Aug 12, 2007

Chapter One - Morning in Ohio

9:00 O’Clock, on a Wednesday morning. A man is jumping around a lower-middle class apartment; he is wearing his pajamas. There is indiscriminate, yet melodious punk rock falling out of the speakers of his hi-fi. A box of half-eaten donuts sits on a giant wooden desk in a room appearing to have once been a den. Next to the donuts sits a copy of “The Economist” that had never been read, which is sitting on top of three James Michener books, that will never be read. This den is that of a person who wants a mission, but hasn’t quite got one. Random “to do” lists are seen, collecting dust.
March 14th, 2001
5:30 a.m.- working coffee at diner (postponed)
9:00 a.m. meet msgr. o’herlihy about aid to africa (postponed)
11:00 a.m. prep. for speech
7:00 p.m. LBJ movie on cable – HBO or Showtime
Oh, the potential we are witnessing, might the author of these lists think; if there were time for such self-indulgence. But today is a workday, and moments must not be watered down with what-might-have-beens.
A coffee pot begins its cycle, mixing the gentle sound of water trickling, with a noticeable pattern to the steam rising from the machine, dancing around through the lighted kitchen. In the next room, on the TV, as the theme song to a morning news show[1] was just starting. The volume from the stereo was competing with the music – but on that morning, the man didn’t want to pick one or the other. There are posters on the walls; framed by the smoke rising from the toaster. The Ramones. The Who’s Tommy. An old, ripped panorama of the Colorado front range. The Brandenburg Gate. A campaign promo from Ford-Dole ’76; a laminated puzzle of St. Peter’s Basilica. Among this, a small brown dog sits at the door with a knowing look.
“Zephyr, you think you can hold it until I’m out of the shower?”
“I don’t even have any pants on. Jeez, Zeph, be good.”
This man, now in a terrycloth bathrobe, stands in the courtyard he shares with his neighbors, not as one who had been ready for coffee and a shower, but now just as a lifeline to a hound who would certainly get the hell away from him, if only that were possible. Zephyr liked the fresh air and perched himself on something akin to a pitcher’s mound, relaxing for a moment in the dirty mix that was a remnant of the winter snow. The dog lay down, and stuck all four of his feet right into the air, to enjoy the gentle arms of the morning sun.
“Zeph, come on. Go. I am in a hurry, fella. Do this one for me”.
More silence. The dog, it seemed, had a mind of its own. Of course, Steve expected that of Zephyr, and would not -could not –let himself be angry.
The man in the bathrobe gave in, to an extent, getting down on the earth next to his dog, offering to scratch the belly of the beast in exchange for an expedited whizzing. Zephyr, as was his custom, was being difficult. There was an unspoken hammer waiting to fall; the master would tie the dog to the gate and go back inside if the need be. Would that happen today? There was something lacking to this carrot and stick approach. Zephyr was patently indifferent as to which burdened him to his leash, be it a frustrated owner, or a rust metal gate. It was the man’s own sense of patriarchal duty that kept them both outdoors; he couldn’t abandon his best friend. Playing a psychological trick on Zephyr, the man looked up at the sky, feigning a disinterest. Would the unwatched kettle then boil?
Not three minutes later, Zephyr was done, and the two went inside. Eureka.
“Rats” said the man, as he realized he had left the shower running while out with Zephyr.
This was Steve Samuels at home. He was in a hurry, because he had to leave. He was in a hurry, the sort of which people wait for. Steve was an instructor of American History, at Gomer Community College, in his hometown of Gomer, Ohio. Usually, at this time of the day he’d be making plans to drive to work. But not today. Instead, he was waiting for a ride. A friend of his –a lady- was going to pick him up today, and he was on his best behavior.
As a Gomerite quite comfortable in the prestigious halls of Junior College Academia, he had been invited to set up a booth at the local high school Career Day – today. His normal routine was interrupted, and he was glad about that. He felt good about the work he was about to do. He had gotten up early – after staying up late – to refine his remarks, to the kids – no, young adults – in attendance. They should stay in school. They should follow their dreams. They should obey their mothers and fathers and maybe, just maybe, if they were lucky, they would see the finest successes of this expansive country. Steve believed this. His charges had a good life ahead of them. And so, for that day, on Career Day, he would have their attention. In that august body of Gomer High School, for a moment, Steve was their conduit to greatness. Of course, it wasn’t clear at all whether the charges, the captive audience would see Steve in this capacity. The little “secret” Steve was keeping to himself was evident to most anyone – Steve was most concerned about an audience of precisely one.
So Steve had washed his white dress shirt, taking it to the cleaners for extra starch, got a haircut, and new razor blades, just to prepare himself for his morning. Today was a workday, yes, but a workday not ordinary. He was too preoccupied to notice the shaving cream behind his ear.
After settling on a pair of light brown trousers and wing-tipped shoes, Steve put on a blazer, one of many he had, and took a sip of scalding coffee, making sure his breath mints were in his coat pocket. With that, he sat at his desk, and watched the phone. He was too preoccupied to notice the shoe polish on his pantleg. To kill time – he began to thumb through a copy of The Economist, next to a box of donuts.

“Will this phone ever…”
“I must not give the impression I am waiting by the phone.” thought Steve.
“Hello, you’ve reached the residence of Steve Sam…..”
“Dang!!” said Steve out loud.
“Steve, I am just leaving home. I’ll be out front in just a couple minutes”.
“Cool, Jenna, see you in a few!”
Thus began a very good morning for Steve. Jenna Kasner was a woman Steve met when they were both in graduate school - she for her first time, he for his third. From time to time, Steve would correspond with her, and on rarer occasions, they would work together. Jenna was three years younger than Steve, and light years ahead of him in every way. She too had taught at Gomer, for four months, and recently competed directly with Steve for a junior position on the History faculty at the University of Northern Ohio[2]. He had mortified himself by walking right past her on his way out of his interview. He saw her, but simply didn’t recognize her – it took a “Hey…Samuels!?” from her to smack him back into reality. He was too preoccupied with the questions that had been asked of him[3] during his interview to notice anyone – anything -else[4]. But wow – here was Jenna Kasner. Why – she’d cream those interviewers!
Against his nature, Steve was not jealous of her when she was hired. In fact, he was delighted. Their chance, dumb encounter invented a reason to visit her office. He called her, and she was most enthusiastic. Steve felt that perhaps – just maybe – the old sparks might come back.
They had met as teacher’s assistants at that very college (she in her field—history, he in someone else’s--- Business Associations), he had attempted to make small talk with her, to the topic of corporations in America. Steve felt they had made an immediate connection; for she “knew her stuff”. They spoke of robber barons, they spoke of piercing the corporate veil- you see, Jenna was from the world of big business in a small town. Her mother had, at one time, been a shareholder of Gomer’s own Delicious Dairy, Inc. As a small girl, Jenna would read through the quarterly reports when playing CEO with her friends. This youthful narrative gave Steve the hook he needed to bring her into his world, and to plant his feet in hers. The prominence of the Kasner family in Ohio stood in contrast with the complete anonymity of all things Samuels. That, Steve thought, made them a very good fit for each other.
And thus began his famous charm offensive.
After their first couple weeks at the college, he knew the time was right. He looked through his files, and dug out his one published work (“Fiduciary Duties of Shareholders of Closely Held Corporations – Not Your Father’s World Anymore”.) He would give her a copy - as a token of their common interests. Steve placed his “paper” in his backpack, next to his lunch, and went to school, to show The Esteemed Kasner that there was more to him than she may have thought. She took his pamphlet, and realized quickly that Steve had missed the boat regarding his business analysis – he was really completely wrong- but he had several of his facts and figures right, and wrote with a mildly entertaining cadence. She wondered what reason he had ever had for spending so much time about that topic, but she enjoyed the melodrama of the business world, quietly making corrections to his work in her own mind, intending to raise those issues when they would next meet. That is precisely what she did, and Steve found her critique – strangely enriching[5]. That’s how they came to know each other. In the five intervening years, they had never again talked of corporations, but they became fast friends because of his mundane efforts, and her grace in deflecting them. He thought well of her from the first time they had met, and consequently dearly enjoyed these moments. It did not hurt that Jenna was easy on the eyes. Very easy on the eyes.
Just as Steve started to lose himself within the confines of his and Jenna’s younger years, the doorbell rang, and there she was. In person -and ready for….Career Day.
Upon Jenna’s arrival, Steve promptly stopped caring about his duties at Gomer, stopped reminiscing to himself about how they met, and readied himself right away for a discussion as to her latest work[6] – for she was an academic, thinking with a generosity of intellect that people around Steve generally missed. Who was this self-possessed woman, with a fondness for History, and a firecracker’s wit? Who was she? Steve wanted to know, and he was quite pleased that she had offered him the freedom, within his own persona, to meet her. Although they were not particularly close, he felt that they enjoyed each other’s company. Perhaps what they enjoyed was well-defined, with clearly established confines, but it was enjoyment – legitimate enjoyment.
And so they found themselves as ‘lecturers’ at Career Day, at Gomer High. Jenna was invited to speak to the students, because of her great successes in her chosen field, having found that success at an age more relevant to the young people. Steve, because the local Episcopal Priest was called out of state at the last minute, and he was the only person available at a day’s notice. Of course, Steve would have cancelled his own Baptism to attend such an event.
Ever thinking, he called Jenna immediately. He had seen an advertisement for Career Day on public access television, and was certain her name was on the list of presenters. Fancying himself persuasive, he convinced her that they should…carpool. She agreed.
Career day at Gomer High meant a great deal to the two educators. Steve intended to connect with the kids who would one day walk the halls of government and commerce; the future decision-makers. Jenna would in fact connect with the kids who would one day walk the halls of government and commerce. Steve would in fact scare off potential students. Nonetheless, Steve was sure that they would put on a good show together. Jenna was bright, and Steve had waited, perhaps a little too quietly, to meet her in an arena different than the coffee shops and bars of Gomer. Neither one of them was a wild socialite, but they were indeed young, and once, they played. One time years back, a time Steve thought about often, he and Jenna danced at a concert – a Salvation Army fundraiser by a local cover band at the college- to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”[7]. Steve was in good form, because he was drunk, and he knew all the words. He preached those words to her, and he wondered if there was a hint of possibility, in Jenna’s mind. He knew there was at that moment, he could feel it. Would but there a be little of that in the world outside of special occasions and reasons to celebrate, would there be such in a nine to five?
That was the question, and he knew it was on him as well as on her- she’d been playful, as had he, and it was on them to define that, or to pass it away. Steve’s own instinct was to honor those moments as one may a touchstone, something to hold close, keeping them once, then only remembering. But he also knew that was not the right way to become a full-grown person. He didn’t quite know where she was, but he knew where he wanted to be. There would be time to find out more about her, and there would be time for Steve to offer her a little more of himself. He would offer her a view of himself at Career Day, even as he made every attempt to keep those personal thoughts hidden. They would, perhaps, come back. But not before the day’s work was done.

