The  United States of the World

Click History below to read the complete book, The United States of the World, by Daniel F.
McNeill. 12 Essays on American History.

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Young in the 40s and 50s in Somerville and Boston

       Daniel F. McNeill

                                                                                Introduction

    My generation was born in the middle of the 1930s and bloomed in the 1950s rooted in a cultural soil no more nourishing for our souls than ground in an abandoned city lot is for plants. We were 10 in 1945 when a madness inherent in humanity’s genes finally stopped killing millions of people worldwide. The Korean War in 1950 dulled our youthful dreaming but we had lived happily enough during the Second World War and a new one far away did not spoil our fun except for those of us who were nearly at draft age. We kissed one another in our teens in cars built in the 1930s and 40s in dark parking lots and listened to songs from jukeboxes on plastic-covered seats in new diners blazing with light. Even the mouths on television in black and white forming bullying words denouncing communism did not wake us up. We tried to keep dreaming and not open our eyes and discover that everything had already been done and there was nothing for us to do. Our society had been fitted together so harmoniously by the necessities of a war economy in the 1940s that, when the anticommunist hammers of the 40s and 50s tried to keep it in place by nailing it down crudely, few saw that it was a cockeyed attempt at unity rather than the real thing. The struggles of blacks for equality and justice taught some whites by 1965 that America needed to be realigned but it remained grossly out of whack until it exploded a few years later in riotous violence. In 1962 Vasili Arkhipov, the Russian naval commander of a fleet during the Cuban Missile Crisis, countermanded an order from his superiors for a submarine to launch a nuclear weapon and prevented the Cold War from becoming a nuclear disaster. President Kennedy was a man from the generation preceding ours. His generation sat on us like we were a horse and it a knight riding purposefully to some battle while we had no idea where we were heading. The Cold War knocked Kennedy off his horse and Khrushchev of Russia fell from power along with him. They had stood tall and manly  during the Cuban Missile Crisis and found a passage where enemies could walk together peacefully and lead the world safely away from planetary annihilation. For a few months, their courage blew up towards the heavens the merciless ideological hatreds of the Cold War founded like all ideologies on nothing but men with power pulled the hatreds back down to earth. We were in our late twenties in 1963 during John Kennedy’s funeral. Our thirties were just around the corner and we had not yet done anything historically that was uniquely ours. The Cold War went on for almost thirty more years and our lives bounced along with it like we were solid balls filled with air with no purpose except to be dribbled. Oh, it wasn’t so bad. We married and reproduced ourselves. We worked. We did what we had to do. We made money. By the 1970s we all had color television. Then in the 1980s we had remotes. Wow.
   My generation was silent. But our silence did not mean we had experienced nothing meaningful. We travelled to interesting and fearful places in the soul but the few of us who wrote words describing their adventures found there was not a wide market for plotless wanderings in the soul in an America whose goals were to stop all real history from going its own way and to make a lot of money.  America wanted only the tales of those who were fifteen or twenty years older than we and still had the feet on a ground that they had placed there when they came of age in the 1940s. Our spirits were free but misplaced jammed between the world warriors born in the 1920s and the mystical screams and political jabberwockies of their children who began howling in the late 60s and the 70s when we of the Silent Generation were discovering not much more than that we were growing old. Born in 1935, I looked around for something authentic to write about all my life. I kept rolling the dice seeking some substantial subject and they kept coming up snake eyes. Something was wrong. Nothing was happening worth writing about. Then I realized that the world around me had been wobbling all those years in my past but not me. I had discovered a basis for a steadfast life for myself in a world that had no place for me. What would happen then if I wrote the story of 60 years of my life and sewed into it only a few of the trappings of the world  that had been happy not paying me any serious attention?  I might find myself once again in the myself that had always been myself. I wrote down the highlights of my life up until 1995 in 2015 and finished it in 2016. The generation that preceded mine was gone and mine was partly gone with myself about to go with what was left of it. Will anyone read the story of the life of someone from the Silent Generation that was mainly detached from the history of its time?  Here it is. It is only about me. It is the story of how in a vacant time it took me sixty years to discover the only thing truly real in any time.


​                                                                                Chapter 1
  
