How was your visit," they ask me.
"Well," I say, "my mother’s 97. She can’t get out of bed because of the spinal stenosis. You can’t understand most of what she says because of her Parkinson’s and strokes. Ten percent of the time she thinks she’s living down the shore or getting ready to renew her driver’s license. On the other hand, she can name Roosevelt’s secretary, like that, and is perfectly clear on where to get her favorite brownie." It wasn’t like she’s lost her marbles, Adele had said, she’s just rolling them differently.
The last afternoon, Adele and I sat at one of the two rows of tables that straddle the sidewalk the length of 18th Street, across from Rittenhouse Square. The tables belong to restaurants that draw an elegant crowd. The club sandwiches are good and the view fine. "The last association I have with the Square," I said, "is from August ‘67, a month before I left. The ACLU was seeking an injunction to stop the police from harassing Philadelphia’s six hippies, who hung there and were freaking out old ladies. This guy in a fatigue jacket, just out of the service. This fat girl in a serape. A black homosexual. A Jewish kid from Oxford Circle, who only came in weekends. A pretty girl with straight blonde hair..."
"You sure you aren’t casting ‘Hair’?" Adele said.
"I am probably the only one at these tables having that association. I may be the only one with that history at his recall. There is no one with whom I can work that narrative through forty years to reach today. Max is dead. Stanley is dead. Pumps is dead. Do not get me started. Rosie Diggers and Travis Cost have been lost in time. I could go on."
Another time I was walking down Sansome Street and I thought, You know, you don’t see midgets any more.
Now where did my mind pluck that from? Was my failure to speak it all that distinguished me from the addlepated?
Causes Bob Levin Supports
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, ACLU, PEN, Berkeley Emergency Food & Housing Project.