[1] “Good Morning, Gomer”, with local celebs. Rick Hadley and Marnie Peppers,until recently, Marnie Hadley. But they still get along in public.
[2] At their common Alma Mater. Steve couldn’t stand UNO while he and Jenna were there - he always saw himself as more of a Harvard or Yale man - but ever since beginning at Gomer Community College, he understood how nice it would be to move to the university across the river – into his own office. And, to be sure, he liked the idea of seeing more of Jenna, for they would then be colleagues.
[3] Such as “…have you ever even had a real job?”
[4] He was not called back.
[5] We are beginning to see a pattern here. Although Jenna was indeed a born teacher, Steve was certainly not a born student. In spite of that, he took her terms as indeed something offered as help- in that, he learned.
[6] She was beginning work on a short article on Jean Faircloth MacArthur, wife of the famed General.
[7] “Come and get your love, come and get your love, come and get your love, come and get your love now; Come and get your love, come and get your love, come and get your love now.”
(c) Copyright 1973 by Novaline & Music Inc. and Blackwood Music Inc.

Aug 11, 2007

Chapter Two - Enter Gomer

Steve’s hint at legitimacy came as a result of his professional exploits. Though not as accomplished as Professor Kasner, he actually had a job he liked, and had received some degree of personal success as a result. His area of interest and success was a touch eccentric. He suspected hers was too, although he knew that she could explain, and indeed sell her own products a bit (a bit?) better than he. When she spoke, she could be guaranteed that the cream of the crop would listen. From time to time, that was true of Steve, too.
Steve had an office, at the junior college, which he shared with Dr. Griff Herring, instructor of liberal arts. Dr. Herring had a big desk, terrifically abstract books on his shelves, and a PhD. Each one of those facts lent Steve to only frustration, as he was competing with Herring in his own mind. In his earliest years at the college, Steve looked at Herring with reverence befitting a popstar; Herring looked at Steve as one of many. Steve was the fly; Herring was the horse’s tail. Steve gave up on Herring after their second faculty luncheon together when Herring suggested Steve “didn’t have the glands” to teach at Gomer. At that point, he began to keep to himself at work, seeing Dr. Herring as just someone to deal with. Herring saw Steve as something between a paperweight and an ornament, something he- Herring- might hang on the wall of his office were he to teach at Harvard. Of course, Herring couldn’t be less pleased to share an office with Steve; but his own ego told himself he was the senior partner, and in turn, he had convinced himself to care less if Steve were even there. Herring was, in truth, miserable, and hated Gomer nearly as much as he hated Steve. He did envy Steve’s fluency with and care for his chosen field, and for young people. But Steve would never know that[1].
In spite of such difficulties in the 9 to 5, Steve identified good work to do, and no personal level of animosity could shatter that Midwestern work ethic that Steve would attempt to pass on to his kids. Could Calvin Coolidge become palatable to 19 year olds? Indeed. Would there be the chance, that Gomer’s future workforce would remember the details of Einstein, Oppenheimer and Roosevelt, and in fact, the creation of the modern western world, in which they themselves fit so comfortably? Could they be shown that without the Cold War, there would be no internet, no iPod, no….cellular phone? Heck yes. And having such a point of reference, Steve would recruit his students into a study of the past.
To be sure, Steve was not the ball of unbridled energy he saw himself as. But all things considered, life was fine. Precisely fine. He went and got a Master’s Degree so he could sit, drink coffee, and read the paper each day while playing Henry Kissinger in the library of UNO (Northern Ohio), where he went to college. He returned to Gomer in fact to take a job teaching High School. That had been his fallback plan in case he couldn’t find work at the State Department. They weren’t hiring. He fell back.
The high school he had first worked at in Gomer shut down; several more turned him down (although Gomer High had invited him to Career Day on the strength of his resume since their initial rejection of his skillset), and Steve assumed that success was only one more job interview away. Who wanted a nice, well-paying job anyway? No, he was a boxer. He’d punched a few, and had been punched - maybe even staggered around a bit, but eventually – one day – those beatings would pay off.
To the outside observer, such dreams are meant to be crushed, to many in Steve’s circle, his aloofness to all things sensible bordered on nothing more than an unreasonable coping tactic. But there were a few behind the curtains, directing traffic. Steve’s plans were legitimate. Would he truly understand that, he would know that such a future depended, in no small measure, upon Dr. Brian Porto.
Porto, as most people simply called him, sat on the board of directors at the local Catholic school, where Steve had also been shot down upon an interview. The vote to hire Steve was 1-9, decidedly not in his favor. Unbeknownst to Steve, Porto kept his eyes on this gentleman’s credentials and demeanor. From time to time, Porto would bump into Steve in the library or at the coffee shop, and would inquire as to what Steve’s plans were, what he was reading, and where he planned to end up. It was never clear to Steve that Porto might have been watching out for him. After several months of regular visits, Porto called Steve with a bit of good news.
“Steve, this is Brian Porto….I want to see you in my office at GCC and you should bring a resume.”
Porto rewrote Steve’s resume, shepherded him through a series of introductions with the Board of Directors, and threw him nothing but softballs during his interview. And then Porto made a job offer.
“Visiting Associate Instructor Samuels sounds mighty fine” thought Steve. “And the salary is amazing.”
Porto was quietly very pleased to see Steve come to Gomer Community College, because, if he was nothing else, Samuels was curious- he liked to know. Porto felt that it would be good for the college to have someone like that on staff. Steve’s first year at the college was terrific. He seemed to be rather animated, he was the only faculty member to wear three-piece suits each day to work, he made his students call him “Professor” and he asked them to stand when they were called upon to answer questions. Steve was doing this for two reasons; one, it was good for the kids to be in a heavy environment, and also that he himself enjoyed being able to see himself as the moderator of that heavy environment.
Porto used to say,
“Enjoy this, Steve. One day you will be department head[2].”
Porto looked at Steve as sort of a surrogate son; Porto’s own son had not any interest at all in worldly matters. Instead, he went into business, and became very successful. By 30, Porto Jr. was making more than he would ever need; by 35, he was Vice-President for Transportation at a cereal company and was seriously considering starting his own firm. Gomer was, to Porto Jr., simply one more place he was obliged to think of when sending Christmas cards, to make sure his future patrons would see his name in print, along with the picture of him, his wife and their “newborn”, a black Labrador named Bubby. He came back twice a year, and each time Porto would bring him into the fold of the Gomer Historian, and Porto Jr. never once bit.
This of course disappointed Porto. He was a fully developed intellectual, with a breadth of experience found typically only in the abstract. He was real leader in Ohio, quietly influential, and unafraid to call in a favor when the need be. Porto lived in a world that one would not necessarily always understand. As a very young man in 1963, Porto had been in South VietNam, as a civilian[3] researching water desalination for the United States Information Agency. An injury sustained in a fall insured that he would not return to Southeast Asia in uniform. Porto left government service when that country became too dangerous for an American still re-learning how to walk. Never one to let idle time congregate, Porto used the next five years to earn a PhD in the field of electrical engineering, and to meet and marry his wife Régine[4]. He arrived in Ohio in 1974, to work on a restructuring of Ohio’s Civil Defense Warning System and never looked back. After a successful career[5] , he and Régine retired to their farm outside of Gomer. Porto was a ‘bricks and mortar’ sort of person, but years of world travel had made him a touch weary. Upon his triumphant return to Gomer, certain well-placed colleagues created and then awarded him with the (part time, indeed honorary) position as “Deputy Chancellor, Gomer Community College[6].” Porto threw himself into his “retirement”. Everyone knew – he’d die with his boots on – that was his way. But he told people he was retired, and he invited everyone to play along with his ruse.
Porto would continue to keep an eye on world events, and that meant he would – a couple times a year - venture outside his beloved Ohio. From time to time, his former company, of which he was now “Chairman Emeritus” would need his expertise, and he would volunteer. He saw it as a way to give back to a world that had been good to him. Although quite active, he in fact enjoyed the slower pace of retirement –rarely a midnight call from overseas, even less likely a flamboyant message from this or that official with an urgent “infrastructure event.” Now he could pick and choose which jobs to take. He did so with gusto, and with personal discretion. Such discretion even once enabled him to take Régine on a surprise tour of her ancestral home of Belgium[7] as a ‘late’ anniversary present, endearing his ways to her even more.
Porto had a generosity of spirit, and he took every effort to extend that to the people he saw and worked with. It was also immediately noticeable that his still waters ran quite deep, and as a result, few challenged him when he spoke. He did, from time to time, adopt certain people as “apprentices.” Had others done so, such presumption would be too much to handle. But everyone liked him and he wore his credentials well.
This character lent Steve a certain comfort, then. Steve had initially been scared by Porto; he had no equals other than Régine, and in spite of Porto’s own gentle nature, he could not hide his own pronounced personality and accomplishments. He was also persistent and welcoming. Once Steve realized that Porto had different expectations, beginning with the want to be able to talk about issues great and small, Steve understood where he fit in, right there, in Porto’s personal space. He wasn’t sure what Porto’s methods were. They would of course discuss informally the issues of the day, as peers might. But it was also just as common that as a conversation ended, Porto would assign Steve a duty for ‘next time.’ The first time such an assignment occurred, Porto – cleverly – formed his wishes in the nature of a question that he himself hadn’t been able to answer[8]. Of course, after a few more such ‘assignments’, Steve realized that Porto’s diplomacy was at work – far be it from an intellect such as Porto’s to truly be naïve. Steve kept up his side of the bargain – creating a charming level of obscure analyses as ‘homework’ for the regular coffee breaks that he and Porto would share. About once every six weeks, Porto would send Steve a packet in the mail including both his original notes, but also Porto’s responses and rebuttals. Steve was pleased. Could it be, that this work of his own might actually be helping Porto, who, even in retirement, cast quite a shadow? To an outside observer, there might have been the appearance of Porto taking advantage of Steve’s willingness to work for free. Steve thought that precisely once. He then came to see his efforts as the ‘price of admission’, for Porto clearly counted on him, and Steve walked away smarter. Or, at least, less bored.
Porto understood Steve’s desire to get out of Herring’s aura, indeed, and his equally strong wishes to get away from the confines of certain prescribed banalities at the College. And if Steve Samuels was in Porto’s halo, his posse, by definition, then Porto could confirm his own sphere of influence. So the ‘deal’ was good for both. Steve had even come to see himself as someone resembling a younger Porto, an inheritor of the methods, although he would never mention that to anyone.
Apart from his work with Porto, Steve was sometimes bored at Gomer. He suspected, as did all his colleagues, that were he to end up at UNO, he’d be bored there, and if he were at Georgetown or Oxford, that too, would become dull for him. There were times when Steve felt that he would know excitement only in theory, and the lifeline to any sort of perpetual enjoyment was solely the chance to tell these Worldly Stories. He really was in it for himself in so many regards; once done reading the newspapers, he would find some anecdote in an old book that he liked, and then he would master it in front of the 19 year olds who thought he was making it all up as he went. As cynical as this approach was, Steve indeed liked certain parts of his job; he enjoyed the freedom of very little supervision. Dr. Herring would come and go – off playing Henry Kissinger in the library of Gomer Community College, or perhaps to the local tavern. At those times Steve would be able to forget the tubby old Doc was ever there. Freedom.
Dr. Herring carried himself with the subtlety of a truck full of burning garbage. Steve often felt that if Doc. H were the only person he knew, the days would be too painful to bear. Herring was a profane man; Steve could keep up with the best in that field, too, but Herring gave him only an indifference to his –Steve’s- own normal air of underprivileged yet genuine superiority. Steve didn’t like placing his own ego at the mercy of someone he truly did consider beneath the rug and a really terrible person. He had taken the secondary role in their office and in their duties, and he did so willingly – anything to shut that fat fascist up. As one could imagine, they were not close. Things deteriorated markedly when Steve suggested out loud that Herring should catheterize his own mouth, immediately whisking away anything coming out of it, so no one would be punished by that voice again.
Steve did, however, find genuine mental solace, by working on his gems in his off time - “Friend or Foe: Carnagie in Your Life” and “The Real Ernest Hemingway.[9]” In such “off” time, Steve felt he would, at some point, fall into the agency of academia for its own sake. He would get that PhD. He would send the painfully obese, swarthy Doc. Herring postcards from Vienna and Rome, just to remind him that there was a great and mighty world outside of such cynical confines. Oh yes. In spite of a crass and cruel, diminutive and wretched communion with Griff Herring, Steve would make the first move. He’d start with a postcard.
Griffles; so sorry you couldn’t make with us this time. The scholarship is all you might imagine it is. Perhaps one day you will even make it over here. When I am back at UNO (Northern Ohio), I’ll come by our old office in Gomer and show you the photos. Don’t you have a book about Italy on your shelf? Ciao Signor Doctor. Steven and Carmela

