being a seat of unrest, and a center of the human protest against the status quo, while also trailblazing educational concepts for teaching and learning.
We begin our photographic tour in 1930 with this caption:
COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
New York — General view of the commencement excercises at Columbia University, showing the great assemblage of students listening to the address of president Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia. There were 861 diplomas and 4,895 degrees awarded during the ceremony. More than 20,000 spectators witnessed the exercise. 6-3-30.
In you look closely, you can see a naked 115th Street from the Columbia green! There’s no Butler library yet — named for Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler mentioned in the caption — Butler Library would rise along the North side of 115th Street in 1931 and would be dedicated in 1934.
There once was a rather famous, if old timey, theatrical agent in New York City who had one hard and steadfast rule in his office: No drawers allowed! This no-drawer mandate mainly had to do with desks, but he also included boxes, trash cans and file cabinets in his rage. The rule was incredibly raw, because in those days, The City, and theatrical agencies, ran on paper. There was no digitization. No cloud or computer storage. You Xeroxed and your Faxed and you managed the wood pulp blizzard as best you could.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to watch a live Memorial Day weekend performance in Union Square in New York City. The performers were wild and quite enjoyable and I have some video tidbits of the event to share with you.
[UPDATE: June 10, 2015 — I received a phone call from an old friend of Oscar’s who verified Oscar was having financial trouble in New York City, perhaps with loan sharks, but definitely with credit cards he took out in his wife’s name. Oscar asked his father in Lincoln, Nebraska for a $50,000.00 loan to pay off an “identity theft” debt and was denied. Later, Oscar called his mother the morning he went missing and had her wire $200 to him at a money exchange near Penn Station in Manhattan. The friend believes Oscar used that money to get on a train and disappear — he also believes Oscar is, and has been, dead since that day. Oscar sent three suicide notes, one emailed to a friend, one mailed to his wife and one mailed to his parents. The friend also said there is no way Oscar was Gay or changing sex or is now still alive and playing the role of a woman. The friend is authentic and genuine and caring and provided verifiable facts that no one could know without direct knowledge of this human tragedy. Please use this updated information to color your reading of the rest of this original story published here on May 5, 2014.]
Have you seen this man? His name is Oscar Long. He’s a talented, long-ago, Lincoln, Nebraska friend who went missing in New York City near Penn Station on November 28, 2007. He left behind a wife and child. He has not been seen alive since then.
I’ve been following an ongoing saga in the New York Times concerning a local McDonald’s restaurant in Queens and how elderly Koreans in the neighborhood have taken over the place as their community hub.
This new, “old,” gang doesn’t really buy anything and they stay all day long taking up space and not making any money for the business. There’s a Senior Citizen Community Center nearby, with van service for those who cannot walk that far, but the retired don’t want to go there because it’s in a Church basement.
The one thing you take away from reading about this ongoing conflict between elder entitlement and the business needs of McDonald’s is that the old people — like the Millennials behind them — believe they have the freedom and the right to sit wherever they want, and linger as long as they wish, with no repercussion whatsoever. Asking them to leave to make room for others is a cultural slap in the face that will not be tolerated.
Today, as I casually pondered what I would do with my day off, I had a jolting moment that I’m sure many people in the tri-state area have experienced. I thought to myself that maybe I would head over to my beach, particularly its recreation areas– and then was struck with the memory that I couldn’t.
Yesterday, I received the one phone call I’d been dreading for over 30 years: “Howard Stein is dead.” It turns out Howard died back on October 14, 2012 after an eight-day hospitalization, but I didn’t learn of his death until yesterday. I knew he was deathly ill the last year, and when his surgeon recently refused to do a final operation, Howard told me his heart had finally turned against him and become a “ticking time bomb.”
As I paged back through my calendar for the last six weeks to memorialize the final events of my life with Howard, I reflected back on our final telephone conversation on October 1, 2012. He told me how much he appreciated the letter I wrote celebrating his 90th birthday. He said he read the letter every day. That meant a lot to me. He was my master.
One the first day of October, Howard and I left it that Janna and I would visit him in Stamford, and that he would check his doctor schedule and call me back to let us know what day would work best.
I never heard from him again.
A week later he was in the hospital — never to see the sky again.
As you can see in the graphic below, I tried to call him on October 5th and 11th to check on our visit date. There was nobody home when I called. On October 22 and November 13 I wrote him letters — our one, ancient, guaranteed way of always getting in touch when time and tide and humanity and the phones failed us — to inquire about the visit.
I had no idea was writing to a dead man.
Now I know how Bartleby really felt working in the Dead Letter Office.