 In the neighborhood in Somerville where I grew up, we all knew who we were and where we were. Across from my house on Medford Street, Highland Avenue joined Medford Street forming a fork for traffic coming over McGrath Highway from Boston. Doctor Siegal’s big white house across the street from my house had a  lawn that narrowed down and ended where the fork in the road began. I could look across his lawn to the small store on the other side of Highland Avenue owned by a Greek. Just up the street from his store, out of view from my house, was a larger store, Myer’s Market, run by a German.  Just a few steps beyond Myer’s Market, on the same side of Highland Avenue, was another small neighborhood store owned by an Italian. It did not seem odd to me that I lived near a Jew, a Greek, a German and an Italian. Everyone in my neighborhood was like me. We were where we were and who we were was never a question we asked because all of us were Americans living in America.
   I walked from my house down Medford Street about a half mile to Saint Anne’s school for grades one to six. To the left on the top of a hill, a third of my way down Medford Street, was a big Italianate library building. The hill flattened at the top and continued to the Somerville High School and beyond the high school to the Somerville City Hall. In between the buildings were  nicely designed spaces for the green fields of a park and the side of the hill to my left as I walked was a green field sloping down with cement  paths and benches. When I reached the first street to the left on my journey, School Street, I could look up School Street to quite a height to where it crossed Highland Avenue. The next street I passed, Sycamore Street, also went up the hill. At Sycamore Street I was just a two minute walk from my school. Years later, I read in a book about the New England rebellion in 1775 against Britain that the fortified defensive lines that the Yankee rebels had set up circling Boston ran up Sycamore Street towards Highland Avenue. But I knew nothing when I was in elementary school about the momentous events in my neighborhood that had changed the history of the world fatally and had formed the background of my own fate. I was in America. I walked along carelessly knowing for sure that I was some place. I was in America. It had to be someplace America because everyone talked about America all the time and if it was not a place then they were all talking about some place that did not exist.
    I had a dog and a bike and a paper route and a school and a place to eat and sleep and baseball and a family. I had everything I needed to exist and I even had a religion too and Saint Anne’s church where I went to mass every Sunday. The donut store across the street from my church made only plain donuts that they fried right behind the counter in oil. It was open after midnight mass on Christmas morning and I remember once walking home in the dark early on a cold morning with my mother carrying a bag of donuts and feeling joy that it was Christmas. Who cared that we walked past Sycamore Street where Yankee rebels had set up a defensive position ready to die fighting for their freedom? I loved Christmas so much discovering my presents under the Christmas tree early in the morning that by Christmas evening I felt deep sadness that Christmas would not come again for another year. Is it worth knowing anything that we don’t know by actually experiencing it? I don’t think so. Anyway, we were all of us living in Somerville near Medford Street and Highland Avenue and we went to mass and ate donuts and played baseball and experienced whatever we could. We had real experiences and that was enough to make us know that we were real too.
   Part of reality for men in Somerville was drinking beer in what was still known in those days, the 1940s, as saloons. There was one about fifty yards from Doctor Siegal’s lawn called The Rabbit. The noise from The Rabbit made by people coming out drunk late at night repelled him and his wife but saloons and noise and beer drinking attracted my father. Drinking in bars and talking baseball were the main male cultural experiences in Somerville. For workingmen, all possible knowledge reduced itself for eight hours a day to a few regular boring physical skills that they knew they had to  repeat day after day to survive. Drinking in a bar after work was another way to escape from the known world by drugging the mind to a state of blissful ignorance. In this sense, my father was often ignorant, often very ignorant.
    A fact in my mother’s experience as a girl limited her knowledge forever, the fact that her father died in his thirties. She had had to leave school and work in one of the mills in Lawrence to help support her family. Her father, James Donnelly, had been a foreman in a mill and had earned enough to buy a farm with fifteens acres in the town of Methuen. My mother, the oldest of six children, escaped learning in a high school by walking from Methuen to Lawrence at sixteen to work ten hours a day in a mill. She earned money by hard work and all her life money and work were related concepts in her mind that taught her that money was necessary absolutely but that it was too hard to come by to ever be enjoyed absolutely.
  I traveled alone summers from Somerville to Methuen to spend time with my grandmother, Mary (nee Silk) Donnelly from County Sligo in Ireland. She was as Irish as the mill owners my mother had worked for were Yankees but I was never an Irish man or a Yankee man. I was a ten-year-old Somerville boy with a suitcase and a metal fishing pole that I carried on a bus to North Station in Boston and then on a train to Lawrence and a bus to Methuen. I never had any worry that I was traveling on my own such a long distance. A lot of people on the buses and the train wore uniforms for the war and I remember looking to my left in 1945 at the newspaper a man was reading across the aisle. The headlines read that a bomb had just been dropped with the explosive power of thousands and thousands of regular bombs. I learned that because I was forced like every other American to learn it. But I had something that was more important than a new bomb, a fishing pole, and my Irish grandmother’s old Yankee farmhouse in Yankee New England had just across her street a pond with fish. There was nothing as exciting as the sudden tug of something alive on the end of my fishing line.
    I had a bicycle at the farm in Methuen on Mystic Street. On the day the war ended, I tied three empty cans on a string to the back of my bike and rode along the street letting the cans clank against the ground to express my excitement. But the truth is I wasn’t too excited. I had lived the war through the experiences I had listening to adults talk as they reacted to events in the war. They listened with serious faces to the news on the radio but at home in America the war produced jobs for everyone. We had food and gas rationing but we enjoyed good times. I collected empty cigarette packs and rolled the foil I found inside into balls of aluminum that I sold along with stacks of newspapers to junk men who came to my street in horse-drawn carriages stacked with discarded materials. I understood the war mainly by its effects on the people around me and most of the details of the day to day fighting escaped me. We went to movies Saturday afternoons for kids my age and we lived the war that was shown to us in movies. The Japanese pilots had black mustaches and black eyes and when they dove in their planes and machine gunned an American they smiled an evil smile of satisfaction. I hated the Japs. I remember a restaurant that was closed during the war that had a sign outside that read, “Gone Jap Hunting. Be back In 1945.” I found a cigarette lighter and when I examined it closely and read, “Made In Japan”, I threw it away. We were at war with the Germans too but somehow adults expressed no hatred for them and so I never hated them either. Adults were worried about German submarines but we never fought them in ground battles until late in the war for a few months in 1945 and of course a few months later they were no longer our enemies and had quickly become our allies.
   Experience, my inner experience, has always been the most important thing in my life. I was never a fighter like some other boys and I always backed down when I was challenged to a fist fight. I know that I was supposed to feel ashamed because I backed down. It is a fact for most people that a boy who will not defend himself will suffer damage to his self-esteem that can be dangerous and even lead to suicide. This certain knowledge that most people possess never applied to me. I never felt shame because I refused to let someone trade punches with me who had muscles on his arms and legs twice the width of those on my skinny arms and legs. Nothing and no one in the outside world ever damaged my inner self and my inner life so powerfully that I was not able to recover myself completely after bad experiences. I was tall and thin and weak on the outside but inside I had a soul encased in concrete and I always fought  against any influence trying to alter my inner experience from the outside. I was a child at the start of the war and a boy of ten in 1945. I had no notion at the time that knowledge was my greatest enemy and that it could turn my living inner experience to stone but I do remember two whacks that knowledge hit me with in the 1940s that tried to change the free waves running through my soul to something more solid and less alive.
   The first whack was the news we got on Medford Street that my cousin, John Murphy, a marine, had been killed on the island of Bougainville in the South Pacific. In our three-decker house, my uncles Tom and Jim McNeill lived in the first-floor apartment with their sister Anna. The news tried to rub out the good feelings inside them and their sad faces made my inner life become for a while as dead as a fact because of a fact. The thing that made the pain bearable for all of us were the public ceremonies that the Marine Corps and government officials produced for John Murphy’s wake and burial. John was more famous as a semi-professional, left-handed pitcher than as a soldier and his reputation in both fields made his journey to his grave grand. We drove in a very long procession of cars to South Station in Boston. Six marines in uniform carried John’s coffin from the railroad car out to the street and loaded it into a hearse with great martial dignity. I sat in a car around ten cars back. The first car that carried the coffin was big and black. John’s mother, my Aunt May (nee McNeill) Murphy, sat in the second large black car dressed in black. We made a long and slow ride to the cemetery. Marines stood at attention near his grave and fired their guns as a salute. The Boston papers printed a big cartoon every day after a baseball game with captions showing plays that were features of the game. The Boston Post printed the same kind of cartoon for John Murphy in the sports pages with his face sketched on it and with small cartoon captions featuring him playing in baseball games. The Post noted that he had once beaten a major league team in an exhibition game. One sportswriter printed in the sports pages a long poem about him. I remember one line, “His motto in this game of life was expressed with one word, ‘Win’.” It was a sad day the day of John Murphy’s burial but glorious. He was gone but we had won the war because he and thousands of young Americans like him had been brave enough to win it. He had struggled through the Depression of the 1930s and had been strong enough to do great deeds in baseball and in the Marine Corps. His funeral was glorious and the end of his life on an island far away from Somerville in the Pacific Ocean meant that we who were alive could go on to some great new unknown life in a victorious America.
   Rational knowledge dictates that there is no “America” because no geographical location exists anywhere named “America”. The same knowledge tells us we don’t live in “America” but in “The United States of America” and even insists that we should not declare our states to be “of America” because one of them, Hawaii, admitted as a state in 1959, is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Of course we Americans all reject this knowledge. We are Americans living in America. But America is hard to locate and if you try to lay your hands on it as an idea, which America certainly is, the idea keeps changing over time. I know that a certain idea of America developed during the Second World War and continued through the late 1940s and into the early 1950s. We genuinely felt we were Americans living in a community of united Americans. The war united us but the cause of our union did not count because it really united us. The government in Washington led us and we went along wholeheartedly with its leadership. The patriotic propaganda in the media and films was intelligent and thoroughly worthwhile because we were fighting against an evil political system, fascism, for our future, for America’s future, and for the future good of all humanity. One war movie I saw one Saturday afternoon about the Marines stirred my feelings so greatly that I walked home with my heart pounding and pounding because of my sudden decision to become a marine as soon as possible. I have forever after the period wondered what idea Americans had of America before the Civil War, what idea they had afterwards, what idea they had at any time. No idea of America is final and complete. I remember walking home from elementary school back up Medford Street and hearing Kate Smith sing every day “God Bless America” before the noon news on our radio. She had a deep and melodious voice. She bellowed out beautifully the patriotic idea we had then of America. She made us all sure that America existed and that we were in it and with it wholeheartedly for it’s good and for our good.
   Franny Hardy, a friend two years older than me, hit me with knowledge’s second hard whack in 1947 when I was twelve. Fran was a tough kid who took me a good distance from my house to Lincoln Park where a gang of tough boys he knew needed a catcher for their baseball team. I dared to stand crouched right behind a batter and catch pitches with just a catcher’s glove and a mask. I won a game for his gang when a bully ran to home plate at me sure he could knock the ball out of my glove by running into me hard. He knocked me over but I tagged him and held onto the ball. Once I backed down from another bully but he kept after me pushing and punching me to show his greatness by belittling me. Franny Hardy happened to be present and drove the bully away from me by forcing him to back down from a fight with himself. I respected Franny greatly. He was from a big family with older brothers and he knew what he was talking about. We were standing around near my house in 1947 talking and Franny said, “The next war we’ll fight will be with the Russians”. I still feel somewhere within me the whack his words gave me. Another war and with some people named “Russians”? President Roosevelt’s great speech we all heard after the  bombing of Pearl Harbor, the heroic naval battle at Midway and all the terrible fighting against the Japanese on islands in the Pacific all the way to Iwo Jima, the heroic landing in France on D-day and the glorious advance of our army into Germany, all the up and down emotions I felt throughout the war day in and day out listening to adults talk of the latest news, and all of it was for nothing because now we were going to fight another war against a people I had never heard of called “Russians”? The newspapers during the war certainly noted many details of the battles going on between the Germans and the Russians. But adults around me never talked about the war in Russia. I don’t know why but it was definitely not something important for them and I had genuinely never heard of Russians. But now we were going to fight them! There was going to be a new war against a people I had never heard of! Franny Hardy, my friend, broke down the door I had shut closed against the blows the outside world could inflict on my happiness with its knowledge. I knew that day that the positive feelings Americans had had during the war and the wonderful optimism we had about the future because of our victory  was in danger. I didn’t want to know anything about a new war and other Americans didn’t want to know anything either but we were powerless against a truth that knowledge had inflicted on us, a deadly truth. Three years after Franny Hardy whacked me we were at war in Korea with Russian pilots flying combat planes against our planes. His words that day in 1947 correctly prophesied a dangerous new future