Yes, then he would live. But first, he needed to produce.
He already had one foot in the door; he was working (quietly) on talking himself up at the world’s colleges. He felt, as an academic himself, that there would indeed be room at one of Europe’s third-tier institutions for an American of his skills. The fact that he had been published - one time, during his seventh year of college (business school[10]) – gave him a certain confidence, and, he felt, an advantage over his peers at Gomer. Of course, his work was widely panned. But it was in print, and Steve had been courting faculty in all parts of the country; reminding them that Gomer Alumni were now competitive.
But that would be the future, if it were anything. Steve was a professional teacher, and his plans, admirable as they may be, would not distract them from his charge, his inner fire, that was being in front of ten or twelve young people, and serving as their bridge to the great thoughts of human experience.

"Dr. Porto?"
"Yes, Steve- come on in."
"You wanted to see me?"
"Actually, I do. It seems that there are a few problems that I think we can get worked out here today".

Steve was then told that certain students had complained, as had that old wet rag Herring. He was asking the tough questions. He had made a few students uncomfortable in class, even with the quite acceptable grade every student received. In truth, the students were right. They had come to Gomer for the chance to horse around, to write a few papers, and to move on. Some of them were not always satisfied with Steve. His demeanor and his ability to “connect” was quite alive, but perhaps he fell into that, as his own easy way out. He was indeed asking the tough questions, questions, however, that would never, could never, pertain to the furthering of these kids’ tender minds. In commerce, in academia, in industry, Steve was, some would say, taking time from the students they would never get back. In truth, Steve wanted to work for free. He saw himself as the inheritor of the Old Order in the grand British colleges. As Steve spoke to his students, he would see them in shirtsleeves and khaki pants, all groomed neatly, while he sat at the edge of his walnut desk, puffing cherry Cavendish, reminding them of a world deep.
They saw him in a different manner, but were indeed entertained, and to some degree, most of the students would have preferred an hour in Samuels’ class than in the others. Herring was not liked, but he was the only Humanities instructor at Gomer, so everyone had to take him. It was rumored among the students that Samuels and Herring could not stand each other. From time to time, Steve would let himself be goaded into a defense of Humanities per se, in tacit opposition to Herring’s methods relative to the genre, but more true, to the students. Samuels gave up on his office mate when one of his students took issue with an assertion of Herring’s, after which he reduced her to tears, suggesting she should go back to the restaurant she worked at, the restaurant whose employ she left in order to come to Gomer. From then on, Steve would quietly and informally meet with groups of Herring’s students, to show them how write qualified exams for Herring, to ensure they would pass his course, and remove themselves from his circle. No one would doubt Steve’s sense of duty to those students, even if his senses standing alone were sometimes inconsistent.

“C.S. Lewis has nothing on us here today; for whom do we speak now? Could we speak for those who’ve lost? Or for those whom we have lost? For I believe, that God wants us to suffer, that so we may know each side of the human condition. For it is through suffering that we understand each other and the fragile relationship of the Creator to man, and the more fragile yet relationship of man to his Eden.”
“Mr. Samuels?”
“Yes, Keith?”
“What the hell are you talking about?.”
“Sorry, Keith.”

As much as he cared for those fine people, he also cared for his future, and it was hard, if not impossible to avoid seeing that there might be a rough future at Gomer; where so many other teachers saw themselves as Notaries and rubber-stampers, confirming only that kids came to class and paid their bills and congregated next to the corporate-sponsored televisions and soda machines in the hallways. From time to time, he may have been a poor teacher, but he was a deep thinker. He knew it. Porto knew it[11]. There were duties he had, independent of any natural or learned skills; duties? Yes. To the genre. To Andrew Jackson and Robert Taft and Daniel Webster, and to Socrates, to himself, and to TR – Theodore Roosevelt. He would not be distracted by anything.
Except, to be sure, Career Day.

[1] Steve knew he had a way with people, just not in this environment, he thought.
[2] Dr. Herring will in fact be the department head.
[3] allegedly
[4] The couple met when he spent three weeks in Montreal, during a ‘grand tour’ in the British tradition. She caught his eye at a restaurant while singing Joni Mitchell songs in French to a group of her friends. He interrupted with a Bob Dylan verse in Latin. Three months later, they were married.
[5] His business card read “Infrastructure Developer.” That position took him to East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Former Soviet Union, back to Viet Nam, and to most US military facilities across the globe. He saw himself as a “people mover” more than anything else.
[6] Included in the package was an office, an administrative assistant, a token salary of one dollar per year and an extremely broad, self-defined set of duties. A very good fit.
[7] Thanks to a problem with the control tower at an airstrip used to land the Prime Minister’s plane. Porto’s company – naturally – had been retained to fix it quickly, discreetly, and pro bono so as not to alert the Belgian taxpayer of ‘foreign influence’ over high-level internal affairs. As a thank-you, the Prime Minster treated Régine and Porto to a personal tour of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, fulfilling a life’s dream of hers.
[8] “Steve…I don’t fully understand the precise level of direction Franklin Roosevelt kept over Nelson Rockefeller during the Inter-American Affairs era…can you help me out with a one-pager?”
[9] It is extremely unlikely that these pieces will ever see the light of day.
[10] Remember, “Fiduciary Duties of Shareholders of Closely Held Corporations”? That’s right- he was counting on that to open the door not only Jenna, but to real, scholarly work itself.
[11] Oh, it’d be cool, Steve thought, if Jenna Kasner knew that, too.

