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Monthly Archives: June 2010



Excerpts from 20 Years in Saudi Arabia
Barie Fez-Barringten
19,134 words

Chapter 1. Unexpected changes

I was first called in spirit to Saudi Arabia through a gallery owner in Jackson, Tennessee, when she asked if she could exhibit and sell my collection of European pen-and-ink drawings. I did not give her my artwork, because I had always hoped the sketches of Europe would be kept together and sold as a collection to one person only.
So I offered to make her a new collection, and she agreed.

Barie with Saudi KFU Students

Without realizing it, she inspired me to sketch visions of my future life.
At that time the song “Midnight in the Oasis” was often played on the radio, and it intrigued me. I considered converting the music to pictures, not only reifying the words describing the oasis, but also the entire context of Arabia and its environs.
Being in Jackson without a good library, I had to rely on my imagination and memory of old movies and photographs.

I’d imagine and sketch places, buildings, incidents, events, and contexts, playing with scale, light, shadow, form, building types, costumes, and architectural drawing techniques. The results were awesome. Everyone would ask if I’d been there, and I said that, unlike the European collection, these drawings were all from my imagination. Years later, when we actually were in Saudi, it was amazing to see how many of these drawings resembled the actual places.
I did the sketches in 1974, during the formation of OPEC and the Arab oil embargo. We did not know then that the sketches were prophetic. Today we know it was a sign from God, telling us to get ready.

When I look back, my professional career began in an extremely promising fashion. After graduating from the Pratt Institute, where I won the “Best Portfolio” prize, a top New York firm, Designs for Business, offered me a job. After that, I worked for the famous architect, Edward Durrell Stone. And then, after an extended journey throughout Europe to visit some 72 cities and view the architecture of cities in Italy, France, and Spain, I went to Yale University to study for my master’s degree in architecture.

In my first year of study in New Haven I married Christina. She had come from Germany to New York to study Philosophy at Hunter College, but had then switched to Fine Art at the Art Students Leak and Columbia University. Her sculptures were well received, and were exhibited at the Frank Laurence Gallery on 57th Street and on Madison Avenue.

Before we got married I had rented a villa in New Haven. There was enough space to live, and to accommodate my drafting business, which enabled me to pay for my studies and support my new family. New Haven was a typical New England town. It had its Schubert Theater, where all the Broadway plays were tested. It also had Yale University, with its unique Library and fine art museums. It had a mayor who chose famous architects to design the new city building. It was simply an ideal place to stay after graduating to praxis architecture. At least that was our plan.

For more than a year, all went well; then, in 1967, the percentage rates for loans suddenly went sky-high, which was the death-knell for the building industry. My business came to a screeching halt and, shortly before I graduated at Yale, my drafting business failed. It was very disappointing, but being optimists by nature, we looked forward and not back. We struggled financially until I got my thesis in February 1968; after that I believed I would get a job and all would be well.

But to our disappointment there were no jobs available anywhere, and so we made a spontaneous but whimsical decision: we reasoned, it would be best to escape the poor job prospects and unpleasant winter in New Haven by going where it was warm, and where, hopefully, there would be a job waiting for me.

Without much planning but full of expectations, we flew to Puerto Rico. There, after I got a job, I could study and get ready to take the very difficult Architecture-License Examination.

With a few dollars in my pocket, a suitcase, some addresses, and a lot of faith we arrived in that strange new place. We caught the cheap midnight flight to San Juan, where we landed at 4 am to be greeted by the balmy tropical air of the island, and a lonely taxi, parked forlornly on the sidewalk. The driver took us to an all-night cafeteria in town where we could wait for a decent hour to make a phone call.

First I called Bob Carpenter, who was design chief of the Conquistador Hotel for Morris Lapidus. He was on the address list I had hastily compiled before leaving. When he heard my story he told me frankly I was insane to come to Puerto Rico in the high season, because there was nowhere to stay and no jobs, but he was kind enough to let me use his office to make phone calls.

Then I called John Fernandez, president of the Yale Club, and brother of the famous Hollywood actor, Francesco Fernandez. He happened to be a realtor. As luck would have it, he had a condominium for rent in the swanky section of Miramar. There was no furniture, only two beds, a table, and a few chairs but we didn’t care; it was great. More than that, it was a miracle.

We moved in the same day as our arrival. Some kind people lent us some pillows and blankets for the night, and there was even a connected telephone, so I could continue calling other local architects for a job. But soon it began to look hopeless.

Finally I found the courage to call the biggest architecture and engineering firm on the island. To my surprise, within days, and after only a few friendly interviews, Elloy Ruiz and his partner, Gilberto Gonzalez-Seijo, offered me a junior partnership in their firm in Rio Piedras. They bought me a brand-new Toyota Corolla and gave me a small expense account to cover meals, so I would not have to make the trip home daily for lunch. I was the young partner who went after new business, designed the most interesting projects, and negotiated design problems on their most prestigious project for the El Mundo Newspaper Company, which was managed by Peter Albi. The New York Building Management Company was Cushman and Wakefield. I designed the warehouse buildings for the rum company, Ron Rico, a police station, the Cayey Vocational High School, and a department store. Wunderbar!

Also, it was easy to make friends with the hospitable people of Puerto Rico. Patty Pease, the original owner of our building, lived in the penthouse on the tenth floor. We loved visiting with her in the early evening to watch the sunset, while we enjoyed our cocktails. She told us the condominium was situated in such a way that the wind circulation made air-conditioning unnecessary. It had been designed by the island’s top German architect, Klaus Klumb, a specialist in tropical design.
Later, when we visited him at his home, and stood in the midst of a lush tropical garden, we were impressed. We had never seen a more beautiful tropical paradise; it was a perfect example of how to combine a human habitat with nature.

We had no plans to stay in Puerto Rico, but slowly we changed our minds. Christina studied Spanish and delved into the island’s cultural background. We became very active with the Yale Club. Later, Thomas Tilley, who drove an Ambassador Hudson car and was a partner in a law firm, became president. Through him, at the club, we got to know Carlos Romero Barceló, whom our club’s members helped get elected mayor of San Juan. Before him, Donna Felisa was mayor. Louis Ferre, of Ponce, was governor. We got to meet them all. It was fun and interesting.

Only one tragic event dampened our spirits. We had become good friends with Pastor Gerald Bergen and his family, because I had spent a lot of time going with him to visit the slums of San Juan. We helped the people of “La Pearla” build and improve their primitively built, but imaginative, shacks. I made sketches of how to improve the shacks, and the newspapers did stories on my projects. The media helped us get free labor and materials to make these very clumsy, unprofessional but artistic dwellings stronger, safer and more sanitary.

Sadly, in the middle of all the activities our young and active Pastor died of a brain hemorrhage. It came as a great shock to us all. I invited Governor Ferre to our Grace English Lutheran Church, to be the guest of honor to comfort the family and congregation.
Before Pastor Bergen left us, he had recruited me to give the large parish center a new paint job and to manage this project. I got all the materials donated, and the US Army Corps of Engineers sent their young men to volunteer their time. It was this exercise that taught me what I needed to produce the first New York City Earth Day, and then build the loft for LME in New York City.
The volunteers loved to help, because the women at the church cooked the most scrumptious meals for them, and it made them feel like they were coming home to mother.
Through Christina’s friend, Beatrice Lopez-Pritchard, we got to know the city of St Germaine, a charming town on the east end of Puerto Rico, untouched by modern times and tourists. It also had the oldest Church in America. We stayed in their family’s lovely summer cottage on one of the thousands of little romantic islands on the Atlantic Ocean.

We became acquainted with many interesting people. The Puerto Rican-born architect Jose Fernandez and his wife, Maya, were so very kind to show us the history and local side of San Juan. John Vincent Kane, a US interior designer, had made his home in old San Juan and became my good friend. Jamie Cobas, a Puerto Rican, and my classmate at Yale University, showed us all the most fashionable art galleries and people. They introduced us to Pablo Casal, the famous cellist, and to the owner of a modeling agency, for which we did little modeling jobs, just for fun. We appeared in newspaper ads. I did a TV commercial for Miller’s Beer, and we were extras in a movie called Stiletto, starring Brit Ekland, who was very quiet and unassuming. It seemed that most movie stars really only lived there in their films. This was an incredible experience, and the people we met were so vital and fresh.

We still found time to complete an island-wide plan of public libraries. We had to visit all 72 municipalities by cutting through the rain forest and driving endlessly up and down the island’s rich green mountains. I met the librarians, and so many very kind and wonderful people throughout the island; many were employees of the Department of Education.
I was a member of the Collegio d’enginerios, and I did my NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) exam in Puerto Rico. My engineer, Raymond Watson, made sure I passed the structural part by tutoring me on earthquakes and seismic design.
I realized later how important it is to reach out for knowledge whenever one finds it. One never knows when it comes in handy. My knowledge of tropical architecture later got me my first teaching job.

Christina was deeply involved in the creation of her fabulously imaginative collection of collages when she got the good news that her father, Max Schneider, from the city of Leipzig, which was behind the Iron Curtain then, had been granted a rare visa to leave the Russian-occupied East German zone to visit West Germany. She and her friend Patty flew to Munich immediately.
It was a tearful reunion; she had not seen her father for 12 years. After her visit Christina returned home sad and happy at the same time. She was happy she had finally been able to see her father again, but was sad he could not just stay with us permanently.
To ease her thoughts, she concentrated deeply on the creation of her artwork, and when she was just about ready to give a one-man show of her collection in one of old San Juan’s many great galleries, the unthinkable happened.

Suddenly, one of the partners of the company, Gilberto Gonzalez-Sejomy, died, and my successful life came to a screeching halt. His partner, Elloy Ruiz, who was getting on in years, decided to close the business and retired immediately. I was not ready to take over that big a company, and so for us it meant curtains; we had no other choice but to return to New York. But before doing that, God favored us with a contract to complete the plan for public libraries across the island, and design Centro Modus for Armanda, the sister-in-law of my dear, deceased Gilberto. We became great friends of both Arturo and Armanda.
Somehow the grief we felt over the loss of a person we had become so very fond of in such a short time helped us forget our own personal misfortune.
Also, when I came home in 1969, we became very busy; my city of New York was not kind to us. To our surprise, apartments had become expensive and hard to find. And jobs were still not readily available. But with my usual determination I found an apartment in Picasso House on East 58th Street, just a block from Bloomingdale’s. And, finally, I found a drafting job. Christina worked as a designer for Vladimir Cagan, who is famous for his Plexiglass tables.

Yet all the setbacks I had experienced in the past did not destroy my dream to have my own design office. And when the first opportunity came, I grabbed it. When I got a part-time teaching position at my old school, the Pratt Institute, I decided this would give me enough free time to start my own architecture office.

I searched and prayed to find the right place to work, and for Christina to have an art studio. So, after going through the newspapers and contacting some real-estate agents, I found myself walking from street to street, and from building to building, until I came to a factory building and the office of Mr. Fernandez, a Spaniard, who owned many tenements on the East Side. He also owned and operated a first-class bakery making breads and rolls for the fanciest hotels and restaurants in Manhattan.
Right above the bakery was the loft I was interested in. After begging and pleading with him, he made me an offer I could not refuse: I could lease half the third floor west of the freight elevator, an area of 4,000 square feet, for $450 a month.
The place was between Second and First Street, around the corner from “Maxwell’s Plumb,” which was owned by Warner Leroy, who had an office in our building. The fashion photographer Avidon had his brownstone house across from us. This was again a super miracle.
With time, Christina, a few friends and I transformed the huge space into an architectural experience.

We spent months building and prepping the place, getting materials donated by construction companies. Some of my Pratt students volunteered to help scrape paint and years of residue off the existing brick and wood beams above us. In the end we had exposed brick walls, which we painted a glossy white/white. The exposed wood-beam ceiling was stained dark brown, and we had several skylights. At each end of the loft were tall, gigantic double-hung windows, which went from three feet off the floor to the ceiling, which was about 14 feet high. We built double-tiered drafting tables and walkways out of 4 by 10 timbers. There were bathrooms, a kitchen, and a closet with even a sleeping loft above it, accessed by a ship’s ladder. The highlight was a sun parlor at the back, which became Christina’s studio. It had floor panels that lifted up to store our trunks, which were filled with books and antiques that came from Christina’s family in Germany.
There was a wall on which to show slides, and a small office for Christina to do the bills and write letters. The loft had a reception room and a conference area.
On the corner of our street was a great, inexpensive restaurant where we ate late at night after a hard day’s work. But we did not need to go there too much because the bakery let us and our many friends, volunteers and visitors eat as much bread and buns as we could carry home.

I had my license to practice architecture, and expected that New York City, my hometown, would not disappoint me and give me business. We had the green light and had created a base for a quality future.
The city gave me several libraries and schools to design, and my friend Gil Colgate recommended me to be the architect for the planned Ice-Hockey Stadium. It was a great beginning, and we worked hard to fulfill our obligations.

Shortly before moving in to the loft, I met Adam Alexander, who worked for the special projects division in the office of Mayor Lindsay.
I saw him again on Earth Day, which I organized in Union Square, while he was walking around as part of Mayor Lindsay’s team coordinating community affairs. Adam was a mathematical scholar, who had long gray hair but dressed surprisingly conservatively in a suit and tie. He had a wonderful sense of humor, was articulate and brilliant, and could talk on any subject. He lived within walking distance of us and would come to our home in Picasso House on 65th Street. We chatted, while Christina made dinner.

Together we thought about the loft under construction and its possibilities. We knew the loft would become an exciting place, a showcase for all to see. We stipulated it would become an impressive place for the usual architectural clientele to visit, but could also become a place for young people. If we invited them, they would be inspired, and see what potential architecture had.
Finally, the first drafting tables at the loft were built. There we noisily continued our inspirational talks. I would draw the subjects we discussed, and Adam and many newcomers would stand around me and everyone would help me formulate a program that developed into the “Laboratory for Metaphoric Environments,” a not-for-profit organization.

When we were finally ready, we invited children from nearby schools and organizations, especially from Harlem, to listen to lectures and see our slides. Of course, we always had freshly baked, warm, rye-bread and rolls for all to eat.
We did well. We lifted up their spirits by showing them buildings and places of quality they had never seen before. The kids got all excited about the building profession and wanted to see more. They told us they mostly saw pictures of slums and cheap housing, so what they saw in our place was all new to them.

We showed them castles and great old buildings from Europe. The Munich Olympics Stadium, and its fantastic tent-like roofs, designed by Otto Frei, fascinated them.
These were all things worthy of looking forward to, with the hope that one day we could participate in the development of similar buildings.

Many influential people became interested in what we did. Business people and others from Wall Street noted our dedication to help make a difference with the programs we devised at LME. We had influential helpers like Livingston Bryant, Jeffery Chusid, Gamal ElZogby, Allen Lapidus, Henry Classing, Christopher Sweeney, Gilbert Colgate, Gregory Kipnis, Sarah Schiffman, Barbara Scot, and others. Stanley Sommers, my old boss from Classic, visited us in our loft just a half block from where he had assigned me to be his representative in Classic’s new Manhattan Decorators’ Center in 1957, just 14 years earlier.

We had meetings, conducted open-school classes about urbanism and the environment. We also held fund-raising parties. Henry Classon and I developed our LME prospectus. We discussed the idiosyncrasies of “Architecture is the Making of Metaphors,” a theory I had already developed with Christopher Tunnerd, Vincent Scully, Paul Wiss and others at Yale University.

I really regret not having photographed the Laboratory’s loft before and after its creation. LME and the Loft were the reification of our marriage, love, dreams, hopes and aspirations of urbanity, stylishness, timeliness, charity, status, and identity.
It was to be our vehicle for success and a manifestation of our hopes. It was where we wanted to be, and once shaped would fill itself in and become our Queen Mary.
Great, we had it made.
Wrong! Again our visions were shattered and our hopes were in vain when the impossible became possible. New York was out of money and could not pay me. I had to surrender my dream of establishing a private architectural practice, when our contract work for New York was completed; the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and could not pay me on time. I had incurred considerable expenses, and could not wait.

