When I was a young man, I became friends with an elderly violinist named Jerome Goldstein, a customer at the bookstore where I worked. I never had the curiosity to discover his distinguished background.
In 1964 I dropped out of Brooklyn College and married a whole family, a woman with three children. In order to support us, I took a job at the Strand Book Store in Manhattan, which was then probably the largest used book store in New York if not the whole U.S. While far from its present total of two and a half million books, it was already large enough to require a full-time book cataloguer, which I became. I worked there for five and a half years before moving to Ulster County in 1970, where I still live.
Any book store buying entire collections is going to wind up with nearly valueless books. The Strand disposed of these on outdoor stands. Several times I encountered an elderly man going through the 10 and 25 cent books with great diligence, and we got to talking. When he found out I was interested in music, he told me he was a professional violinist. His name was Jerome Goldstein.
I usually left work as soon as possible to get home to my wife and family. But Jerome started inviting me to visit him, and eventually I put aside an evening for the visit. He lived in a huge rent-controlled loft, just around the corner from the Strand, on Fourth Avenue. On that first visit I met Jerome’s wife, who seemed to be perpetually angry, and saw the pseudo-splendor in which he lived. The walls were crowded with book shelves and music shelves. A somewhat deteriorated grand piano was almost hidden by piles of tattered books and papers.
When I left that evening, Jerome gave me a pie in a box and told me to take it home to my family. I was suspicious of it, and when I got home I made sure to open it after the kids had gone to bed. It was moldy, probably given to him by a bakery near the end of its expected lifespan.
Jerome told me he had played with the Philadelphia Orchestra when Stokowski was the music director. I figured it was probably true, and it was; the orchestra’s website lists a violinist named Jerome Goldstein who was a member from 1917 until 1921. But he seemed like such a crackpot, although a likeable one, that I found it hard to take him very seriously.
One day he invited me to join one of his evening musicales. I had admitted to him that I played the piano but insisted that I wasn’t very good at it (the truth) and that I had neither the technique nor the experience to play chamber music. But I did mention that I played the first Prelude from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” so he told me to come and play that and that he would play the “Ave Maria” melody that Gounod had fitted to the Bach Prelude.
I don’t remember that we had any rehearsal. When I arrived at Jerome’s apartment that evening, I was surprised to find a rather large audience assembled, at least 50 people. Jerome played some unaccompanied violin music first, and as I expected he didn’t sound at all good. Whatever violin he had played in Philadelphia must have been long gone, and the scratchy sound he drew from his cheap fiddle was hard to take. I suffered through the Bach-Gounod, which I didn’t like anyway.
I continued to see Jerome for another year or two, until he became ill with lung cancer. I visited him in the hospital near the end of his life, and brought away an image which comes back to me whenever I see someone smoking. He was lying in bed, feeble and incoherent, until he thought he saw demons coming at him through the walls. Then he sat up and started screaming at them.
After I left New York, I hardly thought about Jerome until one day when I was looking through a book on Charles Ives and was startled to see a photo of Jerome. The caption indicated that he had been involved in early performances of Ives’s music, sometimes with the composer at the piano. (As his private recordings reveal, Ives was a virtuoso pianist.)
The photo above is from an ad for a series of three morning recitals, with pianist Rex Tilson, given at Aeolian Hall (the place where the “Rhapsody in Blue” was first performed) in 1924. An unsigned review of the last concert, published in the New York Herald Tribune, mentions performances of works by Ives, Milhaud, and Pizzetti, giving “the palm to Pizzetti.” The Ives work was the Fourth Violin Sonata, composed in 1909 and not published until 1951. This was its premiere performance.
The Ives book also mentioned that Jerome had performed with Béla Bartók during the composer’s first tour of the United States in 1926. Doing some quick Internet research I turned up only one other reference to Jerome. He played Henry Cowell’s “Solo for Violin” (with pianist Imre Weisshaus) at a concert of the Pan American Association of Composers at “Carnegie Chamber Hall” (probably the small theater now known as Weill Hall) on April 21, 1930.
