On the front page of the New York Times Science Times section was an article about AIDS research featuring an interview with Dr. Arnold Shapiro, known as “the monkey doctor” by his colleagues, because his research involved Rhesus monkeys.  These path-breaking experiments might easily lead to a Nobel Prize in Medicine one day. Accompanying the text was his photograph. He had a neatly-trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard, wire-rimmed spectacles, and dark-brown, piercing eyes. There, between those eyes, was a hooked Hebraic nose, sensual lips and that familiar sardonic smile. As kids, they’d gone to Hebrew school, grade school and high school together; had taken clarinet lessons from the same teacher. Arnold had been the finest player he’d ever heard: he could well have become the Heifitz of the instrument! In fact, he’d been light years ahead of him anything they’d ever done. When he got lousy grades in school, Arnold got straight A’s, never failed to make the honor roll. When he was barely admitted to Eastern Michigan University, Arnold had graduated with highest honors, followed by summa cum laude from Harvard University.


During summer vacations he’d worked at the Royal Oak Zoo (selling popcorn, peanuts and soft drinks, or hosing down the sidewalks and rubber trash cans); while Arnie had participated in cancer research with an eminent scientist, Dr. Gabriel Popovich, at Wayne University. Anything he could do, Arnold could do better: Arnie Shapiro had been his boyhood nemesis. On the page following the interview, was a full-page VIAGRA ad.


A foxy, middle-aged gent stood there boldly before you, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and his silver hair haloed by the horns of the VIAGRA V. “Get back to mischief. VIAGRA (sildenafil citrate) tablets. Ask your doctor if VIAGRA is right for you.” Pfizer would spend 300 million dollars on advertising for this single drug! Meanwhile, a holocaust was taking place around the world: over 25 million had already died of AIDS. Millions would die in Sub-Saharan Africa, alone, this year. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories – these pharmaceutical giants dominated a 500 billion dollar industry, the most profitable in human history. With a fraction of their profits, or intellectual property rights, they could have easily provided the world’s poor with free AIDS drugs. But how many readers of the New York Times would connect the interview with the ad? “Property”, paraphrasing Proudon, “is mass murder;”, he thought to himself, “capitalism, a crime against humanity.” He now returned to the interview, describing Dr. Shapiro’s academic background.


After graduating from Harvard and Harvard Medical School, he’d completed his internship and residencies at Boston General Hospital; then he began a full-time academic career at Harvard’s Cancer Research Institute. Later, he became chairman of the division of immunology at the New England Primate Research Center. He was currently chif of the division of viral pathogenesis at Beth Israel Hospital, as well as the Director of the Non-Human Primate Research Program at Harvard. He chaired the National AIDS Institute and the AIDS Vaccine Research Group, and served on the scientific advisory board of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the editorial boards of Science and the Journal of Virology. “Talk about credentials,” he though to himself, “now there’s a curriculum vitae!” The interview had concluded with his program of AIDS research.


A group of monkeys had been immunized with an experimental vaccine and the tested by injecting the lethal AIDS virus. Although they became infected, they hadn’t died. A second group of unvaccinated monkeys – the control group, had quickly succumbed to the disease. This “partial protection” strategy – which allowed the virus to remain rather than expel it from the body – delayed the development of the disease and reduced its transmission. AIDS was a new kind of virus which had evolved a strategy to elude the human immune system; through successive mutations, it defeated one vaccine after another. So it had become a contest between one of nature’s most fearsome diseases and man’s effort to develop a cure. Even a “partial protection” vaccine remained many years away, but it was currently viewed as the most promising strategy against the worldwide AIDS pandemic. And his boyhood chum, Arnie  Shapiro, was at the forefront of world research. What Naches he’d given his parents: how proud of him they must be.

Why, it was no mean achievement to save a single life. But to contribute to a cure that could save tens of millions: it was hard to even imagine such an achievement. That smart aleck kid that he’d known so well as a boy had today received world renown. That previous week he’d run into Arnie’s older brother, Simon, a respected Chicago attorney; he’d always associated the Shapiro family with excellence. Arnie, Simon and younger sister, Sarah— all were successful professionals with families and children of their own. He, on the other hand, had never even been engaged. His parents had long ago given up hope that he would ever marry and finally give them grand kids. And his professional life as a librarian wasn’t anything to brag about, either. Such had been the contrasting pattern of their lives.


He now looked up from the newspaper to the Metropole Café, where he was having a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon. He surveyed the photograph exhibit on the walls, the customers seated and lined up at the register. The pungent smell of coffee being ground in the huge Diedrich Coffee Roaster, in the rear, was inhaled by them all. Piled against the wall, beside, were bags of beans in their big burlap sacks. On each was stenciled letters identifying rare coffees from around the world: Summatra Arabica, Firca Bella Cruz, Haran Horn and Ipanema Boubon. Along with the sounds of conversation, classical music could be heard coming from the loudspeakers mounted on the walls. A recording of Berlioz’s”Benvenito Cellini” Overture reminded him of the first time he’d met Arnie, many years before, at a rehearsal of the All-City Band.


His mother had dropped him off in front of Cass Technical High School: a seven-story gothic fortress in the heart of downtown Detroit. Located within a triangle formed by Second Avenue, Grand River and Henry St. West, it occupied an entire city block and was built of beige brick with white stone trimming. Over the broad stone entrance – five brown doors wide – was a plaque with the date of construction, est. 19l7. Supporting the gothic arch of the entrance were white stone columns with carved reliefs. Across the street to the east was a parking lot and the local greasy spoon. North lay the high school’s athletic field, and to its south could be heard the constant hum of the busy Fisher Freeway.Beyond the athletic field, down Second Avenue, was seedy Cass Park, with the huge gothic tower of Masonic Temple Auditorium in the distance.