In addition, our landlord, Fernandez, who had helped us through many difficult times, because he loved all the exciting work we did, had a fatal accident in his new Mercedes, and now his son, a totally dull and unsympathetic individual, announced that our rent for the loft would be tripled. And so, in order not to go bankrupt myself, I had to give up all we had worked for in the past three years.
To find work in New York was hopeless. I knew I had to look for work elsewhere. This was the end; regretfully we had to begin anew. But how?

There were only a few ads for architects in the New York Times, but one tiny ad was of interest to me. A Tennessee Insurance company needed an architect for their three large vacation developments. I wrote to them. Needless to say, I got the job.

I started to wonder what in the world I was doing. After I had graduated at Pratt I had sailed into an economic free-fall that had resulted in me being dismissed or starting again over and over and over.
The impact of NYC’s near bankruptcy was leading us to Jackson, Tennessee, to yet another new life. It wasn’t south verses north, as was politely mused, but it was rather urban verses rural. Jacksonians exuded rural values and a rural mind. Designing vacation homes and clubhouses was a far cry from big city office buildings, but I knew it would be a challenge and a new venture. I left for Jackson, Tennessee, immediately; to a place Christina called exile to a warm Siberia.

Bernard-Henri Levy pointed out that the intellect is responsible for history because he takes history seriously, and regards reasoning and man’s mind as a means to affect that history in some way.
In this secular world I have tried to make a difference. I do see consequences, cause and effects, but I began to get the distinct feeling my destiny was not in my hands.
Levy suggests he has gone to places not where the light of the media already shines and shimmers; where journalists and government advisors clamor, but to dark places in need, where the light could make a difference. Levy also points out that the intellect need not be an ongoing and perennial thing; likewise my work, in any place, whether its years of work, a moment, or only a brief visit, can have meaning.
I could not call myself a spiritual person at that time. But a pattern seems to emerge of things to come, and in this way, for a short or long-time, and to dark or needy places, Christina and I will go.

Now it was 1973; I was 36 and had started working for Peoples Protective, in Jackson Tennessee. I became their chief architect. After a while, I began to like my work and life in that little town. I designed restaurants, sport facilities, clubhouses, and vacation homes. And many times I flew in my company’s private jet from Jackson to Gatlinburg to inspect the buildings I had designed on nearby English Mountain. I knew there was work for many years to come. For me this was quite satisfying professionally.

Yet for Christina, leaving New York and all her contacts was the end of her hopes of becoming a known artist. But she accepted the inevitable, and got to teach art to children for the Tennessee Arts Council.
Jackson became gemuetlich, it was a cozy place, and better than we expected. I made pen-and-ink drawings and watercolor paintings. We went with our new artist friend, Kenneth Grissom, a fabulous jewelry designer, to outdoor art shows and exhibited our work. Visitors appreciated my artwork and one of them recommended an important Memphis art gallery that bought many of my drawings.
Life became very pleasant, and so we decided to buy our first house. It was a very pretty brick house in a popular colonial style, and large enough for an addition to our family.

We moved in about December of 1973. Then, in April 1974, we heard the shocking news that the apparently solid, dependable People’s Protection Insurance Company had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection.
The Arab oil embargo had happened. Strangely, it caused the demise of the company I worked for. Reluctantly, Bob Smith, the owner of People’s Protection Insurance Company, had to let me go. Leaving the company and starting again without a steady income was to be another financial tumble. I could not take any more changes. I began to give up hope of ever amounting to much in my learned profession.
Little did we know that God had a purpose for me, and He prepared us for it.
It was the first in a line of events that would ultimately lead us to live and work in Saudi Arabia.

While waiting for the results of my job search letters, I did architectural work for a local business in Jackson. Thanks to God, it did not take long. I had an interview with the Golf Oil Real Estate Development Company (GOREDCO), and with it came the change I never thought would be possible. I left my first love, architecture, and went to do construction management.

Chapter 2. Off we go again.

The OPEC oil embargo continued, and the Watergate crisis resulted in Nixon’s resignation. The Seventies saw the stock market hit new lows (the Dow was around 800, and the inflation rate was very high (18-22%). We began the decade with great hopes in a New York City loft, and ended it, perplexed and puzzled, in a College Station rented house.
I worked for Gulf Oil Real Estate Development Corporation (GOREDCO) from 1974 to 1979, when new dark clouds appeared on the horizon.
I started in Reston, Virginia, in August of 1974, to work for Gulf Oil as Manager for Special Projects. My boss was Chuck Myers, a former three-star general. One year later his boss, Bill Magnus, the president of GOREDCO, called me to Houston to build his offices on the upper floors of the Houston Center.
Houston was a large, booming city. We were excited about the prospect of making this city our permanent home. We bought a townhouse near the Galleria. At the time, that area off Westheimer was almost the edge of the city. Not far from my home was the site of Gulf Oil’s new large Computer Center, for which I was the project manager.

This was a job which definitely changed our lives and perspectives on the corporate business world. I learned to be a corporate, middle-class American. It was a position we were to experience and enjoy until the novelty wore off.
I was on my way up. I started just below corporate vice-president and had access to bank accounts and corporate decisions about expenditures. I was really friendly with several of the company presidents I serviced. I worked hard and expected the same from all those who worked for me. My assistant, Frank Sorrels, once commented to Christina after we returned from one of our vacations, that I was the kind of project manager whose absence caused the entire contractor and design team to walk around the site as though they had eaten “cat-nip.”

Christina & Barie

Christina & Barie

I was able to be the Gulf Oil representative of Houston’s cultural societies and many charities. There was the “Theater Under The Stars” (TUTS) in Houston in 1978, and when Helen Hayes, Eartha Kitt and Geofrey Holden visited, we dined, conversed, and partied with them before and after their performances. The musical was a black rendition of Kismet. It was excellent, and so was our time with these stars.
I played golf with Bob Herring the president of Houston Natural Gas at the River Oaks Golf Club; even I never learned to be much fond of the game.
Christina’s friend, Dorothy Thomas, introduced her to Barbara Bush. The Bushes had just come home from China and had a townhouse near us. To Christina’s surprise it was a rather modest home. But Barbara Bush was a gracious host to all the ladies she invited to her afternoon tea. At times we met the Bushes at the Yale Club and had dinner together.

In Houston Christina did not get much artwork done. She was too busy with her newly formed German Wine society. She had been approached at one of the functions held by the visiting German Ambassador to help promote German wines, and so she did. With the help of Houston’s Bobby Sackowitz, the owner of a department store, Karl Heinz De Boir, head of the German Chamber of Commerce, the German Consul General and some other oilman she formed the society.

Soon there were wine-tasting and wine-appreciation classes, awards and, best of all, the most elegant parties on yachts and on the top floor of the Houston Petroleum Club, with food and wines especially flown in from Germany, together with appropriate wine glasses, silverware, dishes and plates.
The German, Graf Matuschka von Greifenklau, came to describe appropriate wines for every course at the seven-course dinners. Merle Oberon flew in from Acapulco, Houston’s Gene Tierney was there, as well as famous fashion-designers from Paris and Italy, whose extraordinary gowns and dresses the women wore at the occasion.
Later, in Saudi Arabia, I realized how special these events were, and that they could be matched only by the palatial diners we had at the Yale Club meetings, which were held at the Equestrian Club in Riyadh, with many of the Saudi princes present.
At smaller dinners at the US Embassy, or in private palaces of well-to-do Saudis, the food could match the very best European cuisine but not the wine, however hard they tried.

B.P. Gulf Oil Building

B.P. Gulf Oil Building

Gulf Oil

As time went on, I was busy overseeing all Golf Oil’s new projects. I tried very hard to find professional satisfaction in managing engineers and architects rather than to be the architect. I felt distinctly some creative outlet was missing. So, when at one of the charity parties we attended, the Dean of Houston University’s Architecture Department ask me to teach a design class, I was very happy and agreed without a second thought.

The class I had chosen was delightful. My students and I reached for the unknown and the original of architecture right from the start. I even brought Bob Allen, the astronaut, whom I had met at the Yale Club meeting, to join me in my class. The designs reached great heights, right up into space. That is, we designed everything needed to live in space. It was a great success. The dean and my students were very excited and I thought this happy lifestyle would never end.
But again I was wrong.

It was 1977. Kuwait, the country which produced a great part of the oil for the
Gulf Oil Corporation, decided its US partner was not needed any longer, and threw the company out. In addition, there were some problems at the highest level of corporate management. Suddenly Gulf Oil was no more. GOREDCO closed, and once more I was out on my own, dismissed.
At first I did not think the news was that bad. I had done my job well. I was told that I was the first manager of Gulf Oil for a long time who had finished a project before its deadline. I had saved the company millions of dollars. I had a very good reputation. I firmly believed another Fortune 500 corporation would pick me up in no time.

I networked to hundreds of companies. I flew to many places in the USA for interviews, including California and Northup. But I was disappointed not to get one decent job offer from 2,000 letters my secretary had sent out.
During our so-called outplacement we lived on a one-year expense account gift, from the expiring Gulf Oil Corporation. I tried so hard to get a job. I talked to George Bush at the Yale Club; he was not really willing to help, but he told me there were no jobs at this time. All the major corporations were cutting down on personnel and streamlining their companies.

Finally, one day, a realtor friend of ours, John Schumacher, encouraged us to become realtors. He said, “I get so many calls daily, my office cannot handle them all; I wish you would come and help me.” And so we got our license to sell real estate. The first day we worked in John’s office, not a single customer came looking for a house. John did not believe it. What was going on? Little did we know that Houston’s great depression had begun. The boom was over.

At that time I was introduced to Amhad Dawood by the president of the local Houston branch of Mellon Bank. I was told he was one of the wealthiest men in Pakistan. Mr. Dawood asked me to make him acquainted with Houston’s business world. He also needed a little house for him and his wife. I showed him several nice, rather expensive houses, without success. I wondered why? Only later, in Saudi Arabia, when I learned to know people from the Middle and Far East did I get the answer. I simply did not know how very rich some people from Third-World countries really are.
Amhad and his wife had become our friends, and one day he invited us to his new house he had got from another broker. It was a mansion in River Oaks and looked like a small French castle. I realized that being a realtor was not for me. I am an architect; I design buildings, I do not sell them.

Christina and I pushed and worked hard, yet with all our efforts and daily hassle we could not make ends meet. We fell into debt, which was not good.
When it comes to debts, we have adopted one principle throughout our lives, and that is never to have any. And so we decided to sell our townhouse. We knew the sale would be profitable enough to pay our debts.

In all that time, Christina was totally unhappy. Living in a rented apartment and selling real estate was not what she had hoped for. She is an artist at heart; selling is not her calling. Even so, she liked to use her gift to find just the right house to match her customers’ dreams; the market was sluggish, yet she did sell several houses pretty quickly, but was glad when we finally moved to Brian College Station because I had become an associate professor at Texas A&M. That I preferred a position at the University more then being a realtor is understandable. I like to teach. I enjoyed my class at the University of Houston. And so, it was only reasonable to respond to a newspaper ad from Texas A&M in the Houston Chronicle.
Within days I got a call for an interview. I recall virtually being hired on the phone, because we were so broke at the time I did not want to make the trip to College Station unless I knew they were serious. The department’s chairman, Jim Marsh, interviewed me, and I was hired full time as Associate Professor, to teach Construction Law and Management, and additionally take on graduate teaching responsibilities so they could maximize my pay.
The earnings were about 25% below our expenses, and the job was doomed to fizzle. At first I also continued to teach in Houston, until they announced that I could not teach at both the University of Houston and at Texas A& M at the same time.

This was an additional blow. Not only was the reduction in my income bad enough, but the dull subject of Construction Law at A&M made it worse. I was miserable and discouraged. I was 42 and had a low income, and the future looked dismal. However, in the two years of teaching I managed to get my first book contract. Gulf Oil Corporation employed me to author its policies and procedures for building non-oil production facilities. John Wiley and Sons later contracted me to publish this book called “Project Manual Standards” (PMS). This was a small light at the end of the tunnel.
The big light eventually came from Christina, but not before I got one more blow which brought me to my knees.

When I felt secure in my new teaching position and knew I had a small but steady income, I invested the balance of my profit from the sale of the house in silver.
Summer vacation started and we went on a little trip to explore the west of Texas. Upon our return we received nasty news. The investments I had made were lost. Silver had taken a tumble. The silver market had been crushed by the misdealing of the Hunt brothers, who then declared bankruptcy. In August of 1988 the Hunts were convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market.

I was crushed. Christina said that’s what happens when one does not listen to the Lord. From then on she handled our finances. I know now that to invest in the stock market is a gamble, and gambling is not the will of God. I did not know it then.

Now there was no more hope to design my own super-modern, Paul Rudolph-style house, or even to pay for the little “0-lot-line” dwelling we had rented with an option to buy when we moved to Bryan-College Station.
Our new home was located right on the Heitman Playing Field, backing onto a rural area with a power line. It had a double-trellised carport and a very large living room with a fireplace. We had two cats at that time and they loved this place.
It was here that I bicycled to and from work daily, except on rainy days when I used our Pacer. By then we did not have a second car.

The location of our house had an extra attraction. It was exactly across the field from where Texas A&M lit its annual bonfire. We and our friends had front seats. The fire was several storeys high before it was lit, and much higher when ablaze. It gave off lots of light and there was an atmosphere of fellowship and pride. Of course, this was not all that went on.

There was little need for Christina’s talent at College Station, so she could not help financially. But she created a nice home and, as always, she knew how to stretch the dollars so no one knew how broke we were.
Christina spent much time with her German lady friends, all wives of professors at Texas A&M., and other ladies from Bryan-College Station. They founded the Brazos County Concert Group, which hired musicians and a conductor to perform the classics. And she did a new thing: she watched TV more then usual. She had discovered the 24-hour Christian TV Station, which we could not get in Houston. When I came home she wanted me to see some of her favorite programs, but I felt these Christian programs were a waste of time, and I switched the channel.

So it was, until one night when I awoke to the sound of the small TV in our bedroom. Christina was listening to a Christian program. I asked her rather sharply to please turn off the TV because I could not sleep.
Chris said, “Neither can I, but if you let me watch this boring program a bit I will soon fall to sleep.” This made sense to me, and I let it go.
The next night it happened again; she could not sleep. But I hoped it would soon be over. Then I listened to some gospel singing and fell asleep.

This went on night after night. Christina knew I was too sleepy to get up to switch off the TV. We had no clickers at that time. Here and there I listened but then I would fall asleep again. Then, one time when it was still dark, about four or five in the morning, Dr. Schiller was preaching and I started to listen. What is he talking about? I wondered. Early the next morning Dr. Stanley was preaching, and I listened again.
Then it came about that Christina had not turned the TV on, I had. I began to like what I heard. It was all very new to me but it made a lot of sense. While I listened intensely I learned I had never really known God.

One day Christina fastened a tiny pin saying, “Jesus First”
on my shirt collar. She had gotten it as a response to a donation she had made.
A student of mine named Ricky looked at it, and after talking a while, he invited me to his church. “Thank you but we go to our Lutheran Church,” I replied, and that was it.

But came Sunday morning the doorbell rang and Ricky arrived, and with a bright smile invited us to come to church with him. I had told Christina to tell him I was not home. Christina said nothing to me, but she said to Ricky, “Come on in; Barie is just getting ready to go.’’
“Grrrrrrrr” I said to myself, but to Ricky, I said, “Ok, let’s go; we’ll follow you with our car.”
And so we went to his church.