I’m sure Jerome was involved in many other interesting events like these. And I wish my callow younger self had had the sense to ask him about his career. I never did.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, I used to make regular trips from Woodstock to Boston. My girlfriend’s son Greg was attending the New England Conservatory of Music; he’s now a professional guitarist and teacher. I would use his trips to and from Boston as occasions to make buying trips for my classical LP business.
There were many used record stores in Boston, the ultimate college town. (I believe it still has the largest undergraduate population of any city in the U.S.) I got to know most of them, and I set up priorities. Typically, Greg and I would travel up to Boston together. I would drop him off at N.E.C., book a motel room, and go to work.
I would plan my store visits based on the likelihood of finding worthwhile records and on the stores’ schedules, usually ending at one (Zoundz, as I remember) which was open until midnight. Then I’d get some sleep, be at some store when it opened the following morning, shop until I ran out of stores or time, and head for home. When Greg was heading home, I would take off from Woodstock early, shop all day and the following morning and afternoon, and then pick him up.
Some vivid experiences from those days remain with me. When I had available time, for example, I would have dinner at the No Name Restaurant, on the Fish Pier in Boston. In those days it served fabulous seafood in unpretentious surroundings at very low prices. When I didn’t have time for that, there was another good seafood restaurant in Cambridge, the name of which I don’t remember, which was on the same block as a used record store I frequented. Parking around Boston is difficult so making two stops with only one parking spot to find was a bonus. Occasionally I even had time to hear music, once a Boston Symphony concert.
I remember following the histories of some of the record stores. Sometimes they would become more popular, start increasing their prices, and fail. In one case I wound up buying out the classical stock of a store which followed that progression. Others failed because they failed to date and weed their stock, a procedure I learned and followed when I opened my own used LP department in a local used book store. An Internet search reveals that two of the stores I visited regularly, Cheapo Records and Looney Tunes, are still in business.
For some reason, when I think of trips to Boston, my outstanding memory is of the Claverack Diner. Boston to Woodstock is a 200 mile trip, and when I left Boston by myself at 10 p.m. or later I had a hard time getting home in one piece. There was always coffee available at all the rest stops on the Massachusetts Turnpike and the New York Thruway, but driving those roads was so unchallenging that I was always afraid of falling asleep near the end of the trip. So, nearing the end of the trip, I would leave the Mass Pike, cut south on the Taconic Parkway, and then head west on Route 23, meeting up with the Thruway only about 30 miles from my exit at Saugerties.
The Claverack Diner was at a location on Route 23 which was hardly a major traffic crossroads. Yet it was open 24 hours. As I drove my last hour on the Mass Pike, I would be thinking of the Claverack Diner, its harsh-tasting hot coffee, and its fresh-baked pies. A big shot of sugar and caffeine would propel me homeward for the rest of the trip, feeling better than I had most of the way. As diners go, I don’t think there was anything special about the Claverack Diner. But it was an occasional haven for me and I was always grateful to see it.
These days I travel Route 23 occasionally, heading for the Rodgers Book Barn in Hillsdale or for Tanglewood. When I pass by the building that once housed the Claverack Diner, I feel a little pang. The Diner closed down many years ago. The last time I saw the building in use it was a flower shop, and I think that’s closed now also. So is the business I was feeding when I stopped at the Diner.
To me, it was a straightforward enough encounter. The man I was facing had been menacing and stalking a friend of mine. Now he was menacing me. But I didn’t hit him.
I learned only recently that a poet who has become a friend of mine–I’ll call her V–had been the victim of a drunken and demented man who was trying to force his way into her life. He had been calling her repeatedly in the middle of the night, showing up in her neighborhood, and in a variety of ways carrying out the traditional perversions we’ve come to label stalking. Since he is such a dodgy character I’ll call him Dodge.