He’d passed through the high school’s entrance, continued down the high-ceilinged hallway, and entered the huge auditorium. It was a great gloomy concert hall, with an especially resonant acoustic, and a balcony looming high overhead. Taking a seat ear the front of the audience, he opened his black leather case and proceeded to assemble his instrument; the he mounted the stairs to the stage and sat in the rear of the clarinet section. Out of the corner of his eye he saw this little shrimp of a guy with short dark curly hair and horn-rimmed glasses march up boldly to assume first chair. Arnie opened the folder on the music stand and began to fluently sight-read the solo parts. As the others warmed upand tuned their instruments, he’d anxiously awaited the arrival of their conductor. Finally, he’d entered the auditorium, climbed the stairs to the stage, mounted the podium, opened the music and tapped the stand three times with his short white baron. A corpulent Italian – with big jowls, laughing eyes and a shiny, bald head – Mr. Jacobi was a warm-hearted teacher and a cultivated, scholary musician. He was especially devoted to the romantic repertoire, and would emphasize his favorite passages with his left hand fluttering beneath his heart, as his right marked the time with his baton. In a semi-circle before him sat the first clarinets, oboes and flutes. To his left was Arnie, their solo clarinet, and to his right was their solo flute, Grace Russel. He’d secretly watched her warming up.


Her hair was cut in a page boy, with dark brown bangs; it formed a helmet that framed her turquoise eyes, pert nose and the dimples in her cheeks. The mouthpiece met the O of her lips as she held the flute between her arcing rows of fingers. With her head held held high – slightly tilted to the side – he watched the silver tube dip and sway. And the stream of sound that had emerged: it shimmered and soared like a bird. Grace had perfect pitch, studied with the Detroit Symphony’s principal flute; and, the previous year, had been offered a full scholarship to the Curtis Institute, in Philadelphia.


Nearing the end of their rehearsal, he’d become confused and lost count – entering all by himself during a long bar of rest! Mr. Jacobi tapped the stand with his baton, bringing the music to an abrupt halt. It seemed an eternity had passed before he’d finally addressed him, saying “We all make mistakes. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Then he looked him in the eye, and with a friendly wink, had added, “But a word to the wise should suffice: when in doubt, leave it out.” He’d next run into Arnie in a Hebrew school class taught by a remarkable instructor, Mr. Fenster.


Their text was The Ethics of the Father, a collection of the sayings of the great rabbinic masters. It had been his introduction to philosophy, which he’d later studied in high school and later at college. And Mr. Fenster had been the first who’d taught him how to think: to examine things critically; to accept nothing on authority, alone.


They were dropped off in front of Temple Israel by a car pool arranged by their mothers; he and Arnie’s families had been good friends for years. The congregation was located within the residential area of Palmer Park, surrounded by blocks of older multi-storied brick apartments. It was a great cylindrical ceme-colored dome with bronze roof and windows, attached to a smaller square administration building. Before it lay a broad lawn with shrubs, and a parking lot to one side. In the middle of the lawn was an illuminated sign, reading “Temple Israel Congregation”. Pairs of imposing carved wooden doors between white stone pillars marked the entrance to the synagogue. They’d entered the vestibule and climbed the stairs to the classroom on the second floor, where they found seats in a pair of desks near the front. Mr. Fenster had finally arrived, as the class now quieted down. Standing before his desk in front of the blackboard, he was a short, plump gentleman, who wore a blue serge suit and an Ivy League, striped tie. Curly blond hair encircled the large dome of his forehead. He spoke with an upper-class eastern accent in a melodious voice.


With a smile on his lips, and in his mild, gray eyes, he’s delivered his introductory remarks to his pupils:

“Out text, The Ethics of the Fathers, consists of the sayings of the great teachers of our ancient tradition. But our subject is not so much the contents of this slender volume, as it is the nature of thought, itself. For, in the short time we have together, I propose to teach you how to think: how to gather and marshal evidence; how to fashion valid arguments. And from thought, we’ll turn to action. For, as Wang-Yang Ming, a teacher from another ancient tradition, the Japanese, once said: “To know and not to act is not to know.” This brings us to Chapter !, paragraph 17, of The Ethics, in which a similar thought is expressed by Rabbi Simeon, where he says: “…what is more essential is not study but practice.”

“What do you think Rabbi Simeon meant by that, class?”

There was a long pause as his classmates hesitated; then Arnie’s hand shot up. When Mr. Fenster called on him, he replied in his usual rapid-fire delivery:


“All talk, no action. Study must lead to deeds. Otherwise, it’s learning for learning’s sake, alone.”

“Very good, Mr. Shapiro.” Now their teacher paused, taking his double-chin between his thumb and forefinger. “But how can our practice be correct unless we first study the appropriate subject-matter?”

His classmates were silent; so Mr. Fenster was force once again to call on Arnie, who answered:

“Certainly study must come first. For example, I study the clarinet. But the scales and arpeggios that I practice every day are for the purpose of finally making music.”

The following week their text was Chapter !, paragraph 14, by Rabbi Hillel. Perhaps the most famous words of The Ethics, it read:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Mr. Fenster now addressed them with a special enthusiasm in his voice:

“This is surely one of  the gems of Jewish literature! In fact, almost all of the study of ethics can be encompassed in this single proposition. Let’s begin with the first sentence: “If I am not for myself, who will be?” What do you think Rabbi Hillel meant by that, class?”


Arnie raised his hand and was immediately called on by their teacher.

“It’s like saying: “God helps those who help themselves.”, he answered. “You shouldn’t expect others to aid you if you’re not first willing to make an effort, yourself.”

“Yes, Mr. Shapiro. And what about the second sentence: “But if I am for myself only, what am?”

This time, he himself, volunteered, and was called on by their teacher:

“If you’re only for yourself – ignoring the interests of others, then you’re selfish and unworthy of respect.”

“Yes, Mr. Stein; but, perhaps you can expand on that, Mr. Shapiro.”

To which Arnied replied: “If you’re disregard the needs of the community in favor of your own narrow interests, then you’re not worthy of its support when you, yourself, are in need.”

“That’s better, Mr. Shapiro. And what about the final sentence: “And if not now, when?”

Mr. Fenster called on two successive pupils, neither of which shed much light on the passage. So he was finally force to call on Arnie:

“’Seize the time!’, as the saying goes”, he exclaimed, “Putting off till tomorrow what youcan do today often makes your problems add up and only get worse.”

“Well done, Mr. Shapiro!”, their teacher declared; then he’d completed the lecture with some remarks on the teachings of Hillel.


The following week Mr. Fenster once again addressed their class, saying:

“Today our text is Chapter IV, paragraph 19, by Rabbi Yannai. It reads: ‘We cannot wholly account for the ease of the wicked, nor for the afflictions of the righteous.’ What do you think Rabbi Yannai meant by that class?”

Arnie raised his hand and was called on by their teacher:

“Life’s not fair.” he replied. “Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to the good.”