                                                                                  Chapter 2  


The blissful ignorance that my father cultivated by drinking in bars eventually caused me to enter in the seventh grade the Boston Latin School on the Avenue Louis Pasteur. His father, another Daniel Francis McNeill, had been a successful grocer and real estate investor in Somerville. He sold some land on Somerville Avenue at Dana Street where they built a big factory, the Tube Works. His four sons and two daughters enjoyed a carefree life until workers, his customers in his grocery store, went on a strike against the Tube Works that lasted a long time. He extended them credit and lost a good deal of money. Our house, the house my grandfather died in on Medford Street four years before I was born, was the last of several houses he had invested in. None of his sons or daughters ever gave way to any sustained inclination to work or to increase their knowledge by studying beyond high school. Frank McNeill did have enough ambition to become the head of the sheet metal worker’s union but he died young and his star was the only light that ever shone from my McNeill aunts and uncles in the industrial and business firmaments of their time. My uncles Tom and Jim McNeill refused regular work and helped finance their freedom negatively by also refusing to drink. My father’s only major endeavor in life, beyond his part in creating me and my brother and sister, was fighting in France in the American Army in the First World War. No doubt his experiences in the Argonne Forest and the fight for Chateau Thierry made adapting to normal life difficult. His drunken escapades combined with the McNeill devotion to idleness put the control of our house, which he had inherited from his father, in jeopardy. He could sell it at will and we would have all been destitute, both our family and my uncles and aunt who lived downstairs rent free. Saul Gordon, a lawyer, rescued us. He got my father while drunk to sign over ownership of the house to my mother. It was rather a slimy business but he was nonetheless a godsend Saul Gordon. My mother admired men like Saul who were successful in life through education. She believed strongly in the monetary value of the education that circumstances in her fate had denied her. She had pushed herself hard to earn a high school equivalency and then to study to become a nurse. Saul Gordon found out in talks with her that her son was an excellent student. He convinced her that she should enroll me in the Boston Latin School. This part of his advice was free and my mother took it. Saul Gordon transferred ownership of my father’s house to my mother and transferred me by influencing my mother to the Boston Latin School.
   My entrance to the Latin School inserted me at twelve into an institution, founded in 1635, that formed boys of any race to become Yankee men. Teachers never used the word “Yankee” or characterized me or my comrades with a racial label like Irish, Jewish or Italian but we were nonetheless being trained to wipe away from our minds traces left in us of our race to become culturally Yankee men. I was already a Yankee man linguistically because my native language had been spoken in Massachusetts continually for over three hundred years and it had been transported directly from England by English colonists. Many of the colonists were university graduates and they had never shrunk even slightly from the full deployment of the richness of their English language in New England. No race that ever emigrated to America ever came with cultural and educational endowments as rich as those of Massachusetts settlers from England. They founded my Latin School very soon after their arrival and Harvard College a year later in 1636. My new school was all set to turn a boy who loved fishing and read book after book of stories about Indians running free through forests and talking to bears, their brothers, into a cultural alien in America by teaching him a language that educated men in Europe had used as their main language for more than two thousand years, Latin.
   It was only many years later that I realized that the Latin that they injected into our minds was far removed from the everyday Latin spoken by the illiterate ancient Romans. I did not know or care that we were being taught to read only the very best works in Latin by the very best authors. Still less did I understand that these great writers had in their libraries two thousand years ago the very best works of the great Ancient Greek writers stretching back seven hundred years from their times to the times of Homer and Hesiod. Two years after I entered the Latin School I began reading Cicero. Cicero’s Latin was far superior to the Latin language spoken on the streets of ancient Rome. Every great European prose writer writing in any European language imitated Cicero’s expansive and elegantly structured prose. A year later I began reading the Roman poet, Ovid. Ovid’s poems inspired Shakespeare to imitate them in English and Ovid himself wrote poetry imitating Euripides and Sophocles.  In one of Ovid’s love poems, a young lover leaves his mistress’s house at dawn and on the street he walks among people he describes as “miseri”. I lived among the miseri    in Somerville and so did most of my fellow students at the Latin School who came from the poor, working-class areas of Boston. Could the Latin School turn us magically to ciceronian English-speakers and help form our poetic musings influenced by ovidian images?
   I took a plebeian trip every school day to my patrician school. Instead of walking to the right down Medford Street to Saint Anne’s school, I walked now left to a bus stop at the edge of McGrath Highway. At Lechmere Station, I took a street car that went overhead until after the first stop at North Station where it went down into the subway. At Park Street, I changed to another streetcar that ran on a line that switched left after the Copley Square stop and continued along underground below Huntington Avenue. Huntington Avenue above me had buildings along it that certainly qualified it as the most culturally elite avenue in the world. It began in Copley Square that held the grand Trinity Church, a spacious cathedral with a voluminous interior that augmented the holy voices of Yankee divines. Next, at the right side of Huntington Avenue, was the beautiful huge Italian palazzo with a large inner atrium under the open sky that stored the books of the Boston Library. Next on the right side over me as I rode down below was Mechanics Hall where arts of all genres were exhibited. Then on Huntington were the colonnaded walks and large buildings in white of the Christian Science Church. It was a memorial in stone of New England spirituality for Christian Science was a genuinely new religion invented as a development of New England Transcendentalism. Next above my head on Huntington was Horticultural Hall and across the street on Massachusetts Avenue, at its juncture with Huntington, was Symphony Hall. I did not see any of these monumental buildings pledged to religion, knowledge, music and the arts until my street car rose to the light of day out of the subway and stopped at the Opera House stop with the Opera House building’s main doors just to the right on Huntington. The plebeians on their way to work on the car with plebeian me had another magnificent sight shortly after the Opera House to our right, the Museum Of Fine Arts, without any doubt the greatest small fine arts museum in the world. I got off the streetcar two stops later and walked with other students carrying my green book bag over my shoulder to the backyard of the Latin School. The street I marched along drearily on my way to the work of studies designed to turn me mentally into a patrician went past the Elizabeth Gardner Museum, an elegant Florentine building that a Boston lady had imported from Italy and filled with European art.
   Schools were always for me in those days secure places designed to let me be at peace as long as I obeyed the adults teaching me by following them to wherever they were leading. I grew to love books and the excitement of opening them and following someone’s words to wherever they led. I read stories of the adventures of young Indians with passion. The thick green Latin textbook they gave me in my Latin class in the seventh grade in 1947 was the strangest book I had ever opened. It was full of words that I did not understand and yet since I understood the words in my own language and since my Latin teachers desired that I learn new words, I went along eagerly with the strange new undertaking. When a fish pulled my stopper down below the surface of the water, I suddenly felt a strange excitement within me that for a few moments forced me to live with new sensations rushing to life within me. In my Latin book, I began fishing and catching new words that came like the fishes I caught from some hidden world where life went on below the surface. How could a girl be called a puella or a boy a puer unless some magical game that I had never tried to play was going on somewhere hidden from me and that no one in Somerville had ever heard of? I remember getting off a streetcar at Lechmere Station coming home from the Latin School one afternoon holding three textbooks at my side pressed against a notebook. As I stood waiting for a bus to Somerville, a bus dispatcher in uniform saw a seventh-grader holding so many books and laughed at me good-naturedly, saying something like, “Hey, you’re quite a student, huh?” He was right that I was an odd sight. A twelve-year-old boy taking long rides every day on buses and streetcars to learn new words in a language that no one had spoken for fifteen hundred years was fishing in unknown waters.
    The five of us in my family were never united because whatever we felt never expressed itself in feelings towards one another of real love. We were always off somewhere physically or mentally separated from one another even though we were near one another daily. I came from a broken family with a drunken father who cared more about what he had once done in a war in France than what at present he was not doing for his family by not working. Downstairs my aunt Anna and my uncles Jim and Tom did not work. My mother was the only one in our house who worked and it made her unhappy to be so active among so much inactivity. No one in my family and my extended family was working to get ahead of the game and the worst of it was that no one accepted, except my mother, that there was any game in the world of moneymaking  worth playing. McNeills valued not working but my mother was a Donnelly who was taught when she was sixteen that life was nothing much more than work. But every school day I walked away from my family and took buses and streetcars into the heart of downtown Boston to learn positive, upper-class values. No McNeill I knew wanted anything of the sort. Our house in Somerville was a temple where McNeills worshiped only the value of discrete lifelong unemployment. More than thirty boys in my class at the Latin School went on to Harvard and most of them went on to very successful lives through education.  My family sent me away every school day to worship among infidels who believed correctly that sober study in a patrician school would teach them values necessary to make a lot of money. My family abandoned me. They sent me off alone into a wilderness where the words we read in books led to a solid and substantial knowledge far away from the free waves of life my imagination was beginning to search for in myself.
   But going back and forth to the Latin School was a peaceful enterprise and I did well at my studies. I was very casual about my daily adventure and on the subway cars in September 1948 I read the newspapers over adults’ shoulders that proclaimed the only kind of knowledge I swallowed with joy: my baseball team, the Boston Braves, had won the pennant and were going to the World Series. I grew comfortable at both ends of my daily trip. At the Latin School, my teachers used a level of English that was never heard in Somerville and I learned during my second year how extensively Latin writers had developed the use of the past, present and future participles. That year the substantive use of the participle was served for me to bite into on the Avenue Louis Pasteur and when I was home in the afternoon we talked baseball and the latest scores, the only knowledge during the World Series served in Somerville. But things went well my first three years. I swallowed any knowledge that was made available. It was good both to go off every day to where people cared only about scholarly knowledge and to come home and relax with people who cared nothing about any knowledge that did not come mixed with real life.


                                                                                    Chapter 3

   