Aug 10, 2007

Chapter Three - Time To Go To Work

Jenna and Steve were, upon arrival, ushered into the cavernous lecture hall at Gomer High, and they were promptly segregated by the brass of the school. Jenna was rather well known among the faculty and there were a few on staff who had bounced her on their knees when she was a little girl and her grandfather was the mayor. Steve was the latest in a series of people who would hit the High Schools each year, telling kids that if they wanted to make more money, than they needed to stay in school. He was living proof of that, he thought, he stayed the course, went to UNO, spent over three hundred thousand dollars on his education, and was now in gainful employment. He wanted each of those kids to join him at the table of the productive. He had attended career day each year since he graduated from College, but on as a spectator, generally because he liked the change of scenery and the interruption it brought to his workweek. There were two of these a year. This was not his first as a special guest, but of course, this was the first with Jenna.
The morning itself was quite dull; but Steve found a chance to shine at the presentation in a manner unexpected, for there would be cameras at Career Day. God help anyone who would attempt to get between a camera and Steve Samuels. He set up his cardboard backdrop to the small table allotted him, replete with G.C.C.[1] pencils and balloons to hand out. Jenna had quite the spread too, even with the University’s dumb slogan in red and black framing her person from its perch on the wall. “You know UNO!”. That was precisely the problem, felt Jenna, and she wanted to put a little life into the idea of getting educated; in that, she and Steve had a common link he hadn’t seen before. She was good with her facts and figures, and Steve, would, from time to time wander over to listen to her talk with the kids[2]. Listening to her for a moment made him believe what she was saying, and indeed – for a heartbeat – see himself in that great world she was creating for the kids.
Steve, Jenna, and the couple dozen other presenters spent most of the afternoon making their respective pitches to the faculty, the public access “reporter” who was there, teachers, and several interested parents. He was pleased with his performance.
Steve had cancelled his day’s classes in the hope that the simple manning of a booth in a gymnasium a few paces away from Jenna would turn into coffee, lunch, or a walk around the block, a sojourn to the cinema, drinks at a trendy club, a quick jog, hot dogs in the park, or a power lunch, in which they would detail their plans for the future. None of that was likely to happen. But they did banter with each other.

“Ah, Jenna, now wasn’t that something to tell your kids about?”
“Most certainly, Steve, and for that, we will keep our sense!”
“Yes, we will. I must admire the way you handled the critique of UNO’s music program, leveled at you by that washed-up High School band director, Mr. Leviathan”
“Well, it is easy to do when the target is so large and well-illuminated!”
“To be sure, to be sure, but Jenna, I do indeed hang my hat on your skills, for you made that spiritual recluse look forward to the Bronx Cheer you so gracefully inserted his way.”
“Steve, it is the Irish in me. We are born diplomats”.

Steve and Jenna were on fire. She regaled the students in attendance with her stories of traveling to Greece during her first year of College courtesy of the Anthopoulos Foundation For Women in Maths and Sciences. She hung onto them tightly by offering to help them fill out their applications for free money and plane tickets. They listened to every word she spoke of the time the Dave Matthews Band came to UNO on Earth Day, meeting with the Student Senate over organic, fair-trade coffee. Cool Academia.
Steve told a story about the time he let class out early because he couldn’t get a VCR to start properly.
He may have been a touch starstruck by Jenna.
As Steve and Jenna waited for the public access cameraman to finish filming their respective displays, they visited with another presenter from Career Day, a man Steve knew from G.C.C. as the liaison between UNO and Porto for the purposes of Air Force R.O.T.C. His name was Major Boz Drummond, and his role at Gomer was seen by Steve to be almost ceremonial. He was at GCC a couple times a month to introduce the kids to the program, in the hopes that they might join up. It was a tough sell, and Drummond knew it. Drummond once talked to Steve’s course, about the history of the Air Force, and asked the students to keep in touch with him. They never did.
Steve and Drummond both knew that the real action was not at Gomer Community College – it was at UNO. Each day, across the courtyard from Jenna’s office, young men and women would exercise in the morning, run around the track in their blue sweats, study military history, and prepare themselves for a life in service to the country. This is what Drummond had done, right out of UNO. He had recently come back to Ohio, to help do what had been done for him as a 19 year old. Steve noticed a familiarity that Drummond used with Jenna that Steve himself wouldn’t. It unnerved him to a slight extent, because of his own affection for her. But, he knew that the two of them saw each other often at work. Jenna’s family was well-known enough in Gomer, it made sense for an Air Force Officer to want to get in the good graces of her. But, Steve was convinced, that Boz Drummond was secretly pining for Jenna; after all, which reasonable man wouldn’t be?
Although Steve in fact had every reason to trust Drummond, or at least, to feel that the Major was harmless, his own suspicious angels told him to think otherwise, and Steve obeyed. He was familiar with Drummond’s work; there had been a branch of the Civil Air Patrol at Gomer Community College which Drummond kept his eye on, but as far as Steve knew, this was just a group of kids who hung around with a retired Air Force Reserve Sergeant Phil Fee, who had lost his job at Gomer Industries during the farm crisis. Steve also knew this Sergeant was mad, because in the seven years he had been managing the Gomer Civil Air Patrol’s Weather Emergency Network, out of the 45+ high schoolers who attended, only three of them joined the military- and each one went to the Army National Guard, a veritable slap in the face to the Sergeant’s Holy Mother Air Force. The kids couldn’t be blamed for this. Rather, it was Fee’s approach, it was as if he had a real affection for hardship, and that turned the students away. Drummond came back to put a human face on the Air Force, and to show these patriotic youngsters that Uncle Sam was back in business.. Steve liked the idea, for he was a patriot too, and he had briefly wanted to become a pilot. The Air Force had a want for personnel, and if Steve Samuels could help fix it, then he was ready to report for duty.
But “gosh,” Steve thought, “am I going to have compete with this officer for Jenna’s affection?”
Oh yes, he would. He certainly would.
But, for this day, however, Jenna and Steve were joined at the hip in that auditorium. They had both succeeded. Each in their own way. Jenna, for her silken diplomacy toward the youth of the nation, Steve, because he was able to stand next to her. But now, close to eleven o’clock, it was time to depart.
“Jenna; thank you for the ride home and I hope you have a good time at your Tai-Chi class tonight; I didn’t know you did that sort of thing”.
“Oh yes, it’s very relaxing, after these hectic days”.
“I can imagine. I do something like that, too”.
“You do? Some sort of East-Asian physical ritual?”
“No….actually drinking. But it serves the same purpose for me”.
“Ah, of course”.
“Well –“
“OK, then, you have a good night”
“You too Steve”.
“Be careful around those Tai Chi guys, don’t let them push you around” said Steve.
“Damn dork” thought Steve.
“Well, they’re pretty tame”.
“OK, goodnight”
“Night Steve”.
“We should talk on the phone soon”.
“Yea…see you”.

Steve dismounted the car, walked up to his front door, and turned around. He was not impressed by his own swallowing of the words to her as their morning ended, but that was his way. He turned around; convinced he’d see her looking back at him. Instead, he saw the tail-lights of her Peugeot, as she turned the corner; likely heading back to work.
And back to work, would Steve now go, after attending once again to Zephyr’s needs. How could he let down his best friend, his partner, his little brown colleague, his equal? He couldn’t. So he made himself late getting back to work; much to Zephyr’s delight. Steve stayed home for a bit longer than customary, making himself a luncheon, and splitting it with his dog.
Steve arrived at GCC to see Herring leaving – always a good sign. He sat at his desk to prepare tomorrow’s notes (a mere formality, as he knew the legend of Elliot Ness as well as he knew the narration of Christ’s birth.) He remembered the bitter shot of watching his old professors come to class with yellowed notes, recent only as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he always wondered how these professors could call themselves such. He was a stickler to new ideas, and he knew full well there weren’t any original thoughts in thirty-year old mimeographed crap, resurrected once a year, so that their patrons could keep their jobs. Steve decided on day one that he would perform each task from scratch. He did know that history couldn’t change; but he felt he could cut through the layers and blow off the dust, and perhaps add a life to a Coolidge, a Morgenthau, or a Namath. He wrote his notes for class – his script- each day; and when done, he would place those notes in a file cabinet, in case any students had questions. Then, once the year was done, he threw them away. He did that each year. To an outside observer, or indeed someone qualified to teach, this was a terrific waste of time. But, it was Steve’s way, or the high-way. And, he had only been there two years.
He prepared fully, delivering a new lesson on an old topic. Such was history. He started by talking of prohibition, and the role of the FBI. He was asked a few questions, making up the answers to them as he went. He had, from time to time, come to the point where he would speak in terms fresh to any historian[3], to gauge the work he needed to do in class.
“Now”, Steve thought, “my day is done. A full morning with Jenna, a light lunch, and the day shall end by playing fetch with my four-legged friend. Yes… completely satisfying”.
Steve had already forgotten that he was not satisfied with his own demeanor toward Jenna. He reasonably could have remembered that he was perpetually somewhere between the grace of a drunken sumo wrestler, and one who may guess another’s weight for cash at a carnival. Steve was however, used to, and quite comfortable with his own revisions. And that familiarity showed him that it was all in all a good day. It was time therefore time for him to go home.
He gathered his belongings, stuffed his briefcase full of random junk and books from Herring’s shelves, which he knew he would never return (but he wanted to read them so badly.) Walking out, to his car, he noticed a little bird being fed by its mother; he saw a small plane in the distance dusting crops. He watched some of his students collect themselves while waiting for the bus, and in the distance, he saw a tan Peugeot. A Peugeot that he knew, he’d been in, earlier that day.
For a moment, Steve had the hope that she was indeed looking for him. But that would not be reasonable; for she had his cell phone number, and could have just called. Who then? For what purpose would she be literally footsteps away, in his backyard, yet in figure, across the river, and far away?“Could it be that she is here to see Drummond?” muttered Steve, under his breath. His drive home was not very good.