“That’s certainly true, Mr. Shapiro. But what does that say about a god who could create such a world? In the philosophical literature this is sometimes referred to as the “Problem of Evil”, and is often proposed as an argument against the existence of God. Its proponents claim that a just god wouldn’t allow the wicked to prosper and make the innocent suffer. What do you think about that argument, class?”

This time he’d raised his hand and was called on by their teacher:


“Perhaps God’s purpose is to test us, to make us struggle to lead just lives.”

Another pupil was called on and added:

“Perhaps the innocent who suffer in this life are rewarded in the next.”

“Both of those are fair replies.”, Mr. Fenster admitted. “But what if your opponent counters by denying the existence of God or questioning the very existence of an afterlife?”
As the class now hesitated, Arnie’s hand shot up; he was called on by their teacher:

“I don’t think there are any good counter-arguments to those objections.”, Arnie suggested. “It’s simply a matter of faith.”


“Interesting response, Mr. Shapiro,” Mr. Fenster replied, pausing as he stroked his jaw with his thumb and forefinger. “You must understand, class, that I’m here to teach you how to think, not what to think. Whether you believe in an afterlife, that the world is just, or that God exists at all, is something that you’ll have to decide for yourselves. My job is to teach you how to evaluate the arguments and weigh the evidence. The answers must come from you.”


In no time, Arnie had become the teacher’s pet. But little did Mr. Fenster know how – outside of class – his star pupil mocked his teacher. Afterwards, as they’d waited outside the temple for their ride home, Arnie – a gifted mimic – had done a real number on him. Deftly assuming Mr. Fenster’s accent, manner and gestures – he’d pretended to lecture them as their teacher had done their class. As Arnie fired off one learned saying, he had countered with another. Thrust, parry, thrust – flashed their sharp Talmudic duel, until they were bent doubled, roaring with laughter!


“’There are four types of pupils.’”, read Arnie from The Ethics, with a sarcastic gleam in his eye, “’Sponge, funnel, strainer and sifter. The sponge absorbs all; the funnel takes in at one end and expels at the other; the strainer loses the wine and retains the dregs; the sifter eliminates  the coarse flour and retains the fine.’ Surely, it’s obvious – between the two of us, Joel – who’s the sifter and who’s the funnel!”

“Perhaps”, he replied warily; then, shaking a warning finger, added: “But remember the words of Rabbi Akiba: ‘Mockery and levity lead a person to lewdness.’”


“Touche, Most Worthy Funnel!”, exclaimed Arnie, with facetious little bow.”You’ve evidently taken to heart the words of Rabbi Elazor, having been ‘skillful in refuting the arguments of a heretic…’Nevertheless, you’ve failed to heed the warning of Rabbi Hanaya ben Teradyon – to forever avoid ‘…the company of scoffers…”

“Point well taken, most Foury Sifter!”, he replied. “But beware that ‘Whoever descrates the name of God,’, in the words of Rabbi Yohanan ben Berokah, ‘will surely suffer the penalty.’ And ‘…the disciples of the wicked will descend into the pit of destruction!’, he exclaimed with a flourish.

“No doubt, puny Scourge of Wicked; but, last but not least, let’s not forget Rabbi Ben He-He, in whose mortal words we are told: ‘The gain is in proportion to the pain.’”

After his ride home from Hebrew school with Arnie, he’d practice the clarinet in his bedroom before dinner.


Their home was located on Renfrew Road in the Sherwood Forest area, north of Palmer Park. One of Detroit’s most beautiful neighborhoods, if featured spacious lots, tall trees and bushes, and fine old homes. Theirs was a large, two-story, beige brick house, with white shuddered windows, two chimneys, and a beige, shingled roof.  Attached to the house was a garage and a large adjacent lot with several large oaks and pines. It was landscaped with evergreen hedges and framed by two poplars and an elm. At the bottom of the long driveway was a red-and-yellow fire plug.


His second-floor bedroom overlooked the adjacent lot and Renfrew Road. On its walls were reproductions of famous drawings: a late Sung landscape; Durer’s “Portrait of his Mother”; and Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. Below these were his phonograh, records, desk and bookshelves. Beside the bookshelves, was his bed, between the bedroom’s two large windows.


He recalled the callous on his right thumb where the instrument had rested; for years after he’s stopped playing, it had remained there to remind him of his studies. And there was the distinctive odor of cork grease and the taste of clarinet reeds, which were made of cane and came in packaged in green-and-black Van Doren boxes. His Buffet clarinet was made of dense black grendilla, and had silver rings and keys attached by blue steel springs with cork pads that fit into its holes. Its beak-like mouthpiece was joined to a long black tube that flared at the bottom in the bell. When saliva had accumulated in the bore of the instrument, he’d swab it out with a cloth at the end of a long length of cord. And there was the endless quest to find a reed! When they were too hard, he’d sandpaper them gently below the tip. When too soft, he’d clip the end with a small metal tool. And when he finally discovered a good one –   he couldn’t help accidentally chipping it – and would have to begin his search all over again! Arnie would often join him here in his bedroom to play clarinet duets.


They’d meet at his home, after school, where he’d placed a second chair before the music stand in the corner of his room. On the stand were several volumes of clarinet duets. There was the blue Rubank Series – easy, moderate and advanced; and a book of arrangements from the Italian baroque by Gabbucci. Arnie always amazed him with his effortless facility, his flawless sightreading, ability to transpose, and play with perfect intonation. After they’d finished, he’d often stay for dinner with his family; and sometimes he’s even slept over. On a number of these occasions they’d debated the existence of God – a topic that had arisen in Mr. Fenster’s class. And Arnie – the little heretic – had demolished one classic argument after another!

First, there was the “Cosmological Argument”, which was subject to an infinite regress. To explain the existence of the universe, you needed a First Cause, which was God.


“But where did God come from, in the first place?”, Arnie had exclaimed in his pipsqueak soprano.

Next came the argument known as the “Problem of Evil”, which Mr. Fenster had referred to earlier in their class. How could a just God allow evil to exist in the world? The most famous example of this argument occurs in Dostoevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov, in the chapter where the brothers, Ivan and Alyosha, dispute the torture of an innocent child. Arnie instantly took the atheistic brother, Ivan’s part:

“If god allows the torture of a single innocent child”, he exclaimed,”then he doesn’t deserve to exist!” And, with a blasphemous grin, he gave ‘the finger’ to his cosmic foe up in the sky!

