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Well here it is September 10, 2010 and I’ve been trying for nine years to decompress after the nearly 400 hours I spent in, on and around the pile that became a hole in the ground  in downtown Manhattan.  Friends, Tweeps and bloggers that I communicate with on a regular basis have been urging me to record some of my experiences and I had actually planned to start writing about it yesterday, the anniversary of that horrific event, but the politicization of the commemorative activities had become so palpable  that I felt it better to hold back for at least one more day.  Having finally accepted that the physical effects of my proximity to Ground Zero are irreversible, I’m beginning to think the many who have suggested that writing about it might possibly lead to peace of mind, may be right.  At least I am proceeding on that assumption.

It was a bright, sunny Tuesday morning and my train from upstate New York where I had spent the weekend pulled into Grand Central Station shortly before 9 AM. I hailed a cab for the short ride downtown to the Lower East Side where I live.  At my building while paying the driver I became aware of an unusually steady cacophony from what sounded like police sirens and my first thought was of a visiting dignitary.  My apartment building sits in the right angle formed by the Williamsburg Bridge and the FDR Drive and police entourages with blaring sirens are not at all unusual on any given day, but these were louder and steadier.  Once in my living room, I stepped onto my terrace to glance at the bridge and noticed immediately, that the sirens were coming from a steady stream of not only police vehicles, but ambulances, and fire trucks as well on the Drive, the Bridge and all the major neighborhood thoroughfares.  I turned and looked to the West where everyone seemed to be heading and behind the couple of high rise buildings between me and The World Trade Center, I saw the thick black plume of smoke that signaled one of the buildings was on fire.  I turned on the television and learned of the plane that had flown into one of the World Trade  buildings. I picked up the phone to call a friend of mine to tell her what I was seeing and while I was talking I saw the second plane crash into the south building.  I was momentarily transfixed and disbelieving.  An attack on the World Trade Center? An area that I could walk to and where I had spent many hours?

Gathering my thoughts, I began to wonder if any one had opened the church where I was assigned.  I went into the street and walked the two blocks to the church which was indeed open, but few people were inside.  The street in front of the church was becoming fairly crowded with neighborhood folks who were standing, watching the World Trade Center with  a nearly unobstructed view of all the floors above the 11th or 12th.  By this time the news that the buildings were hit by two planes had circulated and nearly everyone was in a state of tearful  speculation, anxiety and incredulity.

And then it happened.  The first of the two buildings, the South Tower, collapsed.  I hadn’t been back in Manhattan for quite an hour, and there I was five minutes from my house  in the midst of a small crowd of people who were so stunned you could cut the shock and fear with a knife.  And then, nearly a half hour later, the North Tower collapsed and none of us could make sense of what was happening in our neighborhood before our very eyes. The fire was raging, the smoke was intense and the   wind was blowing a strange dust in shaded gradations of color from white to gray to black that appeared to be settling on every imaginable surface.  By this time the Rector of the church had arrived and we both went  inside to offer comfort and consolation to those who were filing into the church to pray.   As the day wore on television reports and pictures rolled in and we began to understand that what had happened was a tragedy of enormous scope. Thousands trapped below ground on subways and Path trains, thousands more trapped in the Twin Towers, many hundreds in the streets running for their lives northward, to the south, eastward across the Brooklyn Bridge, in nearly every direction away from the Twin Towers.  Practically everyone seemed to be covered with a white dust. Tragically, pictures of people jumping from the Towers in panic and landing on the street below underscored the desperation that everyone in the immediate neighborhood was experiencing.