When Ricky stopped his car before a small store right next to the boarded-up movie theater in a deserted Main Street, I shook my head in disbelief, “You must be kidding,” I said, “We are not going in there.”

At that moment a few other students of mine came to enter the little store. When they saw me, their eyes lit up. They greeted me in such a friendly manner; much different to the way they did in school where every one of them looked at me with resentment, because I had to teach that dull but necessary subject called Construction Law, which none of them liked to study.
At the church, however, my students behaved differently; they and all the others tried to make us feel so welcome. Also the pastor came and shook our hands just before the service started.

To my astonishment it was the kind of service I had never experienced before. The room was filled with a joyful noise, singing and praising the Lord. It was nice, I must admit. Yet when it was over, I grabbed Christina’s arm and pulled her to the car as fast as I could.
I wondered how Christina could be happy in a little storefront church when she knew so much better. She had told me about the impressive Lutheran Thomas Church in Leipzig where Johan Sebastian Bach used to play the organ, and the famous Thomaner Choir sang. When I talked with her about this, she only smiled agreeable and then the subject was closed.

To my surprise, the following Sunday when it was time to go to church, Ricky and many other of my students stood before our door to pick us up. During the week in class they had not said anything. Perhaps they looked at me with a little more kindness. But on Sunday they were downright loving. I was not prepared for that. I just heard Christina holler, “My husband is coming!” and she walked over to Ricky’s car. I had no choice but to follow.

Again I noticed the whole congregation greeted us with genuine love and friendliness, and the joy during the worship time was truly overwhelming. My arms that I had clutched tightly to my body moved slowly up until they stretched freely to heaven. And when the pastor gave his altar call, I was there. I did not know how I got there but I kneeled before the Lord and spoke in tongues. I was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit; I was born again.

From then on we did not need a special invitation to come to church; we could not wait for the next Sunday. We went to Bible studies; we could not get enough from the Word of God. Previously I had looked at the Bible once in a while, but now it was my steady companion.

I became quite popular in my school, and even my Syrian and Lebanese students invited us to Arab club dances and food parties at the University Student Center.
Again it was a pointer of things to come.
I loved to sample all the different flavored tidbits served on large, round platters, a Middle-Eastern custom which we discovered later. The tasty food reminded me of my Grandmother , who cooked similar dishes. There were spinach pancakes, rice stuffed in vine leaves, hummus, and other familiar, yummy food. Grandmother had ten sons and two daughters, and I had many cousins to play with.

I loved my grandmother, very much. As a young boy I spent a lot of time in her home after my Grandfather had died. I guess I was her favorite.
She was a woman from the Island of Rhodes, and spoke very broken English. But this did not stop us from singing and dancing to the Greek music records she knew I loved to listen to as much as she did. She was alive, and filled with exciting ideas. When I was in high school, she showed me how to dance just like a Greek man.
Later, this knowledge came in handy when we lived in Saudi Arabia and I had Greek people working with me.

Christina and I visited my grandmother before she passed away. She was very weak and did not want to talk much, but when Christina asked her about the origin of the family she became animated and told us, “We come from a great big family, all live around the Mediterranean.’’
Grandmother was saddened that not one of her children had an interest in the family’s history. She continued to explain our origins with great pride by reaching for a map. She pointed to the city of Fez, and talked about the Beringers or Barringters in France and told us to check on the names.

While teaching at Texas A&M (Agriculture and Mining) , I tried to give more meaning to my life by taking
“Continuing Education” courses. It was worth my efforts. The school selected exceptionally well-known teachers, who included Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson. They taught us to write curriculums and economics. I got to know these two mental giants very well, before I finally decided to go to Saudi Arabia.

To leave the USA was not easy for me, and Saudi Arabia was not a place I would choose to go to. I had gotten rather attractive job offers all along.
I almost wound up in Saudi in 1979. I had had a job interview with Northrop Aircraft in Hawthorne, California, to build military housing and airstrips, with FE Basil to build sports parks all over the kingdom, and or with Rashid al-Rashid and his family, to manage his architectural office in Riyadh. But instead I went to work for Texas A&M University.

My uncle Irving proclaimed Saudi as one country that had a model welfare state, and he was very anxious for me to report its virtues and victories to him. Indeed, we found out later, he was correct in all aspects – from food, housing, and fuel, to education subsidies, health and hospitalization, and childcare.
You can buy a pack of Arab pocket bread for a quarter, and fill your tank for less than $3.00; you can send sons and daughters to university, where not only are tuition, books and housing free, but where each one receives a stipend (salary) for attending.
Everyone can build a home, and get a no-interest loan. The loan must be paid when the house is complete. The houses are large three-storey villas for more than one family. Usually, the third floor has walls with windows but no roof. This is how most people avoid paying – by not completing the house for a lifetime.

At the university I tried to make things work out. Even so, my dislike for my job did not diminish. My first book was soon to be published by John Wiley. We hoped it would help improve our finances, but no matter how carefully we handled our money, our debts mounted
Knowing I had to get out of debt, I kept my eyes open for a better opportunity to make money. The ups and downs of my profession had shown me I had to give up my dreams to become a great architect. All I now wanted was to provide my family with an appropriate lifestyle, according to my skills and education. I did not have to wait long for this to happen.

Ten weeks later, Jim Young from ARAMCO, the Arabian American Oil Company, came from Saudi Arabia to Texas A&M, asking for professionals to train their young Saudi employees.
Sheikh Al Turkey, the Dean of King Faisal University in Saudi had offered me a faculty position weeks earlier, but I had declined; I was simply not interested in going to that country. Now, however, I viewed Jim’s ARAMCO offer as a possibility.
I knew the grade code was too low, but the pay was high. Then again, I had no choice. There was apparently no other way to get me out of my dilemma.

Christina looked at it as an adventure, and an opportunity to travel to Europe more often. So I signed the contract. We had to leave almost immediately. We had to get our papers ready; first our passports, then our visas, for which we had to show our marriage licenses. This was as if a bomb had dropped. We could not find our marriage licenses anywhere. We went to the Saudi Consulate and assured the official that we were truly married and had been since 1966, and it was now 1981. “Sorry,’’ said the Saudi. You must go now; she stays here.”

We called the City Hall in New Haven in desperation.
“Please send us our marriage license as fast as you can.”
“Ordinarily we would do that,’’ came the answer, “but right now, we put all our documents on computers. It will take three to five months before we can send it to you.”

In desperation Christina called the City Hall of Bryan-College Station for help. She had reached the County Councilman and told him the whole predicament we were in. He listened patiently, then he said, “Officially I truly cannot help you, but unofficially I keep thinking, why don’t you marry again?’’

That was all Christina needed to hear. It was a Friday morning. She called me at school and, without going into detail, said, “I have made an appointment with a doctor; we need a blood test. Then we go to the City Hall to get married.”
I got the picture. I jumped on my bicycle and raced home. The doctor gave us a clean bill of health, and an hour later we had the elusive license. I called the pastor of our church and he happily agreed to marry us on Sunday.

When we entered our little storefront church, to our surprise the room was decorated.
An impressive-looking wedding cake graced a long table and a little girl with a shiny face handed Christina a lovely wedding bouquet.
I could not help to thinking of our wedding day 15 years earlier. Christina’s family could not be with us; they were in Germany, locked behind the Iron Curtain.
However, I had family in New York. I told my parents that we got married in New Haven’s City Hall. Right after that, we drove to New York to spend the day with them. When we got there my mother said, “ Your brother had other commitments and could not be here, and my father gave me $15 and said, “Go and get Chinese food on us”. That was then, but what does it matter; this time we had a loving father in Heaven, and over 100 caring Christian brothers and sisters all rejoicing over our union.

It became clear to me that God was not concerned with my worldly success. God’s interest was that I progress on my spiritual path. That is way he directed me to the professorship with Texas A&M, and to its nearby church – so that I had the opportunity to find my Christian family and know that He is my loving father. He also wanted to specially bless our marriage, which so far had been legalized only by the state. Why else did we have to marry again?

Chapter 3
An American in Saudi Arabia (2,330 words)

After boarding our Pan Am charter to Saudi Arabia, I sank back in my seat and thought about the events of the previous days.
ARAMCO had put all our personal effects safely into storage. The car was sold and we were free to travel. With us on the plane were our two cats and several large suitcases. All was right, yet I did not feel good.
Before we left, we had attended a five-day orientation with many other new hires at a very nice hotel in Houston. During this time we had met Ed and Mina Pleasance and their nine-year-old son, Ted. We would remain friends with them for many years. Both are teachers. Ed is an American; he taught in Iran where he met Mina, who was born there. Throughout the time we attended the orientation classes, the usually friendly Mina looked rather stern. We wondered why.

Could it be she did not like the tales they told about Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ?
They told us we would experience culture shock when we arrived in Saudi Arabia, unless we stayed in the American compound. We were warned not to mix and talk to the people and stay mostly in Dhahran, which, they assured us, was a pretty little home town America built for us through ARAMCO.
We guessed Mina did not like the scare tactics they used to apply at our sendoff. She knew the people from the Middle East, and found them friendly and hospitable. We also were told not to bring our Bible and other religious symbols. Christina and I were not pleased with that, but we were open-minded; we listened to the instructor’s advice, did what was right, and packed our Bible. The words of a song came to my mind: “If it had not been for the Lord on my side where would I be?”

Fifteen hours later, at 2:00 am, we arrived at Dhahran Airport. Our Pan Am plane descended quickly, banked sharply, and then after a prolonged silence, made a typical landing in the hot desert: bump, bump, lift up, then down, bump, bump, up again, then down hard, and then hard wind gushing past the flaps.
It was August 11, 1981 and it was very hot and humid; climbing out of the plane felt like stepping into a sauna. There were over 100 of us, each to be greeted by someone who would give us papers to sign.

In our case the very man who had come to College Station, Jim Young, was there and made sure we boarded the bus with all our stuff, including the cats. Then off we went north into the unknown darkness.

We had seen a sign saying Rahima, indicating a little village in the desert near the new ARAMCO town of Ras Tanura, about 80 miles north of Dammam. The Jubail/ Ras Tanura highway had not yet been built, so we drove very slowly for hours on dirt and paved roads.
Only three other couples were with us on the bus, Rosa and Vinny, Ted and Mina Pleasance, and Charley and his wife who engineered the boiler plant at the refinery at Ras Tanura…and
Halfway to our destination the bus came to a screeching halt. Two soldiers with machine guns stormed in and demanded to see our Igama. We had no idea what they were talking about. But to our relief, the Philippino bus driver said something half in Arabic and half in English to the soldiers, and they departed.

Then, as we reached our destination, it was all so eerie; we saw two fiery flames like giant candles in the desert, spewing fire and black smoke. These were the Gas Oil Separating Plants, GOSPS, burning off gas from the many oil wells in the oil fields that we could barely in the dark against the polluted sky.
After having passed through two more official checkpoints, where our passports and our persons were spot-checked by Bedouin officers with machine guns, we arrived at a large iron gate, and again were greeted by little skinny men with guns. What a welcome, I thought.

We disembarked with our co-workers and were escorted in the dark to various bungalows. Christina and I were then taken by the bus through a large opening behind a high concrete wall topped with barbed wire. We were hustled out of the bus very quickly into a wooden barrack. They told us to keep the air conditioners going and get to sleep immediately, because someone would take us to work in the morning. And, indeed, that is what happened. An Arab Shiite guard had been assigned to care for us.
And so, after dressing for business quickly the next morning, I left the barrack and walked outside to see what place we were in. I realized I had simply to slip through a hole in the concrete wall where I would board one of three buses to take me to Dhahran, but never without the Shiite officer and his gun beside me.

The bus stopped at the Ras Tanura Commissary Cafeteria Building, where I was able to get breakfast. I quickly learned that the food is good in Saudi, and I sampled perhaps a little too much of all the delicate morsels.
The building had a second storey at its far end, housing a special executive dining room and a few rooms for traveling guests.
It was really a clubhouse for the ARAMCO employees, and was nicely located, directly on the beachfront. It was a pretty romantic place, with an outside dance floor, and a large library. It had a swimming pool, benches, and terraces overlooking the Gulf. It all reminded me of some old movie. Coming to this place over the years would be a source of rest and relaxation.
But on this and succeeding mornings for nearly three months I routinely had my breakfast there before the 80-mile drive to my workplace in Dhahran.

Christina was glad when I came home. She wondered what we had done. Had we really listened to the Lord when I had signed the contract to work for ARAMCO? At the time I had received other offers, including one from King Faisal University. Why had we come to this God-forsaken place? Well, it was to change later, and with our usual optimistic nature we began to see the bright side of it all.

Christina told me that after she had woken up from a very short sleep, she had glanced through the living room window and for a moment had become real scared. She had seen a large, oblong-shaped space, surrounded by a very high, sinister gray wall, topped with barbed wire. Left and right along the wall stretched a row of barracks. No one seemed to live there. And straight ahead she saw the burned down remnants of a large building. In the middle was a square filled with sand that looked like a place where prisoners had been lined up to be shot. She got the feeling that she had been caught in some twilight zone

But the cats did not give her much time to think; they wanted food, and so she walked into the kitchen. When she opened the refrigerator, to her surprise she saw it was filled with food, including cat food. Then she saw a very big carton standing prominently in a corner; she opened it, and there was an array of households items, ranging from blankets and pillows, to dishes and flatware. She found vases and many other pretty things, and got busy putting them in place.
The bedroom and living room were furnished with new Danish furniture, and when Christina opened the door at the back of the house to let the cats out, she saw a big old tree. It was the first green living thing she had seen for a long time. Well, it can’t be all that bad, she thought.

Then, I also told her what my day had been like. At first they had confiscated our passports, which made me feel naked and uneasy. Then they replaced them with an Igama – an essential document; without it one cannot stay in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the wives are registered on their husbands’ Igamas, which assures the Saudis that our wives cannot go anywhere on their own. Then, when I got to my office, on the eighth floor of a high office building, Jim Young introduced me to my co-workers and to several of my friendly Saudi trainees. Then Jim explained a bit sheepishly it was my fault that I did not get the promised house in Seaview because I had had to finish the semester at the University in Texas, and it was too late for us to fly to Saudi Arabia with ARAMCO’s own plane, which is furnished throughout with first-class seats. Also, the house designated for me was given to some other earlier arrivals. And so, until my new house was ready, we would have to stay in the British Camp for a while.

I must admit, it was all so new and exciting, at first I really did not mind the long ride through the desert twice a day. My work was in ARAMCO headquarters in Dhahran. When I looked around Dhahran, the town they were building for ARAMCO employees, I was glad I did not live there. I actually did have culture shock there.
I did not get culture shock from the Saudi trainees I was working with. Nor did I get culture shock from the countryside and the little towns I passed by on my way to work. I got culture shock when I saw the dismal, unimaginative design of the houses, and the landscaping and town planning done in Dhahran by my fellow Americans. I was ashamed that my countrymen had not set a better example of what a new little town can look like. I truly was not interested in moving into that place. This was especially so because Christina, while exploring her compound, had discovered a cool, clean swimming pool. She had spotted a narrow, green door in that sinister gray wall, which she had opened, and seen a tree-lined street flanked by a row of trailers.
She had walked along the road toward a very wide staircase which led up to a beautiful villa, on the top of which was a long, gray building with a flat roof. It was a cafeteria, with chairs and tables, and at the back, through the picture window of a long room, she had spotted a high, plastic corrugated roof, underneath which was a glittering, Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Some women were sitting chatting in the pool chairs, and were amused when they saw the astonished look on Christina’s face. It turned out this was a British compound, and we and a few other Americans were only temporary guests. Nevertheless, Christina made good friends with all of them, and during the day our wives enjoyed swimming in the pool.