Although this had been going on for months, V told me about it only recently, and didn’t want to tell the whole story. She didn’t know at that point about my experience, for almost two decades, as a volunteer with the Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program. During that time I had spent too many hours assisting and consoling women who had been victims of domestic violence and rape.
That experience had given me some limited special expertise in dealing with characters like her stalker. It had also trained me not to be domineering. When a woman is dealing with a man who is attempting to take her power away from her, the last thing you want to do is try to force your decisions on her, which also takes her power away. It doesn’t matter whether I like her choices or not. At least she is making them herself. I made some suggestions and didn’t press the matter.
Before long, V decided to go to the police. They are now actively investigating the case. I am hopeful there will be legal action soon. But Dodge continued to show up at the regular Monday night poetry readings at Club Harmony in Woodstock. Last month, he read a poem which included V’s name. At that point I didn’t know the stalker’s identity. “Did I just find out something I’d rather not know?” I asked V. She nodded.
A week ago, V was absent from the regular reading. I called to find out if she was OK. She was, she said, but she had her grand-daughter visiting and didn’t want to expose her to Dodge. I discussed this issue with several of the male poets who are regulars at these readings, and we decided to form a posse and tell Dodge to get the hell out and not come back.
Last night, Dodge showed up. Michael, who runs the reading, asked him to come outside to talk with us. Two more of us joined them. Michael told Dodge, very politely I thought, that his presence had become a detriment to our gatherings and that he shouldn’t come anymore. “Oh, that’s nothing,” said Dodge belligerently. “This is my last week here anyway.” I realized he was trying to take control of the situation, pretending that he was in charge. So I stepped in with my own belligerence and told him that we didn’t want him to show his face again, and why. I wasn’t polite but I didn’t threaten anything.
Dodge raised the ante. “What are you going to do about it, you fat little fuck?” he shouted at me, walking right up to me and executing the traditional threatening chest bump. “I can wipe the floor with you,” he continued.
It was the chance of a lifetime. I realized instantly that he had put himself in a very vulnerable position. The others were already moving to pull him off me, but I could have executed a quick knee to the balls and disabled Dodge immediately. And I would have had witnesses that he had assaulted me first. (That’s what assault means, by the way. The phrase “assault and battery” isn’t redundant, as I once thought. The assault part is menacing, battery actually striking.)
But I remembered V’s request that there be no violence. I let the others pull Dodge away and did nothing further.
When the reading started, he got up first (he had signed up first) and read a ranting, shouting diatribe about love. Then he left. I sat at my table, eating ice cream, my hand shaking so badly I had trouble controlling the spoon.
I’m sure I’ll always regret missing the opportunity to strike out against this awful excuse for a human being. Instead, my worst attack was verbal: “See you in jail.” I guess I did the right thing. Being a Guy, though, I’m still kind of sorry.
This morning my wife Tara woke up crying, as usual. I asked her what is wrong. Some mornings she says, “I’m so mad at myself.” Others, like this morning, she just says, “I’m having a hard time.”
I know what to do at this point. I put my arm around her. I reminded her that we set out her clothing last night, and I promised that I would help her get dressed. This usually calms her down, as it did this morning. But she wanted to jump out of bed and get started immediately, so I couldn’t indulge my inclination to lounge around in bed a bit and wake up gradually.
I soon discovered that after we had set her clothing out last night, she had taken her necklaces–an essential part of the wardrobe–off the night table where they usually spend the night and put them on top of a skirt. I had to put the necklaces back on the night table so they wouldn’t be dropped or scrambled. Next I reminded her to take off her nightshirt before putting on the nice pink tee shirt I had selected for her last night. Usually it’s an undershirt but today we are expecting a high of 84 so it will be her only shirt.
Next I reminded her to take off her night pants, pyjama bottoms I got for her when she began to refuse to take off her underpants at night. I figured it for a security issue and the pyjama bottoms do keep her content at night. After they were off, I gave her underpants, quietly grabbing the extra pair she had set out on the large dog crate which she uses as her staging area for clothing. One of the dogs used to spend most of his nights in the crate, but he has since shifted to the bed.