At this point, I should note that I am an ordained Episcopal Deacon.  The Diaconate is one of  three ordained levels of ministry in the Roman and Anglican churches the other two being Bishop and Priest.  A Deacon is the church’s manifestation of servant ministry, we usually serve without compensation helping those who need it and spreading the church’s message to those who would hear it.  Naturally, my first thoughts were how could I be of service. Volunteering to help was not entirely too easy.  Almost immediately my neighborhood was “locked down”  and to travel out to the North, West or by some routes South required negotiating a police barrier with ID that approached government security clearance and a story that would convince both police and military personnel that you had good reason and intention, clerical collar notwithstanding.  Mind you now at first if you got out of the neighborhood it was an equally tough task to get back in. I decided to first satisfy myself that my son who is an EMS Lieutenant, who by this time had probably arrived at Ground Zero, was safe because it was obvious the entire  area was still tenuous as a result of the continuous fire and resulting collapse of certain structures. The Verizon building nearby to the Twin Towers had been compromised  and telephone service was non existent or spotty at best.  He finally stopped by my apartment to reassure  me that he was fine and to urge me to stay away knowing that I might be looking for a way to get down there.  I  told him not to worry that if I did find a way down I would confine my activity to service in  St. Paul’s Chapel the back of which is just across the street from where the Twin Towers stood.  St. Paul’s Chapel the  oldest public building in continuous use in New York City (1766),  the Chapel where George Washington used to worship  had not been damaged and was being used as a center where recovery workers could receive round the clock care.  Little did I know then that once I gained access to  the site I would be deployed not only to St. Paul’s Chapel, but to nearly every place someone thought I might be able to  accomplish a specific task.  I was just praying for the Grace to respond.

And then it happened.  I heard through the grapevine that clergy were being staged at  the Seaman’s Church Institute at the South Street Seaport. That’s easy, I could get there I just needed to be creative and figure out a route.  After dark on the night of the tenth I put on my steel toed work shoes, blue jeans and clerical collar.  Strange combination, I thought, I could only remember  dressing like that once before.  I made my way through a park a block south of  my house, exited along a side road that led me to the FDR Drive and then onto South Street under the Drive adjacent to the East River.  I walked south past the Brooklyn Bridge to Frankfort Street bordering the old Fulton Fish Market and then to 241 Water Street and the Seaman’s Church Institute.  Inside everything was bustling with people,  supplies being sorted,  meals being served and a strange kind of quiet camaraderie, with heads shaking from side to side lots of hugs being exchanged and amazement at the amount of damage done to downtown Manhattan.  There were clergy, firemen, police officers and volunteer medical personnel from all over the city soon to be joined by similar volunteers from all over the United States.  I was given a badge, a hard hat and a dust/particulate matter mask. I had been asked to work a midnight to morning shift at Ground Zero so I had dinner and sort of hung around helping to load supplies destined for St. Paul’s chapel.

Finally, it was  time for my shift.  I jumped into the back of a red pickup truck and made room on top of the bottles of water, boxes of socks, underwear, hand wash, first aid supplies and other miscellany,  donned my mask and hardhat and we rode ever so slowly west on Fulton Street toward Broadway,  St. Paul’s Chapel and Ground Zero.  It was eerily dark, no electricity and every standing thing, cars, boxes, piles of plastic bags full of uncollected trash all were covered with this strange grayish white dust.  Finally,  St. Paul’s Chapel which surprisingly seemed bright with candle light and the reflection from Con-Ed generators that were strategically placed all around for several blocks north, south and west. We unloaded the truck and once inside I spoke to several rescue workers who had been toiling tirelessly searching for survivors.  No one seemed to be able to find words to accurately describe what had happened everyone had a semi vacant stare, disaster was the most often repeated noun.  Several asked for prayer and I obliged trying desperately to be comforting in a totally non comforting situation.

Eventually, I came out into the street, showed my ID to the  officer at the barrier and walked down to the site.  I couldn’t believe my eyes the Twin Towers each of which was  110 stories tall had been reduced to twisted steel structures of approximately 40 or 50 stories each standing in the midst of a bed of steel, concrete, plastic and God only knows what else.  Lots of smoke and flames as if the fire was still raging and indeed under the pile it did for many days after.  Ringing the entire footprint of the World Trade center were huge cranes looking much like giant Praying Mantes pulling steel girders and other debris off the pile and placing them on the huge trucks ringing the site.  On the pile itself there must have been hundreds of people digging, moving debris, searching for possible survivors.  At the southern end the Deutsche Bank Building had a huge steel girder sticking out of it’s side at about the 9th or 10th floor as if someone had thrown a spear into the side of the building.  Just across the street from Deutsche Bank the World Trade Center firehouse was burned out.

I spent the rest of the night pretty much bringing water and other cold beverages to the rescue workers out on the pile.  Prayer was a big item at Ground Zero it was asked for quite a lot and when not, if offered never refused.  My conversations with the sanitation workers who were driving the debris from the World Trade Center to the Great Kills dump in Staten revealed that more than a few of them seemed to hold the belief that the material that they were hauling away more than likely contained some human remains and that went for the dust that, as I previously mentioned, covered virtually every surface nearby and not so nearby.  As daylight approached  I was able to see that indeed St. Paul’s Chapel had survived the collapse of the two buildings remarkably well.  In fact, hardly anything there seemed affected except for the centuries old graveyard in back of the Chapel facing what was once the Twin Towers.  The graveyard was covered in debris and dust several inches thick.