Then there was the “Teleogical Argument” or the “Argument from Design”. Our universe is so rich and marvelous – it is so intricately and ingeniously designed – that it must have had a designer. But Arnie thought otherwise.


“Is a world of holocausts, disease and natural disasters really so very rich and marvelous?”, he asked. “Was such a world designed by a just, benevolent God – or by Satan, Beelzebub, himself?”

Next came the “Ontological Argument”: that the existence of God is simply implicit in  the very concept of a perfect, all-powerful being.

“But why should the designer of such an imperfect world,” he sneered, “be considered a perfect being in the first place?”

Finally, there was Arnie’s – the future research scientist’s – favorite: the elegant, knock-down argument of La Place. On a famous occasion, he’s been questioned by the Emperor Napolean. Asked why La Place’s masterpiece made no reference to God, he’d replied:

“I simply have no need of that hypothesis.”              

They’d attended Hampton Elementary School on Warrington Ave., located one block east of the business district at the corner of Livernois and West Seven Mile. Over the entrance was a white stone plaque reading: Emma Stark Hampton Elementary School, est. 1937. It was a block-long, two-story red brick and white stone structure, with reddish-brown windows, doorway and a tall flagpole out front. Huge pines and firs stood before it, along with smaller groups of bushes and shrubs; a carpet of brown pine cones and needles covered the broad front lawn each fall. In the rear of the school was a gravel strewn playground, with a baseball diamond in the southeast corner.


In the eighth grade they’d taken Natural History together, taught by a middle-aged, black woman, Mrs. Eudora Williams. Mrs. Williams was built on the grand scale, with a great Afro, cinnamon eyes and a broad, generous smile. With a rich contralto voice, she spoke with a Southern accent, and had an inimitable laugh that seemed to bubble up from deep inside her. Their classroom was on the first floor to the right side of the grammar school’s entrance. There were rows of wooden double-desks leading up to Mrs. Williams larger one, with her many colored pieces of chalk. On the walals framing the blackboard was a world map and the periodic table; on the side and rear walls were dazzling photos of rare insects and multi-colored orchids. In addition to their dull required textbook, they’d read The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre; and Mrs. William’s recitations from Fabre were like bel canto arias performed by a great operatic diva.


Towering about them – arrayed in African robes, a brass necklace and rings – she’d cast a spell upon her young audience. Up and down the scale her voice would run, her merry eyes sparkling, casting loving glances around the room. He’d sat in a double-desk beside Arnie in the rear of the class. And, as Mrs. Williams proceeded through her bravura performance, Arnie’d nudge him with a sharp elbow at her especially outrageous remarks. They’d exchange looks of amazement – jaws dropping, brows rising, barely suppressing snorts of laughter. He remembered the day she’d introduced them to Fabre’s fabulous world with his chapter on the Praying Mantis:


“Today, our subject is ‘…a carnivorous insect which hides cannibal habits under a pious appearance…Her long, pale-green wings, like spreading veils, her head raised heavenwards, her folded arms, crossed upon her breast, are in fact a sort of travesty of a nun in ecstacy.’, she exclaimed with a roguish smile. ‘And yet she is a ferocious creature, loving carnage…’”

“Wasp are among her favorite prey. ‘…With a sudden rustle of wings half-furled as by the violent release of a clutch, the Mantis terrifies the newcomer, who hesitates for a moment, in her fright. Then, with the sharpness of a spring, the toothed fore-arm folds back on the toothed upper arm; and the insect is caught between the blades of the double saw. It is as though the jaws of a Wolf-trap were closing on the animal that had nibbled at its bait. Thereupon, without unloosing the cruel machine, the Mantis gnaws her victim by small mouthfuls…”


Arnie exchanged a mischievous look with him, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.

Now Mrs. Williams turned to Fabre’s brilliant account of the mating of the Mantis. With merriment in her eyes and a diabolical peal of laughter, she read them one of her favorite passages:

“’…The male, that slender swain, thinks the moment propitious. He makes eyes at his strapping companion; he turns his head in her direction; he bends his neck and throws out his chest. His little pointed face wears an almost impassioned expression. Motionless, in this posture, for a long time he contemplates the object of his desire. She does not stir, is a though indifferent. The lover, however, has caught a sign of acquiescence…He goes nearer; suddenly he spreads his wings, which quiver with a convulsive tremor. That is his declaration. He rushes, small as he is, upon the back of his corpulent companion, clings on as best he can, steadies his hold. As a rule, the preliminaries last a long time. At last, the coupling takes place and is also long drawn out, lasting sometimes for five or six hours…’”


“’If the poor fellow is loved by his lady as the vivifier of her ovaries, he is also loved as a piece of highly-flavoured game….’” Mrs. Williams crooned, looking up to meet their eyes.

“’…The male, absorbed in the performance of his vital functions, holds the female in a tight embrace. But the wretch has no head; he has no neck; he has hardly a body. The other, with her muzzle turned over her shoulder continues very placidly to gnaw what remains of the gentle swain. And, all the time, that masculine stump, holding on firmly, goes on with the business!’”


“’Love is stronger that death, men say…” Mrs. Williams cried, as she brimmed over with wicked laughter.

He grinned at Arnie, seated there beside him, who’d shake his head back and forth with utter disbelief.

Another creature in Fabre’s menagerie that Mrs. Williams had read to them about was the Necrophovar, the burying beetle:

“’Beside the footpath in April lies the Mole, disemboweled by the peasant’s spade…A general scavenger, the Burying-beetle refuses no sort of cadaveric putrescence…he is literally a grave-digger, a sexton…he buries it entire, on the spot, in a cellar where the thing, duly ripened, will form the diet of his larvae. He buries it in order to establish his progeny…”

“’Now to work.’” she said, rubbing her hands with glee. “’The Mole lies in the centre of the enclosure…Four Necrophori, three males and a female, are there with the body. The remain invisible, hidden beneath the carcase, which from time to time seems to return to life, shaken from end to end by the backs of the workers…the carcase oscillates…gradually sinks, for lack of support, into the undemined soil…’”

“’The Mole is is a Mole no longer, but a greenish horror, putrid, hairless, shrunk into a sort of fat, greasy rasher.’” she said, relishing each word. “’the tidbit lies in a spacious crypt…the grave-diggers have not eaten into it: it is the patrimony of the sons, not the provision of the parents, who, to sustain themselves, levy at the most a few mouthfuls of the ooze of putrid humours…’”

Turing to him, Arnie puffed out his cheeks and grabbed his stomach as if he were about to puke.