I had left only the dress Tara wore yesterday on the crate, but while I was getting undressed in my room upstairs she got out two skirts and left them on the crate. I’ve learned that if I take extra skirts and put them away at night she gets very angry with me, so I had left them there. This morning I helped her select one of the skirts, then put away the other one and the dress despite her protests that she needed them. I assured her she didn’t.
Next we got the necklaces to put on, and I reminded her to put on her shoes and socks. Because she started last year putting her fresh socks inside her shoes, I do the same thing. Putting on shoes and socks isn’t usually a problem, but this morning she tried to cram her feet into the shoes with the socks still inside them. I had to show her how to take the socks out of the shoes, put them onto her feet–surprisingly, I had to do this once for each sock–and then she put on the shoes.
Recently she has been putting her foot into the shoe and then raising her foot, guiding the foot into the shoe with her hand and making sure the back of the shoe doesn’t get stuffed down inside. I first discovered this could be a problem about a year ago. One night she was getting undressed and when she took off one sock I could see her heel had been bleeding. Apparently she never noticed the discomfort. Sometimes I try to guide her into pulling the backs of the shoes back up, but this morning I didn’t want to be bothered so I just did that job myself.
After all this was finished, and during just a few seconds when I took my eye off her, Tara took her nightshirt and put it back on over her day clothing. She resisted taking it off, saying she needed it, but I managed to persuade her gently that it didn’t go with the rest of her outfit.
Tara and I walked into the kitchen, where she usually waits for me to get dressed and where I grab my small cup of coffee to sip while I’m dressing. (I set up the automatic coffee maker every night if I remember.) She called the dogs to follow her but, as usual, they didn’t come. I assured her they would come when we were ready to go out, and I went upstairs to my room where I usually get dressed while watching a few minutes of “Morning Joe.”
When I got back downstairs, the dogs had come out from the bedroom and were keeping Tara company in the kitchen. She had taken their collars out of the breadbox where we keep them, but she hadn’t put them on the dogs. Sometimes I lead her through this process but this morning I did it myself. Next she took the two dog leashes and asked if she should put them on the dogs. I told her we didn’t use them on neighborhood walks except at night, but that she should bring one with us in case Fluffy decided, as she sometimes does, to just sit down halfway through the walk. I also sprayed both of us with bug repellent, Tara complaining as always. I’ve stopped trying to explain to her about mosquito bites because she doesn’t understand what they are although she does scratch at them.
Our walk was uneventful, and so was breakfast. As always I fed the dogs first, then got to work making our breakfast, this morning turkey breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs. I put on our morning music, usually in recent days boogie-woogie, which Tara likes very much these days, but this morning Haydn Piano Sonatas. While I was cooking a friend called. We talked while I was cooking.
After breakfast we did the dishes. This includes Tara’s only remaining household chore, wiping the dishes and putting them away. Until about six months ago she did very well at this, remembering where to put a high proportion of what she wiped. These days, though, the proportion is down under 50% so I keep having to interrupt myself to show her where things go, and, once, to remind her to wipe a dish instead of putting it away still wet.
When we got near the end of the job, I washed and handed her a pancake flipper I had used in making the sausage and eggs. I showed her where it went into the lazy susan, but she couldn’t get it in because she was holding it with the handle up. I showed her it had to be put in handle down, and she said, “Shut up,” sounding very angry. I must have been more keyed up than I realized because I had a surge of anger and yelled at her. I’ve been warned by a couple of psychologists that this anger is inevitable in dealing with dementia patients, who are angry themselves much of the time. But I was sorry.
We had almost an hour left before Tara’s Friday caregiver Susan showed up to take her out on her day’s excursions. Susan takes her driving, for lunch, and to the movies most Fridays. I get time off to handle what’s left of my business, to speak with friends (lunch today), and to write things like this.