In the evening, after the husbands returned from work at the nearby oil refineries, the pool was filled with guys playing water ball or showing off their skills diving, while the two busy Philippinos in the cafeteria kitchen cooked dinner for all those who wanted to join the party. There were even several Saudi couples and their children who were part of our happy group.

Sometimes a special bus took the women to Rahima to shop for necessities. The town was still relatively unchanged. There were narrow streets, with two-story brick houses, flat roofs and many barred windows.
The Saudi man explained that these bars had been put in to protect the women from intruders, and were, therefore, necessary. However, if there was a fire, the women would be trapped on the second floor and would burn to death, an event, the Saudi said, would be the will of Allah. I don’t think so!

The town had no supermarket, only a myriad little shops, but amazingly, for a very low price, you could find anything you could get at home at Wal-Mart. The one thing we could not find on the street or in the shops at that time was Saudi women. Occasionally we could see a ghostlike figure covered from head to toe in black, sliding along the walls of the houses like a shadow running away from its owner. Saudi Arabia is a man’s country.
All the sales people are men, even those at the dress shops, and they are mostly Pakistanis or Indians. Saudis do not do demeaning work. At best, the Saudi owner of the shop will sit at the cash register. The men are friendly and helpful to the Western women, even a little amused at their behavior.

The Saudi men were also amused at the fact that these crazy western women would carry heavy grocery bags and other items to the bus in that scorching heat. Saudi women will never do that. They send their husbands and sons out in the sun to shop, and let them do the hard work, while they play with the kids in their cool air- conditioned houses.

A few days had passed. We had just gone to sleep when a loud bang woke us up. We tried to see what had happened but the lights did not work. We rushed out of the house in the dark, and when we got outside, we discovered we were wet all over. From the roof came streams of water, but it wasn’t raining. We looked up and saw stars in the sky. What was going on?

We went through the narrow green door to look for someone who had an answer. A smiling guard came along and told us that because of the exceptional humidity that night the electric wires were so wet they could not transfer electricity. Therefore, they had to flash the wires, and that was the big bang we had heard. “No problem,’’ he said, a phrase we heard a lot in all situations. But he was right, there was not much of a problem; after about three hours the air-conditioner kicked in and the meat in the freezer was saved.

Chapter 9 (8,552 words)
The Problems of doing business in Saudi Arabia.
One of the most alarming events that occurred was trying to transfer my Igama, which is a work permit, from King Faisel University to a private sponsor. My particular Igama was especially valuable because it allowed me to stay in the country while changing jobs. This privilege is not given to everyone. Most people must leave the country when their work contract ends. Then they must give back the Igama to the employer. However I had my one Igama that was a document similar to the U.S. Green Card, but it lacked many of the rights the Saudis have with their Green Card in the USA. Americans, for example, could not own a business, buy land, or own a house in Saudi Arabia. I was not free to travel throughout the country. Even with my special Igama, I had to surrender my American passport to my employer for so-called “safekeeping” and only hoped I could get it back when I wished to leave the Kingdom. The difference was that I had the freedom to change jobs when and as often as I wanted. That is, except for one time.
In 1995 my five-year contract with King Faisel University had ended. While I was contemplating whom to call for a new position, I remembered Azmi Hadi. I had known Azmi for many years. In 1983, when I worked for the American Saudi Oil Company, Arabian American Oil Company ARAMCO, his Consulting Design Engineering, CDE company was under contracts with my supervision. It was one of the companies I had to monitor and visit. I recall that at the exact moment I was terminated from ARAMCO in 1983, Azmi made me an offer to join his company. I had declined at that time. Yet when I again contacted CDE in 1997, Azmi remembered and reinstated his offer.
Azmi is a very charming and personable man. He is very private and is one of those Muslims who did not openly display reverence for God by open prayer in the office. He’d leave the office and return after prayer times. He is small, slender, and about seventy years of age. He is a cosmopolitan person devoted to business and his family. He has three children and a kind wife. Azmi also had an office in Morocco. He preferred that office to his Saudi Arabian headquarters. He often asks me to spend time with him there. Azmi Hadi is of Palestinian background, but is a naturalized Saudi.
Homeless Palestinians have had a tremendous affect on the Arabian Gulf and especially on Saudi Arabia. It is a repository for refugees. Many of the Saudi Arabs I have known were immigrants, and because of the generosity and sponsorship of someone, they are now citizens of Saudi Arabia. Years ago a new citizen was a boon to Saudi Arabia. Now because of Saudi has a rapidly exploding population, immigration is very limited. Moslems can marry up to four wives and women are expected to have many children with four to seven being the average.
Azmi operated his company as a godfather in a typically larger-than-life fashion. There are no corporations in Saudi Arabia. It is families that own all the multi billion-dollar Saudi companies. Saudis are still tribal in many ways and they trust no one other than their own family. They also cling closely to traditions and enforce them with strict rules. The enforcement of tribal rules became uncomfortably clear at the beginning of my first arrival in that dessert country. There was a rumor that a Saudi princess had fallen in love and entertained a relationship with a Palestinian student. Her behavior was considered degrading and contrary to the tradition of the royal family. So the decision was to publicly execute both of these young lovers. It is hard to believe that this actually happened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century. After that, Saudi Arabia had no more contact with the Palestinians. Also there is one more problem. Palestine is not a nation under which to issue a visa or a passport.
Amr Khashoggi, a Saudi businessman, whom I knew well at the time when I worked in Riyadh, wrote recently in the Arab-News (the Middle East’s leading English language daily) an article stating that Saudi Arabs have to conform to the Twentieth Century. He writes:
We Arabs are learning to “come clean” and admit our weaknesses and are working diligently for home grown solutions that can be implemented at a pace that can be accepted by our quite conservative society. This effort is public and is translated in the many reforms that you can easily read in our local newspapers published online in English (and sometimes news of such efforts get reported in your newspapers, although it is preferred by some media circles to publish only the negative news). These reforms have enabled Saudi women to be elected to the chambers of commerce and industry and engineering societies, have increased their work opportunities, and generally are taking control of their rights and lives. These rights have always been accorded to them under Islam.
Azmi Hadi, now a citizen of the Kingdom for a long time, finally built his one huge villa in a newly developed area of AlKhobar. All Villas that the Saudis build are large enough to house the parents and the families of one or two sons. It is a practical custom. The children can later easily care for their elders. The houses are huge, with a living, dining, and family room resembling the size and layout of a medium-sized hotel lobby. At my first visit in Azmi’s house, we men were sitting on the low ottomans in the public area, when his neighbor approached me to get my advice in the design and decoration of his new marble- mansion. One needs to know the customs of the Arabs in order to design a functional house, especially in Saudi Arabia. These mansions (or small palaces) have a family or women’s section and a public area for the male guests. Usually, the ground floor has an impressive entrance hall with a wide ornamental marble stairway to the second floor. On one side of the entrance is a lavish bathroom for men only with basins to wash their feet and hands before entering a huge opulently furnished room. The washing of feet is a Moslem religious, hygienic custom based upon their life in the dessert.
The floors in all Saudi homes are invariably fashioned from Italian marble. Stretched along the walls of the big public room are low, cushioned ottomans. Baroque gold ornaments adorn small side tables and other small cabinets. All these items are produced and imported from Italy or Turkey. There is a large kitchen and the servant quarters are usually in an extra building outside in the garden. There is a second, less impressive, entrance on the side of the house for women with stairs leading to the second floor. Upstairs is a large central area for the children to play. Doors lead from the large central room to the bedrooms, bathrooms, upstairs kitchen, and into the family dining room. The windows on the second floor have bars to prevent intruders from climbing into the women’s rooms. Unfortunately they also prevent the women from escaping in the event of a fire. This happened during our stay in that country.
Women guests are allowed to roam throughout the whole house, but men must stay at the ground floor. It is fun to design a building such as that. However, these kinds of deals are usually hard work for the person who may take them with the expectation of a handsome fee. That person may be disappointed at the end of the project. There is often no pay. The Saudi smiles and says, “Got you”.
Other Americans and I have heard this “got you” line too many times in the past. That is why Americans and Europeans have become leery of doing business with Saudi firms. However, there are many men such as Amr Khashoggi who deal in fair trade with the western world, and who truly try to breach the gap between their century and ours.
He said:
I am a Saudi who graduated from American universities. I liked it so much that two of my children (a girl and a boy) also graduated from American universities. (My youngest daughter is a student at a British University by her own choice.) I am a businessman and I have worked over the past three decades with American companies, and we were very successful to healthy mutual benefit. I am still working with American companies but it is getting harder to do business with America. I have relatives who are Americans. I have many friends in America from coast to coast. I also have been working very hard at fostering the relationship between America and Saudi Arabia for the past 28 years, even though it has been through an individual and limited effort. Whenever I talk with my American friends they are always expressing kind words and heart-felt sentiments. These are encouraging and do give me greater impetus to stay the course of building bridges of understanding between our two nations. I believe that this effort must be energetic, continuous and for the long haul, to have any meaningful and lasting impact. It only takes a few minutes of a mindless act of violence to destroy not only the lives and livelihood of victims but also the strong friendship between nations such as ours that it took decades of hard work to build. Terrorism knows no borders and terrorists in my opinion have no religion, nationality, gender, color, race, or noble beliefs to carry out their heinous crimes against humans and humanity with the intention of driving a wedge between us, which will take both of us major effort to close and overcome. In order to do that we need to work shoulder to shoulder in the rebuilding effort and in countering this global menace of terrorism.
Azmi Hadi and Sons
I was glad the job with CDE happened.
We had established our mission. Our International Correspondence Institute, ICI, seminary was running smoothly. Many Christian brothers depended on me, so I could not possibly leave the Eastern Province. I needed the job with CDE. The office location was ideal. The CDE Company was just a few blocks from the “Bin Jumah Bldg” where I lived. My office at CDE was on the fifth floor and my office windows faced my condominium a block away. I was aware it was God who had made it all happen. He knows that a job close by gives me more time for our mission.
Our services usually started about eight o’clock at night. It is hot in Saudi Arabia, and most labourers work from early morning till noon, and then again from four to eight. For me these flexible hours made it possible to handle two jobs: His and theirs.
Every morning at CDE, when the coffee boy brought the strong sweet Turkish coffee, I visited with Azmi in his office to get his latest instructions and news. I became the architect of record for the Dhahran Academy, Saudi Japanese Pharmaceutical building, Dhahran US consulate, and I was the project manager for a museum on the Corniche. In addition, I received a fabulous Wireless Telephone Antenna contract from Lucent. It was worth millions of dollars, When Azmi left on vacation, which was quite frequently, I was in charge of all his companies, including the clinic, the chickens, and the egg farm. His brother was in charge of the company’s bank and he had a Chinese national in charge of administration. Azmi appeared to be very generous. He encouraged me to travel, stay at five-star hotels, and eat at very expensive restaurants. I had an unlimited expense account, which I rarely used. My wife, Christina, was not in the kingdom during much of this period, and I had a mission to run, so I did not eat out nor did I travel. The one luxury I allowed myself was driving Azmi’s Jaguar that he lent to me when he was out of town.
Azmi was always fair to me.  My friend, Roy, is a good example, he got tangled up in an unfortunate situation with my boss.
I first met Roy 1985 in Riyadh’s Desert Rose Inn, at a men’s Christian breakfast meeting that later became the Full Gospel Bible Men’s Fellowship, Inc. (FGBMFI). He worked for the Corps of Engineers and he arranged for us to use the Inn for our meetings.
In 1997, I am sitting in my CDE office in Al Khobar when I get a phone call from Roy who is in Oklahoma. Roy is now a recruiter for an employment agency. He saw the ad that Azmi and I had placed in the New York Times for a “telecom engineering specialist”. He told me he had qualified candidates to fill the position. By this time in my career in the Kingdom of God, I knew the way every company handled such things. If it came to specialists, they expected correct schooling, degrees, and licenses. What Roy told me did not sound right. I tried my best to discourage Roy’s urgings. But Roy was persistent. Finally, Frank, the successful candidate, arrived and started working for our client–Saudi ARAMCO.
Azmi went out of town a lot. His only goal in life was that his children should take over the business as soon as possible. He wanted to be free to travel. He treated his children like heirs to a throne. He gently fed and increased their responsibility. I was there as a backup. I did all I could to train and teach them. After all, I had a fond memory of Abdul Latif. I knew Azmi’s oldest son when he was a very young boy from the time I had first visited his father in the early eighties. Now he had become a man. He was married and because he was the older brother, he was destined to assume ownership and management of CDE. Abdul Latif had red hair and was very slim. He was a respectful and polite young man. He was able to speak fast, change subjects at an instant, and keep several calls going at one time. He was a chain smoker and had a huge collection of cigarette lighters. He had been educated at Miami University, and was very adroit, well-traveled, quick, and had a very good sense of humor. We had a friendly relationship with Abdul Latif and his Saudi wife. She had been a Journalist in New York before her marriage.
I thought to myself that it would be so easy for Abdul Latif to do things right. He was the one who could redeploy and hire people or get other firms to complete the work. The contracts were for design and construction engineering for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Arabian ,Japanese Pharmaceutical Company, SAJAPHCO, Dhahran Academy, French and Saudi Company in Jeddah, etc. Abdul Latif went to all the work meetings and knew that his schedule and his engineers were just about able to meet the requirements. But he did not see it the right way. But at least it was good to see that Abdul Latif was young, positive, optimistic, and extremely resourceful, and he was able to adjust himself and his company enough to carry out the work after all. I simply arranged for meetings and reports to be drawn up by Alaa and presented to Azmi for reconciliation. In the end he listened to my advice, Azmi surrendered fees and segments of work and considered phasing out the Jeddah office.
Mission Inn.
Daniel Tighe the head of the international school and Dhahran Academy called me. He was not exactly my friend, but I had to deal with him when he wanted to add several new building to his complex. I did not like him very much because on one occasion he had confiscated my camera after I had taken pictures at a conference with Mr. Anthony’s Arab/American group. He had no right to do so. It was a petty reason. For the sake of peace I did not make an issue out of it. I reasoned that perhaps controlling and bossing around his children all day long prevented him from controlling his behavior when he was involved in a distinctly different situation. Now that I was the Chief American Liaison to the academy for CDE, he looked to me for help, and I gave it to him. I saved the Academy over a hundred thousand dollars in design and construction costs by guiding him through the process. We later became friendlier and had several good dinners together. One was at the Mission Inn.

Barie with Saudi KFU Students

These facilities in Riyadh and in the eastern province where we lived where designed to give military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia a feeling of home. The Inn’s purpose was to provide a meeting place for military personal and all American expats and their guests in a club-like atmosphere. There we ate many good breakfasts of eggs, bacon, and ham–the kind of forbidden food that is unavailable in Saudi restaurants. In AlKhobar I used the place for most of my business meetings. Its safe relaxed atmosphere was a treat for my non-American customers. Also our initial American Institute of architects/Architects International Group/Mid-East, AIA/AIG/Me meetings were held in the dining room. Christina and I attended all the special holiday dinners and dances. There we could eat delicately baked ham or scrumptious thick pork chops. Our Arabic friends, like professor Abdul Hamid Shalaby and his wife Moshera, where glad when we invited them to the Inn. They knew that in Mission Inn, men and women could feel normal and can enjoy a meal sitting together openly in a restaurant as they do all over the world–except in Saudi Arabia. There couples are shuffled to a corner of a restaurant and a big screen is set up around them.
For many of us, the Mission Inn was a home away from home. For me it was special. One of the Americans responsible for that place was a good friend of mine. This was not the only danger we faced. We had to drive often through a raging storm called Shamal(norther) , all the way to Riyadh to pick up other shipments. Driving the highways of Saudi, even though the roads were new and well engineered, is simply suicidal. We were stopped at various Saudi checkpoints along the Riyadh/Dammam highway. It was dangerous all the way. The country is under constant marshal law.
The sudden end of the oh-so-pleasant Mission Inn came when terrorists bombed the military housing in AlKhobar. Security made it necessary to close the place. Only the restaurant was moved at first to the McDonald Douglas compound on the corniche and then to the Rashid family’s eastern Province ROC compound. It now was behind concrete barricades. Parking and access to the club was through dirt and gravel. The facility lost most of its original purpose. It was now only a restaurant. It had to be moved to an in-town location at a compound I knew very well. The owner was my friend Rashid, a Saudi architect. He had built the inn in the first place, and then had leased it to the Saudi military. Now, however, the U.S. military used it. When I saw that terrorists had bombed it in 2003, I was deeply shocked. It was an unnecessary tragedy. Seeing the bombed compound, I was reminded of the water tower I had designed that was standing in a new town on the Saudi Kuwait border. During the Gulf War, I was watching TV in my home in Florida when I saw that tower. I called Christina to look at my water tower. In that very moment there was a big bang and the tower was no more.
After the war when we returned to Saudi, we realized the kingdom we had known has changed. We expected to hear that Saudis were grateful that the American armies had protected them from being occupied by a foreign dictatorship. On the contrary we heard that the Kingdom had hired and overpaid our military to be there as mercenaries to fight their war. Now we Americans had no business being there any more. This was strange. Saudi people had welcomed us when we came in 1980s, so what was happening. Christina, sensed a rising hostility. The articles in the Saudi English languish newspapers clearly demonstrated their paranoia of western culture.