Returning the New York Times to the café’s newspaper rack, he’d now returned to his table. Across from him were a seated mother and her tiny daughter. With china blue eyes, chubby cheeks and light brown fluffy hair, she was nibbling on a chocolate croissant. He adored kids. His parents had once told him that having children was the best thing they’d ever done. Arnie now had four; two of them already in college. And his brother, Simon, had a daughter – a gifted cellist – who’d attended the National Music Camp at Interlocken the previous summer. He remembered that summer, so many year ago, when he’d attended Interlocken with Arnie.


Located east of Traverse City, Michigan – a four-hour drive from Detroit – Interlocken’s National Music Camp was surrounded by freshwater lakes and pine forests. It was the nation’s foremost summer arts program, attracting students, faculty and staff from throughout the country and around the world. The campers had worn blue corduroy pants or knickers, identification badges and blue cotton shirts or blouses. They’d lived in cabins in the woods, made of varnished pine logs, and slept in bunk beds arranged in rows, inside. Each weekday was scheduled for classes, private lessons and rehearsals. And, in addition to their studies in music, theater and the arts, there were a variety of athletic programs, swimming and boating.

He remembered his daily sessions in the pine-log practice booths, where he’d prepared for clarinet lessons and orchestra rehearsals. Each week he’d attend the orchestra’s sectional rehearsals, as well; where his fellow clarinetists challenged one another to advance to the top of the section. But the highlight of the summer – the finale of the season – was the concerto competition at the end.


That year an amazing group of young clarinetists had attended. Among the best of their generation, a number of them had later had distinguished professional careers, becoming principals with major symphony orchestras. Among the contestants in  the clarinet division that summer were Arnie and ac child prodigy from Chicago. The latter had auditioned with Carl Neilsen’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (at that time, the most demanding in the entire repertoire); Arnie had auditioned with the first movement of the Clarinet Concerto by Johann Stamitz. Both had made the finals, which took place at Kresge Auditorium in the evening. It was a great pinewood shell outdoors beneath the stars. His parents were visiting that weekend, so they’d attended Arnie’s Friday evening performance, together.


Arnie had entered swiftly from the wings carrying his Boosie & Hawkes clarinet—an intense little guy with curly brown hair, wearing thick-lensed, horn-rimmed eyeglasses. There he stood before the audience, boldly confronting the audience. The sounds of their voices now died down, as the oboist played an A, which Arnied repeated, adjusting the barrel of his instrument. Then he nodded to the  conductor, standing beside him on the podium, who’d tapped the stand several times with his baton. After a moment of silence, he’d given the downbeat to the Stamitz Concerto.


With a huge, velvety tone, he played with great dynamic range and rubato, and invariably at a Heifitz-like clip. Without ever moving his feet, he performed a veritable snake-charmer’s dance; bending up and down at the knees; swaying the bell back and forth; his expressive eyebrows revealing the shape  of each phrase and the over-arching line of the music. A born soloist, he’d received round after round of applause, followed by a standing ovation from the entire audience!


The following fall, both he and Arnie had celebrated their Bar Mitzvahs, the rite of passage of a Jewish boy into manhood. The previous year, he’d been tutored in his portion of the Torah, which he’s painstakingly prepared and finally managed to memorize; then the evening of the great occasion had arrived.

He had dined with his parents in the livingroom, seated around the refectory table with its French provincial chairs. Dressed in a stiff shirt, striped tie and three-piece suit, he’d hardly touched the lavish meal. After dinner, they’d gotten into the family car, backed out of the garage, and driven through Palmer Park to nearby Temple Israel. They’d parked in the adjacent lot and entered the lobby, greeting their many friends and relatives. From here, they’d passed into the great white-domed tabernacle, where they were seated as the service now began.


As he sat in the audience waiting to be called, he went over his haftorah portion repeatedly in his mind. Finally, the rabbi had announced his name. Rising to his feet – wearing a yarmulke and gold-fringed tallis – he proceeded down the center aisle lined with white chrysanthemums, followed by the congregation’s countless pairs of eyes. He climbed the steps to the bima, to stand between the rabbi and the cantor. After the rabbi’s introductory prayer, they turned to face the ark of the covenant, behind them; within it was the Torah, the “Tree of Life”. The rabbi drew back its blue satin curtains and removed the Torah’s sacred scrolls. Clothed in white velvet, crowns and silver shield, he placed it carefully on the bima. The rabbi slowly unwound the scrolls to reveal the portion that he would read; then he placed the antique silver pointer in his hand. Shaped like  a hand with a slender forefinger, he directed it at the Hebrew text on the parchment scrolls before him.


First, the rabbi read from the Torah; then the cantor chanted a prayer in his resonant tenor voice. Finally, they’d turned to him; it was time for him to read. He began, and all had gone well: until half-way through his portion, when he had suffered a memory lapse! There he stood, exposed before the entire congregation: shame; embarrassed; unable to stop the flow of tears. The rabbi quickly intervened, and they’d concluded the Bar Mitzvah service.


Afterwards, he’d stood between his parents in the reception line, as their guests – among them the Shapiros – passed before them to offer congratulations and shake their hands. Somehow, he’d managed to get through the rest of that disastrous evening; but he’d suffered nightmares for many weeks, thereafter.

His weekdays had begun with a bus ride downtown to Cass Technical High School. Waking a 5:30 A.M., to the rasping of the electric alarm clock, he showered, dressed and grabbed a glass of orange juice; then walked down Renfrew to Parkside Ave., carrying his clarinet case and bag of books. Crossing 7 Mile Rd., he waited at the Hamilton Ave. bus stop. As the bus ground to a halt, he mounted the stairs, dropped his fare in the ratting metal change box and moved to the rear to find a seat. From 7 Mile Rd., they entered Palmer Park, where the road snaked its way through to Hamilton Ave., on the park’s far side.