Sitting in my back yard on a warm July afternoon, just enjoying the outdoorsness of it all, my reverie is interrupted by a pattern of bass notes. It sounds as though it’s coming from quite far away. Someone must be driving his car (must be a male) with the windows open, listening to bad music at incredibly loud volume. Someday he’ll have tinnitus but he probably doesn’t even know what that is.
The sounds continue for a while, perceptibly changing direction, until they finally fade out and disappear.
I immediately start to form an impression of this guy. He’s a jerk. Not only does he like bad music, he wants to force his own lack of taste on the rest of the world. He might as well have an amplified cast of his dick on the front of his car.
He obviously doesn’t care anything about the rest of the world. He eats McGreaseburgers and counts on my health insurance company to take care of him–by paying higher hospital rates than it should have to–when he shows up penniless and uninsured at the emergency room. He thinks things like organic food and conservation are stupid. Probably drinks a lot of beer, too–cheap beer, tasteless Budweiser, not Anchor Steam.
He’s one of those people who stands in the Woodstock post office, dumping his junk mail into the Waste bin and ignoring the Recycling bin a foot away. He probably has no idea of what recycling is, and if he did, he’d think it was a waste of time.
He cheats on his wife, God help her. I hope to God he doesn’t have any kids. If he does, he probably beats them.
He votes Republican, not because he approves of the party’s political philosophy, or even knows what it is. He just doesn’t like the idea of some black guy being president. If he ever met Romney at a party he’d probably wind up in a fistfight with him, but he’ll vote for him.
He likes to work just long enough so that he can get unemployment insurance, and then when it’s getting time for that to run out he starts looking for work again. He probably didn’t graduate from high school or get a GED.
He likes to shoot wild animals for excitement, and brings the corpses for someone else to cut up so he can jam them into his freezer.
….Or then, I suddenly realize, maybe he’s just some innocent teenager who likes the same music all his buddies like and wants to play it loud. Wasn’t there a time when I did that?
At the midnight showing of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, Jon Blunk heard gunshots being fired in the theater. Blunk, a military veteran, immediately reacted by pushing his girlfriend, Jansen Young, under a seat to protect her. While he was doing that, he was hit by a bullet and fatally wounded. Young was not injured.
Appalled as I am by the madman who committed these crimes, and by the mad industry that supplied him with his tools of death, I must pause for a moment to express my admiration of Jon Blunk and Matt McQuinn. Their spontaneous acts of heroism show me that there are still men in this culture of mine who know what to do in an emergency. I can only hope that in the same situation I would have acted in the same way.
Every time we have a mass murder in the United States, the same debates begin to rage again about gun control. Opponents of gun control inevitably cite the “Second Amendment,” meaning the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution appended as part of the “Bill of Rights.” Scholars point out that the Constitution is primarily a document designed to protect property rights. The rights of individuals are contained in those ten amendments.
Here is the exact text of the Second Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Like every human endeavor, this isn’t perfectly done. If I had been the editor, even sticking with the formal language of the times, I would have written:
“The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, as part of the well regulated Militia necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed.”
In other words, the intention of this amendment–still debated by constitutional scholars, but most of them agree with me–was to ensure that all citizens could take part in the defense of their country. This contrasts with the way militaries were run and staffed by the elite of other countries.
I won’t waste a lot of space discussing why I think the Second Amendment is no excuse for allowing a mentally ill person to purchase 6,000 bullets in a short period of time. Either you’re with me on this one or you’re not.
But let’s put human faces on this debate. The faces of twelve innocent victims. Two of them died as heroes. I will honor them as long as I live, as we all should.
Much has been made recently of the way the Romney campaign is able to raise much more money than the Obama campaign because of contributions from big donors. But one simple trick will enable them to outraise Romney and to strike a major blow for political dependence.