The lighter the morning got the more it seemed to me that the pigeons were behaving strangely.  New York pigeons are an in your face breed.  The closer you get to them without offering something to eat the faster they walk away,  get too close and they fly a few feet to avoid you.  The pigeons this morning at Ground Zero would just walk as if they couldn’t get off the ground no matter how hard they tried and then I noticed they too were covered with a heavy layer of the all too pervasive dust and it seemed to be hardening on their bodies.

Next: Ground Zero A Few Days Later

It all started on Sunday June 6, 2010 when Roger Ebert the much acclaimed film critic put up an especially insightful and brilliant post on his blog titled: “How Do They Get To Be That Way?”  Roger’s post began with his reaction to the controversy over an attempt to make the faces of some Hispanic students pictured in a mural at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona appear less brown than the students depicted actually are. Roger’s revulsion over this attempted act eventually led to a recounting of Roger’s journey from a very small boy to a quite mature and sensitive adult.  His piece was sensitive, thoughtful and, judging from the comments, made several who read it think seriously about racism and its impact on all of us.

Now Roger has a friend Tom Dark, writer and writing editor, with whom I tweet often (@TomDark9 on Twitter).  Occasionally, I would tweet a comment that related to the effect racism most always had on black men.  Tom  mentioned that he was thinking of doing a piece on racism, but was tired of the subject, but I egged him on saying he needed to do it, I so enjoy his writing.  After he put up a couple of short comments  on Roger’s blog about Roger’s piece, he tweeted me asking if that were enough.  I said no and he promptly made me a counter offer.  Tom said he would do a piece on racism, but he wanted to be paid for it.  The price he wanted was for me to also do a piece on racism. Choke, gasp. I tried to demur offering that I was too much of a novice to be in the company of such august writers as him and Roger.  Here is Tom’s exact response:  “Sounds like a deal, Ed. Roger’s & my bits are pretty different in character, but look: we’re a couple white guys. We need you.”  I was hooked.   Although hoisted on my own petard, as the saying goes.

I mentioned to Tom that I was too angry and had too many anecdotes inside me, but promised to start with a few that I can’t seem to get out of my mind and I do relate them to friends from time to time. I chose 1944 during WWII and 1952 during the Korean War.  It was late April or early May I forget which in 1944 when talented manpower was reasonably scarce here in the states as a result of the draft.  I was approaching my 15th birthday and finishing my sophomore year at Stuyvesant High School, a school so high on the academic scale that it was and still is considered to be one of the best if not the best high school in New York City. At the time one my best friends was Gene Kessler an oboe playing, extremely talented “geek” who not only lived across the court from me in the Red Hook Projects in Brooklyn, but was also in my Latin class at Stuyvesant.  Gene and I used to collaborate on our homework involving translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Virgil’s Aeneid two mind busters that were quite a lot for any one kid from Red Hook.  He was a brilliant Oboist and taught me a lot about intervals in music.  Gene’s parents were Hungarian Jews and music was so important to them.  Of note, was the fact that I was Gene’s friend and an automatic honorary member of the Kessler family.  At the time my Mom and I were one of  only two black families in the entire Red Hook Projects .   My mom, an accomplished jazz pianist,was as accepting of Gene as his parents were of me.  Gene was fascinated by jazz and they had many conversations about musical composition and harmony.

One day Stuyvesant High School was asked to recommend two of their brightest and best students who might be interested in an after school job at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane.  Merrill Lynch, 7 Wall Street, portraits of instant ancestors.  When our Latin teacher asked if we would be interested since we were both on half session and done with school shortly after noon we jumped at the offer.  So one afternoon, properly scrubbed and shiny, Gene and I went shaking down to Wall Street not believing we were actually going to be interviewed for a job for which we came highly recommended.  After what seemed like an interminable wait we were ushered into the personnel officers’ swanky corner office at the same time.  First question of Gene: What’s your name son? Answer Gene Kessler, Sir. Question: Kessler? is that Jewish? Answer: Yes Sir.  Response: I’m sorry son, but we don’t hire Jews! Turning to me, I’m asked: and you are you colored? Answer: Yes Sir. Response: I’m sorry son, but we don’t hire colored either!  It was a long quiet, train ride home.