   What is it that allows so very few humans to dare to break from ordinary routines that enslave their lives and jump bravely into the unknown? Routine customary behavior becomes in all of us at some time so unendingly repetitive that it becomes a fact. When we repeat the same act over and over, eventually some voice in us cries out to us in despair to stop killing ourselves but by that time we have become unable to hear the voice.
   The flat ground of my back yard in Somerville ended next to a steep bank of land covered with bushes that went down seventy-five feet to a cement barrier next to seven parallel railroad tracks. I could look out from the edge of my yard a great distance over roads and the tops of houses. One winter day I found myself standing at the edge of my yard looking out at the vast panorama and I did not stop looking standing motionless for a very long time. I felt during those moments that I was, I was, I was, I was, and as I stood motionless I felt this was that I was as myself and strangely for the first time as something other than myself that was also I. Who is standing here I asked myself but I did not use any words to ask myself the question for the very way I was standing motionless not wishing to move as though something new had hold of me was itself the question. I know I stood there wondering what was being and what was my being and I felt deeply some unknown being that was also my being. I was not communicating with some other being separate from myself because if that were the case, my solitude, that I found so intensely mine alone, would have been interrupted and I would have moved from the spot. No, it was myself that made me myself stand motionless but I stood motionless  fixed by an overpowering sense of wonder that I myself could wonder so intensely about nothing more than myself. There was something in myself not only mysterious but in fact very mysterious because it was myself. I stood there motionless in the cold without feeling the cold for a long long time. I was  looking out beyond the railroad tracks to the stretch of sky and land that went away and away and then further away to form the universe and all the while this view before me made me myself seem more and more expansive because some strange new sense within me was teaching me how expansive was I.
   I did not move for so long! I just stood there motionless staring! I was suddenly in a state of superhuman calm that told me without words that I was good and alive and that it was profoundly good that I was alive. That was all. It told me nothing I did not already know. But this knowledge came from nowhere but myself. It did not whack me or hurt me with some certainty that came from outside myself. This kind of knowledge  was so deeply in the roots of my being that it was no longer ordinary knowledge. Was I just an idiot? Did everyone already understand that their self was more than just themselves even though they remain most of their lives nothing more than the limited self that they themselves decide they must be? I had a spiritual experience but, watch out, it was just a spiritual experience. Spirit is the Latin word spiritus which is directly related to the verb spirare, to breathe. The Romans felt they were spiritual when they were breathing deeply. My strange breathes of new air that day when I was around nine or ten did not give me even a hint that there might also be within myself something that was not myself at all, something that was frightening because it was a nothing that could give itself the power of a something. Compared to the terrors I discovered later within myself, my discovery of myself that day was idiotic. I don’t know why I finally moved from my spot in my yard. But even though I stood there so long motionless and idiotically, I at least learned by the experience that the buried treasure I found in myself was myself and that in the future I should search for more treasure.
   When boys we were always playing games and looking for exciting new tricks to play on one another and on the world. Adults with their customs and their routines  were for us suspicious characters. We were so much smarter than adults! We knew for sure that the world outside and inside ourselves was a playground created for us to romp in. They considered us mischievous when we were just being as creative as possible. It was not our fault that imagining ways to upset the way they thought things should work came to us naturally. Baseball was the only work of their imagination that we accepted as worthwhile. We played baseball every day possible on the flat ground between the Somerville Library and the Somerville High School. It was not designed as a ball field but we used it for one anyway. We called the bank of land that sloped down to the railroad tracks behind my house “the bank ends”. Between Walnut Street to the right of my house and the bridge over McGrath Highway to the left, we could run along paths through the bank ends. There were no trees but there were bushes everywhere where we could hide. At the bottom of the bank ends, we climbed down the cement wall that ran from Walnut Street to McGrath Highway to hold up the steep bank of land behind my house and other houses. We walked along beside the tracks and it was thrilling to stand just beside a huge coal-driven locomotive that went by. We put a nickel on the track and were delighted when the iron wheels of a train ran over it and squashed it to the size of a half dollar.  A boy who lived just the other side of McGrath Highway was a genius at bedeviling the adult world. Phil Sadowski pushed mischievousness to near madness. From his house you could also look across the railroad tracks. I was with him one day in his house when he took his father’s rifle and fired at a boy walking along the further side of the railroad tracks. He did not try to kill him because he was a good shot with a rifle and merely terrified the boy when he heard the sound of the gun and saw the break in the ground near him where the bullet hit. Phil loved model railroads and he skillfully removed a model engine one day from its possession by a model-train dealer by concealing it in his pants. His greatest bedevilment was deceitful but legal. Somehow he discovered that whenever a man was hired by the Boston and Maine Railroad, they always sent a new employee to the same doctor’s office where he received a card testifying to his health with his name and the name of the railroad written on the card. When we were fifteen, we both presented ourselves to the doctor pretending we had just been hired by the railroad. We both received a card. When a train engine would stop behind my house, Phil and I would climb up to the main area where the engineer sat and show him our cards. We would ride into Boston to the train yards for free and we rode the trains to various towns around Boston for adventures and to swim at towns like Swampscott on the ocean. Later, when Phil began commuting also to school in Boston, to Boston College High School, it was a minor enterprise for him to show me how to sneak into subway stations without paying the fare by going around a fence hidden down the subway in the dark. I learned a lot from Phil Sadowski. Nothing he taught me ever influenced me to stand again a long time in my yard looking off into space.
   I was myself those early days at the Latin School, and happy being myself, but by the tenth grade, I was ripe for something more. I was ready for something outside my regular routine. Phil Sadowski provided an escape to something different. He had already been truant from the high school he commuted to in Boston. One day we were together on a car in the subway and he convinced me to hook school with him. We put our books in a locker for ten cents and ran up the long flight of stairs at the Boylston Street station to freedom. Outside we walked in the fresh morning air past well-dressed people with staid expressions on their way to work. We were on our way smiling and talking crazy talk to what was for me a new world. I lived before that day in regular worlds at the Latin School and at my world at home in Somerville. They and their regularity were gone in one instant as soon as I pushed through the turnstile at the bottom of the stairs of the Boylston Street station. We walked left at Boylston Street and when we reached Washington Street, the main street in downtown Boston, we went in a big lobby of an office building, down a narrow flight of stairs, and opened a door to the Olympia poolroom.
  The pool room was well-lit with a low roof and two rows of eight pool tables stretching to the rear. To the right when you entered was a counter for the man renting the tables and further on pinball machines and the entrance to the men’s room. I was in a world without women with a few men sitting around watching pool balls strike one another. Phil and I sat and watched a game at the first table to the left of the entrance door. The main sound was the click of the balls hitting one another but there were very few clicks and just a few men so early in the morning. A day stretched out before us with no humans arranging for us something that we were supposed to do. I had the pure, unaffected feeling of being nowhere but happy to be nowhere.
   That year in the tenth grade every time I approached in the morning the Boylston Street station, the possibility of escaping the normal world sent a quick shot of excitement through me. I could get off the car, run up the stairs and enjoy a sudden feeling of freedom in my soul! I knew I would feel bad later in the day but the temptation was so strong that several days that year I could not resist it. Out in the air walking along Tremont Street past the Boston Common, I felt free. I would learn nothing that day at school and my mind was free for a few hours to enjoy the strange ignorance that comes to a self that dares to rip itself from the known world created by foreign selves. I went to the Olympia poolroom. I sat watching a game doing nothing.  If Phil Sadowski was with me, we invented something to do. We went up freight elevators in the garment district and borrowed pushcarts that we sold to truck drivers. We shot pool or played the pinball machines at the big arcade on Washington Street. We ate lunch in a restaurant and ran out the door without paying. Phil was great at finding devilish things to do. A bookie who took bets at the Olympia on the daily number used to tear up the papers where he wrote the numbers he booked for a day. Phil found out that he threw away the papers in a trash can at the rear of the Olympia. Phil got them out of the can and changed the entry on one slip to the winning number for the day. Then he swore to the bookie that he had played the winning number and when the bookie went to the trash can and found the winning number written, he payed Phil thirty-five dollars. Free adventures are the only real adventures. We always found something exciting to do once we decided that the only business worth doing was our own business.
   My studies at the Boston Latin School became listless. I missed so many days that it was difficult to keep up. In the ninth grade I had done so well that when it came time to decide whether to study German or Ancient Greek the following year, a teacher recommended that I study Greek and I chose it. The forms of Greek words are much more difficult than Latin. I fell behind. I had a cheat sheet for a Greek test and Doctor Callahan caught me. Only the best students at the Latin school studied Greek. I may have been the only one who ever got caught cheating on a Greek test. I succeeded in getting promoted to the eleventh grade but that following year I hooked school so many times I again could not keep up. My adventures in downtown Boston truant from school became a regular part of my life. The more I was truant, the less well I did at school and the less well I did at school, the more I was truant. Phil Sadowski was a regular companion of my adventures. We were completely open to craziness. We got so good shooting pool that our crazy imaginations decided us to run away from home to New York city and to hustle guys to play us for money. It was a logical thing to do! We were so far gone from the regular habits of school boys that it made sense to go away completely, to go completely crazy now that we were crazy anyway. We lasted only four days away from home. When I was back in Somerville, my mother gave me a mild beating. I deserved it. My father did not care that I had run away. I was kept back at school and repeated the eleventh grade at the Latin School.
   At that time in Somerville, you never heard any talk of broken homes but many of them were. There were successful people and good families but there were a lot of bars and a lot of drunkenness. The Italian who owned one of the small stores near us was always speaking with disgust of his decision to come to America. A Greek immigrant who had a family on our street beat up his son, a friend of mine, mercilessly with his fists on the sidewalk in view of everyone. He worked at the fish pier in Boston. One day waiting at the bus stop beside him carrying my books, he made a scornful comment putting me down because he sensed I was trying to enter a world closed to himself. My father worked little, drank a lot, quarrelled with my mother and even beat her. Phil Sadowski and I came from broken homes and we both never experienced real love from our parents. But they were normal conditions in Somerville. Our parents did what they could for us and we accepted irregularity in our families as normal. It was real for us that no one wanted anything to do with us and we naturally acted as though we were not obligated to have anything worthwhile to do with anyone. As for love, we neither of us knew what it was and we did not miss it. The movies we saw taught us that men who were handsome and strong were happy. Love was what happened when a heroic man in a movie kissed a beautiful girl.


                                                                                    Chapter 4


Phil Sadowski and I were using the world created by the adults around us as a game and the only way we could have begun taking it seriously would have been to find some adult we could have related to seriously. I did not know I was supposed to love my parents and they were supposed to love me because love never happened. My father was an absence in my mind rather than a presence and my hard-working mother even once complained openly to my sister Margaret and my brother Joe and me that it had made no sense giving birth to us because we did nothing to make her work-a-day world easier or her life better. My uncle Tom, who lived with his brother and sister in the apartment downstairs, was an adult worth loving who cared for the three of us. I liked him but I had no idea how to love him. He was tall and thin like me with a face with features like mine. He never worked at any regular job and no one knew what he did for money. He had gone no further than high school but had an intelligent and critical mind that made him sceptical in a friendly way of any of the facile thoughts that working-class people offered him as truths. Freedom from work was his truth and everything else hearsay. He did not drink, spoke well and always dressed with a jacket and tie. He went off somewhere walking in the early afternoon and when he would come back and find the three of us children on the front porch, he would give us a big warm smile and sometimes a few pennies for candies. Looking back, I feel love for my uncle Tom and wish I could have felt it for him then. My other uncle Jim who lived with Tom and their sister Anna was another type of man from Tom. He was short, stocky and strong. But like Tom he lived detached from normal life. The only thing he loved and took seriously was baseball. He played baseball on a team with my cousin John Murphy. Every time I went in their kitchen, my eyes fell first on Jim’s baseball glove hung on a wall. He thought and talked baseball all year and spring never arrived soon enough for him so that he could at last take his glove and cleats and uniform and play baseball. Anna their sister was a big woman who never married, was intelligent and was such a silent inner person that I like a lot of people never related to her at all. One day in 1949 I picked up the mail in the entranceway to their apartment and ours. A postcard was addressed to Anna McNeill that I read. It was from the office of a man running for congress out of an office in Union Square, Somerville, where Anna was working as a volunteer, John F. Kennedy. Anna never worked at any regular job either and died a year later.
   However, an adult did come into my life in 1949 who took an interest in me and that I related to, Louis Tannenbaum. Louis was from a Jewish family prominent in the city of Lynn in the shoe business. He fell in love with a cousin of my mother, an Irish-Catholic girl named O’Malley. He married her and his family totally disowned him. On his own, cut off from help from his father, he stayed in the shoe business and rose to the top position in a company that had a group of shoe stores in the Boston area. We visited the Tannenbaum’s house overlooking the ocean in Nahant. I met Louis. He took me seriously and I took him seriously when he told me and my mother smiling warmly that he would get me a part-time job in one of his stores where I would learn to be a shoe salesman. After school one day, I walked down the wide stairs of the Parke & Snow department store in Davis Square, Somerville, and presented myself nervously in the shoe department to another man I took seriously, a man who became my boss, Harold Schlessinger. Ever afterwards I never had any prejudice, knowing Louis and Harold, against Jews who took money and the business of making money seriously. Taking making money seriously is the only way to take it. A new game opened itself to me when I went under the wing of Harold Schlessinger, a serious game. I never saw Louis Tannenbaum again except once or twice but for two years I saw Harold Schlessinger after school days all week and for eight hours on Saturdays. I had no choice but to take him seriously but the amazing thing was that for the first time a real man took me seriously. Harold had been a rifleman in the army in the Pacific during the war and he had a devilish eye and an ear for a good joke like many a man. But he had an eye too for running Louis Tannenbaum’s business and selling shoes was no joke. Wow, did he teach me fast the fundamental truth that you should only try to sell a woman a shoe that you actually have in stock and that you can actually fit on her feet! Early in my shoe-selling career, I committed the sin of telling a customer standing by a shoe on display that she liked that we did not have it in stock in her size while she was still standing . Sit them down, that was Harold’s first principle, then measure their feet for their size and find out in our supply of shoes what you have in stock in their size that is like what they want. Forget about the actual shoe they want if you don’t have it in their size! They don’t know what they want anyway! It was a mortal sin to get customers all excited about some shoe and then find out you did not have it in stock in their size. He was a great guy Harold Schlessinger. He taught me that making money was a serious game and how to play it.