Romney’s campaign is accepting big donations from rich corporations and individuals who stand to gain something from favorable attention. But Obama has something to sell that will in itself assure that favorable attention: naming rights!
Companies have spent tens of millions of dollars to put their names on locations, so that, for example, every time a sporting event takes place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, people are reminded that the Staples chain of stationery and office supply stores exists. But there’s no inherent connection between the company and the locale it sponsors.
Staples would get a lot more value for its money if it had naming rights to the Department of Education. That way, every time this important function of the federal government was mentioned, it would include a mention of an important supplier of materials used in schools.
Likewise, a huge new arena being built in Brooklyn will be known as the Barclays Center. People going to see Barbra Streisand or the Harlem Globetrotters may feel a moment of gratitude to this huge international bank for making the facility possible. But how much more, and more appropriate, attention Barclays would get if it were mentioned as sponsor of the Barclays Department of the Treasury!
Other obvious candidates suggest themselves immediately: the Halliburton Department of Defense, UnitedHealthcare Medicare, Monsanto Dept. of Agriculture, BP Department of Environmental Conservation, Citicorp Social Security. The possibilities are endless.
It’s important to assure that the sponsoring companies will not necessarily have any influence over the operations of the departments they sponsor.
The official “A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies” lists 35 departments and agencies under the letter A alone. I’ll have to get someone at the Access Board, the very first one listed, to count all of them through the whole alphabet.
Promising to name only the largest departments after donors should easily raise enough money to put Obama over the top. After the election, naming rights to all the remaining agencies could be auctioned off, with the proceeds going towards reduction of the National Debt.
But, you say, what happens if Romney wins the election anyway? Well, that’s already arranged. It will be the Bain Capital Presidency.
The phone rings. It’s 2 A.M.
It’s the answering service.
A woman is on the line.
She left him three months ago.
Now he calls her all the time.
Tells her what she has to do.
One day she brought him their son
straight from the playground.
He complained the boy was dirty.
Told the mediator she was
not taking care of him.
He doesn’t want to pay. He curses.
He promises she cannot win this.
What can she do?
The phone rings. It’s 10 P.M.
It’s the answering service.
A woman is on the line.
She saw him again outside,
looking in the window.
She called the cops. She has an order.
The doors all locked. They did not come.
Her friends won’t visit. They’re afraid.
She won’t leave. It’s her fucking house!
The cops arrived two hours later.
They were sorry. Someone died.
She showed them her longest scars and
she played them some messages.
She won’t go to court again.
The judge got angry. She has no more
money for a lawyer.
What can she do?
Can I help her?
The phone rings. It’s 3 A.M.
It’s the answering service.
An emergency room call.
I meet my partner. She looks beat,
all gray, and blinking like a frog.
We go to meet our latest victim.
She is fat. Her face is wet.
She tells the cops she was asleep.
The window crashed and he was on her.
She tried to fight. He hit her hard.
The sun is rising on her cheek.
I hold her hand, then my partner’s
as they cry. I try not to.
The phone rings. It’s 2 A.M.
It’s the answering service.
Someone at the sheriff’s office.
I meet my partner. She looks angry.
She has heard part of the story.
I hear, she met him in Mobile.
He was handsome, nice clothes, suit.
He had money, took her dancing.
Didn’t even try to kiss her.
She was nineteen. Three weeks later
he sent her an airplane ticket.
Didn’t beat her for a month.
Then, she didn’t fold the clothes right,
supper late, one night she went out,
didn’t answer when he called.
He looked at the phone bill. Who’s that?
Some old Alabama boyfriend?
Don’t make calls when I’m not here!
That night he hit her, broke her cheek, then
took her to the hospital and
went out drinking, told her she should
take a cab home.
The phone rings. It’s 4 A.M.
It’s the answering service.
She is at the hospital.
I meet my partner. The room’s full
of doctors, cops, and mostly nurses
because she’s one of them and they
all love her.
Second marriage, nine months old.