The Dilemma of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The longer I am away from Saudi and reflect back upon our time and experience there, it becomes clear what was obvious, that the Saudis are the victims of their own absolutism s and that foreigners entering into their context are perceived as being a lot more than they really are. As elsewhere foreigners are victims of exaggerated misconceptions. For both the native and the foreigner there is a difference between absolutism and pragmatism seeing that the Saudis see their world as stagnant and historical, while the western foreigner sees opportunity and a future. The Saudi government is different from the country’s religious organizations. That is apparent and clear. The Government is tolerant, pragmatic, comparative, and relative in digesting foreign behavior and contributions. The religious Wahabbis, on the other hand, are connotative, ambiguous, and equivocal. They see their world in absolutes while the Government sees the world in relative terms proportional and according to relative good benefit and prosperity while the opposite oppose growth in favor of stagnation fearing or pretending to fear change and invasion. The two are worlds of metaphors which on one level seem disparate and antagonistic. And on many other levels are supportive, similar, the same, and even identical.
The Wahabbis start out believing that they and not God can make the difference. As Christians have long trusted in God instead of the world and its money, so the Wahabbis Moslems lean upon their guile and structure as multinational to take and maintain their share of the market through their own resources. They do not depend on anything else and they see their nation as global, multiracial, national, and even religious. It is anarchy vs. cooperation and totalitarian. It is not inclusive, relative, or compatible. It establishes it’s metaphor as an insoluble ideal and projects its identity upon others through suicide jihad as a metaphoric assertion of its being and justification for life and sovereignty. With each death, bombing, and assertion comes its proclamation of sovereignty and identification. It is the distortion of faith, and not faith as the substance of things hoped for, nor things unseen. It is that man may trust in himself with what he can bring, by his own self will deeds and acts. It is a problem for a world that works to live and let live with biblical differences and choices for each person, family, community, state, and nation. The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia clearly wants to be part of this family, but has within its own family, members who oppose this adaptation? While other nations have gone through this same dilemma, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is trying to catch up and come into the Twenty-First century in philosophy as well as technology and science. Absolutes while the Government sees the world in relative terms proportional and according to relative good, benefit, and prosperity while the opposite oppose growth in favor of stagnation fearing and or pretending to fear change invasion The two are worlds of metaphors that on one level seem disparate and antagonistic, while on other levels are supportive, similar, the same, and even identical. This work shows the many people, contexts, and values where absolutes do not collide and where metaphors are shared and supported. The Wahabbis start out believing that they, and not God, can make the difference.
Long ago we trusted in God instead of the world and its money. The Wahabbis seem to lean upon their own guile and structure as multinationals to take and maintain their share of the market through their own resources. They do not depend on anything else and see their nation as global and multiracial, national, and even religious. It is anarchy vs. cooperation and totalitarian. It is not inclusive, relative, or compatible. It establishes its metaphor as an insoluble ideal and projects its identity upon others through suicide jihad as a metaphoric assertion of its being and justification for life and sovereignty. With each death, bombing, and assertion comes its proclamation of sovereignty and identification. It is the distortion of faith as an “ism” and not faith as the substance of things hoped for of things unseen, but the man may trust in himself and what man can bring about on his own by self-will, deeds, and acts. It is a bother for the world that works to live and let live with biblical differences and choices for each person, family, community, state and nation.
I remember the early 80s. I was hired for two semesters to teach at the University of Oil and Mineral, UPM. It was a new beautiful campus, designed by Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott, CRS. It was a place students and teachers where proud of. There was the tendency at that school to avoid engaging teachers from other countries. I did not get the promised permanent professorship I had hoped for. But still in the early 80s, the people were joyful, friendly, hospitable, and somewhat curious about Americans, perhaps because TV was not so widely viewed, and movie houses, theatres, and concert halls were permanently forbidden. Americans were still perceived as heroes and somewhat of a mystery. Upon our return to Saudi in the 90s we realized the people there have come of age. The atmosphere at the University of Oil and Mineral had turned into oil and vinegar. And the people were indifferent. Many had traveled abroad. They had one house in the U.S. and their babies there born there too. I am in Saudi Arabia because it is God’s will. Period. I also help the Saudis catch up and become part of the developed countries. That is why the new communications contract from Lucent that I got for my company is a tremendous opportunity for CDE and a big step ahead for the kingdom.
Christina and I observed the Kingdom and its people where changing. They became withdrawn, almost hostile, and fearful. I noticed long before I left KFU that most of my students had no hope for the future. I used to enjoy teaching, but lately it was a drain. At King Faisel University we used to say “Happy Easter” and “Merry Christmas.” Now it was forbidden. None of the niceties were permitted even at parties and dinners–activities Saudis love so much became very scarce. Most of the Saudis felt embarrassed about the new attitude they had to display. Relationships became strained. The Saudis where encouraged by preaching of the mullahs to stay away from the “imbeciles”—non Muslims—which dirty the country with their presence. Their angry voices screaming daily over the loudspeakers on every minaret spread heat and war that is heard over many blocks. The older Saudis knew and were grateful that the Americans had come to their Kingdom in friendship. They realized the Americans had come with a sincere desire to educate and help to build up the new land they call home. They would gladly continue doing business and just living and letting the Saudis live their own lives. But now a new generation of Saudis had been indoctrinated with the destructive ideas of their Wahabbis teachers. The up and coming Wahabbis is a fundamental Islamic group whose only desire is to gain enough power to rule the world, regardless whom they kill, hurt, or destroy along the way. Their first target was the educational system. That is why I and other Americans and non-Saudis had to leave the University. I got hit very early in the game. Then they concentrated on the government. And now they try to scare all non-Moslems.
Disturbing news.

Al-Foadia Group with Barie

Al-Foadia Group with Barie

All was apparently going very well with my work in CDE. We looked forward to starting work on the Lucent communications project. I had gotten for CDE. I knew the President of Lucent Technologies John H. from Riyadh. John contacted me years ago at Al Foadia in Riyadh to ask me to do work for his ATT compound in Riyadh. Since then we had become good friends. I love to work with him. John is one of my Christian brothers and is always very helpful. Suddenly, one morning Mohammed, the government relations’ official for the company, came with disturbing news. He informed me that there is a law that someone initially contracted by the government, as in my case, is prohibited from finding non-government employment in the kingdom. Neither the management of CDE nor I realized that this law existed or what it would take to overcome it. Every large company employs a man like Mohammed. Often that man is a poor relative. These men must have family and friends employed by the government so that he has a chance to be employed. These men are the caretakers of passports, visas, travel letters, and other legal matters. This was the moment Mohammed had to get into action. For weeks Mohammed used all his contacts to get my Igama changed from KFU to CDE, but without success. Finally he let my employer and I know that it was not possible to transfer the Igama, and that I now have to exit the kingdom.
When Azmi saw the situation was so complicated, he decided to terminate my contract, leaving me high and dry. I was out on a limb without a salary and without a sponsor. I stayed in the kingdom illegally, but under the protection of AlFoadia my Employer for whom I had worked in Riyadh years before.. I usually knew how to handle that myself, but this time I got caught in a snare. All our efforts were without positive results. The fact was that I had come to the university with my one Igama and they really had no right to withhold my property. We tried every legal way, only to find it becoming very complicated. I had no choice I had to leave the country and hopefully after many months of waiting for my visa, I could finally return and resume my work–if the job was still available.
This meant I had to give up my apartment filled with books, printing machine, furniture, and telephone lines, all of which had cost thousands of dollars to acquire. Or I could keep the apartment and continue to pay the rent, and hope that all would work out so that I could return in six months or a year. The decision was easy, we simply could not effort to leave.
However, the fact was that I was in a dilemma. I could not believe that I had gotten into such a seemingly hopeless situation. It was usually not so difficult to live in the Kingdom. I prayed for wisdom. Even my friends at the American Businessmen’s Club could not understand how the Saudis could act that way. At the end, we all sensed Saudi Arabia had reached a turning point. It became clear that the foundation of AlQuida, the Wahabbis, are now beginning to exercise their power and force their laws into the open. While the Saudis needed the Americans and the western world to develop the Kingdom, the Wahabbis had stepped back and tolerated us. Now that the Saudi development was almost complete, the Wahabbis raised their ugly heads once more and pushed to get us out of the country so they could take over.

God steps in.
It became apparent I stood alone fighting a rising power that most people don’t even know exists. I called all my friends. I contacted Rashid Al-Rashid, an architect friend of mine, and the head of one of the most powerful business families in Saudi Arabia. Rashid spoke to the officials at the University to take me back. No go. I called Prince Naif’s office to get an exception. I contacted the chief of protocol at the office of Prince Mohammed of the Eastern Province. Ghazi Otaibi the former president of the University gave me a hand when I needed it. He went with me personally to his cousin in Al Khobar to get my passport; only the mayor of AlKhobar can get an exception for that to happen. I spoke to my good friend Ibrahim Dooh owner of a chain of drugstores in the Kingdom, and Ibrahim Zamil in Riyadh, nothing happened. And even Abdullah Dabbagh, who was often a dinner guest in our house when we lived in Riyadh, and who is now a top leader at the Government could not help. Nothing, Nothing, Nothing.



I contacted the diplomatic quarter government office in Riyadh. They knew me because they had considered me seriously for a contract position in the past. But even their Saudi personnel manager could not help me. I kept trying to reach the Minister who knew me well, but he was on vacation. I happened to talk to a clerk who, to my surprise, remembered me and knew that he had once before helped me coordinate meetings when I visited there. I explained my situation. He said he could help get my Igama transferred. Then I contacted Yoseph Kahn in Riyadh. I asked him to coordinate payments and get the letters and the Igama I needed. Then I asked Mohammed and Azmi to extend the deadline of my departure. And then, good news, one night at a very late hour and after so many fax and phone calls, Mr. Kahn’s courier delivered the letter and the document to my door. With the help of God, I had won the battle. I could once again legally work for CDE. I had a new, transferable Igama to go full speed a head.
It was high time, as I needed to get to work. I had run low with my finances. Bills needed to be paid. . But this was not all. Not working for months caused losses enough, yet there was more.



My car’s engine needed to be replaced. Always when I have car trouble, I go to Thugba to Chris my Philippine car mechanic and his friends. These little genius boys can practically do miracles. They fix carburators by taking them apart. They replace the wiring in a car, and they can fix an engine. If they do not have a replacement for a broken part they make it from scratch. All the boys in Thugba liked to see me coming. They where mostly Christians from the Philippines. They never had a day off, to go to a Bible study or church service. They worked from early morning till late at night seven days a week. So they loved to hear me talk about Jesus Christ. I did that all the while I was waiting for them to fix my car. They worked under a corrugated metal roof, and it was hot. The Saudi owner of the business, sitting in his easy-chair could care less what we where talking about, but sometimes he liked to listen. Soon my Buick, it was the symbol of my independence, was in tiptop shape again. I loved that big old car which had carried us safely through out the country until the day when I almost lost my live.
Some of the twists and turns from other chapters (2,705 words)
(And there are lots more!)
General that applies to all periods):
• Drivers cutting across three or four lanes of traffic to exit off highways or at intersections at red light. One must expect driver from far left or far right to cut across all lanes of traffic to make the left or right turn. Also, young teens circle four corners late at night like a race track on only two wheels. Suicidal driving can especially be seen during a Shammal (northern winds) on the highway connecting Riyadh to Eastern Province as drivers exceed 100 mph in zero visibility. One can see many vehicles with tails up in the air or submersed in sand with only rood tops showing. In 1982, I saw the dead bodies of a family of five strewn over the highway leading from Khobar to Sunset Beach where the huge Cadillac obviously had hit the concrete divider and turned over many times killing the entire family. During the early years, the highway authority left the broken cars on the sides of the road to warn drivers to drive safely. Death by auto was one of the highest causes of fatalities in the kingdom and my King Faisal University students.



• The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona is secretive and hides where women wear veils and all the men dress in white thobs. Bank accounts and net worth are not transparent and kept very private. The result is an unreliable and weak lending and investment community without recourse to claim, lien property, estate, etc.
Early Section chapters
• Michael S.  was a Maroon Christian Lebanese member in Riyadh. He later relocated his offices into our ElSeif villa and was the Carrier representative for the Kingdom. He was also involved in shipments of military vehicles into Iraq. Bob Vinton came to work for Michael. Bob was taken hostage in Iraq and we saw him on TV on CNN from the United States of America. We visited Michael at his lavish Alakariah penthouse apartment in Riyadh. Six months later, we got a call from Michael that Bob had died of a heart attack at his home in Santa Fe.
Bob was one of my best friends and co-worker at Arieb in Riyadh.

• After hitting me with his car from the rear, an army lieutenant and I were taken by police heading for the jail. After some discussion in Arabic, I was released in the middle of the Riyadh city desert while the lieutenant was taken to prison. After some negotiations, he agreed to pay for repairs of my car. Some time went by and after a while, he pleased for release before the work on the car was complete promising to make good. I agreed and he was never to be found again and I had to complete the work at my own expense. Because it was his fault, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia auto insurance would not pay for any of the expense.
The drama was the way he hit me in the rear; he tailed me on a route I
used daily to go to work. I pulled over to let to let him pass he went behind me; I pulled to the right he changed lanes and went behind me this repeated so many times until he raced his engine and slammed into may car with such a force that it propelled my car so that I was able to just make it to my usual parking space. Immediately I entered my building where I worked for the Ministry of the Interior police, Captain Saad immediately dispensed his men to bring in the lieutenant, and then they called the civil police.
The irony to all this was working for a state military organization which let me fend for myself and gave me very little advice and suggestions. Even visiting him in prison, I had no one to help me.
• Rocky Horror Picture show live performance in Riyadh performed by western English and American players on a compound. It was very risqué and a surprise of daring and confrontation. There were neither raids nor reprisals. This theatrical group did many musicals, plays as well as symphony and choirs.
• I prevented our house boy Sunan from committing suicide with our big kitchen knife in his room one evening. He had driven me to a dinner with US Ambassador Walter Cutler meeting at his home then in the center of Riyadh. When Sunan came to pick me up, he was late and drunk. He drove badly and after a lot of insisting finally surrendered the wheel to me. He went to his room. I later went to him and it was there that he had words with me and took the knife to himself. I wrestled with great strength and effort to separate him from the knife. That night I called Khalid El-Seif’s Uncle Farouq Arabi and had Sunan removed from our home. Sunan continued to work for the ElSeif family and we never saw him again.
• Tanzanian workers not paid for over six months and stranded in there labor camp with our t food nor airline tickets to return home. They all face imprisonment upon return to Tanzania because they borrowed the money to pay agents fees and cannot repay the money because Saudi employer does not honor the contract.