                                                                                   Chapter 5

   But playing at nothing serious was where I lived and what I enjoyed. It was a game that had bad consequences but I cared nothing at all about my future. It was like I was floating over my own being and not interested in plunging into it. How could I plunge into it? I did not have any key to unlock myself and it seemed natural to believe there was no such key. I was like everyone else. I was simply myself and there was nothing to unlock. I took learning as something natural in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades but in the tenth grade I became more and more indifferent to learning what I was supposed to learn. I think I knew instinctively that to know everything I would have to experience everything, and since this was impossible, I was happy experiencing whatever I could.
   The Concord River was a wonderful companion of my childhood and of my early years at the Boston Latin School. My father and a group of family members and friends built a small house on a cheap lot of land beside a dirt road in the countryside within walking distance of the river in the town of Billerica. They dug a well for water which we drew up in a pump beside the sink in our small kitchen. At first there was just one bedroom beside the kitchen and the rest was a large room and a big screened front porch below the exposed beams that slanted up to the roof’s peak. We had an outhouse and used kerosene lamps for light. Pine trees surrounded our little house that we called “the camp”. A stillness hung over the sight that seemed a natural part of the air. Something about the place seemed to me beautifully silent even with birds chirping and the sound of the whippoorwill going, “whip...oor... will”, “whip...oor…will”. Our dirt road was parallel to a tarred road with small houses on both sides and with the wide Concord River beside those on the right as we walked to the beach and then swam in the river. From the beach downstream to the left about a third of a mile was a bridge over the river. We boys used to walk down to the bridge, jump off and swim all the way back upstream to our small beach. It was dangerous and we could have drowned but we did it daring one another and we were happy on a summer day when we reached the safety of the land feeling we were alive and the Concord River was alive and we would all of us always be so.
   We opened  up “the camp” in the Spring after abandoning it for the Winter. I spent happy Summers there during the years when my studies at the Latin School were going well. I fished for Bass or Pickerels at one end of the bridge over the Concord River where you could step over a wire fence and walk down a short slope to where the water overflowed into a very small inlet. Pickerels were blazing fast and when they jammed their jaws in a flash onto the fishing lure that I cast and reeled in it was like a sudden new explosion of life that neither I nor anyone else knew was there but that a long slim fish struggling wiggling frantically its whole body with all its strength to free itself made real. The area beside the river where we lived was called Queensland. It was built up mainly with  cottages and small houses by working-class people from Lowell, a big mill and factory city a few miles distant. The countryside was wonderful but some of the people were tough to take. Every year when we visited our camp for the first time in the Spring, we found someone had broken into it. Sometimes they did much damage. There was talk that among some of the Italian-American families men carried guns and that there had been shootings. By the time I was fifteen in the tenth grade and had started being truant from school in Boston, when I was at Queensland in the summer I was old enough for fist-fights with boys my age. I always backed down from a fist-fight and this made me an easy conquest for every boy who needed to prove he was strong and tough and a real man. Walking from our house to the beach or to the bridge to fish aroused in me for the first time a fear that began taking bites at my being. I almost never had any problem with challenges from boys at the beach or walking to the bridge to fish, but still a kind of slight fear, slight but real, became a regular part of me. An older boy who was seventeen or eighteen, Charlie Small, always did something to hurt me when I came near him. He used to insult me calling me names and regularly punched me hard on my upper arm. What was he telling me Charlie Small about myself? I knew already I was not a fighter so he did not need to tell me that although that was part of his message. No, it was more than that. I aroused something in his being that he could not handle and it made him punch me and insult me. When I was at the beach with my brother Joe, who was a year younger than me, Charlie would make it clear to whoever was around that my brother Joe was alright. He never bothered Joe. I was Charlie’s problem.
   What is fear and where does it come from? I know it sounds strange but, even though inside myself I was fearful, I did not fear anyone. I went among people at Queensland or Boston or Somerville just like everyone else. I was not afraid of anyone or out to fight anyone and when a fist-fight with someone was possible, which happened very rarely, I simply backed down. But when I was still very young, I felt fear trying to establish itself permanently in my being. I did not think about it often. I accepted it as a regular part of me along with everything else that was a part of me. I guess people like Charlie Small sensed that there was something odd in me, that there was something within me that should not be there. He punched me to force me to know what he knew and that I refused to know in order to be what I was truly. What do you do with a fear within yourself that makes people hate you and that you can not do anything about because it is a part of you and if you begin to think it is abnormal you risk beginning to hate yourself? I did not know where my fear came from anymore than I knew where I came from.
   I never feared I was anything but myself so I enjoyed being myself the best I could in spite of my fear. The nature that surrounded me in Billerica near the Concord River expressed life in so many ways, by birds singing and the sun shining over pine trees, or the water of the river always moving full of fish swimming and my own lungs breathing as though they always knew, whether I knew or not, how to live -  in so many ways nature was fearlessly beautiful and eternal. We humans were rarely beautiful and never eternal, but nature helped me forget I was human. On the other side of the bridge over the river was a big tree with a limb hanging out over the water. We boys climbed twenty feet up the tree and swung on a long rope out over the river and let go. I was in the air like a bird and then I was plop in the river swimming like a fish. We swam in water over our heads without caring that we could drown. Near our beach, the Sullivans rented out boats. My mother and I rowed upstream on the river and when we were past a short string of houses along the shore, we rowed the boat into tall reeds growing out of the river muck. When the boat touched solid land, we got out and searched for blueberries that grow wild near the river. I was training at the Boston Latin School to become a Yankee man culturally and I was living near a river that four miles upstream narrowed and passed through Concord itself, a holy city in Yankee culture. I almost drowned in the Concord River when I was six. I stepped in a hole in deep water near the beach and stood under water until my father saw my hair sticking  over the water and pulled me up. When I was fifteen, I had a small outboard motor that I screwed onto the back of a boat and went all the way upstream to Concord. Once I was at Concord on the river and a thunderstorm came up. I reached a wooden bridge over the river and held a beam under the bridge to escape the rain. It was the bridge that the Concord writer Emerson describes in his famous poem:

                                     By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
                                     Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
                                      Here once the embattled farmers stood,
                                      And fired the shots heard round the world.

But at the time I knew little about American history or Yankee culture. I had a dog named “Buddy” who travelled with me in my boat on the Concord River. The writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Thoreau once built a boat in Concord and travelled with it on the Concord River like me and my dog Buddy.  When the four of us were on the river, we became part of the river. We flowed with it on it. We were free because we could not be anything more than ourselves united for a while with a river that could never stop flowing and being eternally itself.


