Message to Dr. Schneider

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Personal Relationships

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is the short story that led to the discussion about fantasies in your class Interpretation of Prose.

The most memorable event that occurred when I was in your interpretation of poetry class was John F. Kennedy’s campaign speech in the gym there at G. U. He ended it with “…the words of the poet: `I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep…’”. You had us memorize the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by a Wood on a Snowy Evening”. Of course I had forgotten it over the years; but I relearned it a year or so ago and have performed it in front of groups, large and small, several times. I always precede my recitation with the remembrance of J. F. K.’s speech, words from the poem, and your assignment for us in your class.

Years ago I found what I think is a great movie: “My Dinner With Andre”. It’s about two guys who meet at a restaurant in New York and converse over dinner. Now, it can either be a relief from insomnia or, after a good night’s rest and a cup of coffee, a jog for one’s mind because the conversation is, for me, quite profound. I lent it to a high school friend to view. He sent it back with the note saying that he and his wife tried to view it twice and couldn’t quite get into it. This is the same friend that I accused of being the scholar. He unloaded on me that he couldn’t even get through one semester at “little old Carol College” in Montana. He joined the Navy after I visited him in Grangeville on boot-camp leave. He got into the nuclear power program and went l. d. o. (limited duty officer). I think he was a lieutenant when he retired. I thought he was a much better student than me in high school; but maybe I was a sleeper in my academic potential. Believe me my g. p. a. when I graduated from h. s. was so low I graduated 26th out of 33 in my class.

“My Dinner With Andre” was written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn who also are the only main actors (all others were just people in the restaurant including the waiter and the bar tender). Why I like it so much is how two people can carry on a dialog of substance. I think I’ve become much more gregarious as a result of watching it. I had to actually purchase the VHS version of it several years ago. I have to say that when I went into the video store to order it the price was about 50% more than what was asked for most movies on tape at the time. I wanted it so much that I ordered it anyway; and the store didn’t even ask for a deposit. When it came the price was the same as the standard price. So that was a pleasant surprise.

I decided I wasn’t the only one in the world who had viewed it (it has become a cult classic) when I saw an article in a national news magazine entitled “My Dinner With Madeline” (that was Madeline Albright, the then Secretary of State under Bill Clinton). The writers in the news media are always making their headlines entertaining by paraphrasing titles of various literary sources (i. e. books, movies, songs, etc.)

So, what kind(s) of music do you enjoy? I’ll guess classical with all its subgenres. But, how about jazz? If so (considering jazz has a lot of subgenres, as well) are there any of those that appeal to you at all, or more than others?

Oh, I have to tell you about the events concurrent with my decision to quit college and join the Navy. I had finished 2 ½ years at G. U. and had sustained a concussion (that’s at least my excuse for being placed on the list for barely surviving as a result of my below C g. p. a.) and had decided I had to quit. The dean (of men?) at the time was the Very Reverend John P. Leary. He had invited me to join the honors program when I first enrolled at G. U. I declined (being the rather stupid entering undergraduate at the time and not knowing what it entailed – it just sounded way too grand of a group for me. Maybe I was a little like the comedian who said “I would never join an organization that would accept me as a member”) I also ran into him just after I had made my decision to quit and go into the Navy. He made the comment that I would probably never go back to Gonzaga. That was quite prescient, as a matter of fact.

Fr. Toner, the then principle of Gonzaga Prep – as I recall, and my dad’s cousin – called me on the phone at the rooming house up on Nora Ave and told me that he had been contacted by an anonymous donor who volunteered to pay my tuition at Gonzaga if I were to reconsider my leaving. At this point I have to tell you that I had told everybody that my decision was financial, which was only part of the reason. My mother guessed it was my uncle Ray who owned a couple of dry-cleaners in Spokane and didn’t have any children. I tolled Fr. Toner to thank whoever it was, but I had already committed to the Navy. That was a white lie (re: “Remember the Chameleon”) because I had only made a verbal commitment and hadn’t signed a contract. While it may have been partly true it didn’t reflect the realities of the day. I even started writing a story about what might have happened had I accepted the offer.

A great line from “On the Waterfront” was uttered by the main character, Terry Malloy (played by Marlon Brando), “I coulda’ been a contender”. It comes to mind when I think of the alternate universe of my continuing as a student. My receiving my draft notice in boot camp would have probably been an element in what might have happened.

Your expanding on my metaphor of setting the world on fire reminds me of a short true story I wrote that was published in the local political party newsletter. It is entitled “Forest Fires and Nine-eleven”. It is on this blog in the archives October 15, 2007.

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