• Michael Murray was arrested and jailed for three days and nights for stopping at a blinking yellow light on a deserted avenue in Riyadh. He had just returned from his holiday and since my car was not available, he drove me home. When he stopped, I urged him to “go: go, go …go” I said but he froze. A policeman appeared from no where and arrested him. I took the car, followed, and got the US embassy and our company to intervene, but to no avail. After paying the full fine and serving the full three day term, he was released. We learned there is little the US government can or will do in such situations.

Barie with Saudi KFU Students

Barie with Saudi KFU Students

King Faisal University Period
• On a visit by our ABLE team to the McDonald Douglas compound on the corniche in AlKhobar in a gift shop we found derogatory defamatory trinkets, statues figures and gifts meant to jeer, defame, and cast dispersions of Saudis. We were appalled. Our ABLE team was constituted as a result Lt. Cor. Cornthwaith after the Khobar bombing who requested I gather several certified and registered counselors specializing in trauma to prepare for the next possible strike by terrorists. Before departing for alKharj Cornthwaith told me that the first time shame on you the second time shame on us and he was doing everything he could to prepare to prevent the next attack. But if it should come, the councilors would be ready. As it turned out our team was very much in demand for the affects of the Khobar Tower bombing on US and European civilian moral. He also told me that our team was registered with central command for possible future deployment.
• Khobar towers bombing took place about two miles from our apartment in the bin Jumah building while Christina was out of the kingdom. I had heard a thud and checked to find a clear sky of a beautiful evening. Later that evening Christina phoned to give the news of what happened. Later that day I drove to find the site but could not. It was at a building a passed a thousand time to go to Thugba to fix my car. The next day One of my Kingdom of Saudi Arabia colleagues escorted me to the site. Later that day Lt Col Cornthwaith contacted me and we toured the carnage. He told me that the broken glass caused the most fatalities. Later Ishteeaque and the American Institute of Architects studied the structural and architectural construction of the towers with the cooperation of the Mayor of AlKhobar who was a King Faisal University former student and member of my architects group.
• After conferring American Institute of Architects mid east its’ chapter status the American Institute of Architects withdrew AIA/ME chapter status and we reformed as AIG/ME getting it approved by Prince Mohammed and the Saudi Eastern Province chamber of commerce. It was with the encouragement and endorsement of Dean Abdul Aziz Saati and many other prominent Saudis that we started the chapter. These include a member of Sharia Court and author Zuhair H. Fayez and Dr. Sami Angawi who recently met in Jeddah with US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen P. Hughes. Angawi assessed meeting as successful while other Saudi women thought otherwise as being presumptive and insensitive. As other meetings, we had with employed and working Kingdom of Saudi Arabia professionals /Kingdom of Saudi Arabia women are rebellious and tenacious, self sufficient and resist intervention and control. They are different form my female King Faisal University students. And of course as professor, my relationship with my female students was different from a visiting foreign government dignitary. The Saudis knew my record and that I was there to serve and grow there people and county. My record is clear.
• Attending the majalis of Prince Mohammed in the gargantuan royal hall at the Dammam Royal Palace as part of the US delegation with the dignitaries of the military and all the sheiks in there large and flowing black, brown and white capes. The red carpet lay diagonally across the hall and when the prince and his entourage entered I was the first to be escorted to him to be embraced and return embrace and kiss and be kissed by the prince. Since he had approved our American Institute of Architects meetings, it was an especially warm and welcome moment. I remember the people and hall reminding me of the halls in heaven which I will be with the “Lamb of God”. The scale and pomp of this was monumental.
• 
• In the last days of selling our furniture a Saudi Arabian visited to see what bargains he could find and after noting my scholarly collection of books encouraged me to convert to Islam. This was done in my house and with little of the usual breathing room; I normally have in public places.

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Accommodations in Saudi Arabia
By Barie Fez-Barringten
Of a List o 37 lifetime venues in 72Year period
Architecture, including the places at which I resided has been metaphors of my life. They are icons and insignias of my identity. To others, they represented an association of like-minded persons and contexts. This all formed my ideal of urbanism and metaphors. Many are mnemonics conjuring the ideas, attitudes, feelings and details of a life I led in and around each place.
The account of Saudi Arabia residences is but a part of all the places we have lived and which I have documented in my autobiography.
Was there an effect on us after living in KSA for nearly twenty years? In particular, would there have been any difference between living in Saudi and the USA for the same period? One of the factors to be considered would have to be the stress and subtle impact of the differences. One of the differences is surely the strain that our every move experienced being a non-resident alien living full time without passport and no access to any due process.
Always looming over our head and predicating our decisions and reactions was that someone for any legitimate of pretended reason complain and have us ousted, imprisoned or worse.
As one adapts and understands the realities and develops the ability to survive and negotiate pathways the stress is covered with activity and initiatives designed to provide cover, escape, and a semblance of normality.
In any case, it certainly gave us they compassion for those in like circumstances in other parts of the world including the USA and Germany. Four years after returning from KSA in November 11, 1999 we still suffered from the effects of the stress and adoptions we made during that period. There were hidden health problems related to treatments, medicines, and behaviors, which are being worked out step by step. Many of them we were not aware of and are only discovering as they arise. There are no doctors, councilors nor interventionists trained to care for such as us.
Another side effect of the experience has been the place and way we now live. Our choices for work; residence and recreation are totally disoriented to the ongoing roles and mores of the context.
We have chosen to live in and amongst people very different from those we would before we left and in a life style and type housing we would never consider before. The twenty years taught us to sense different and appreciate differently.
I do believe some of our old friends and family are quite bewildered by our current choices. Today our activities are very limited and we notice that the more we limit our activities and enjoy equipoise our health improves and further adjust to normalcy.

Here are the places we called Home in Saudi Arabia:
Rahima Family Camp: One bedroom, 1 bath with small living room and dine room. Very small windows in a building of 12 units with low roof and minimum ceiling height. It is where we lived from August 11, to October 1981. It had a large central and partially shaded swimming pool with a clubroom and kitchen manned by Philippinos serving hamburgers, chicken and cold drinks all day long. It had been built as construction workers labor camp in the seventies, and abandoned. It had a giant central warehouse, which one night caught fire and burned for several hours until the ARAMCO fire department finally came. We called the guard, police and fire department and watched it burn. I recalled my watching a factory burn near Faile Street and in a tire housing project burn to the ground in Houston.
When it was over the warehouse skeleton still remained. This was one of the events, which taught us that God, not man would be the one to keep and protect us from harm.
ARAMCO’s, State departments, and other’s claims of caring and protecting were slogans, mantras and hopes; they were far from reality. There were to be many lessons on this subject in the next many years that followed.
The compound had two walls with one surrounding our “chicken coups. It had a hole in the wall, which I passed daily to get to the main gate and my bus daily. I passed other trailers/manufactured homes occupied by non-ARAMCO people. I had no idea that they were.
Others who came with us from Houston stayed in our camp while others were in different other camps. ARAMCO’s shuttle bus allowed Christina and the other ladies to visit each other daily and in the evenings we would go shopping in the village of Rahima. It was in waling distance from our camp and I bought a loose fitting thobs so I could sweat easily. Afterwards we would swim in our pool.
On the weekends we’d somehow visit and sleep over at each other’s houses and go swimming in the “hot” Gulf. At some point I fainted and could not stand up for several days.
I probably had heat exhaustion, malaria or some virus. The doctors did not really tell me any thing. By the way most of the doctors at ARAMCO would prescribe “Valium” for most any complaint.
The social life on all the compounds was extraordinary including the milieu and casual nods and recognition of westerners toward each other all over the compounds. It was exhilarating and familiar. Wherever you went ON Dhahran you’d see the same faces day after day at the same time , just like in a small town. At the post office, mess hall, parking car, and entrees, at the commissary and at shops and libraries. One rarely knew the names only the familiar faces and the types of cloths. The same could be said in the offices of Lee County and other communities where ones says hello and some odd and inane comment about the weather or the day of the week as a confirmation of being in the same context.
Bin Jumah building tenth floor Apartment:
Half moon bay had sand duns where we could see young teenagers in dune buggies, cars and trucks racing straight down dunes at high speeds. Maxims restaurant on a near by corner on King Abdul Aziz Blvd. was a landmark for us. We ate their one time and had snacks at other times.
Khalid liked to visit this place when I lived with him in Dammam, by then in 1991 it had become famous. It soon closed and reopened across the street as a very sheik club-restaurant.
It had the same name as Maxims in Paris. We knew the owner of a restaurant bearing that name in Houston; He was on Christina’s board of the German Wine Society.
Sea View Apartments:
A young Saudi guard took us many times to drive surf our Delta 88 Olds across the desert to visit various ruins out in the desert.
Al-Hamra Hotel:
Suhaimi Dammam Villa:
Sateen Street Riyadh Apartment:
Driving in Riyadh you would often be cut off by drivers crossing from the extreme left or extreme right lane to turn to the opposite side right or left. You watched for this and guarded your driving as you approached such intersections expecting this to happen.
Young teenagers could be seen during Salah time or late at night at empty intersections circling on two wheels within the four corners in tilted open pick up trucks at very high speeds and screeching sounds.
Euromarche/Aruba’s  El-Seif villa:(it was possibly owned by Prince Michael)
Khalid El-Seif referred me to his tailor and I had black thobs made.
Arieb compound Olaya Villa:
Christina was in Kitzbuhel when I moved in and occupied this villa. Before leaving Saudi we deposited our cat and personal effects with Katim, the Syrian personal manager and neighbor. The plan was he would feed the cat and I would return very soon with my Igama from Austria. It tuned out that I was there in Kitzbuhel for many wonderful months. There were two small swimming pools for this compound of about eight villas. Our villa had two floors and very large bedrooms and baths. The ceilings were very high and just right for Christian’s paintings. So I arranged all our furniture and personal effects and had her beautiful paintings hung in the living room, stair well, bed rooms and dinning room. The company provided us with two reclining TV chairs and a television, etc. Our cat gave birth to one litter of six and then later to a litter of 5. The first litter I was alone without Christina, and every lunch hour and evening I’d watch the Mother cat play and train her kittens. I had cats all my life, but never really learned their habits and manners.
It was a wonderful experience as I observed them being nurtured and trained to play, defend and combat each other.
When we were in Kitzbuhel we made a video of them all before totally giving them a way to people who answer the ad Cristina placed in the local Kitzbuhel newspaper.
It was in this villa that I entertained Kim (my former Korean secretary) and his Korean farmer friends so that I can assist them start up farms in Costa Rica; and where Mohammed visited me to help him prepare business plan to present to Prince Faisel.
My neighbors were so very kind and invited me for dinners, etc. most notably our finance VP and his beautiful Indian wife. She had been an airline stewardess and was a good cook.
National Gypsum Building; Riyadh Batha district:
This 2 bedroom, one bath apartment was kept clean and quiet in the same building as AlFoadia. It was not a place I ever wanted Christian to see and certainly not to reside. It was next to the highway so I kept the ac going all the time and the curtains and shades drawn. I was able to cook and entertain minimal guests here and I had a TV to watch videos. Mostly I studied the bible and listened to bible tapes.

Kitzbuhel, Austria (2)
I visited Kitzbuhel about five times over a period of Five years as vacation or respite between sponsors a waiting “re-entry visa” aids and medical tests and clearances. Christina was there more often waiting for her reentry on my Igama, usually after I worked three months probation period required by Saudi labor law. My first trip came after fifteen months employment at ARAMCO where my vacation was denied and then finally permitted. When I returned many others and I was terminated.
During these years we had visits from Charley and his wife, Vince and Rosa Rossi, Jane and John Boyhan, Garth Compton and girlfriend, Christopher from IBM and his family,
The last time I visited I got so used to the life there that I really did not want to return to Saudi and when I did God changed my life. It was an epiphany.
Our houseboys were so special:
• Mustafa: Indian doorman
• Kimche in Dammam
• Sunan: Thailand: El-Seif: When I came to the airport to collect him and called out his name he did not answer.
He was our cook, driver and janitor. After returning form our trip we found out that he began to get drunk. We also were missing one cat, he assures us he did not eat the cat, but it could not be found and we assumed he had eaten the cat. One evening after driving me to the US embassy, he came to collect me and was drunk. I finally subdued him and switched seats so I could drive. Later that evening I went to his room and he took a very big knife and tried to commit suicide. I prevented this and saved his life and us a lot of trouble. Soon, thereafter we transferred his to the service of the El-Seif family.
Sunan’s favorite saying was that he knows many places in the town, but not how to get there from where we live. He observed the fact that the stores closed for Salah saying that in Thailand , not only did stores not close but also were open 24 hours a day seven days a week with multiple proprietors using the space. He was a very good cook, except after 6 months of his cooking I could not feel my mouth for all the chili’s he used to prepare the food. Christina taught him to speak a little English and whatever manners and cleaning habits he could learn. He was well trained by her and the El-Seif family got themselves a good bargain.

• Emanuel in Riyadh
• Daniel from KFU who was older and only worked for one year at the school. He was never our houseboy because he had no means of transportation but he brought me coffee at the school. At my request he wrote me a beautiful poem of why he was a Christian and what being a Christian meant to him. I still have it.
• Manuel: worked in the florist shop, was crazy about making colored flowers, and colored wee decorations.
• Murthy
• Emanuel who also worked for KFU
Although we did not reside in Munich we regarded this city as our “downtown”. We’d go there to shop or just get away. We banked at the Deutch bank and our stockbroker was nearby. Travel throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland was coordinated from Deutch bank by a Eurocard overdraft account.
Aside from Munich we’d shop in other German border towns. After doing this for several years we began to realize that while Kitzbuhel was beautiful, we did really much prefer German people and food.
So we tried to find an apartment in a German town near the Czech border. But, alas it too was way over our head in price. One of my great joys was shopping with Christina while snacking a sipping from small bottle of liquors and schnapps that we’d buy on the way. I’d also buy small black cigars and we’d stop and get ibises (snacks) in Munich, Leipzig, Berlin, Kitzbuhel, Zurich, Vienna, etc.
Glenn Ave. in Lehigh Acres
Christina and I had lived in Kitzbuhel for several years and by now she realized it was not what she had hoped. So after lots of prayer she made a trip to Munich and saw an advertisement for a rental house in Lehigh Acres. She called the owner and agreed to rent the house. She called the movers and had our personal affects shipped. The mover did not leave behind many things because they did not fit in his truck. Later when we claimed and sued the company said it would not make good on our claim. She arrived at Miami with our cats and stayed with our dear friends Gene and Linda. She then traveled to Lehigh acres and set up home on Glenn Ave.

Unincorporated Lee County. Florida
One morning I received Christina’s mail in Riyadh from Florida asking me to review the legal papers and sign and return the documents for the purchase of our new home in Del Tura. I was astonished to read the title, deed and descriptions of a mobile home. I told her so on our daily tape, but proceeded to do as instructed. I could not imagine my wife the artist and wife of me, the architect, could conceive of such a thing. It was then I knew my trust in God and His best gift to me was a matter of believe, trust and faith,
I was emptying out my files and came across the invitation and contract to teach at King Faisel University. The Gulf war just ended and God told me that while others have departed my field I will send you into danger where others would fear, but you would be honored and desired. You are brave in the spirit and can do my work. I hand wrote a note of regards to the “dean” and sent it off. A month later I got a letter offering me a position. Again, I kept it simple and wrote on the letter, “yes”. I sent it again. Shortly I got a call from Dean Abdul Aziz Al-Saati inviting me to a face-to- face interview in Washington DC. He said he could not pay for any expenses, so I asked if he was not going to be in our neighborhood some time before returning to KSA.
I suspected that since he was with his family he would not leave the USA with out visiting Disney. I was right; we met and had our interview at Universal Studios with Christian, his wife and son, Mohammed.
I soon left Christina in a lurch to give a LEMA banquet for 400 guests in the Florida ballroom. God provided; and, I left to Saudi Arabia to reside temporally with Khalid Owainat in the AlFoadia Dammam office apartment.
And, then after nearly 20 years of service in KSA we returned to USA; November 11, 1999
Job 42:10-12
10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.