                                                                                Chapter 6


    Every time I came to the Boylston Street stop on the subway, I was tempted to get off and go to the Olympia pool room instead of to the Boston Latin School. Inside the Olympia before eight o’clock in the morning only one game was usually going on at the big table just to the left of the entrance door. It was called, “the open game”. An old man named Miller with a mop of grey hair and a short beard ran the game. Anyone could play in it. Players stood round the table and from a small leather bottle he rolled out wooden pills each with a number from one up to whatever was the last number according to how many players stood at the table to enter the game. Players took shots to try to sink balls in order from one to fifteen. Miller had a wooden rack on the wall behind his seat where he kept score. A player scored points according to the number on the ball or balls that he shot successfully into a pocket. The player who earned the least number of points paid Miller 25 cents for the game. A player could thus possibly play many games for nothing. Miller had some obscene comments for every number he called out. His cleanest comment was for player number seven. “Seven up,” he would call out. “The best drink in the house.”
   I sat near Miller against the wall in one of the high metal chairs with a low metal back every time I came in. I knew that later in the day at the time students were getting out of school that I would feel bad. But this knowledge was no more than a mental abstraction early in the morning because I felt good and at peace with myself. Men of all sorts hung around the Olympia, a few of them gangsters and petty criminals, and by noon it filled up with noisy talk all around and sometimes rough talk broke out between men who were gambling money against one another. But I had no fear of anything outside or inside myself in the Olympia. I liked being there. No one ever tried to say or do anything that could in any way violate the privacy of my being. At the Boston Latin School men sought me out personally and invaded my mind with knowledge. They attacked me benevolently and for the most part avoided direct thrusts of their being against my being, but their knowledge had a cruel side. If it did not often wound or humiliate a student who could not deal with  it correctly, it sometimes did and we students always at least faced the threat of a psychological wounding. Knowledge is a weapon against ignorance and it is always eager to win their fight. The degree of skill a man had with a pool stick was the only knowledge that counted at the Olympia. We spent hours all of us knowing nothing but the path colored balls took rolling across the green cloth of a pool table towards a pocket.
   I usually went to a movie at one of the theaters on Washington Street around ten o’clock for 25 cents. For three hours imaginary humans on a huge screen in an almost empty theater spoke words about some predicament that did not involve me at all. I sat alone in the darkness free to join imaginatively in the action on the screen but at the same time perfectly safe and unmolested in my private being. When the white ball on a pool table, the cue ball, left the tip of a shooter’s pool stick and rolled towards a colored ball, fate was in play really for the two men playing the game, especially since most of the games at the Olympia were played for money. But my fate watching a game was not at play just as I was not involved fatally in what went on in a movie. Where was I and who was I when I was at the Olympia in the morning or at a movie theater? I was somewhere where I did not matter to myself or to anyone else. I had no fate. As soon as I left the street car in the Boylston Street station and pushed through the turnstile early in the morning to freedom, I escaped for a while the world working benignly or cruelly to give humans a fate. I walked up the stairs and out the door to the fresh air of a Boston morning to the place where I wanted to be, nowhere.
  After the movie out on the street around one o’clock, I was forced again to be where I did not want to be, somewhere. I usually went to the Joe and Nemo’s lunch stand on Washington Street across from the building that held the Olympia. I had a coffee and a hot dog stuffed with onions for ten cents. The crowd was usually so thick that I had to gulp down the food standing face to face to every kind of face possible. The message on the faces was everywhere the same, work, I’m working, I have to make money, It’s lunch time and I’ll soon be working again, dammit, etc.. I thought naturally as I gulped my food of my work, of the work at school I did not go to, and I began to feel bad. I had escaped for a while from something that can not be escaped. Soon I felt just as bad going home on the subway and bus to Somerville as I had felt good in the morning. Something within all of us makes us painfully remorseful whenever we do something it does not want us to do. How did it get there? How do we get rid of it? I don’t know. But I knew riding home feeling bad that like everyone else I had a fate.
   I hooked school so many times that I had to repeat the eleventh grade. By then I had quit my job as a shoe salesman because my mother decided it was causing my marks to go down. I got another part-time job in a curtain factory on Essex Street around the corner from Washington Street and the Olympia pool room. As a result, I was near the Olympia every school day whether I hooked school or not. I got to know the garment district well because I travelled all over it delivering curtains from my factory. I was in and out of the Olympia all the time. I became a regular in downtown Boston and I developed strong feelings for it. I worked with three Italian-Americans in the curtain factory, two middle-aged women and a man. They always smiled warmly when I came in to work at three in the afternoon and each said hello to me. It felt good to be with them condemned by fate to work but smiling at life and not fighting it. I remember Friday afternoons at five o’clock when all the factories closed how it felt in the crowds of workers on Washington Street on their way home to their families happy to have earned money and to be free. The women I worked with walked up Washington Street back home to the North End, an Italian-American district. They passed the big Department Stores on Washington Street and then passed lower down on Washington Street the buildings that held the three Boston newspapers. Men from the Financial District that was nearby, dressed in suits and hats, stood looking up at the news items that flashed across the big electric signs near the top of a building. I wish I could recreate what it was like the experience in those days of old Boston when the work week was over. The crowds on Washington street hurried with a kind of happy frenetic rush to get the weekend started feeling free and happy. The two women, my fellow workers, stopped further on in Dock Square at the push carts in the open market near Faneuil Hall. They bought fresh bread and Italian cold cuts to fuel the enjoyment of their sudden liberty.
   I hooked over a hundred times in the eleventh grade and I could not stop hooking even by 1952 when I was repeating the eleventh grade and should have been graduating with my class that year in June 1953. I was still however, when I was at school, a good student. I learned most of what I know about the English language from my teachers who spoke English at a very high level. I learned Latin and my knowledge of it was strengthened by studying it in the eleventh grade at the same level twice. I had by then a solid knowledge of French which I also repeated. But my marks went down because of my absences and as I approached the midyear of my second year in the eleventh grade something had to change. Fate pushed me in a new direction.
  The Boston Latin School was free to Boston residents but I lived in Somerville, which is closer to downtown Boston than many parts of Boston but not a part of Boston. My mother had a cousin living in Boston and she decided that I should lie and give a false address, her cousin’s address, so I could attend the Latin School free. I always felt uncomfortable giving a false address and I never developed friendships with boys who might have travelled back and forth with me to school from the same neighborhood in Boston. I am something of a loner naturally and lying about my address at the Boston Latin School made me more of a loner there. I always became nervous when talking with friends at school and our talk turned to the subject of where each of us lived. I had no idea what it was like living in the area of Boston where I was supposed to be living. Also, the reason I hooked so many days without getting caught was because officials at school could not contact my parents at my false address. The situation helped fate give me an easy way out of my failure as a student. Since by the midyear of my second year in the eleventh grade I was in danger of failing again for the year, my mother and I decided that I should tell school officials that I had moved to Somerville and that I had to transfer to Somerville High. Fate decided that I should again walk to the right on Medford Street in Somerville to go to school. But now instead of walking straight ahead all the way to Saint Anne’s elementary school, I turned to the left a short distance from my house and walked up the path beside the Somerville Library and then along beside the green fields of the park to the Somerville High School.