Threatened her before. This is
the first time he has ever hit her.
It will be the last.
Her face is purple.
She won’t have to go to court.
The cops have everything. They have him.
She never wants to see him again.
The phone rings. It’s 3 P.M.
It’s the office.
The victim that we saw last week
went home. She’s dead.
The funeral is tomorrow.
The phone rings.
I wrote this poem as a result of my experiences for 19 years as a volunteer for the Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program. While the program helps victims of all kinds of crime, the volunteers respond to a hot line which serves victims of rape and domestic violence. Every two months, two volunteers go on call during the hours when the office isn’t open, 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. and all weekend. We went mostly to hospitals and police stations.
The hospital calls often occurred when rape victims were brought to the S.A.N.E. (Sexual Assault Nurse Examination) Unit. The S.A.N.E. procedures were originated by a group of hospital nurses in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1991. At that time, the District Attorney of Ulster County was a man named Frank Kavanaugh. He read about S.A.N.E. in a law enforcement magazine and decided that Ulster County had to have that program as soon as possible. Nurses from Ulster County went to Tulsa for training, and the Ulster County program began soon afterwards, the second one on the U.S. The program is now very widespread and provides humane treatment for rape victims along with useful evidence for prosecutions.
Since very strict confidentiality prevails in the CVAP, I’ve never shared any of my experiences as a volunteer without thoroughly disguising any potentially identifying details. That is true of the poem, which changes some details and uses composite characters. But it’s as true to my experience as I could make it.
I wrote the poem in 2008 at the beginning of a poetry workshop run by Sharon Olds at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck. It was a response to a writing prompt Olds gave, and I was thinking only of that, and of my experiences, when I wrote it. We all read our poems after a lunch break, and it was only then that I realized that the other nine people in the workshop, all women, were hanging on my words to find out who I was. I felt a perceptible relaxation go around the room as I read, and we all got along fine after that.
More than five years after I left WDST, I got a call from the program director, Richard Fusco. He was someone I had worked with, and while we weren’t exactly best buddies—he was the guy who yelled at me for playing music by Steve Reich, a few years before the owner asked me to interview Reich—I was willing to talk to him.
Richard outlined for me a grand project that the owner and staff of WDST were about to start. It was to be called Radio Woodstock, and it was going to be an Internet project with several simultaneous streams of programming coming from Woodstock and promoted to the outside world. Among the people he mentioned as having agreed to become part of the project were Richie Havens, one of the best-known musicians ever to live in Woodstock, and Randall Craig Fleischer, then and still music director of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. I was particularly impressed that Fleisher had agreed to work for them, since I have great respect for the guy. He’s a superb musician.
I had a few questions, mostly about the hours and working conditions. Then I asked what the job was going to pay. “Not very much at first,” Richard told me, “but people who start out with Radio Woodstock are going to have a stake in it and eventually they will make a lot of money.”
“That’s interesting,” I replied, “but where is the money going to come from?”
Richard told me that several large music industry companies had already committed to investing millions of dollars in Radio Woodstock to get it off the ground. I said I was impressed, but I still didn’t understand where the revenue stream was going to come from. “You can’t run advertising as part of the programming,” I said. “There are already so many Internet radio stations that as soon as ads come on people will switch to something else.”
Richard agreed. “We’ll run banner ads on the site,” he told me. That won’t raise very much, I said. He agreed with that, too, but said it was a start. “We’ll also sell the music we play,” he said. “People will be able to order CDs right on the website.” That sounded like a trivial source of income as well. When I asked where else the money was going to come from, Richard hesitated and couldn’t come up with a convincing answer.
For that reason, I decided not to get involved in Radio Woodstock. I just couldn’t understand where the money to support it was going to come from. I guess nobody else did, either. Radio Woodstock ran through most of the millions of dollars in three years, and then had to shut down most of its operations. Nobody got rich. (It still runs three audio streams, one of which is the current WDST broadcast.)