We have learned to relish regularity, repetitive days, and simplicity where every year we can be stimulated buy the weatherman’s warnings and forecasts of pending tropical storms, tropical depression and hurricanes. Compared to the weather forecast of Saudi Arabia and other places, these forecasts are the most exciting live television productions and graphics. Most of the serious predictions are incorrect, especially the ones predicting local or changing weather.
Al-Foadia’s Dammam office/apartment
Khalid met me at the Dhahran airport and taken to the Dammam office and his room, which had two beds. He slept on one and me on another. Khalid and I became great friends. I lived out of my suitcases, which I kept on my side of the room. Going out every night to buy some great Arab meal and eating on our respective beds or at the restaurant. He got videos and would stay up all night smoking his hubly bubbly and watching TV.

The Gulf War had just ended so AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and TV) was still operating so there was great US programming. Khalid was funny and interesting. Khalid arranged for his driver to daily take me to and from the University. He was also very frustrated by being the stepson of a Palestinian Saudi whose other children were citizens of Saudi and would inherit the business. He was born a Jordanian and his mother was also not really a citizen. Eventuality Khalid left Saudi to join his uncles business in Detroit.
Bin Jumah Al-Khobar eighth floor Apartment Building
Christina wanted us to live in the Bin Jumah building rather than the other options we had presented to us. Abdul Hamid Shalaby was assigned by the dean to help me get settled. He arranged to show me various places and prices with reason of the housing allowance we were offered. The Bin-Jumah was way below the scale. But it was exactly the place we liked. It was very accessible because it was on Al-Khobar main road; it had two full baths; three big bedrooms; immediate free telephone line; street parking; and great views of the city; and a very nice balcony.

Thankfully, Mr. Jizawi paid our doorman nearly $800 for the telephone line; I had the water put in my name; the lease was in my name; and I bought the furniture from new and used furniture stores suggested to me by Faisel Al-N. and Evangelos Apostoletes. I got long and dead palm and swamp leaves from around Seaview as I had seen in the home of the Boyhans and bought curtains and had them installed by the furniture store. Later we bought bamboo and small accessory tables, shelves, tables and lamps.
We bought an answer machine; fax and photocopy machine and later Assemblies of God Church contributed a Dell laptop computer. We were well equipped to manage AIA, AIG/ME, Warden, and other business. We could communicate and reproduce books and study material.
It was here in 1992 that while I was resting watching a video in my living room I heard a thud like a plane breaking the sound barrier or thunder in the sky; I looked out and saw cars and light in the city as usual. So I soon went to sleep to be awoken by a telephone call from Christina announcing the “Khobar bombing” to me”.

The next morning I drove to Thugba where she described but did not see any thing. Later that day I drove with someone to show me the towers and the street and indeed saw the towers and its devastation. Day’s later Lieutenant Cornthwait invited me to see the crater in front and details. He requested our assistance to provide a clinically certified team of crisis counselors. I contacted various people and was able to put together of team of qualified and practicing ladies into a team we called “ABEL”. We immediately provided our services to various personnel directors of compounds housing US citizens while are registered with the central command for the next possible attack.
Lieutenant Cornthwait assured me that there would be no further incident because the entire US military was being re deployed immediately to the outskirts of a base near Riyadh. However our team and its member’s credentials were registered with the central command in its most secret files.
We often visited Riyadh and the many compounds. One such visit its chief gave us. He showed us his brand new satellite tracking positioning system which indicated all the streets and locations of the compound as we were driving.
This compound and two others we visited often were the targets of the terrorist attacks on Riyadh in May 2003.The others were the Al-Hamra and Jadaweel where we held our neighbor meetings. MODA once invited me and AlFoadia to bid on its maintenance and operations. Mr. Kahn and his team and I surveyed the site so I recognized it as it was being shown on US TV by Saudi TV. When we came here for FGBMFI meetings we had to park well beyond the concrete bollards and walk past the guards and the guardhouse to the next guarded entrance. Or, since I had a government sticker on my car from KFUPM they often let us in after inspecting under our car with mirrors on the end of sticks, under our hood, our trunk, and within our car and person.
There were two remarkable fires: one due to grease and another mischief.
The grease fire occurred while we were conducting a bible study with Zed and Randy in our living room. A sliding glass counter separated the kitchen to height window so we could see in both directions. The kitchen’s entrance was adjacent at 90 degrees to the front entry door. This opening had a door, which we had removed for easy access. We had done this when we lived on the tenth floor as well.
The apartment also was equipped with smoke detectors. The entry door had a double lock, which required a key to open, and up till then we did not leave the key in the door.
Christina left the bible study as it was ending and began to prepare her usual delicious meals. I saw the flames and rushed in demanding her to leave the room and exit. She did not. She instead took an another pot and filled it with water. I ordered her to stop. She did not, but instead poured it on the flame, which then exploded with her in the middle of the room, and the ensuing exploding flames.
The smoke detectors went off and I grabbed her to try to escape. By then Zed and Randy were also at the door but we could not get out and the buss of the alarm blared in our ears.
We suddenly realized that Christian was just fine, the flames had ceased as quickly as they started and the only nuisance was the blare of the alarm. We found some chair and removed the batteries. We huddled together and knew the hand of God had saved Christina and showed Himself.
Another fire occurred while Christina was out of the kingdom and I was at school teaching.
Evangelos came to our class, late as usual, and asked me if I knew that my building was on fire saying that as he left his house (Queen Building) just a few blocks away, he saw fire engines, etc. I immediately left and went to the site. I got in and escorted by Arab residents, fire rescue and police we ascended the very dark and flooded stair going up eight stories to our floor. My floor was also black dark. The only light we had was someone’s cigarette lighter (everyone smokes in Saudi Arabia). The floor was flooded so we waded in the water. All the walls were charred. I looked in to the open apartment to the left of me where the fire began, which gave some light; it was filled with a gruesome Grey dust. We reached my door and it was ajar since the fireman had kicked it open. We found the floors covered in black soot and flooded with water. The furniture had a layer of soot in the living room but the other rooms were clean but flooded with water. I realized that the fireman and police had soured are apartment and left. We had bibles and Christian books every where bit nothing had been touched. When Murthy arrived at his usual time at our apartment to begin his work he was astonished but got to work. I called upon Al-Foadia and they immediately sent some helpers and I took most of the Persian carpets to dry cleaners for cleaning. It took some doing and me signing a paper releasing the municipality. I had to go to the local police station. They were ever so kind and I made friends with them. I had to see them after that for various things. The fire department also came by for another visit and I had to sign a paper with them as well.
Several days later Christina returned to the kingdom. The elevator was restored but the hall on our floor was still covered with black sot and the lights were out. I had gone to meet her but she had arrived early and simply took a taxi from the airport to our building.
Every thing down stairs was very normal but when she opened the door of the elevator she thought she had arrived in hell. Still she proceeded to our flat to be met by Murthy who opened the door and presented her with a cheerful greeting, all electric lights on, every thing shinny clean, and lots of bouquets of flowers.
I, of course was totally panicked at the airport thinking every ridiculous thought about Christina but thinking it best to go back to the apartment to call Kitzbuhel and await news. Instead I am greeted by awe struck Christina and Murty.
Good God was this ever a time for rejoicing and being glad. Murthy had prepared a great feast and so nicely cared for our reunion. He always did! This amongst so many other occasions bonded us to dear Murthy and where God proved Himself to us.
Many months’ later light was restored, and still later the corridor walls and floors were cleaned and painted. I investigated the apartment where the fire began and every thing had been burned to a crisp. The Lebanese family in the unit had two little children, and while the mother lies asleep in her bedroom they playfully ignited the fire in the kitchen. They ran to the Mother’s bedroom, which was an end of the apartment, and there they huddled. When the smoke overcame them they went out to the balcony which was gratefully out side of their bedroom, closed the sliding glass door and screamed for help. Finally after over an hour and before the flames could reach them the hook and ladder removed them form off the balcony to the ground below.
Since that time the manager of the building was careful not to rent units to families with children.
Months later I met with the kingdom’s fire general at a fire suppression exhibition and conference given at our university.
I had made many photos of the damage and given some notes on the problems in the building to my dean. He introduced me to the fire chief who listened very kindly as I explained all the events of the fire and the associated shortfalls of the buildings fire escapes, fire extinguisher, emergency lights, etc. He assured me that since the building was owned by a staff member of the Prince of Eastern Province he could do little to enforce any remedial and needed work but that he would look into things. The dean and I assured him we were only presenting him with this so that he would know of the general situation in the Eastern Province but not to make any complaint, etc.
Well, within months fire extinguishers started to be filled and installed, emergency lights appeared in the stairwell and on most floors. About a year later a black steel fire escape was built out side of our living room window leading down to the ground.
Yes, it was not locked and indeed several years later, some thieves came up and took some things from certain apartments, including our next door neighbor’s whose window also led to the fire escape.
I had insured our personal effects for fire damage but according to them nothing was damaged; and our building took no responsibility for any damage to any of the tenants’ belongings.
They did finally rebuild the scorched apartment and did collect some money from the tenant to offset their expenses.
One day I saw a giant crane bird on the corniche. I called and alerted the department of environmental science in Jubail and then locally in Al-Khobar. The local office was in the form of a horticulturist and landscape architect on 18 street. We became good friends and he did rescue the bird.
When the new fish restaurant opened on the corniche they soon install d giant strobe lights which faced the benches where we usually sat and gazed after to dark sea. After a year of protest and complaining to my former students, now in charge of the engineering on the corniche, about the situation the mart’s finally changed the light s and darkened the place so that his restaurant was lit without annoying the casual public.
After a meeting of ABEL to counsel concerned Americans about another possible terrorist attack we passed by the McDonald Douglas gift shop and saw the most vulgar and garish little dolls and plaques with dirty and sneering remarks about Arabs, Islam and Saudi Arabia.

They put into stone what some bigoted westerner’s often jeer to each other about “rag heads”, etc. It was both stupid and ridiculous but the kind of souvenirs I suppose some westerners thought to buy and take home as gifts.
This along with many other such events explained why we had so few social friends and especially western friends. We just did not think this way. Neither in public school, work or here in Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand there were many people we got to know in Saudi Arabia from countries like India, Pakistan, etc. which we had little in common vocationally, contextually, etc… And yet we enjoyed fellowship and social conversations. We realized that they were from families and circumstances much like our own but from different countries. But we had a lot in common.
This facility was the one, which MacDonald Douglas in Riyadh discussed employing me too builds in 1989. I even was invited to their Christmas party and they gave me an employment contract to sign. They changed their mind and hired some employee from within the company to manage the project. This was also the compound in which Bob McCoy led a home fellowship.

Hotel Sofitel: the hotel I stayed at when working for Saudi Projacs; Meetings Rooms, Health club including swimming pool, Steam Room, etc. It was at this steam room I met a former UPM student now working in Jeddah, great buffet and food with nearby shopping for some grocery items. Barry B. met me there and took me to a ministry. We were jurors a project designed by Zuhair F. and another competition for a bank. Through the smoke of the steam room I heard a voice interrupt my conversation with My Saudi Projacs colleague calling:” professor Fez-Barringten”. When I answered the voice announced to my delight that ten years earlier he was one of my students at UPM.

Chronology of our life in Saudi Arabia
PERIOD          CONTRACT            PLACE                                        AGE           PLACE
1979               ARAMCO                 RAHIMA FAMILY CAMP   42              EASTERN PRV
1979               ARAMCO                 BIN JUMA BLDG/10 FL      42              AL KHOBAR
1980               ARAMCO                 SEAVIEW TOWNHOUSE     43              AL KHOBAR
1981                SUHAIMI/UPM  DAMMAM HOTEL                  44              DAMMAM
1981             SUHAIMI/UPM      SUHAIMI VILLA                   44               DAMMAM
1982            INT ASSOC                SATEEN STREET/                   45               RIYADH
1982            RUBRECTS                                                                                           KITSBUHEL
1983            EL SEIFFE BASIL    TAGASOUSSI/EURO             46              RIYADH
1983            LEBENBERG WEG                                                                              KITSBUHEL
1984           ARIEB                           ARIEB VILLAS                        47              RIYADH
1985           ALFOADIA                 NATIONAL GYP/BATHA    48              RIYADH
PERIOD                                      CONTRACT        PLACE                AGE             PLACE
1988-1991CFADT*                                                                             51                 Florida
1989          FRIZZELL
1990        COLLINS & DUPONT
Saudi Arabia:
PERIOD CONTRACT                       PLACE                                       AGE                  PLACE
1991 KING FAISEL UNIV/ICI BIN JUMA BLDG                     54                     AL KHOBAR
1996 CDE/ICI                                                                                         59
1997 ARAMCO/ICI                                                                             60
1998 ALMUHAIDIB/ICI                                                                    61
1999 NOV 11.RETURN TO THE USA                                             62’>”>

980 Simpson Strret was Milty's home sixty years ago

980 Simpson Strret was Milty's home sixty years ago

Bronx Stardust

A tome

By Barie Fez-Barringten

Three Chapter excerpt

The complete Table of Contents:

  1. Family: 8,693
  2. Identity/Medical: 4,483
  3. Members: 9,443
  4. Mom: 11,951
  5. Dad: 7,703
  6. Brother: 5,116
  7. People: 8,932

As stardust is the particles in the environment so is
Bronx Stardust
about the bits and pieces that are falling from bigger bodies. These are the fragments of and left overs from main issues, bodies and lives of the times. These are the crumbs from the table where you can only imagine the weight, substance and ingredients of the main dish. The real story has already been lived, the real place is already remodeled and reconfigured so all that remains is the stardust left behind and un-noticed by the the ebb and flow of social forces. If these are the crumbs we can only wonder what was the meal. If this is the stardust what was the heavenly body. As science gathers the stardust I have gathered my recollections of the details of time, place and a space labeled the Bronx.

Chapter 1 Family (8,693 words) Mid-twentieth century Bronx Stardust was a family-centered metaphor. We saw our context through the eyes of our family. The metaphor of the Bronx and Bronx Stardust was connected to each person by family and family traditions, culture and distinctives. Families realized they were unique, but that there were other unique and peculiar families as well. We knew that it was our differences that we had in common and that shaped our view of what made the Bronx special. The Bronx was special because so many families were different – from those who resided on the same floor of a building, in a whole building, on a block or in a neighborhood. It was our family sameness and our differences that made Bronx Stardust. We celebrated and boasted about our differences. We defended our rights to be unique and blast the others who opposed what were our cultural differences. Yet we rejoiced over the contrasts and relished foreign tastes and desires. Bronx Stardust often resulted in gang violence, feuds, shootings and abusive behavior. All of this churned the environment, making our families huddle together and yet find ways to relate and connect with other clans. As we fought and defended, we gained tolerance while strengthening our own identity and uniqueness amongst other unique and special personas. My parents emphasized their respective families, and as a result our family made “family” a basic part of our metaphorical and human vocabulary. In doing so, I memorized each and every member of our families’ name and relation to whom, as well as their relative rank and age in each family. I knew my aunts and uncles and their children and each child and relation they had and could connect them and tell you about them in detail. To this day, I describe them in detail as the context of my childhood. Later, my dad would give me daily reports of my cousin’s whereabouts, marriages, births and condition of children. It was the legacy and imprints my parents passed on to me and that I am now able to pass on to others. It also gave me a great sense of being part of a context much greater than our clan and myself. It was a sense of familiarity, vocabulary and recognizable traits that confirmed my identity and rightness with this world order. I had it and I assumed others had it as well. What I soon discovered is what I had in a great quantity, most had in a very small amount. I also learned that some had “wealth in the family” and assumed stature, while others had only a meager and paltry family. Others, I was surprised, never would talk about their families or would speak with disdain of their families. However, my family is a noteworthy family, having one street named after one of its members. Another member ran for president of the United States; another was a well-known political journalist; and another assisted a Supreme Court justice and authored a law textbook that is used in many law schools. Families are what we remember about how we became who we are. They are the collective memory of our formation and the formation that preceded us. Family is the mnemonic recalling of who I was with anyone or another person from the very beginning. By mentioning any one of them, I remember my own feelings and relationships.