FAST FORWARD TO NOVEMBER, 1952

By now I had finished Howard University, majoring in Psychology with minors in  Sociology and Drama.  By 1950 all of my friends were either being drafted and sent to war or preoccupied with avoiding the draft.  I enrolled in graduate school to give myself time to figure out how to stay out of Korea.  In grad school it was more psychology.   In my second year, luckily for many of us, the United States Air Force offered a one year ROTC program to seniors and graduate students that afforded a commission in the Air Force upon completion of your studies.  So, in June, 1952 I became an officer and a gentleman by Act of Congress.   Believe me, it took an act of congress to achieve that. My first duty station was at Otis, Air Force Base where I was given my first ride in the back seat of a fighter jet by the famous Daniel “Chappie” James the first African American to reach the rank of four star general.  It was on this trip to Cape Cod that I met the lady who was to become my wife and the mother of my two youngest children.  Much to my chagrin I was shipped out to my permanent duty station in Mt. Clemens, Michigan by  late September, 1952

It was getting pretty chilly at Selfridge, Air Force Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan that morning in late November, 1952.  I was the duty officer in the Ground Controlled Approach shack on the edge of the base watching over the airmen whose job it was to assist the fighter planes with their practicing of ground controlled approaches to landing in inclement weather.  Suddenly, a crackling announcement over the site’s PA system: Lieutenant Somerby, Lieutenant Hopper report at once to the Captain’s office.  Once there we learned that we were being temporarily assigned to Tyndall, Air Force Base in Panama City, Fl, for eleven weeks of advanced radar controller training and we had 72 hours to get there.  Somerby suggested that we drive his car down and he would have it while we were in Florida.  One problem, I could drive, but I didn’t have a license.  No problem, said Somerby I’ll be fine as long as we can sleep at least one night.  So we set out telling each other stories about our colleges.  He was a Williams College grad and he had heard a lot about Howard.  We made it to Cincinnati by late evening and stopped to eat.  It was only a short while before I became aware of the people looking at us strangely.  I assumed it was because we were both in uniform, only part true.  We were both in uniform and we were both officers, but we were not both white.  One woman even had the temerity to ask me why did I think I was made a lieutenant and her son was only a corporal!  No answer for that.  After supper we pushed on and it was on the bridge out of Ohio into Kentucky that it hit me.  We were headed into the deep south. I sort of thought I might be in trouble, but was hopeful that my uniform would maybe afford me a modicum of respect. Night falls, fog in the mountains of Kentucky.  I suggest that we find a motel and get some sleep.  I doze off.  Next thing I know Somerby has pulled into  a motel, paid for a night’s lodging and was heading back to the car with the motel manager who was carrying a lantern.  I grab my  bag from the car and follow them to the room door when the motel manager catches a glimpse of my face in the light of the lantern. In a shocked tone he says, “Oh No, this nigger can’t stay here.”  Now, Somerby a privileged Bostonian had never really encountered this kind of attitude before and he’s really angry.  I try to remain cool and ask the motel guy what’s the next large town? Lexington, he answers, but you can’t stay in any motel there either we don’t mix niggers with whites down here.  Trying to stay cool and not earn a rope necktie I say to Somerby:  “tell you what. lets’ make it to Lexington and find a colored hotel.  I’m sure we can both stay there.”  So we limp into Lexington about 2:00 AM and sure enough I find a gas station and we get directions to Lexington’s “colored” hotel.  Well, we  walk into the hotel lobby and the desk clerk has a John Wayne type 45 pistol stuck in his belt and there are at least three hangers-on draped over the various stuffed chairs in the lobby. The desk clerk allows that he does have a vacancy and begins to register us.  I turn to Somerby and he’s as blanched as Casper the Ghost.  I ask him “are you alright?” He replies, “Im sorry, I don’t think I can stay here.” Understanding me, I suggest that he take me to the next big city, Chattanooga, TN and drop me at the bus station.  We can then both find hotels that will accommodate us and grab some much-needed shut eye.  So we push on. It was early morning when we arrived in Chattanooga and get directions to the bus station.  Somerby is so very apologetic and I’m reassuring him “don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be fine.  This is a big town.  Chattanooga shoe shine boy and all that crap I’ll meet up with you in Panama City, find a motel and get some sleep.  Tomorrow I’ll catch the first thing smoking and make it to Florida.” He’s still apologetic when I walk off.  I get to the front of the station and jump into the back of a cab.  ‘Take me to a good hotel” I say. The driver turns slowly, looks me over in my uniform and says  “there’s only one hotel for niggers here in Chattanooga soldier.”  I reply:  “well take me there Cap’n!”