                                                                                     Chapter 7

   
    I was a delinquent but I was a well educated delinquent. In my first three years at Boston Latin, I had a B plus average which was the equivalent of a straight A or A plus average at other high schools. I fit in easily in my classes at Somerville High and I never hooked school. The high school was a short walk from my house and I had only to attend a few classes that were mostly not challenging and walk out and back home free in the early afternoon. Phil Sadowski was at the high school then and he hooked but I did not. He continued being delinquent and as soon as he turned eighteen joined the army but the easy time I had with my studies turned me as soon as I settled into a routine at Somerville High into an average American boy. The sins I had committed during my time at the Latin School were forgiven overnight. Somerville High purified me. Of course I was supposed to feel bad that I had failed at the Latin School but with my way of floating through life I did not. At the end of my first year at Somerville High, I knew somewhere in my mind that at least 30 students in my class at Boston Latin had been accepted at Harvard. Around 30 Boston Latin students were accepted every year. The knowledge did not bother me at all and I also cared little about where I was headed after Somerville High. I was now just like all the other boys my age in Somerville. No one knew I was a delinquent.
   When I was in the sixth grade at Saint Anne’s, I fantasized about possible love relationships with pretty girls in my class. The nearness of girls had opened up romantic areas of feeling in me that were thwarted by my years in an all-boys school. Phil Sadowski and I had concocted together adventures with girls but they were short-lived. At Somerville High, they put me in a homeroom with students who were doing general studies. At that time, they classed all students into either the college section or a general section. In the general section, the girls trained to become employees working machines at businesses like the telephone company or insurance companies. They put me in a seat in my homeroom beside a beautiful girl, Joan McDonald. She totally sent my imagination into wild romantic frolics she was so beautiful with the gentle slopes of her skin on her pretty face and her long brownish blond hair and her red lips that I would have given away anything to kiss. She was beside me every morning looking over pages in a book about business matters and I was silent beside her like a ghost inhabiting another world not knowing even one word to speak in a language that might say something real to the beautiful human person, Joan McDonald. She was the first of many girls and women that I never spoke to or touched and that I could have loved if I knew the words of love and how to speak them.
   As time passed at Somerville High, I made four friends and one of them became over time my closest friend, Tom DiNitto. Vinny DeAngelis, Frank Calia, Joe Dellagrotte and Tom DiNitto were four top students in the college section that they assigned me to. Vinny DeAngelis became president of the class of 1954 and was a fellow student of mine in the most advanced Latin classes. Somerville High had a well developed Latin program. Everyone had to study Latin for five years at Boston Latin. Ironically, because of my delinquency and repeating a year, I ended up, adding my Latin studies at Somerville High, with a solid six years of high-school Latin. I learned more Latin than many Latin students at Boston Latin. Vinny deAngelis and I both excelled in Latin. In most of the other classes, I did well with around a B average except I easily got a straight A in French. Most students at Boston Latin breezed through French because we began the study in the ninth grade after two solid years of Latin which made French grammar simple in comparison.
   In a geometry class that I was assigned to and that included the four boys who later became my friends, the teacher berated and even insulted our class. He was a tyrant. I was amazed sitting in the back of the class that my new fellow students sat in total, fearful silence waiting for Mr. Beaver to enter the class. He would always have something cross to say to the whole class before he began teaching. When I had been in the class twice, he discovered I had transferred from the Boston Latin School. He began using me as ammunition to shoot down my fellow students. He would talk about how I was a real student from a real school and how they were lowly Somerville High students. At the end of each geometry problem, when the proof was finished, the abbreviation Q.E.D.  was always written. Mr Beaver, when  I had been in the school and the class just a few days, suddenly, after extolling me as a Boston Latin student, asked me, with all the class listening, what Q.E.D. meant. Even though I had been delinquent, I knew Latin grammar. Q.E.D. is the abbreviation of the Latin, Quod erat demonstrandum. One of the most difficult grammatical problems in Latin is the use of the gerund and the gerundive. My teachers at the Latin School had been hammering the knowledge of the gerund and gerundive into our heads for years because it is essential knowledge in order to gain the skill necessary to read advanced classical Latin. Demonstrandum is a gerund. “It means,” I said as if it were the most natural thing in the world, because it was, “Quod erat demonstrandum”, “What had to be proved.” The words came out of me so naturally that I did not think that it might have been more diplomatic and helped me make friends if I had said I did not know. But I did know and there again was an example of knowledge being used as a means to hurt people. My four future friends were in the class. They all were intelligent motivated students preparing for college. They did not hold my support for Mr Beaver’s arguments against me. In fact, they admired my knowledge. One of them, Frank Calia, who was accepted at Harvard the following year, remarked to me more than once, “You learned everything you know at the Boston Latin School”. He was right. But I wanted nothing to do with most of the knowledge teachers dispensed at Boston Latin and I left them without regret.
   I felt deeply alone at Somerville High. Luckily, I did have a friend, Jack McKinnon, who was a senior during my first year. I met Mac and another boy, Bob O’Conner, when I was a shoe salesman in Davis Square. I used to hang around after work in a combination pool room and bowling alley in the square on Day Street. The three of us smoked cigarettes, drank whiskey out of a bottle, and talked crazy talk together. Once cut off from hanging out in downtown Boston, Davis Square became for me the place to go to look for action. The three of us loved to hang around the square late at night and watch the drunken crowds that came out of the six bars in the square. Davis Square had a big triangular open space where six streets came together. A big crowd would come out of the bars when they closed and walk across the triangular space dodging the few cars that came through late at night. Many drinkers ended up at the  Waldorf Cafeteria with three big windows looking out over the empty triangular space. The three of us would eat and drink coffee in the Waldorf and talk as crazily as we could late into the morning. The only thing we talked about with reason and logic was baseball which the three of us loved. Jack McKinnon was the most reasonable of us. I remember once Mac said after we had talked crazy talk, “We don’t believe anything of what we say.” That was why it was fun. Our wild thoughts about things helped us escape from the world that was preparing for us a fate. We were nowhere nights talking at the Waldorf Cafeteria and it was beautiful. At Somerville High, we students for lunch could leave school and walk across Highland Avenue to a store that served drinks and sandwiches. We ate and drank and smoked cigarettes free for a few moments from the regimentation in the High School. Mac and I went there for lunch. It was great to have someone to help me fight my loneliness.
   Tom DiNitto was the first boy my age who thought real, serious, revolutionary thoughts. In my English class in my college section, we had intelligent discussions usually generated by whatever we were reading. But the political realities of those days in the first half of the 1950s sometimes influenced our discussions. I had myself absolutely no interest in politics. I heard like everyone the anticommunist talk on television at hearings where congressmen denounced suspected communists fiercely and also people they considered “fellow travellers” and “pinkos”. Cardinal Cushing, the spiritual leader of us Catholics, was forever condemning publically in his rasping, stentorian voice “atheistic communism”. For someone like myself forever floating along but always deadly serious about protecting my inner life from harsh intrusions from outside, anticommunist preaching was not much more than a lot of unnecessary noise. I later got to know many working-class people by hanging around Davis Square and by drinking in the bars. I can state with certainty that there were no communists in Davis Square and the people there were totally loyal patriotic Americans who were completely indifferent to the anticommunist harping that went on. However, Thomas DiNitto was a communist. I first heard him speak his ideas in one of our college section English classes. We had a very nice elderly Wasp teacher who loved to take time out from her regular curriculum for discussions on general subjects. Tom DiNitto sat at the back of the class assigned to it as a study period. One day our teacher asked Tom smiling what he thought of what we were discussing. I looked back at a boy with black hair and dark eyes with a big hooked nose. His expression was half a smile and half a look of contempt that clearly made me feel that he knew the truth about the matter and he was going to tell it regardless of the consequences. “What we need in Somerville High and in Somerville and in this corrupt fascist country,” he let out quickly in a loud, bold voice, “is a partisan movement like the Russians created behind the lines when they were invaded by the German fascist murders.” We were all of us turned looking at him. His face had now a determined, happy look as though he loved with his whole soul what he was saying. “That’s what we need,” said Frank Calia in a tone that was lightly humorous and not completely serious. He knew Tom DiNitto well and enjoyed his ideas without agreeing with them. “We should start a partisan movement right here in Somerville High.” Tom grabbed the floor from Frank and said in a booming voice with passion, “The German fascist murderers came to Stalingrad and my heroic brother Russians fought them to the death and surrounded and captured the whole of the German Fifth Army. They came to Stalingrad the fascists and now the fascists are in Washington collecting tax money for greedy politicians from poor exploited American workers.” I loved to think. In my loneliness with my feelings of fear I thought all the time about everything. That day I learned how powerfully thoughts could be expressed by someone who really believed in them.
   I had a driver’s license and sometimes used my mother’s car. In my senior year at Somerville High, when I had gotten to know Frank Calia and Tom DiNitto better, I used to take our 195I Dodge to go to Sunday mass. Instead of going to mass, I picked up Frank and Tom as though to take them with me to church and instead we went to a brand new drive-in restaurant. It had big panes of glass wherever possible and blue and red paint and a girl would come to our car smiling in a uniform to take our order. We would talk jokingly about whatever happy to be for a while on our own. The two of them along with Joe Dellagrotte and Vinny DeAngelis were putting on a play at the high school and they got me to join the cast as the leading man. I was tall and thin with black hair and a handsome thin face that had a touch of girlish beauty to it. I had just a few lines in the play that I delivered nervously but for the first time I became the member of a youthful group. One of the girls in it that I did not know very well approached me one day and told me forcefully but with embarrassment that she was willing to be my girl friend. The beautiful Joan McDonald had made me speechless and with this girl I was calm and able to talk easily but I said nothing that could start a relationship with her. It might have been simply that I did not find her attractive. Also, in those days girls like her did not, as we used to say, “put out”. The movies we saw were all about romance with a lot of kissing but no sex. The big thing for boys our age was to get a car and go “parking” with a girl. A parking spot in Medford, the next town from Somerville, near the Mystic Lakes was a great place to go parking at night. Parking was allowed but sex for us somehow was not usually front and center in our minds. In my senior year, I got my own car, a 1938 Dodge, and Mac and Bob O'Connor, “Okie”, my friends from Davis Square, and I used it to ride around trying to pick up girls. That was allowed too. Girls would walk around with one another and were willing to be picked up as long as they were not alone. Once two or three of them were squeezed beside us in my car, fooling around and kisses were possible but there was no sex either in our movies or in my car.
   One night we gave three girls a ride home from a roller-skating rink and a girl named Judy, who happened to sit beside me, immediately went after me and eventually captured me. She pressed close to me in the car and would not leave me at her house without writing out for me her phone number and making me promise to call her. I called and on our first date we went to a new restaurant with bright lights, booths with colored vinyl seat-covers,  a jukebox and 27 kinds of donuts. She sat close to me in my car and we started kissing again and again in the parking lot before we went in the restaurant. After eating and listening to music, we kissed again in the parking lot and then went parking and kissed some more. She had a dark complexion and an attractive face with dark brown eyes and she was built, as the vulgar expression of those days went, “like a brick shithouse.” She told me that night on our first date she wanted to be my girlfriend and I said okay. We dated a few times and one night when I stopped at Davis Square before picking her up, I met up with Mac and Okie. They were all excited about a run-down bar they had discovered nearby in the city of Cambridge. The bar served anyone of any age. It was a problem for us trying to find bars to drink in. I went with them drinking and stood up Judy. When I called her she was furious and still furious when I hung up. I never called her again. I knew while I was dating her that I had an advantage over her because she had so insisted on being my girl friend. I kept after her to start doing more with me than kissing but she would not give way. I broke off with her but Judy made me feel confident about the girls in my future. I dreamed of a girl with Joan McDonald’s kind of beauty. I had loved kissing Judy but she did nothing to satisfy the deep longing in my heart and soul to unite my whole being with the divinely beautiful feelings in some beautiful girl’s soul that would fill my soul with both peace and ecstasy.