They passed Temple Israel Congregation (scene of his Bar Mitzvah debacle), and Palmer Park Theater, where he often saw new films. Further down Hamilton Ave., they passed storefronts, plants and factories; then they came to the stately residential neighborhood that included Boston and Chicago Boulevards, where his grandparents had lived many years before. Here was here his mother had grown up and attended nearby Northern High School. Turning south and traveling along the John C. Lodge Expressway, they passed the Goodyear billboard (on which the number of automobiles rolling off the Detroit’s assembly lines were recorded by the minute). To their right was Henry Ford Hospital, the city’s largest; then they turned east, crossed the Lodge Expressway and drove by General Motors World Headquarters, the world’s largest corporation. Across the street from GM was the Fischer Building, in whose theater he’d seen many productions fresh from Broadway; then they left GM far behind them and entered the dreary Cass Corridor. Further along, they passed the campus of Wayne State University, and finally arrived at Cass Tech, itself, across the street from which was the bus stop where he exited and crossed the street.


He entered its gothic-arched brown doors (that he’d first seen years before at rehearsals of the All-City Band), then walked down the gloomy hallway through the crowd of arriving students to his lockers. His day consisted of morning classes and band rehearsal, lunch, afternoon classes and the bus ride home. In his senior year, he and Arnie had taken The History of Western Thought, taught by Jonas Seligman, a streetwise intellectual with a bawdy sense of humor.


Seligman had an olive complexion, shrewd brown eyes and a thick nose that had once been broken in a fistfight. He wore his hair slicked back, smoked cheap cigars, and spoke with a nasal Queens accent (when someone pointed this out, he’d grinned – “ I speak the Queen’s English”, was his reply). Sporting loud bow ties and a tweed sports coat, he’d peppered his lectures with Yiddish and street talk. The local bawdy house, the Stone Burlesque, he’d called the “bur-lee-que”; and he’d poke fun at their yearly graduation exercise’s scholarly honors—saying “Sure, they’d graduated Magna Cum Lardy, but most of it was Lardy.” Their text was The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant.


Mr. Seligman began his first lecture in his typically humorous vein with a quote from Cicero that cracked them all up: ”There is nothing so absurd,” he exclaimed, “but that it may not be found in the books of philosophers!” After their laughter had finally subsided, he’d launched into his one-man-band performance, emphasizing the humor and drama in the lives of the great philosophers.


First, there was the legendary Pythagoras, who, like St. Francis, had actually preached to animals. The author of the Pythagorean theorem that we all learn in geometry, he’d believed that eating beans was a sin! (At lunchtime, he and Arnie would eat hotdogs with chili at the local Coney Island across the street and when he was unable to suppress a fart, Arnie would chide him for his thoroughly “un-Pythagorean” ways.}

Next, came Socrates, who – as he strolled through the streets of Athens – gathered the flower of its youth about him in debate. A teacher much beloved by his pupils, he’d claimed: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Everything – including our most cherished beliefs – must be subjected to systematic doubt. Unlike the Pre-Socratics, however, who dealt largely with the nature of the material world, Socrates’ chief interest was in man. At the end of his life, he was charged by the state with corrupting the youth of Athens. Tried and found guilty, he was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock, which he’d calmly swallowed in the company of his grieving friends and pupils.


Like Socrates, Mr. Seligman was a gadfly of a teacher, always stinging them with his skeptic’s doubts and gallows humor. It was always “But what do you mean by that?“ or “Would you be so kind as to define that term?” He possessed a Gargantuan appetite for his subject and a mischievous, infectious manner of conveying it. And he’d been the first among his teachers to condemn the Vietnam War. The great philosophers, according to him, had challenged the views of the state and its ruling class, and they’d often paid the price for their convictions. A tragic case in point, centuries after Socrates, was that of the “god-intoxicated” Spinoza. Charged with heresy, he’d been summoned before the elders of the synagogue, where he was tried, and then sentenced to be excommunicated:

“During the reading of the cures, the wailing and protracted note of a great horn was heard to fall in from time to time; the lights, seen brightly burning at the beginning of the ceremony, were extinguished one by one as it proceeded, till at the end the last went out – typical of the extinction of the spiritual life of the excommunicated man – and the congregation was left in total darkness.”     


“With the judgment of the angels and the sentence of the saints, we anathematize, execrate, curse and cast out Baruch de Espinoza…” pronounced the elders. “Let him be accursed by day, and accursed by night…May the wrath and displeasure of the Lord burn henceforth against him…”

Spinoza had later moved into a garret outside Amsterdam, where he continued his philosophical studies, while earning his living polishing lenses. Not until his death, did his masterpiece, the Ethics, finally appear. A critic had branded him “…the most impious atheist that ever lived upon the face of the earth…”

Later, that semester, they’d made the acquaintance of the arch idealist, Bishop Berkeley. “To be is to be perceived.” he’d argued. “Matter is no more than a bundle of perceptions, an unwarranted inference. The only reality is Mind.”


Next, came the skeptical Scot, David Hume, who published his masterpiece, the Treatise on Human Nature, at the age of twenty-six. He’d hoped for a serious reception from his critics, but not a soul reviewed the volume. “It fell dead-born from the press.” he’d said.


We know Mind as we know Matter – only through perception, he’d argued. We perceive sensations, memories, feelings – but never encounter a separate entity, “the Mind”. What Berkeley did for Matter, Hume had done for Mind: concluding that it was a mere fiction. Then he proceeded to lay waste to causation, natural law and inducton.


We perceive that a series of events – constantly conjoined happenings of type A followed by type B – but we never perceive “the cause” that binds them. That there is a “necessary connection” between them, that there is a ”natural law” that governs them – this is no more than a purely speculative inference after the fact. The very “principle of induction” – the belief that the past will resemble the future – this is, itself, merely a matter of custom. It cannot – without circularity – be inferred from the observed uniformity of our experience, since it is, itself, required to justify such an inference. Thus, mind, causation, natural law and induction are all nothing but creatures of habit or custom.


In mathematics, alone, do we find necessity (e.g. 2+2=4); but this is only because these propositions are mere tautologies – the predicate is, itself, contained in the subject. Consequently, science must confine itself to mathematics and experimentation, alone:

“When we run though libraries, persuaded by these principles, what havoc must we make! If we take in our hands any volume of school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, ‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?’ No. ’Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?’ No. ‘Commit it then to the  flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’”

It was Hume’s, Inquiry into Human Understanding, an abridged version of the Treatise, that is said to have awakened Kant from his “dogmatic slumbers”.