[1] Gomer Community College, of course.
[2] Blame this on both a sincerely beguiling level of attention to his own task, coupled with genuine interest in her.
[3] In his own mind, of course.

Aug 9, 2007

Chapter Four - The Rise of Lex

Jenna was a member of the only Orthodox Jewish Congregation in Gomer, she had been since she was 21. At her Grandfather’s influence, though not at his formal urging, she early on took a “Back to Basics”, she thought, and she was better for it.
“Why is it that you put yourself having to obey all those rules?”
“Dad, it’s not like that, you know it’s not. You just don’t like being reminded of Grandpa”.
“I like Grandpa, indeed, I adore him. But I do not like his devotion to the Mechitza. How is it you do that? You have to be right there and you men and women can’t even sit together. What is this, some sort of separate but equal stuff there? I mean, all you do is go sit with the old widows and your Mom and I couldn’t even sit together. What do you do that for?”
“Dad!! Because then those old widows aren’t alone.”
Lex, Jenna’s grandfather, was a touch boorish, and from time to time, he would show his quite pronounced skills in asserting superiority. Of course, it was done with a twinkle in his eye, which tended to minimize his nature to the uninitiated. Or at least, that part of his nature. His piety, however, was quite established, and he enjoyed that devotion, a devotion which the young Jenna would witness, and quietly hope to emulate. Given his prickly – yet sincerely good nature – those who were closest to him at the peak of his powers, however, saw him in a more comprehensive light, leaving home at the earliest age. Some, even, to the farthest corners of Ohio. Although such thoughts would remain unsaid, Jenna suspected her Mother and Father indeed preferred Lex in his current, more subdued life, than to the personality of his younger, more aggressive days.
Jenna, however, quite enjoyed her grandfather, and enjoyed him the most, generally on Sunday afternoons. After Jenna’s grandmother passed away, Lex moved into a residence for seniors, in downtown Gomer- the “Oakwood Home For the Distinguished”. Sunday afternoons……
Jenna felt that he –Lex- had to be bored out of his quite lucid mind, sort of stuck there, with no real ability to do so much anymore on his own. Jenna would often take her acquaintances to meet Lex; she wanted to give him an introduction into her own life and interests, but also to suggest that he was still important – still current. He had been quite active as a younger man. There was always someone to see or someone to meet, and of course, always something to talk about. With Steve in tow not long after refreshing their old friendship, Jenna thought if nothing else, she could get a good argument going, something to brighten Grandpa Lex’s day. Truthfully, Lex really did want to argue with Steve. But he wanted to keep Jenna happy, largely because she was now a member of the congregation that his parents – Jenna’s great-grandparents - founded when they settled in Gomer as young immigrants. Lex heard often as a boy (as did Jenna, her Mom, and everyone Lex ever met) about dad/Grandpa/Great-Grandpa putting the roof on the Shul. Great-Grandpa was not a roofer by trade, but he knew he had to help out, so he climbed a ladder and worked until the work was done. Until his death as an old man, he always wore his pants rolled up; to catch the sawdust—keeping it from getting into his boots. That time, on the roof and in the timbers of the Shul, was the first and last time that he had ever used a saw or had hiked plate shingles up a ladder. But he liked being reminded of that work he and his fellow new Gomerites had done, all those years ago. And, that is the life Lex saw as a boy, and as a young man.
Lex’s parents had left Europe with its hope intact; arriving well before the first World War and the attendant attempts to make the world safe for democracy. They weren't running from anything. Their intent was one of self-interest, and not self-preservation. They landed in Ohio, in a healthy immigrant community. They lived at home, the way they had lived in Europe, and expected, that this America would reward them, too.
As a boy, Lex attended grade school with dozens of other immigrant children; Europeans, one or two Asians, and a small parcel of French-Canadians, whom no one quite understood. Lex's best friend was a small Danish boy who spoke German, as did Lex, and they were joined at the hip. Growing up, Lex's ingrained sense of parochialism would disappear as a result of his earliest memories; Germans, Danes, French, Catholics, Jews - these are not the distinctions one makes in Gomer!! Lex however spoke often of the one time, and the only time, that he had ever gotten into a fight. Lex threw the first punch at the boy who called him "Kaiser Wilhelm". Neither Lex nor his friend ever spoke German to each other again, and the boy never called Lex another name. Lex told his own kids those stories, to suggest – gently – that there were lessons to be learned in loyalty to one’s friends!
Lex told Jenna these tales of his childhood; he would tell anyone these stories, partly out of genuine affection for his father and mother, and his own childhood, but also because he liked those old days better.
In his old age, he remained a very good politician. He saw in much of Jenna his own wants that he’d had as young man when his family became the pillars of the community, and he was nothing, if not sentimental. No one would have ever forgotten the story of Lex’s – and indeed Jenna’s -roots, but there was something about him that wanted to keep repeating; “dad” this; “mom” that; “when I was a boy”, "back in 1966 and Lyndon Johnson was President" ; there was a certain life to these stories, even when they had been told dozens upon dozens of times. Jenna’s mother could think only of her upwardly mobile father when hearing those stories; they reminded her of nights when Lex would be out late, shoring up support for whatever project he had, working nights with the Lion’s club, or lobbying for a theatre in Gomer, so people could see newsreels about the war.
Lex’s influence was simply different. Lex was routinely one step ahead of the great issues of the day, with savvy resembling prescience. Lex’s civic obituary had been first been written in 1938; he would find personally and directly that a European of his nature was not likely the most effective spokesperson for the idea of a peacetime draft. Lex’s family entertained hecklers, nasty letters to the editor by a contingent of WWI Gold Star Mothers, and public questions about his motives, and his loyalty. The wall around America was high, and Ohio was in the heart of the immense generational reliance on the two-ocean isolationism, and he knew it. But the Kasners always were a resilient bunch, and Lex kept on. Lex’s neighbors would not realize the nature of Lex’s position; to them, he was a simple businessman with parents whom everyone liked. But Lex Kasner had a few more friends than just the inner circle in Gomer.

Aug 8, 2007

Chapter Five - The Ferdinand Magellan Comes to Ohio

“Ladies and gentlemen! So I am asking you – when somebody asks you, ‘what do we do here in Ohio? You look them straight in the eye and you tell them we feed the country! And you tell them we put our people work! And you tell them that our banks are back in business and you tell them that we are free to buy and sell goods all over America. And you can say to them, if you don’t believe me, you can ask our good friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt!!! Welcome to Ohio, Mr. President!”
A familiar figure took away any fears the assembled citizens of Gomer may have had about that man who sharing the stage with the beloved President.
“You know, I shall tell you I was very pleased to receive the nicest telegram from you, my old friend Mr. Kasner….”
The crowd howled. Briefly holding up and waving menu from the dining car on his private train, the President looked at it and read from the telegram.
“He said to me, my dear Franklin…I am so sorry, but Mrs. Kasner and I will have to take a rain check on your invitation to luncheon at the White House. You see you asked me to come down there, to the Executive Mansion, on the very day that we in my hometown are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of our town, and I must attend to the festivities!”
The President continued.
“So I called my friend Senator VanderWall and said, ‘Byron, did you know Gomer, Ohio has been around for One Hundred Years already?’ And Byron said, ‘But everyone knows that Mr. President’ – “
With a trademark cock of the head, and a million-dollar smile, the President said, “Well Byron – why didn’t you tell me!”
The audience roared its approval.
“And Byron – you send Mr. Kasner a letter and tell him Mrs. Roosevelt and I will come to his house for dinner!”
If the citizens of Ohio had been concerned at Lex’s sensibilities surrounding the draft, they weren’t any longer. The President made sure of that. And for reasons known to very few, after the festivities of the ended, Lex Kasner rode with the President on his train to the town of Sandusky, where the President was staying for the night. Lex and the President – among a very small group of others – visited well into the night. Senator VanderWall dropped Lex off at his home in Gomer at seven o’clock the next morning. Upon returning to Washington, VanderWall – a Republican – introduced Roosevelt’s bill to introduce a peacetime draft. VanderWall sent two telegrams – one to FDR, one to Lex, and commenced to make plans for the assumed defeat he would soon suffer as a result of his political courage.