To be continued, maybe.

Roger Ebert’s Journal

Tom Dark Thought’s




The Will To Thrive

Remember the past with thankfulness, and meet the future without fear.  Plutarch:  “On Contentedness of Mind”

Well, would you believe this time it’s “writing again, finally again?”  Note,  I’ve moved my blog to WordPress,  at this  address: http://thehoppermemo.com and I’m looking forward to the excitement this new host can provide.  It’s still inchoate and very much in need of tweaking so let’s see how it develops over time.  Interestingly,  I’m back at the keyboard as the result of a Twitter message that appeared in my feed from someone whose work I respect a lot.  Dr. Pat Romney. Her Tweet provided a link to her latest blog titled: “Living in The Senior Years” a subject I’ve given much thought lately, particularly since my 81st birthday is on the horizon.  Dr. Romney notes the following:  “An octogenarian says that he goes into his study each morning because there are pictures in his head that he must get down on paper.”  “Politics (local and national) involve another…” “Another an internationaly known scholar and writer… is still developing new ideas which she shares regularly with her list serve community.

Dr. Romney compares these thoughts with patients she meets at the nursing home. “A man prepares to die, another wishes he could.  A woman loses thirty pounds with no discernible physical ailment – her official diagnosis – failure to thrive.” http://eldersong.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/thriving/

And there you have it I’m blessed with the will to thrive.  I wake up in the morning with the desire to put some of my thoughts on paper. Of course, whether I do or not is a matter of diversion, and sometimes plain procrastination. I do, however, manage to post (maybe too often) to either Facebook or Twitter.  Add to that the ton of email that I process and often answer and I’m writing a lot albeit with questionable permanence. I still walk 2 to 3 miles a day at least four times a week. and I thoroughly enjoy the good weather days when I can put on a shirt and tie, walk out into the neighborhood and exchange a smile or greeting with neighbors and strangers alike!  Importantly my work with the St. Augustine’s Project, helping to restore the historic Slave Galleries at St. Augustine’s Church in Lower Manhattan, lends incredible value to my life. Certainly, I hear often enough the inevitable question: “where do you find time and energy for all that?”  My answer is always the same faith, a prayerful life and thankfully, an insatiable curiosity.  I would wish that family and friends alike will have no trouble finding the will to thrive.

I have seen the opera Salome once and never quite understood the back story. I’ve been told that Maria Ewing’s infamous portrayal of Salome was the performance that I needed to see. And Of course, most of the reviews of her performance focus on her willingness to take the “Dance of the Seven Veils” to its logical extreme without even a flesh colored body stocking to make it more “acceptable” to staid opera fans. And one day Voila! there she was on my TV an important interpolated activity of an otherwise dull Saturday afternoon. She is lovely and I’m still trying to figure out if she is perhaps a person of color. Anyway here’s what I still don’t understand about this story. John The Baptist has been out in the wilderness eating locusts and wearing camel’s hair. I mean real camel’s hair not processed like a Brook’s Brothers coat. This was funky stuff right off the camel. Anyway he ends up in the court of Herod the Tetrarch and immediately begins to heckle Herod for marrying his own brother Phillip’s wife Herodias. John keeps telling Herod “It’s not right for you to have her.” As if that were not enough Herod is lusting after Herodias’ chaste daughter Salome. After a while Herod gets tired of John interfering in his life and imprisons him in a dry cistern. Salome begs one of the guards who has a thing for her to let her see John The Baptist who she immediately falls in love with believing him to be chaste as well. Now Salome is a young fox, Herod wants her, the handsome young soldier guarding John wants her, John The Baptist is pretty nearly a homeless man at the time, but he doesn’t want anything to do with her. still Salome pleads with him for just one kiss. When John refuses her telling her to go look for the Messiah she gets mad, but sees an opportunity in yielding to a much desired wish of Herod’s and does the Dance of the Seven Veils for his birthday and pleases Herod so much that he promises her anything she wishes. Prompted by her mother Herodias who is being made to feel guilty by John, she asks for John’s head on a platter. At first Herod refuses not wanting the blood of a holy man on his hands. But Salome is adamant. Herod offers her all kinds of treasures, but she refuses. Eventually Herod has to give in and Salome gets the head of John on a silver shield. Now this is where Salome lost me – she grabbed the head and starts kissing the cold dead lips with insane ardor. Herod revolted by the sight has her killed on the spot! Now, I know that in an opera everything and anything is likely to happen on the stage and the joy of it is that at the end you go Phew! and feel enormously glad that it was just a performance. But here’s this ingenue, being chased by the man who is married to her mother having stolen her mother from his brother, who has a handsome young soldier so crazy for her that he commits suicide when he finds out that she prefers John The Baptist; and she dances so fiery that when she gets the seventh veil off and reveals her naked body her stepfather who is also her uncle agrees to cut off the head of a holy man and then eventually kills her! Good grief that’s a complicated story! Hard to believe it all takes place in one Act! I mean darn, why didn’t John just kiss her?