Immanuel Kant was the most regular of men: ”…Rising, coffee-drinking, writing, lecturing, dining, walking – each had its set time. And when Immanuel Kant, in his gray coat, cane in hand, appeared at the door of his house, and strolled towards the small avenue of linden tees which is still called ‘The Philosopher’s Walk’, the neighbors knew it was exactly half-past-three by the clock…” He developed slowly, not publishing his masterpiece, The Critique of Pure Reason, until the age of fifty-seven. Next, came the great pessimist of European philosophy, Artur Schopenhauer.


Seligman introduced Schopenhauer with a famous remark by Sigmund Freud: “A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror, that confidence of success that often induces real success.” Schopenhauer’s father had died when he was very young and his mother had regretted giving birth to him: so he grew up gloomy, cynical and suspicious. He was obsessed with fears and fancies: he kept his pipes under lock and key; never trusted his neck to a barber’s razor; and slept with loaded pistols at his bedside.


“He was absolutely alone, with not a single friend, and between one and none there lies an infinity…”, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. Sixteen years after the publication of his masterpiece, The World as Will and Idea, he was informed that the greater part of the edition had been sold as waste paper! He’d lived the last thirty years of his life with no comrade but his dog, a poodle named Atma (World Soul). The youthful wags of the town had taken pleasure in referring to the dog as “Young Schopenhauer”.


Schopenhauer’s great admirer, Friedrich Nietzsche, had come from a long line of clergymen. The death of his father, also a minister, had left the boy in the care of a household of pious women. And they’s raised him in an atmosphere of religious gloom. His schoolmates called him ”the little minister” because he was always secluding himself to read the bible or preaching to them with it.


His obsession with masculinity would later lead to the theory of “the Superman”. At 18, he lost faith in god; which was later developed into his theme of “the death of god”. At 25, he earned his doctorate, and was appointed to the chair of classical philosophy at the University of Basle. A gifted pianist who wrote sonatas, he came to the attention of Richard Wagner, who invited him to spend the holidays with him. Overnight, Nietzsche had become the master’s self-appointed disciple and proponent of his “music of the future”.

He travelled to the Alps to write his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. In it, he contrasted the two Greek gods, Dionysus and Apollo. Dionysus, was the god of wine, joy and  instinct; Apollo, that of order and intellect. The art of tragic drams would be the result of the fusing of the two. And his master, Richard Wagner, was the German artist in whom the spirit of Greek tragedy had been reborn. Only forty copes of the book had been sold. His life ended in a mental breakdown, blindness and disease.

By this time, he and Arnie were submitting applications to college. Arnie planned to later attend medical school; while he hoped to eventually study philosophy in graduate school. So Arnie jokingly referred to the pair of them as “the Physician” and “the Metaphysician”. “Until GM hires philosophers-in-residence,” he joked, “I’d suggest you don’t quit your day job, Joel.”


After Seligman’s class, came visual art, in Mrs. Dunn’s Introduction to Art History. Here, they’d read Kenneth Clark’s, The Nude, Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance and Landscape into Art. Mrs. Dunn was an elderly woman in her sixties, overweight and a heavy smoker. Divorced, with one grown-up son, she had a doughy face, a nob of a nose and wore large black circular spectacles like Le Corbusier’s. She’d begun their opening lecture by reading from one of their texts, Landscape into Art:

“’…We owe much of our pleasure in looking at the world to the great artists who have looked at it before us…’” Pausing, she closed the book and placed it carefully on the desk before her. Now she took off her distinctive eyeglasses, placed them on the top of the book and addressed her pupils:

“The first great modern subjects of visual art are the human body, the human face and landscape. Our texts will explore each of these, in turn. We’ll begin with Kenneth Clark’s, The Nude, and the human body. That author says:

”…our lifelong companion…as a nucleus, (it) is rich in associations…It is ourselves, and arouses memories of all the things we wish to do with ourselves; and first of all we wish to perpetuate ourselves…” In fact, “…the desire to grasp and be united with another human body is so fundamental a part of our nature, that our judgment of what is known as ‘pure form’ is inevitably influenced by it…”

“It was the Greeks who first felt this ‘…passionate pleasure in the human form…”, she continued. “…They gave to the cult of physical perfection a solemnity and a rapture which have not been experienced since…” “…For them the nude was an ideal, a classical form based on perfect symmetry and balance…”

In slides projected on the screen at the front of the classroom, Mrs. Dunn now exhibited for them the works of Phidias, Praxiteles and Myron, mostly in the form of poor Roman copies. But there were a few great works that had survived: the Metopes from the Parthenon, depicting the battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs; the Winged Nikes from the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis; the battle of the Greeks and the Amazons from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus; and Pergamon’s great frieze in Berlin. The following week, they were shown a slide show of their modern rival, the “divine” Michelangelo.


“Since the Greeks of the fourth century, no man felt so certain of the godlike character of the male body as Michelangelo…”, she began. “…like the Greeks, (he) was passionately stirred by male beauty…” Among his greatest creations, she told them, were the “…four Captives in the Florentine Academy, in which each figure is only just emerging from the block…” The art, she told them, “…came to use the body chiefly as an instrument of pathos…(and) developed an extraordinary power of communicating his feelings through knots of muscles…Their heads only just emerge…their hands and feet are equally buried…They speak to us though their bodies alone.”


In subsequent lectures, Mrs. Dunn had spoken of other artists:

“’Rubens did for the female nude what Michelangelo had done for the male. He realized so fully its expressive possibilities that for the next century all those who were not the slaves of academism inherited his vision of the body…”, she suggested. And Degas, “’the greatest draughtsman since the Renaissance’”, took the female form even one step further. His late pastels of women at their baths achieve the monumental quality of Michelangelo’s males.’”