Aug 7, 2007

Chapter Six - Events, Dear Boy, Events

Lex Kasner spent the last months of 1939 and all of early 1940 with a solid gaze to the events in Congress, in Europe, and in Japan. To the untrained eye, Lex appeared as a meddler. Even so, the fathers of Ohio Republican politics saw him guiding VanderWall through an otherwise untenable balance, and the President’s own handlers saw Lex’s efforts as increasingly valuable to the Roosevelt – both as President and as a candidate for re-election. Lex understood a number of the President’s concerns. Athough not privy to all that was on the President’s desk, Kasner saw enough of the picture to recognize the national and political consequences of the actions of the electorate in 1940. VanderWall’s sense of duty to the country, and increasing sense of abandon as to his own re-election made him an unlikely ally to the President. It was, however, a role he relished, and he was good at it. If re-election was out of reach, then he would go back to the farm, knowing he had served his President when asked.
VanderWall’s bill passed Congress in Summer, 1940, and it took effect not long before the November election. In the course of his Senatorial duties, VanderWall had visited several draft offices, meeting the same resistance Lex had seen. Throwing himself into what was surely his final campaign, VanderWall fought his Democratic opponent tooth-and-nail. VanderWall saw the irony; the President, whom VanderWall had personally carried water for, was likely to take Ohio. And his opponent – an obscure Cuyahoga County Commissioner named Rex Riley – would likely run into the US Senate on FDR’s coattails. Of course VanderWall was incensed to learn that Vice President Garner had personally called Riley to ask him to run, just weeks after VanderWall agreed to be the public face of the draft bill. Duty before politics…
“Don’t these people have any loyalty?” VanderWall asked no one in particular a few days before the election.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt won Ohio with 52% vote. A comfortable win, but not with the margins he was accustomed to. Byron VanderWall, unexpectedly also won re-election. After a recount mandated by Ohio law, it was deemed that VanderWall beat Rex Riley by less than two hundred votes out of over three million cast.
When asked for a comment after his surprise loss, Rex Rilely said,
“Had Roosevelt so much as lifted a finger for me, I’d have pulled it out….it is almost as if the man did not want me to win. Don’t these people have any loyalty?”
Roosevelt invited Senator VanderWall and Lex to the White House for meeting about the draft soon after the election. The President appointed Riley to the Securities and Exchange Commission as a thank you for his service as sacrificial lamb. Roosevelt was ready for whatever events the world would bring our way, as were Lex and VanderWall. As goes Ohio, so goes the nation.
VanderWall and Kasner were on hand together in the audience at the events during graduation week of the first class of peacetime draftees in February, 1941. Ohio soldiers were being asked to serve by their President; they were doing so in no small measure due to the public efforts of these two men.
The events of December, 1941, would remind the country that an absence of war is not peace. This fact lent legitimacy to those soldiers VanderWall and Roosevelt created. Lex knew he could not stop the inevitability of a World War, but he believed that he had done all he could to prepare his beloved Ohio, and to persuade his friends and neighbors to be ready. Although he was too old to serve in uniform, the citizens of Ohio quickly adopted him as one with foresight, and one they wanted to keep.
Upon returning from the graduation of Ohio’s first class of graduated draftees, as a guest of the President, a reporter stopped him while he was getting off the train.

“Mr. Kasner, two questions. Are you going to run for Congress in 1942-“
“-and tell me – tell us – why did you work so hard for the peacetime draft??”
“Well, in light of the recent events in Hawaii, I guess it looks like we needed it, eh?”

Aug 6, 2007

Chapter Seven - A Life; The Rise of Jenna

In spite of sworn, public statements otherwise, Lex had always been a personally ambitious man. That ambition was clear among those closest to him. Such an ambition would, in time, provide a bit of resentment among friends and family, but he would hear nothing of that, brushing off personal and professional concerns with an attitude resembling indifference. He was indeed aware of such concerns. He simply loved being a part of the process, and he could not, and would not, understand those who may put their own interests above those of his – even his own kids, friends, colleagues, and anyone else.
Lex was sworn in as Mayor of Gomer after a whirlwind campaign, with only token opposition from a local dry goods salesman who would go on to found Ohio’s first branch of the John Birch Society in the late 1950’s. Lex’s election as Mayor was seen as the opening of a door to all children of immigrants, and before long, Gomer’s civic life was the cornucopia its founders had imagined. Lex was feted as Gomer's contribution to America.
The fathers of Ohio at the time kept an eye on Lex. They saw him single-handedly raise the stock of Senator VanderWall before the war; and they asked what Lex wanted in return. Lex asked for nothing, but was indeed offered a chance to make a good life for his family, and also a chance to stoke the fires of his own ambition. By 1950, the mayor was the owner of a successful business. He had the ears of both of Ohio’s Senators, as well as de facto ownership of several state legislators.
But Lex was a benevolent king; he knew of political machines in other locales and in other parts of the country; where people traded other people and lived in a true quid-pro-quo. Lex wasn’t that way; as long as Gomer remained on the desks of those in decision, then he was happy. Over time, Lex used his connections to fund the construction of a clinic associated with the law school at UNO, he cajoled the President of a large cereal company[1] into donating land and materials for the creation of a “School of Public Service and Policy”, also at UNO, and there was a Kasner wing (Oncology) at Gomer’s hospital, because of Lex’s terrific donation to those doctors, once they cured Jenna’s grandmother of a very manageable – yet nerve wracking to be sure- bout of cancer in the early 1980’s. This was the world Lex was in. He had worked himself up the civic ladder of influence to a degree that he always suspected he would, even if he was the only one thinking so.
Lex came to believe in the idea that all public lives end in disappointment. His was no different. As he had seen as a young man, even the permanent FDR would pass, and there would become new people who then make the great decisions of state. As Lex aged, he would think often of that time, of quickly returned calls and trips all over the state, country, and world. They were Lex’s “salad days”, and he missed them.
Although generally accepting of his retirement, he missed being the Big Man in Gomer. There were new people for Senators and high-rollers to call on; the time had passed. A few times a year, Lex would receive a phone-call from Nate VanderWall – Congressman and great-nephew of Lex’s good friend Senator VanderWall[2]. These calls, although of genuine affection, were different than those Lex had fielded in his younger years, years he would think of often.
“Do you remember when Miller…..”
“Jennifer, look at this, it is a thank-you note from President Truman…..”
“I tell you, that lawyer, from—from Chicago--- why, I showed him the door!”
Jenna’s father heard these stories and was reminded of an absent dad, who felt his work to be of the highest importance, even more important than being at home. Jenna heard these same tales, and she saw her grandfather speak of people not too different than herself. She saw a place at the table for herself. She was the great-granddaughter of Gomer’s first family, and one day, there should be more stories. Lex's own children left the congregation as soon as they were old enough to leave home. Jenna's return confirmed much to Lex; he was her granddaughter. With that simple act, Jenna completed the circle that Fritz and Frieda Kasner started all those years back, before they spoke English, before Europe exploded, before two wars woke the sleeping giant of America.
Lex’s ambition for Jenna was as much for her, as it was for him, and it started when she was no more than a toddler. He would guide her and he would prepare her, train her, to carry and to understand the world that he – Lex – and few others truly knew. He felt a duty to her, to shape a little of her mind and a little of her talents. He would give a few secrets to her – and then he would let her go.
Jenna, though she wouldn't know it until her own adulthood, had become the inheritor. Such an inheritance would mature early in her, while a young student. Her youth was reasonable, predictable, and indeed, creative. It was as a girl, listening to her grandfather’s stories of his own efforts, that she labeled herself an actor, and not an observer. At the age of nine, she argued with her third grade teacher in favor of a continued US presence in South Korea. She implied strongly to the Gomer City Council, that there would be upheaval in the streets, were that august body vote to rezone a special parcel of land against the interests of conservation and the “Green Gomer” initiative[3]. She was strong in her opinions, but not hesitant to abandon them in favor of better evidence to the contrary. Such an approach suggested a touch of maturity. That was a diplomacy that her grandfather, in spite of his success, never quite learned.
Jenna was seventeen when she left for school, following her grandfather into a life of civics. It was no coincidence that her first days at college were spent at the University of Northern Ohio, where more than one department owed its solvency to the elder Kasner. Inching toward retirement, Lex routinely showed a bit of his world to his young granddaughter. He was as generous with her as he was demanding of his own children and colleagues, and quickly – early – she began to realize the impact that Lex indeed once had. As a young girl, he let her sit next to him, in his massive office, while he took a call from the newly-retired President Nixon – whom he called by his first name. Jenna was old enough to know who Anwar Sadat was, when Lex attended the fallen leader’s funeral. Lex was pulled away from his wife’s sickbed days after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; that did not go over well, but Nana didn’t seem to mind. As a younger family man, Lex’s children stopped asking questions about his routine absences, and they learned to submit to their own irritation. They would learn, very early on, that such questions, if addressed at all, would be answered with a joke or a play on words. They knew that their grandmother couldn’t be bothered by such questions either, and they also knew that she was a tight-lipped as her husband. Among the uninitiated, Lex called himself an ‘infrastructure developer’, and said very little else. Except, of course, to Jenna.
As a small girl Jenna hung on her grandparents. They represented an interesting world to her curious mind, teaching her sentences in rare and old, languages, treating her to all the attention a small child would deserve. They let her borrow grown-up books from their massive collection. Nana Kasner once taught her how to play the Star-Spangled Banner on piano. Jenna’s parents loved these days she would spend running all over hell with her grandparents, chiefly for the privacy it gave the younger Kasner family. And without fail, she would come home happy, and exhausted.
She kept fond memories of these days. Well into adulthood, one most unique instance stood out, with precisely no explanation. On one of their regular drives about town, Lex took Jenna into the country – to a parcel of land north of town. There was little on the horizon, but for a few dozen buildings and a grey atmosphere. Lex, however, was quite animated to his little kin.
“Jenna – it is here, that we will build a place for all the farmers to work, when they are done farming.”
“What will they do here, Papa?”
“People will make machines, that make bigger machines! More people will sit in rooms and draw pictures, that will become houses for your Papa and Nana and your Mom and Dad and you!”
“How will they know what to draw?”
“Because Jenna, when they are old, when they are eighteen years old and all done with school, they will take a little more school, and become very, very smart!”
“After sixth grade?”
“Oh yes. And then people will come here, everyone will clap for them, and they will be ready to go!!”
“Which people will clap?”
“All of the town. Your Mom and Dad, your Nana and Papa, and all your friends. They will come here just for you.”
“For me?”
“I will go here too?”
“Yes! You will!”
“I will?”
“Of course you will. You are a Kasner!”
“What do they do here now?”
“Jenna, you ask lots of questions, don’t you?”
“I do?”
“Yes, you do!”
They arrived at one of very few buildings in this area. It was a non-descript structure, painted beige, with a chain-link fence around it. Jenna, quite a literate child, read the sign on the entrance out loud.
“Department of Conservation Security -Visitors Please Register At Desk.”
Lex slowed down, and waved to the guard. Jenna waved too, and leaned over her grandfather, to see the neat little building in which this man was standing. It was a “Jenna-sized House.”
“Hello Mayor. Good to see you again.”
“You too, Bill!” said Lex.
“Bye, Bill!” said Jenna.