You are never too old to set another goal,
Or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis

I happened to read a column by Lewis H. Lapham the other day in which he was telling of his long ago in the 1950’s having nurtured the thought of one day becoming a writer, and on the advice of an instructor in English Lit., he attempted to form the habit of keeping a journal. He didn’t know what it was that he hoped to write and so he was glad to be told that it didn’t matter what went down on the page. Anything at all, the man said. “Describe something you saw yesterday in the street, copy out five paragraphs by Jane Austen, reconstruct a conversation overheard in a men’s room or on a train, make a list of exotic birds …;learn to put one word after another, like your feet in your shoes and maybe you’ll find out that you have something to say.”

I seized on these words avidly as I had been spending entirely too much time trying to find my Muse and offering the excuses, all the while, of being too old, too uninteresting and entirely without anything to say. To give you an idea of how extreme my procrastination was, I bought my last journal, a rather elegant leather bound easy to hold and carry, small notebook. I purchased it in the gift shop at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York, thirteen years ago! Made exactly two entries, thirteen years apart having discovered it again amidst this incredible melange of books, magazines and bibles that seem to want to take over my apartment.

Add to this discovery the fact that several of my friends upon hearing one or more of my life’s anecdotes have taken to suggesting that I write a book. An idea that I always reject vigorously offering the observation that no one would ever want to read about my life’s excursions which is code for my believing that no one could ever edit my excesses so that I don’t appear to be some wild, hedonistic fool rather than the mild mannered, reticent cleric that I think I am. Notice I said, “think.”

My barber, Eli is one of those pushing for a book every time I get in his chair. Actually, I believe Eli should write the book. He is the ever curious, non-stop questioner that loves to cut hair and is using his barber’s chair as a laboratory of experiences for the PhD in Psychology that he is currently working on. Eli also does a lot of work with young people and he is always insisting that my life stories could be inspirational to some of our younger brothers and sisters. I’m not sure I agree, but his approach is typical of that of many of my friends who I am convinced are just taken by the drama I manage to dredge up while telling my life’s anecdotes.

At any rate, what I’m really looking for with this blog, among other things, is a repeat of a rather enjoyable experience I used to have as a magazine publisher. The magazine I published,Stereo Review, marketed itself with the slogan “The World’s Most Widely Read Music Magazine.” My editors were some of the best music writers in the business and they all had the habit of writing short memos for circulation amongst staff about their reactions to the various music events we all attended nearly every night. When they learned I was an Opera buff they immediately suggested that I become a Patron of the Metropolitan Opera and they managed to secure, for me, two Grand Tier, aisle seats in the center of the Opera House, which I held for nearly 15 years. The catch. of course, was that I had to agree to write the short staff memo every time I made a performance. They had never been able to get a marketing oriented publisher to agree to this before. I jumped to it excited by the prospect of writing with such august colleagues. I also viewed writing about the performances of great singers such as Pavrotti, Callas, Domingo, Moffo, et al. as an opportunity to absorb some instant culture to add to my love for the music of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I was fascinated by the prospect of hearing the voice used as an instrument by some of the best ever. Actually the experience really helped me to enjoy and understand, better some of my favorite operas. To be continued…

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