Later, in the semester, they’d studied the human face with Kenneth Clark’s, Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance, as their text:

“’What Michelangelo did for the male body, Rembrandt did for the face”, our teacher claimed. “Like Beethoven, to who his early self-portrait drawings bear a striking resemblance, Rembrandt “…saw hiself as tough and rebellious…This angry impatience with convention was a fundamental part of (his) character…But side by side with this rebelliousness was an immense seriousness…(In fact), Michelangelo and Rembrandt are the two most profoundly moral of artists…’”

“Rembrandt ‘…did not distinguish between episodes in biblical history and scenes in the life around him…’, she said. He ‘…saw each sitter as an individual human soul whose weaknesses and imperfections must not be disguised…It was this pre-occupation with the individual which led him to study his own face so relentlessly…The knowledge thus acquired enabled him to grasp and concentrate on the spiritual state of each sitter…”


From the human form and face, they’d finally turned to landscape, and its greatest exponent, J.W.N. Turner. Not only was he a master of the art of landscape, Mrs. Dunn had informed them, but he was also the finest of all artists in watercolor. A contemporary maste, Robert Motherwell, had even advanced the view that modern art – rather than originating in the paintings of Cezanne – had its roots in Turner’s amazingly abstract late watercolors. Another writer on Turner they had read, Graham Reynolds, notes that “…his experience and his Italian journeys was to direct his interest towards the colour in the visible world, if need be at the expense of its form. His always present fascination for the immaterial vehicles of colour, steam, smoke, mist, helped him to make his choice. So in the later finished pictures he composes in colour, dissolving, suggesting and only half-defining, form…” When a viewer had expressed disappointment at what he considered the indistinctness of one of Turner’s painting, the artist had told a colleague: “You should tell him that indistinctness is my forte.”


On weekends, Mrs. Dunn had taken them to the Detroit Institute of the Arts, where they’d toured the galleries as she lectured them on its treasures. Among them were Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure in Elmwood”, Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance”, and Rodin’s “Portrait of Jules Dalou”. One of Van Gogh’s great self-portraits had hung in another gallery (a counterpart to the one he would later admire in Chicago.) And Mrs. Dunn had read to them from Van Gogh’s immortal letters to his brother.

Not only were they one of the greatest records of an artist’s inner life, but they also described one of history’s most moving love stories: the love of a pair of brothers for one another. There was nothing that his brother, Theo, hadn’t done for Vincent. He supported him financially, gave him encouragement and moral support, and had even arranged to have Gauguin live with him for a time in Arles. At the very end of his life – when he realized that Vincent was on his deathbed – Theo had laid down there beside him and cradled him in his arms. Having virtually worked himself to death for his beloved brother, Theo had died only six months after Vincent.


At the end of that memorable day, while seated in the museum’s Garden Court, Mrs. Dunn had lectured them on the murals of Diegeo Rivera. As she spoke, they heard the plashing sound of the stepped fountain in its center. Small children were drawn to its tinkling and the playoff light on the water; here, they’d toss their pennies in as they’d silently made a wish. The Baroque courtyard was decorated with rounded arches, Doric pillars and masques; plaques and medallions were set into its upper stone panels. On the walls before them were the great frescoes of the Ford Rouge, in Dearborn, which had once been the largest complex in the world.


Reviera had depicted the production of an automobile – from the delivery of its raw materials at one end – to its final assembly, miles away, at the other. The North Wall panel featured Henry Ford’s great innovation, the moving assembly line; and at the center of “the line” among the workers is a portrait of his comrade, the ageing Leon Trotsky. Rivera had befriended the great revolutionary in exile, at the end of the long campaign of vilification waged against him by the world communist movement, led by Joseph Stalin; later, he had had Trotsky assassinated: an ice pick to the skull.


When the frescoes had been complete, and irate public demanded that they be white-washed! In defense of his art, the artist had replied: “The official Communist party of this country has expelled me…and now the conservative element attacks me. However, my public is made up of the workers…” Another series of murals, that he’d painted for the Rockefeller Center in New York – which had included a portrait of V.I. Lenin – had later been destroyed.


Their daily rehearsal for the Spring Band Concert took place in a large room behind the Cass Auditorium. At the front of the room was a blackboard, then came the conductor’s podium, and a series of semi-circular tiers that supported the linoleum-covered floor; in the rear was a storage area for musical instruments. The band members entered through the rear or the hallway’s double-doors, found their seats, assembled their instruments and began to warm up. When their conductor, Mr. Jacobi, had finally arrived, he mounted the podium and tapped the stand three times with his baton. Seated around, in semi-circle, were Arnie, Daniel and Grace, their first-chair clarinet, oboe and flute. He, himself, played second-chair, beside Arnie.


During the past two years, they’d performed some of the most challenging works of the concert band repertoire, among them, Schoenberg’s, Theme and Variations, Op. 43a, Rossini’s, Overture to “La Scala di Seta”, Hindemith’s, Symphony in B-flat, and arrangements of Richard Strauss’ tone poems. The previous year they’d been invited to perform at the National Music Educators’ Conference in Pittsburgh, where they had accompanied the saxophonist, Sigurd Rascher, in the world premier of Erickson’s, Saxaphone Concerto.(The year following his graduation, the State Department would sponsor the band’s tour of France, the first high school band ever to be so honored.)


On the night of the Spring Band Concert, he’d arranged to pick up their first flutist, Grace Alexander. She’d worn a full-length blue silk gown that matched the color of her eyes, and revealed her shapely arms bare arms and shoulders. Her dark brown hair had been coiffure especially for the occasion, piled high in a spiral on top her head. Like the rest of the male members of the band, he’d rented a white tuxedo jacket with black trousers, a cummerbund and black bow tie.


The first half of the program had begun with the “Colas Braegnon” Overture by Kabalesky, and concluded with Hindemith’s Symphony in B-flat, one of the most important original works for symphonic band. After intermission, the second half of the concert had begun with Grace’s enchanting performance of Chaminade’s Concertino for Solo Flure; it had conclude with a transcription specially arranged for our band of Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Til Eulenspegel. It had been his final performance with the Cass Tech Band, perhaps the peak of the events of his entire life. They’d truly been a “band of brothers/and sisters”, and Mr. Jacobi had been a father to them all.


In June, at their high school graduation, Arnie had cleaned up on the scholarships and awards; he’s already received his letter of acceptance, and would be attending Harvard University in the fall. It was the last time he would see Arnie until he ran into him, many year later, with his brother, Simon, at Symphony Hall in Chicago. Arnie had been in town for an international AIDS conference, where he was the keynote speaker. While he was here, he was accompanying his brother, Simon, to hear the baritone, Bryn Terfel, in recital. By then he had become a full professor at Harvard, a member of a half-dozen international AIDS organizations, and champion in the fight against the worldwide AIDS pandemic. He had greeted his old friend, Arnie Shapiro, with the words “Dr. Shapiro, I presume.”


In memory of

Dr. Norman Letvin,

the single greatest man I’ve ever known.


© 2015 By Mark Dickman