When I think back on this whole episode, I think it reflects a great deal about the difficulties of making money on Internet enterprises that don’t offer physical goods for sale. Amazon makes a fortune, but Facebook, despite its billion users, seems to be struggling. (I believe Facebook makes most of its income peddling its users’ information to advertisers, which is why I don’t use it.)
In fact, it seems to me that Radio Woodstock was a perfect set-up for a scam like the one in Mel Brooks’s “The Producers.” Get a lot of investment, use only some of it, and then tell all the investors that all the money has been lost. Perhaps that was the story of Radio Woodstock. But, being an honest person myself, I prefer to believe that the money was lost through honest stupidity.
My former girlfriend, the late Anne Dinger, was a superb cook. I used to embarrass her by calling her the best cook I’d ever eaten. She gave me one piece of bad cooking advice, though, which led to my discovery of Lodge Logic.
Anne was fond of cast iron cookware, for good reasons. So am I, now that I’ve had the experience. Anne taught me to use a cast iron skillet, and she told me that it had to be protected from rust. But her preferred method of drying her skillet was wiping it down and then putting it on the stove on high heat until any remaining water had evaporated.
One sad day, about a year ago, I used this method, as I had for years. But then I left the house on an errand and forgot to turn off the heat. By the time I got back, the skillet had oxidized beyond repair. I’m lucky I didn’t burn the house down.
I’ve seen old cast iron cookware at yard sales and flea markets many times, but usually at high prices and often in rather rusty condition. Just for the hell of it, I decided to try my usual last resort for specialty items and checked out Amazon. Sure enough, they had a 12″ cast iron skillet made by a company called Lodge Logic, offered at only $20.97. Because I’m an Amazon Prime subscriber, I didn’t even have to pay for shipping.
That’s a good thing because, when the thing arrived, it weighed eight pounds! It was thicker and heavier than the old one I had ruined. And, to my surprise, it wasn’t made in China. It was made in the U.S.!
I’ve now been using this skillet for about six months. There’s one thing about it I don’t love. It’s heavy! My right shoulder isn’t 100%, so sometimes I have to pick the thing up left-handed. And when it’s very hot, even with two hot pads it’s difficult to manipulate. If I want to pour some liquid out of it, I have a really hard time. This weight, though, is part of the skillet’s quality, so I really can’t complain about it.
In every other respect, though, it’s a dream to use. Its surface is mottled, rather than smooth like my old skillet, which results in much less sticking to it. Anything that does stick is easily scrubbed off. It cooks very, very well, thoroughly and quickly. I’ve become rather fond of a brand of frozen fish burgers (Seafood Doctor swai burgers) and another of turkey burgers (Bubba), and I make them rather often for dinner. They cook more thoroughly on the Lodge skillet than they did on my antique, and in a bit less time.
Anne to the contrary, Lodge’s instructions say that the pan should be cleaned without soap, using a stiff brush (I use a copper scrubber), then dried and re-oiled. Emeril’s cooking oil spray works great, although–regrettable waste–I rub it down with a paper towel. Just one.
I was so curious about this company that I looked it up. Lodge Cast Iron is located in the small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, where it has been making cookware since 1896. Although the company imports enamel coated cast iron cookware from China, it makes everything else at its factory in South Pittsburg. The company even boasts about, and details, its ecological responsibility.
Recently, while visiting my house on Cape Cod, I discovered that a small non-stick frying pan had been worn bald by summer tenants. I decided to replace it with an iron pan. I went to the Cape Cod Flea Market in Wellfleet and found someone who sold antique iron cookware, and I bought a small pan from him although it needed some rehabilitation. Later the same day I was at my favorite local hardware store, Conwell Hardware in Provincetown, and I found the same size brand new Lodge pan, at the same price I’d paid for the antique. Someday I’ll do the work the old pan needs, but for that moment I thought wotthehell and I bought the Lodge pan. It’s probably better.