The gate opened. Jenna did notice it close behind them.

“You are not a visitor.” said Jenna.
“That’s right. But you are, my dear!!”
Lex smiled, and patted her head.
“Visitors are special.” Thought Jenna. “They get to come here with Papa.”
Lex drove on, passing several non-descript beige buildings. Jenna kept close watch on the events outside their car. A man and woman came out of one of the buildings – Jenna waved, but the two people did not wave back.
“They must be very busy.” Jenna thought.
Jenna’s eager persona noticed everything- open gate-Bill said hello – house for backyard-sign that says B U M P – building with busy people they did not wave – more buildings – we are slowing down – must look out window-
She was ecstatic. Her youthful stamina assured her that this day, with her Papa, was simply perfect.
“Jenna – we are there!” Said Lex as they drove slowly up to what must have been the third or fourth beige building. To Jenna’s amazement, Lex pulled a small device from in-between their car seats, simply pressed a button, and – even without Bill’s assistance – a car-sized door…opened. Just for them.
Lex kept driving. Jenna had been in a building like this, once, when they were in Chicago, but there were not any other cars around. Lex drove slowly, and encouraged her to turn on the radio (something her Mom did not let her do.) She did not hear pop music, she did not hear any music – she heard people talking to each other. They were speaking in short, clipped sentences – words she did not understand. Alpha? Bravo? Charlie? She had playmate named Charlie. She said his name out loud.
Lex said, “Those people talking are my friends, and we are going to see them in just a moment. They are glad to see you!”
“OK OK.” Said Jenna.
The car stopped, and the Kasners dismounted. Jenna knew – she could feel that she and her grandfather were going to go straight to the beige elevator door, perhaps only a few feet. Lex could barely contain her, but when he asked to behave and hold onto his coat, she did. Jenna would be proved right. She wanted to press the elevator button – her Dad let her do this at work.
“Can I?”
“Yes! Press the button!” – then he winked.
As she started to tell Lex that there was no button, the elevator car door opened, and they walked in. Surely there had to be a button inside the elevator to press. Lex saw her disappointment. She pressed the button on her own jacket-cuffs instead. That worked – she could feel elevator car move. And soon, this door opened, too.
At once, Jenna and Lex were no longer alone. The elevator door opened into noise, into people, into a sea of people walking and wandering, each with clearly something very important to do. They walked past doors; they walked past people, all of whom dressed just alike, but some of them had different colored buttons on their shirts, and stripes on their skirts. They did not say hello to Lex, which confused Jenna – everyone says hello to Lex – the people downtown, the people at the Shul, Bill – just a moment ago – that is what people do! She would not fret long.

“We’re here!” said Lex, opening a glass door for her. “Go ahead, honey.”

If her grandfather told her to do something, she did it! Bounding through the open door, she saw another man. This man did not have a blue suit with stripes on it. He was dressed like her Dad or her Grandpa might when they go to a restaurant. Jenna kept running, to this man’s desk. Her confidence rested solely upon the fact that she could hear Lex walking up quickly behind her.
“You must be Jenna!” said the man.
“Yes” said Jenna.
Her confidence immediately turned into vapor, and she turned around quickly, looking for Lex’s coat to grab onto. Of course, Lex and his coat were right there.
“Hi Lex – how are you today?”
“Mighty fine, Brian, mighty fine.”

They kept walking, behind this new Brian, behind other people dressed like Jenna’s dad, until Lex stopped at a room with a brown door, different only from the other brown doors among the hallway, by the number stenciled above - 1918. Like the elevator, there were no buttons to press. Like the elevator, the door opened. This time, Lex went in first. Far from Jenna to be afraid, but she walked with a bit of angst, as she knew that they had arrived at wherever they had left for. Any fear she had, however, disappeared when Lex turned on the light, smiled, and motioned for her to follow him.
Jenna immediately recognized the room as one of the sort her mother took her to every week. There were bookshelves along the walls; magazines littered on end tables that set next to two small couches, between which was a coffee table, covered in typed paper. Jenna ran to the back of the room, where she saw a full-sized desk. On that desk sat a wooden sign, with her grandfathers’ name in big letters. She smiled when she saw them. Underneath, in smaller letters, were two words she could read, but didn’t understand – Infrastructure Developer.
“Yes, dear?”
“How come you have a library?”
“Because a Kasner needs a library!”
“Me too?”
“Yes, dear, you too!”

Jenna’s mind remained occupied for hours, in fact, days. Lex would mutter aloud as he cleared this paper from his desk, and he would speak into a machine, telling someone to write a letter or take a minute. Although she had never been there before, the mood of the room was so familiar, and of course, her Papa was guiding her. She noticed that there were no windows in the library, except for the one on the door, the door with 1918 written on top it. She wondered if Brian or Bill would open this door for them, or if this too, did not need a button. These were the things she would ask Papa just as soon as he was done with the letter-minute-machine. Oh, there were many things to think about.
Jenna woke up with the feel of her grandfather’s knit coat at her cheek, her small shoes next to the couch on which she had fallen asleep.
“Papa is here” she thought. She was reassured that everything was good, safe and sound.
She was very right! At that time, seeing his granddaughter start to move, Lex suggested to her that now, right now, was the best time for her to rejoin him, and that as soon as she picked out a book – to take with her from the Library – then they would go to Nana.
“Can we come back to the library?”
“May be, Jenna.”
“Oh, my dear! Not tomorrow. Tomorrow your Nana and I take you back home to Mommy and Dad so you can be ready for school on Monday!”
“OK” said Jenna.
The book she picked out was an original French edition of Babar.

“Jenna, the girl with so many questions?”
“Yes Papa”
“Do you want to know something you must keep secret?”
“May be.”
“Very good – then come with me.”

