Friday, May 13, 2011

Ribbons and Other Binding Ties

Bill Gallo is being buried today.  For what seemed like forever, Gallo was a writer and cartoonist in the sports section of the New York Daily News.  He had been a member of the News for seven months or so, when he became a member of the United States Marine Corps.  Gallo was among the Marines who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II.  When HBO ran its splendid mini-series "The Pacific" a couple of years ago, Gallo wrote a column about each episode in the Daily News.  After World War II, Gallo returned to the News.  And stayed for roughly the next seventy years.  Even if you had never heard of Bill Gallo or had heard of him in passing but knew nothing of him or about him, you need know only this to appreciate the full measure of the man:  Pete Hamill shall deliver the eulogy at his funeral.  'Nuff said. 

Tomorrow, the Missus is having another go-round of the great American crap-o-teria:  the garage sale.  In anticipation of this blessed event (so called in our house because it gives us a basis for moving junk (I mean "treasures") out of the basement and up into the garage.  From that vantage point, the curb is visible.  You need not be a long-abandoned Mr. Potato Head to see your future from atop a folding table in the garage.  Bright it is not.  Nor is it long.  At one point I think the plan was to have the sale tomorrow but I believe now Margaret is eyeing a date in June.  My wife's patience for such endeavors is a source of much amazement to me and from this point forward - until the point at the end of the day on Saturday where this man's junk resumes its station in life as this man's junk and this man totes it out to the curb - it is her show. 

Leaving the house Thursday morning I noticed that among the items on its way to a better place is my old Brother electric typewriter.  To say that the machine helped me arrive at the point in my life where I am today is not an exaggeration.  I appreciate the fact that often what is written here is difficult to read - because of its porous content.  However, if it was handwritten it would be impossible to read.  My handwriting is so poor that after having all of my law school final exams returned to me as ungraded at the conclusion of the first semester of Year One, I typed each exam I took for the next five semesters.  I toted my Brother electric typewriter with me to Newark on each exam day and I was taken to a room apart from the other students to take my exam.  Same rules of engagement applied to me as to them in terms of time, use of materials (at Seton Hall Law a majority of the final exams were open book to my recollection), etc. 

Because my handwriting is so unbelievably poor, I applied for the right to take my State of New Jersey Bar Examination on my Brother electric typewriter.  The application was granted.  On the final Thursday of July in 1994 I trundled on in to the Ukrainian Center right off of Davidson Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey and right into the company of about fifteen or so other temporary members of the steno pool, sitting at desks arranged in two long rows, which rows' desks faced one another from a distance of approximately fifteen feet.  For several hours, we banged away at our respective keyboards like beat reporters trying to make the deadline for the early edition.  I would learn several months later just how well my old running buddy had served me that day when I received my letter from the Board of Bar Examiners congratulating me for passing and for my pending admission to the Bar.

I learned several years later just how well it served another member of my makeshift steno pool.  Less than forty-five minutes into the test I saw a man located at least seven or eight desks away from me - and in the other row to boot - react to the fact that he had just used up all of the demonstration ribbon that Brother included when one purchased this particular electric typewriter, that he had no other ribbons with him and that he was still in the middle of his answer to Question #1.  Considering that the exam - at that time at least  - required one to complete six essay questions, his reaction - while neither subtle nor understated - was both understandable and appropriate. 

Being married to the world's most organized human being, I was able to come to my fellow typist's assistance.  Margaret had insisted upon purchasing approximately one dozen ribbons for my typewriter so as to ensure that I had enough at test time.  When disaster struck at the other end of the room, I was able to immediately flip a package of ribbons (they were sold in a 3-pack format) down to him, which enabled him to complete his test. 

Having completed our exams at different times, I left the Ukrainian Center that afternoon knowing neither my colleague's name nor his fate.  One summer afternoon, five or six years later, a bunch of us decided to participate in a charity softball tournament that was being held 'NTSG.  Among the guys who came down with my friend Diego to play in the game was a colleague of his from the A.G.'s office.  While we were standing around on my driveway shooting the shit waiting for the rest of our roster to arrive, he began telling me his "Bar Exam" story.  A story involving an electric typewriter, a demonstration ribbon and an anonymous stranger stepping into the breach to provide him with the tools needed to complete the test. 

As he talked, I smiled.  When he finished, I introduced myself as "the guy with the extra ribbons."  Since his "Bar Exam" story was eerily akin to the one I had been telling Margaret since the day after the test, I introduced him to my wife so that she could put a name and a face to the man in need of ribbon.

Dave Puteska and I have been good friends since that first (well, really second I guess) meeting on my driveway all those summers ago.  We not only played softball together for many years, we have gone to Springsteen shows together and to Rangers games together.  A year ago last October, Margaret and I had the pleasure of being present when Dave and Lindsay got married.

Maybe not all of the stuff lined up for extinction in our garage these days is junk after all.  Maybe some of it is good stuff that simply no longer has a purpose to serve or a niche to fill in our lives.  I do not think I ever needed to use my Brother electric typewriter again after July 1994.  Perhaps that explains why Margaret is selling not only it but a couple of packs of its replacement ribbon cartridges as well.  All of them have been waiting together in the silence and darkness for close to twenty years for one more opportunity to shine.  If they serve their next owner half as well as they served their original one, then he/she is getting a bargain regardless of the price.

The best they ever had?  Not for me to say I reckon.  But I would not be surprised at all if it was.



Anonymous said...

The man who your generosity (and Margarets foresight) all those years ago still blames I mean thanks you for helping
Start his legal career. But Is even much happier of making a great friend.

David P.

Adam Kenny said...

IF you had not become an atty.then you never would have met my partner you like so much!