   She was ordinary poor Judy and it was not her fault. She was like most people in the fifties. She accepted everything around her as natural and especially herself. She captured me and would not let me go like I was one of the new advanced washing machines. She picked me up, paid for me with her kisses and was all set to attach me to herself for a long, long time, as long as I lasted like some new machine. I never sensed there was anything deep within her and neither did she. People of the fifties accepted naturally every new product that the roaring economy offered and grabbed one and made it their own. I was all about what was inside me and they seemed after only what was outside. I stood Judy up that night because Mac and Okie, like I, were after something new but unordinary. They found a bar in an old building in Cambridge, a city bordering Somerville. They needed my car to get there. We drank beer after beer in glasses with narrow stems like wine glasses but with big wide goblets above that held lots of beer. We drank and talked among people dressed like they had just left some factory and were out to escape everything by getting drunk. We talked and talked until we barely knew what we were saying with the air clouded with smoke and the jukebox playing music and by that time we were so drunk we were happy saying anything. Alcohol loosened whatever was in my soul although I did not care whether I had a soul or not. When the bar closed, we made it back happy and drunk to Davis Square. We went in the Waldorf Cafeteria and talked our crazy talk late into the early morning. Judy was home stood up and furious. Something extraordinary had happened to her and she was furious. But I knew she would get over it. She was a strong person. She had her feet on the ground. She was sure soon to go on again accepting like everyone else that what was ordinary should be ordinary. Judy was sure to be ordinary again and I was sure to go on without her searching among very ordinary people for something beautiful and peaceful in my soul, if I had one.
   Davis Square soothed my being. I loved the place. I never met anyone there who cared anything at all about the meaning of life or were worried about their lower-class condition or ever asked who they were. They seemed all of them to just drift along through life like me without any solid plans for the future or any worries about how to get there. They never thought they should take life one day at a time because that was how they took it and never thought about it. Okie had an older brother tall and slim like him with a big beer belly. He was wild and a great talker and drank beer in the bars in the square like it was water. He was always thirsty. A railroad track ran through the square passing along one edge of the open triangular space. It crossed Holland Street, which came into the square at the tip of the triangular space, and went by the Pine Tree Diner. The policemen who worked the square handcuffed Okie’s brother to the wooden barrier beside the track next to the diner one night and beat him with their fists. He came back from his stay in their jail still joyous and ready always for a good laugh and a happy night of drinking. He married a tall Italian-American girl. After the ceremony at church, Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans filled up a hall where they ate and drank and danced. Someone jumped up on the stage in front of the orchestra and screamed angrily, “Play an Irish song”, and that was it. A brawl. A wild mad time like the way the groom, Okie’s brother, and the people in the square lived. There were fist-fights regularly when the bars closed but I never felt fearful there or sensed when I came in contact with strangers that they were eager for a fight. Working-class people are repressed but the best of them do not give up living joyously because they have little money. Okie quit school as soon as he was sixteen and went to work. He dreamed of buying a new car but he never got together enough money because he was in and out of work through a carelessness about everything, especially work, that was natural to him. Mac graduated from Somerville High the first year I was there, but he had no interest in going to college and joined the army more or less because he had nothing else to do. Okie and Mac were Davis Square men. They did not care very much why they did this or that and did whatever came their way. They were happy doing things people in the square did even if they led nowhere.
   My senior year I drove my car to a part-time job I found as a shoe salesman in Watertown. I usually stopped in Davis Square to hang out on my way home. Saturday nights Okie and I would drive into Boston and drink in bars with our fake identification papers that proved we were twenty-one. It was exciting going in a downtown bar with big lights flashing out front and joining inside a big crowd talking and drinking and on the make. We never knew what we would find in the bars or even why we were there but the darkness inside and the noise of the talk and the women sitting here and there filled us with the hope of some new unknown impossible happiness that might suddenly burst into our lives and fill our insides with joy. The liquor we drank fired us with impossible expectations. Something extraordinary did sometimes happen. One night a man pulled out a gun and pointed it at us in the men’s room. Another night sitting at the bar, I overheard a young man next to me dressed like us in suits telling his companion to his left that he was going to take his beer bottle and smash it in the face of a man sitting at the bar to his companion’s left. He got up from his seat and did it. I can still hear somewhere in my mind the smash of his bottle against a defenseless man’s face. Everywhere then the whole bar became completely without a sound in dreadful, fearful silence. Then there were confused movements and loud talk and shouts and a woman’s scream. Okie and I got what we wanted. We got action. Sometimes we talked to young women and drove them home to strange places like Roslindale and Hyde Park. We parked in front of their houses and they rewarded us with kisses for our gallantry. We felt far away from Davis Square at night in downtown Boston. It was another world.
   Tufts University was also another world from Davis Square although it was located only about three miles from the square in the town of Medford. College Avenue was one of the six streets that entered Davis Square and when it ended a mile away at a rotary circle, you could see to the left green open fields beginning and beyond the fields at a good distance the dormitories and then the academic buildings of Tufts up on a hill. I had no real desire to attend Tufts University. Harvard University was also fairly close to Davis Square. You could walk down either of two streets that entered the square, Day Street or Dover Street, to a broad avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and take a bus about three miles to Harvard Square and Harvard University. I had no real desire to go to Harvard either. I was a Davis Square man in my feelings and Tufts and Harvard really did exist for me as foreign places. On the other hand, by my senior year I often visited the substantial Somerville Library near my house and I had begun reading widely and freely works that fired my imagination and aroused thoughts in me that opened paths to deep and true sentiments. I remember finding in the stacks by chance, which is the way I liked to discover books, Tolstoy’s “What Is Art?”. It thrilled me that he judged great art as worthy only if it stimulated deep, worthy feelings in the soul. I loved that he rejected his own great novels, “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” as being worthless. I admired the power of his person and of his mind as he unleashed tirades rejecting contemporary European art as decadent and worthless. He detested Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer, prominent in his time in English literature, as a decadent. It is evidence of my open mindedness that I remained an admirer of Tolstoy and grew to appreciate Oscar Wilde. I read whatever I wished. I loved the freedom to simply take a book by chance and go with it wherever it led my mind and soul. I discovered Ernest Hemingway and read, “A Farewell to Arms”. It aroused my imagination greatly and touched my emotions deeply. I was fired with the thought of visiting Italy and drinking a grappa like Hemingway’s hero in an Italian city like Milan at a zinc bar. In fact, I often visited Frank Calia in his house and drank a little wine with his father who was a hard-working laborer who was born in Italy. I learned as much Italian from him as I could, determined to someday go to Italy and drink a grappa at a zinc bar. I found out from Frank’s father with Frank’s help that grappa was a hard drink that was made from what was left of grapes after they had been turned into juice for wine. Frank loved to joke with me good naturedly about my crazy idea to drink grappa at a zinc bar. By chance, Frank’s house was on Ossipee Road just a short walk from Tufts University. I went there in January of my senior year for an interview. I acted at the interview as though I desired to be admitted. It was the only college that I applied to. I wanted to live in my imagination and studying at a college was a goal far from foremost in my mind.
   I walked up one day the broad steep cement stairway that lead up around forty steps to the main entrance to Tufts. Tufts was at the top of the highest hill in Medford in the area that is known as Medford Hillside. The main campus that I entered at the top of the stairs had a long broad open area with green grass in the middle of several buildings at its edges. It was a well thought out beautiful space up on a hill. It had the shape of a typical New England village with a typical village green but it was ideally constructed and detached from regular life up on a hill. I liked the man who interviewed me. He was big and intelligent and cheery. I calmed down soon enough and we talked. When he looked through my high school record, he said that he saw that I had attended Boston Latin School before Somerville High. He did not come right out and say that I had failed at Boston Latin. He even said some complimentary things about my marks there. When he noted that I had transferred to Somerville High, however, I caught a nuance in his tone of voice that he was judging my transfer negatively. My confidence slipped away and I felt nervous. I no longer cared at all whether I would be accepted or not and just wanted the interview to be over. There was a pause in our talk and we looked at each other eye to eye. “I think you reach a point,” I said without being completely serious but with a steady voice, “where you have to decide who you are and where you want to go. I know I’ve finally reached that point.” My words got us past the shaky part of my high-school history. I was soon out of his office free again of all concern about my future walking past the green grass and then on the cement steps going downhill, very happy the interview was over. I did not know if Tufts would accept me or not but I was not worried about it one way or the other. I had my imagination. I had many books to read and I had my soul. I had everything I needed.
   I walked every school day to the right down Medford Street and then at a short distance, at Walnut Street, up the cement path beside the Library building towards the high school. One morning Phil Sadowski and Neal Briggs, dressed in army uniforms, were sitting on a bench waiting for me. Phil was shorter than me at around five feet seven. He always had a live eager look in his dark eyes as if he had just discovered or was about to discover some daring thing to do. I saw his eyes beaming at me that morning. His friend Neal stood next to him smiling as I approached them. Phil told me excitedly that they had gone awol from the army and had run out of money. I gave them all the money I had. Later I met them at Davis Square with more money and we ate and drank. They surrendered to the army the next day and a few days later I drove in my car to visit them at the army prison at Fort Devens about 40 miles from Somerville. After they served time, Phil was sent to Korea but luckily by that time, 1954, the Korean War was over.
   I had another adventure that year, my first fist-fight. Okie and I drank a lot and had a losing fight with three guys at an amusement park. One of them was a student in the high school. We confronted each other in a crowded corridor in the high school. I whacked him as hard as I could on the side of his head and he grabbed me and wrestled me down to the floor. A teacher broke up the short fight and we both were sent home. I earned the rest of the day off for my bravery and it did nothing to alter my good academic standing. It was a positive experience that taught me that even someone like myself who feared fighting could still fight.
   Towards the end of my senior year the big thing was the senior prom. I had no girlfriend and was not dating anyone. As the day of the prom approached, the number of girls still undated for the big night thinned out. Vinny DeAngelis, the class president, had a brief list of who was available. He was concerned for me because he and Frank Calia and Tom DiNitto had dates and they wanted me and my date to be the fourth couple in their group. They planned to rent transportation to go to a nightclub in Boston. Vinny gave me the names of who were available and I observed at a good distance girls who were far from being paragons of beauty. By chance, I knew casually a girl who worked at the store where I worked in Watertown. She was a beauty with black hair and flashing dark eyes and a great figure. She was no longer working at the store around prom time but I knew her name and knew she went to Watertown High. I found her last name listed for Watertown and telephoned her. I figured that although she had no interest in me as a boy friend, she nonetheless might desire to display her extraordinary beauty in a brilliant gown at the Somerville prom. I talked to her over the phone. She remembered who I was and agreed to go to the prom with me. I picked her up at her house dressed in a white gown looking like the proverbial million dollars which seemed that night as her beauty flashed at me and made my heart sink like a billion dollars. I gave her a corsage that she pinned on her gown. I walked into the crowd of my fellow students at the Somerville High gymnasium with a goddess beside me. She looked like a goddess and if any poor human can look as beautiful as my date did that night, she is a goddess. The extraordinary can happen in life. Everything does not have to be always ordinary. If we take time to look closely, it is even possible to discover sometimes the extraordinary in what is most ordinary. Something divine sometimes peeks out of average human eyes and an ordinary girl as beautiful as a goddess glowed beside me that night divinely. We went to a nightclub in Boston and I drank, alone of us four boys, real liquor beside my goddess with my fake identification papers proving I was twenty-one. She allowed me later one kiss. I knew what it was like to kiss a goddess. I also knew by that night late in May that I had been accepted into the class of 1958 at Tufts University.



NOTE: The rest of his biological material has been fashioned by Daniel McNeill into the novel, "Whacks, Women and Wanderings in the Soul".  Go to "Fiction" to read the complete novel. 
   


 Click the URL to view a display of Daniel McNeill's books:  www.amazon.com/author/graceisall
   

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