Lex scooped up his granddaughter in one arm, turned the lights off with the other, and the two exited this library, walking not in the direction of the exit, but toward a noticeable hum, that unnerved the little girl. To be sure, one could not worry very much among Papa, and even less so with Babar. Her eyes focused on where the red, green, and yellow stripes were pointed to on the floor. She remembered that the people in the blue suits had these colors on their badges, but she did not. As far as she could tell, her Papa didn’t either.
As they walked, they came to a hallway, to which these stripes did not lead. The red and green went toward her Papa arm, and the yellow went to her Babar arm. Even so, Lex kept walking. There were doors every few steps, but these did not have 1918 written above them. She held her grandfather tightly.
After many long moments, they stopped against a wooden desk. There was no man at this desk, as there had been when they arrived with Papa’s friend – and her friend. Here, there was only a console that looked like a very small color television. Lex spoke to it – all he said was their last name, which relaxed Jenna, and she smiled at her grandfather. She heard a chime, at which point Lex began walking again.
Lex said: “My dear, we are going to a new library.”
Seconds later, they stood before a door – with a button – with a marking Jenna did not understand.
“Papa’s friends do not know how to spell.” She thought, while scouring her young memory for something akin to this strange word, this “C O N B O X.”
Lex and Jenna entered this new library. This was not like the nice, comfortable room her Papa took her to for her nap and her book. She was reminded of when she went to the Doctor with her Dad – they had to wait, and wait, in a small room – with nothing but a machine on the wall that no one could touch, not her Dad, not Papa, not Jenna, only the Doctor. Oh, the troublesome day that was. Such was the sort of room she was in now, machine included. But Papa did touch the machine. He took hold of a hook on the wall, held it with one hand while inserting a shiny piece of metal into a plug on the bottom. When he did that, out came more from this box! Jenna heard the same sound – a fan – that used to come on when she would press the wrong switch in her parents’ bathroom. But this stayed on, and on. It got louder, growing into a real nuisance – enough to force her into a confused look to her grandfather. She could hear clicks from inside the box, and noticed a special scent that she could not recognize.
“This will take only a moment more, dear girl.”
She stared at her grandfather with her mouth wide open!
Lex placed his left hand on the machine, and reached over the table to touch her shoulder. He winked at her – and seconds later, the noise stopped.
He opened this box, and it became clear to his young granddaughter that something was inside – she could see it. He took out two pieces, each connected to the inside of the box by thin wires. Each piece fit comfortably in Lex’s hands. These parts reminded Jenna of her father’s tools; wood, metal, and cords, and she knew that she should not touch such things – she might break them, or they might break her. These were not for her small hands, and she was scared. Lex, of course, thought he knew how to assuage her nerves.
“My dear girl, you have grown up! You are five years old, and you will never be five again!”
Sensing he had worried her – forgetting that she might enjoy being five, Lex continued:
“Soon, you will be six. That is five-extra. And soon after that, when it is time, seven – very big! So today I want to show you a story about your Papa and your Nana, about where we came from – how is that for you today?”
He smiled at her, winked, invoking the memory of the regal Kasners – of Europe and now Ohio – he said:
“You, like the Kasners of old, ask questions. This is how everyone should be! You see, my dear, you are special, and you must ask more questions. And when someone asks you a question, you must answer with another question. Do you understand?”
“Do you understand?” asked Jenna.
“Good girl!” said Lex.
He continued.
“Jenna, this small box, with the wires, will help you ask more questions. I want you to think of a question.”
Lex took each of Jenna’s hands into his own, and gently aided her, to take ahold of the wooden and metal pieces, connected by wires to the box. Jenna stared directly at these new tools. The pieces looked similar to an extent; each made of brown, seasoned wood. Jenna saw a place her grandfather’s fingers could hold this machine tight. Her grandfather motioned for her to do so.
“You hold that one up to your mouth and the other one up to your ear, Jenna!”
“Like the telephone.”
Jenna did so, and looked straight at her grandfather. Although an exceptionally bright child, her attention span was very similar to that of other five year olds. She may have rolled her eyes at Lex. The amazement of the library had long since passed out of her mind, and she was fidgety.
Lex said “Jenna, do you have a question?”
At once, she snapped out of her ennui, and smiled broadly.
“Now, dear girl, you can ask a question into this box! Hold that one tight against your ear – this one to your mouth – and ask!”
Jenna shut her eyes in thought, her brow wrinkled. Her little hands held the machine’s handles tightly. She took Lex’s admonition quite seriously, and would not – under any circumstances – ask this question until it was just perfect. Lex understood this about her. He had decided to ‘take his granddaughter to work’, in the hope that such a quick observation in her mind, might raise more questions, than her own instant effort would answer.
“Have you got it, little girl?”
Jenna, quite ready, spoke immediately into the piece in her right hand.
“Where is mama?”
The fan she heard before kicked in, and she was again reminded, of her parents’ bathroom. A small red and yellow light alternated upon the box itself. Lex realized quickly, that in his vigor to open Jenna’s mind, he hadn’t been graceful enough to guide her into the question she might ask. Nonetheless…
Jenna snapped to attention and her eyes zeroed in on her grandfather. She could hear noise through the box her small hand held to her ear. Voices, many of which she could not understand. Like how Papa and Nana talk at supper!
One voice stood out, woman’s voice.
“What?” said Jenna into the device. Lex smiled. His granddaughter was starting to hear.
She held the earpiece close. The voices made themselves into a pattern, and from that pattern, she found the first hints of words she knew. She heard a name her grandfather had routinely mentioned, but she could not remember when.
“Where is Mama?” her question was repeated by this new person to hear; she continued in a clear, if slightly stilted voice, ”I am Frieda Kasner.”
“I was born in Düsseldorf in 1890. My husband, Fritz and I came to the United States in 1916, and not long after that our son Alexis was born. Our daughter Aggie was born in 1920. She lived until 1922.
“Papa!” Jenna asked – loudly. “Who is this?”
”Fritz and I lived until 1955.” said the voice, Frieda.
“We made our home in the state of Ohio…..”
“PAPA.” Said Jenna. Loudly. “ Who is this?”
“My dear, that is my Mama. Not yours. But you have heard her, haven’t you?”
“So then it is just fine. I am so sorry, dear girl. You asked where your Mama is – not mine. But your Mama is on the way to your house and she will be home tomorrow! I will take you to her in the morning. But now you know another person don’t you?”
“Yes I do.”
“Do you think you might have another question for my Mama, or for anyone else, from time to time?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Even when you are eighteen, or twenty or thirty?”
“I am five.”
“But you will soon be five plus one!”
“Papa. Even then too. And eighteen and twenty.”
“Good, little girl. Then you have had a full day! Do you mind if we visit Dairy King on the way to Nana?”
“Yes, you mind?”
“Papa! I don’t mind.”

Lex smiled broadly. He would never take Jenna back to this library, indeed, they would not speak of this day again to each other. He had given her much to think about, but she should not do so again today. He put her little hand in his, as they made their exit. They walked through the door, with no button, toward more doors with no buttons. Lex did not want to burden Jenna with too many details. His work was done.
“We are going to get in the car! Can you sing me your song on our way there?”
“Sing it to me now!”
“Papa.” said the exasperated child – she was getting into the part – “I will.”

Thirty feet later, as they walked down another beige hall with numbered doors, Jenna sang,
“I love you
a bushel and a peck
a bushel and a peck
and a hug around the neck
a hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
you bet your pretty neck I do.”

This man, Lex Kasner, was very proud of his granddaughter, and would remain so for the years into her adult life, and into the end of his own. He was very happy. Were he a more effusive man, he may have even sung along with her!

[1] A man who would later become the boss of Porto Jr.
[2] Who did not run for re-election in 1976. VanderWall had headed up “Democrats for Nixon” in 1968, formally switching parties in 1969 after winning in 1964 with over 60 percent of Ohio’s votes. His close association with Nixon, crippled him politically. Very well respected nonetheless, VanderWall was named Ambassador to NATO by President Ford in 1974, returning to Ohio in 1977 at the end of that Administration. In spite of the loss, VanderWall was widely expected to re-take his old seat in the Republican year of 1980 when the incumbent Senator- also a friend of Lex’s- appeared very vulnerable. Adding to the VanderWall legend, when asked if he would run, his only comment regarding his replacement in the Senate was “He’s doing a good job considering the position the country’s in. We should let him have a chance to help govern”. Senator Doug Wassemiller was narrowly re-elected, with 51 percent in 1980. Wassemiller would be grateful enough to the family for that gesture, using his influence in the party to allow only token Democratic opposition to the younger VanderWall’s candidacy for Congress in 1988.
[3] In fact, her beloved grandfather opposed such an initiative. But he loved seeing her in his old haunts, in the arena.

Aug 5, 2007

Chapter Eight - Walking Toward Summer

As Spring came to an end, Steve Samuels found himself in virtually the same conundrum that occurred in the waning days of any semester at Gomer Community College. He was a renaissance man, of course, and he knew that a one track mind breeds a very boring person. His nature would not allow for such personal failures, and whether consciously or not, by April, he was done. A whirlwind of effort carried him through the rough days of coming back to Gomer after Christmas break; coffee and snickers bars fueled the late-night writing sessions to prepare him for up to four lectures a week, and his pizza and beer habit got him through the stressful, quiet hours that others call Saturdays and Sundays. It was not a perfect plan, but it was a plan.
Steve had been a bit worn out by the events of the last couple years. Although he recognized how good his life truly was, he did catch himself writing down telephone numbers of work-at-home schemes from midnight informercials. Was his mind truly where it should be? He felt it was. Of course, several others would from time to time disagree. He cared of such thoughts, specifically when those hosting such thoughts fell into several categories – those who signed his paychecks, those who occupied his mind, and those who might, in the future, sign his paychecks and occupy his mind.
Such was the balance Steve was encountering at this very moment. It was nearing April 1st, putting Career Day in the memories of two full weeks ago. May 1st was a month out, and that dreadful day was only one week away from final exams, and that horrid day was only three days away from the due date for grades. Those students think they’ve got it bad, well, they don’t have anything on Steven Samuels. His custom was to – unintentionally – work like hell for a few months, then get bored of it, wing it for a month, and then spend several extremely severe days trying to piece together how to survive, into the heaven know as….Summer Break.
Such plans tended to always work, because that’s how things are supposed to be! And, in any other year, in any other season, so it would go. But man, he could not stop thinking about Jenna Kasner. They had called each other after Career Day, and had corresponded via email in the interim – maybe three or four times – but that wasn’t enough. He had already made plans as to how they would come closer into each others’ spheres of influence.
Steve decided to attend to his most immediate need first, clearing the deck at work before putting on his very best to Jenna. He set himself a timetable – by this time next week- next Thursday – he would be ready to ask Jenna Kasner out for coffee. He would do so with a clear conscience, a desk with nothing on it, and little to nothing on his to do list.
To prepare for his hard work, he let Zephyr out, loosened his tie, took his coat off, took his tie off, turned on his stereo, placed The Ramones’ Rocket to Russia onto his turntable, and poured himself an ice cold beer. Oh yes. His mind was fully engaged. Settling into an easy chair with a small stack of his students’ term papers to read, and a brand new red pen, Steve assumed the position of ambitious academic.
Four hours later, Zephyr – usually a good, controllable dog – used the only tool at his disposal to get Steve’s attention – and he howled, to be let back in. Although genuinely bright, and friendly, his cognitive abilities were limited, and he was not bothered by the first several hours of his endeavors outdoors; even a smart, good dog is a dog, and dogs are meant to relax in the fresh air. But as night fell, it got cold. His new haircut offered him few of the protections reserved for the nature of winter fur, and he wanted in. Where the hell was Steve?
The answer was simple – the Genius had passed out in his La-Z-Boy. Perhaps these efforts would begin…tomorrow.