West Cornwall, where it begins
Let us not speak of politics; let us speak of...politics.
I came here in 1970 to hide out in the woods and think my great thoughts and write my great work(s). By ‘72 I realized that hiding was impossible, at least for me. And greatness? That would have to wait. (Still waiting.)
So I walked from Cream Hill Road the two miles into town, carless, before the term ‘carbon footprint’ was in use.
I first went to Yutzler’s grocery store, owned by the Yutzler Bros, Carl and “Dutch”, with Fred their cousin as assistant, unkindly calling him El Gordo, a sweet man, a bit on the porcine side. Carl, also sweet, earlier he had been drafted into the War and Arlington “Dutch”, left out of the draft, with a heart murmur, which I think made him a very talented painter. “Dutch” had studied in New York at the Art Students League, but on the brink of a career was called back to run the family business. He did. His work, realistic, detailed, colorful with people and places, filled his house on Upper River Road. One is in the First Selectman’s office in Cornwall.
He became a weekend painter, but his was the mind that kept the business together.
Across the road was the butcher shop, Fred Bate owner and singer. So many times I heard him sing, “Missed the Saturday dance, heard they crowded the floor.” Fred also said that New Yorkers didn’t know where West Cornwall was, but they sure did know where Dibble Hill is.
Fred was meticulous and when he wrapped the meat, I loved his brains, his and cows, it was art like. His charming wife, Doris, when she would sometimes take over, chomping on a raw hot dog, was less concerned about art. You could always tell when she had wrapped; the chicken leg was sticking out of the paper. A sweetie, indeed.
But, politics. Martin Gold. He owned the bookstore across from Yutzlers and up the lane from Fred Bate’s.
Marty was disorganized Dickensianly. The Little Old Curiosity Shoppe, about to spontaneously combust. He and I both had strong Chicago roots. As a young man in 1952, having worked on the Estes Kefauver campaign, Estes of the Coonskin hat, in the few states that had primaries, Marty confidently strode into Chi Town, excited that Estes was going to be the nominee. Hadn’t he won every primary, all six or seven? He was stopped cold. Jake Arvey, one of the two kingmakers in the land, along with John Bailey of our Nutmeg State, both original Influencers. (Do you keep seeing that word?) Jake said to young Martin, No, young man, it is going to be Adlai Stevenson. And indeed, it was, losing to Dwight Eisenhower and again in ’56, losing again to Ike, and if Eleanor Roosevelt had had her way, it would have been him again in ‘60. (Love Eleanor though I do, that was a major mistake, not to recognize JFK.)
Marty was the first Jew at the University of Georgia. His major? Arabic Studies. The very first person, and for many years to come, I heard use the words Sunni and Shia. I still cannot tell the difference. Something about the son-in-law of the Prophet, may his name be blessed.
You did see who just got elected to the Senate from Georgia. A LandsMann named Ossoff (got to love a campaign slogan - Vote Your Ossoff!). His opponent, whose name I cannot bear to utter, put out an ad which elongated Jon’s nose and likened him to Chuck Schumer, also Jewish. The ad warned all anti Semites that these Christ-killers would take over the country. When the opponent was confronted, his people said something about a mistake in the photoshopping. If you accept that, I got a boatload of soggy matzohs I’m happy to sell you.
Marty said I should run for State Rep. I was up and coming. What? My opponent would have been the revered Adele Eads who had gotten 99% of the Kent vote for aeons. There was maybe half a dead person’s vote that went against her. She also had the worst attendance record in Hartford. When confronted, she said that roads between Kent and Hartford were so bad that she didn’t risk the suspension of her Mercedes. (I thought that is what those cars were built for, but never having had one...).
It was at that time that Joseph Papp of the New York Shakespeare Festival/The Public Theater was about to produce my play. Well, I couldn’t run for office and be with my play. Could I? Heavens forfend!
I did not run; and Joe, despite advertising my play in the Sunday Times, did not do the play. The longer story for another time.
One more political moment. I am at a party in New York talking to a woman who asks me where I live. I say where and that we are represented by a horrible Congresswoman name of Nancy Johnson. Johnson was one of three Reps who did not vote on the controversial B1 bomber. One was dead; one was quite ill; and one was Nancy Johnson. Her “reasoning”? She was at a party and when the bells rang for the vote, she didn’t hear them and her aides couldn’t find her because she was too short.
The woman who asked me where I lived said, She’s my mother.
Lonnie Carter is a writer who lives in Falls Village. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.