Christina's Collage

Christina's Collage

Family bonding The bond to my parents that my brother and I had was good and strong. That bond may have explained the tolerance my brother and I had to our dysfunctional home. The bond between my brother and I only strengthened as children, when I’d care for him at night when both our parents were out, or in the morning when I’d dress him and take him to school. As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. The members of one’s family are themselves the experiences that shape our vocabulary, behavior, emotions and knowledge. At some point, they were the world and everything revolved around what they said and did. What we thought, they thought, and our interpretation of what they said was the building blocks for our future. They provided the voices, landmarks, visions and lessons for future non-family interactions. It is our family in whose image we are framed and often judged by society. If you can tell a person by his friends, it is even more so with the family. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” it is said. Yes, society definitely makes intuitive judgments about us from their impressions of the family. So in that way it is important that we know and understand the family against whom we are measured and the model and mold in which we are cast. For me, the extended family overcame the daily training at low self-esteem. I still did not do well at school, but I did strive to develop a persona and self-character modeled after the best members of my family. They would challenge and lovingly encourage me to go beyond the limitations of where I was. My mom was the best at this!!! She would listen and react to every word I spoke and knew the motive behind it. She was quick and insightful. The urban family is selective versus the rural family, where everyone is with you; there is nowhere to hide. Urban cities are vast and families can easily find themselves in different neighborhoods and paths that will never cross. Family is any group gathered under one leader. I was very fortunate to spend the time and know my father’s parents very well. Unlike most of my cousins, I have a sense of being from them and reference my identity and the culture of all their offspring back to their identity and culture.  I also got to visit with their offspring and their clans for the first 20 years of my life and therefore know the details of each clan. I can liken the diverse beliefs and differences between our family’s clan to a country like Iraq, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, etc., who seek to surrender their individual differences to a single identity. It is a very metaphoric process and concept: the family has its own identity at the highest level, which consists of sub-identities at the clan level. We are a family under God spiritually and in the flesh under nations and parents and their parent’s ancestors and heirs. We have one vocabulary, one history, one covenant and one Bible. This experience is the foundation of all the links I make to all other ethnic, national and linguistic cultures throughout the world. I can relate to any family by the memory and lessons from my family. I can see my uncles and aunts and cousins in the Saudis, Lebanese, Syrians, Greeks, Puerto Rican, Spanish, French, German, etc. I can hear my grandmother’s music and see her dance in her folk dances. The strange becomes familiar. My family is my metaphor. They are the people who are there for you when everyone leaves. They are the idea of what is valuable and precious and for whom everyone is measured and counted.  They are the profit from all our toils and efforts and the amorphic context with which we gauge our identify location in the cosmos and the measure of our physical vessel. In a family is where you learn consequences, values and behavioral patterns. Members criticize, encourage, judge, gossip, accept and reject. Families have characteristic appearances, behavioral patterns and traditions. In my family, I learned that there were consequences for the behavior or misbehavior of myself, parents or relatives. My parents would inevitably review the activities of their brothers and sisters. My father gave me a detailed account of each aunt, uncle and cousin. My mother’s account was less tedious because her family was smaller.  My mother would report that she had heard gossip from others about any visit or event we had with one another. Often complaints and judgments were not overt and direct, but reported to one as gossip and then passed back to my mother.  My father was reticent about any of these kinds of conversations and I would not hear from him about this. Such complaints from my father, rather, had to do with my misbehavior and my mother’s notorious passion for cleaning her house. There was a definite love that my mother had for her sister, Clara, that recalculated back to my brother and me from that family. She also was very close to Sylvia and Julie. No doubt our family valued their homes, but less to the extent of location and status. Rather, the furniture and furnishings, maintenance and order were greatly noticed and discussed. The depression, unemployment, lack of education and street savvy was our family’s common denominators, so no one was able to show off. However, there were still those who managed to find themes to vent their pride and snub one another. These included the manner of speaking (either talking too much or about others), overly caring about one’s new acquisitions, touting the accomplishments of one’s children, and slandering others for there idiosyncrasies of which each family has many. My Uncle Jack laughed too loud and harshly, Uncle Irving searched your house when visiting while Mom’s Uncle Irving was a political subversive, Aunt Pauline was a recluse, and to many all my father’s brothers were vulgar and not to be trusted, and Aunt Evelyn was too good for everyone else. The cultural aspects of our family were embodied in the distinctive look of all the my grandparent’s children and their siblings. I was thought to be a look alike for my father. I was called “little Joe”. The behavior of the clan was all predicated on their jovial life growing up amongst blacks in Harlem.  This culture of jazz, Zoot suits, cursing, vulgarities, sexual innuendos and so forth plagued all of them. It was the only thing all the wives could agree on. After awhile, it drove them apart, hoping that by disassociation they could etch out some unique improvements for them and their clan. But while it lasted, it was a cultural ideal focusing on my grandparent’s dining table and weddings for the first 10 years of my life. The culture oozed and manifest in dance, songs and language. There were expressions and words used only in the presence of each other. The love and passion between my father’s families was powerful and exciting. They carried with them the expressions learned in Harlem, as well as Latino and Spanish from Esther and Orvadio. My mother’s side was much more restrained and clouded by her sisters and sister-in-laws sympathy for my mother’s plight with her unfaithful husband. However, ethnic jokes, expressions and food passed between them. My mother was not an inherently good cook and learned from her sisters. She read Redbook and prepared recipes she’d learned. Indeed, we were a distinctive family with peculiar characteristics. Our characteristics were not always compatible with others, however, and as a consequence, when involved with others we tended to keep our mouths shut to surprise family nuances. These nuances included many nonsense expressions, prejudicial opinions and silly sayings. Since cursing was absolutely forbidden, we were never criticized for our bad language (because there wasn’t any). Our differences included celebrating Christmas;; working mother; father living with another women; being richer than many; me working; my tenacity; our mixed friends; our huge family; many automobiles; and so on. My mother would say, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.” It was a fatalistic view of the inevitable reality of whom and what we were. Friends, she would say, would not be there when the going gets tough, but you can count on family. The years of evil and dark realities wore away my dear mother’s perspective. Finally, she was alone while I was traveling to so many places and died while I was in Saudi Arabia. This is, I guess, the final lesson of family. The one that is with me these days, I’ve realized, needs work and commitment.  It is not automatic nor did to be taken for grant. Family is precious and full of change and crisis requiring a mature and hearty spirit. I have always savored the spirit and blessing of my family’s peculiarities and wished for a kinder world that would accept my family with their peculiarities and specialness. My mother was very open and culturally neutral. My dad’s business required him to be receptive to a variety of types. But our family had its own peculiarities and culture.

Evidence: I look and hear myself When I am with members of my family and I look and hear them, My mind tells me we, they and myself, are of the same flesh, religion, culture, context, genes ancestry, etc. So, when I perceive their facial expressions, speech, demeanor, attitude, passions, intuitions, reactions, etc., I see my own values, attitudes and style. It is not a mirror, nor is it a twin or a clone; it is rather a fulfillment of an imaginary sense of the other person’s likeness and potential genetic similarity to make the connection seem likely. Everything that is the best and worst incarnates in those conversations and interactions. Longings to be accepted for being one’s natural self are fulfilled. We two are alike and match. We have many similarities and significant differences. But there are important natural similarities. Some of the similarities may be favorable and others dissonant and one’s worth overcoming and burying. However, they exist in a unique reality distinct from other realities I have experienced in the real world. I can see distinctions about them, as I must appear to them and to others. I see my unique characteristics and because of what I see, I come to better know who and what I am.  It is a revaluing and intimate experience. Family as metaphor/origin The family metaphor provides the identity of my origin, because the metaphor contains the origin. It is not the origin but contains the remnants, characteristics and information about the origin. By metaphor, it is the link to the origin without being the origin. It prevails over time and space, but links me to a past and potential future containing the seeds and essence of the genetic, generic and DNA birth. It is worldly valid. The metaphor tests and confirms physical, psychological, inherited and environmental effects of the same blood, similar environment, common parents, grandparents and ancestors, while environmental contexts tells us something about ourselves and reflects our persona.  Family gives us clues to our own genetic, blood and behavior code. It is a metaphor about which we are innately curious; seduced to assimilate and know the metaphor in a way we cannot know other metaphors.  It defines the way we will know other metaphors because it so primary an experience. It by this experience, the experience of knowing our family that we authenticate our experience of not only who we are by our first name but what we are; so, that we can become who we are by overwhelming our shortcomings and developing our strengths with both new and learned behaviors and spiritual rebirth. Family; culture; relationship seeking nature; cataclysmic change Vincent Scully, one of my former Yale professors, once described the American cultural distinctive, regarding its treatment of artistic movements, neighborhoods, landmarks and institutions as “cataclysmic,” by which he meant a violent upheaval that causes great destruction that brings about a fundamental change.  In any case, it is this that triggers anomie and alienation and the end for most of the displaced persons of this world. I liken his descriptive label to the way my father and mother shrugged off their cultural heritage for that of the context in which they were raised. My father adopted Harlem, my mother the Brooklyn Navy Yard neighborhood while Christina adopted America as her home of preference, she never lost her love and view of all things through a German perspective. In a like manner, I did the same by changing my prenatally given cultural identity. I did the same as my parents insofar as they took on their environmental context, but kept some of their family cultural vocabulary and trimmings. The distinctive characteristic they wore on their sleeve was not Rhodes, Romania or Poland, but the U.S.A. Their personality was American. Christina is remarkably different. Christina carries her Germanic language and cultural. However, she, too, has adapted to America’s normative with joy. However convenient and functional, she still maintains her German citizenship and has not become an American. She is in every way a European.  In this way, she and I have a great deal in common. It is the basis of my love of radio and music.  It is that neither of us really believed our parents did not love us very deeply, nor we had to do something to relate. In my case, I learned my father’s and mother’s love of music, special words and dress. In reflection, I believe that I memorized the music and words in order to win favor and contact with them.  Later, I just extended this modus-operendi to others. It became a relationship tool, a way to meet and converse. Christina believes that for whatever reason, European composers, writers, actors and movie producers so prolific in my childhood shaped my personality. It was to them that I escaped, learned, and found advantage and benefit. When I visit, recall and perceive metaphors about my origin, I see past the metaphor and link to what the metaphor recalls. Photographs, smells, sounds, words, persons and references bring the origin to the present and the present to the origin. My identity, which was isolated and connected spatially, is grounded and linked to its mortal and physical beginnings. Likewise, too, when I recall my spiritual origin, my physical context vanishes and is replaced with an unseen and holy context. This context is made real by the Bible’s words, to my mind reasoning the reality of my spiritual being. However, there was a rift between my father’s family and the others. My mother would discuss this between Rose, Helen, Sylvia and even Pauline. They complained that the family was rude, laughed too much, and were uneducated and liked nightclubs and raucous living. I believe they were “spooked” by the authenticity of Esther and Orvadio’s belief in God, language, illiteracy, cuisine, nationality, culture, dress code and national peculiarities and friends. It was very intimidating to people trying to be American and fit in with America’s emerging cardboard modernism. Later, I was to see this between westerners who married Arabs. Their metaphors were inherently incompatible and as they tolerated and made do, so does Christina with me via her European German culture to my different ways.

Family as metaphor: Where? In the case of my father’s family and the many others that married my grandparent’s  children, these metaphors had to be resolved. As any metaphor, the family metaphor exists outside ourselves as an objective reality witnessed and known by others as both an idea and reality. They hear the name and associate it with others having the same name. If unique, they presume there is a family and others sharing the name and family body. The family name conjures a tribal body of persons great in number and having a history, legacy and context in the world. However, in the case of the family, we are ourselves part of the idea as well as the reality. What the family is and represents is both separate and independent of its members, while at the same time dependent and shaped by each of the personas of the family. Both sides of all the families constantly struggled to understand their own feelings and their relationship to their common American culture. It is in this dual consciousness that we enjoy and participate, perceive and contribute to the shape and form of the metaphor. We enjoy the whole while being one of its parts. In this way, our family is both a vision of what metaphors we may be, as known by others, as well as whom we could manifest as an aspect of our own identity. We are not all of the family, but the part that is the family becomes apparent and prevails. My grandparent’s family was both individuals, couples with differences, and part of each other’s metaphors. It is a way to authenticate the metaphor of which we are.  The very process of confronting the differences, and seeking commonalities made the strange familiar and kept the family idea alive. We are constantly comparing and jostling between our first and last name (as it were) in a niche described as the dialectic process. By this, we authenticate the metaphor of which we are. It is a constant state of tension and conflict. It is rarely symmetric where the individual only gains equipoise by affection, kindness and love. While the family metaphor is not who we are, it is the context of what we are.  It is the second battlefield of where our identity is fought out. It is where we are nurtured and fed vocabulary and antecedents that will measure all other realities.

Who? In myself, I am not remarkable The demise of the role and importance of the family is rooted in the mobility of the family and its replacement by institutions and large corporate employers. Affluence amongst the young and the increase of access to information from other sources than parents has made the parents seem redundant and obsolete.  Only the few and fortunate cherish and benefit from loving parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. The inevitable and last earthly connection we have is to our family.  It is they with whom we share standards and values that compose our identity and with whom we can still share them in the face of anomie of times, ages, contexts, venues, governments and threats. It is also the demise of family as a metaphor and family metaphors in our time. The Bronx family metaphor dominated the period with the Bronx metaphor on par with the family metaphor. Neighborhood and ethnic metaphors were a close second.

Conformity vs. anarchy Additional differences came about when family clans determined to prosper and succeed in post-war America heard the call to conformity and repression and signed on to the programs offered in education, clubs, neighborhoods and society. They relocated, got new jobs, and sent their children to schools, which would train them to conform and be trained to fit in to the new commercial and political society emerging. Some became politically active, while others immersed themselves into the activities heretofore foreign to our family, such as golf and tennis. They adapted to whatever would work to bring them to the place where they and their children could succeed and develop. Others took a different path and likewise succeeded, but in a different way. They became professors of universities, teachers, school principals, agency heads, school district superintendents, architects, photographers and artists. Their neighborhoods, homes and friends with whom they associated were unique and different. It was not how much money they had in their bank accounts but the ideals and ideologies that caused the rifts. They were all delightful and interesting.  In addition, the rifts were not a separation as much as an attachment by necessity to a way of thinking and living that, at the moment, seemed right and proper.

Bronx social handicap {4,148 total words} How I’ve been handicapped by alienation is well portrayed in the film Wild Strawberries made in 1957, which captures the thoughtful and compassionate side of Ingmar Bergman. Having become alienated from his family, he was therefore denied his skills, life and legacy. Lost in Translation is another film that portrays how people relate when alienated by a common phenomenon. Alienated in the city led me to have relationships with both men and women likewise alienated. Alienation was all we had in common. I had such relationships with Eileen, Selma and many in my travels and life abroad. Metaphoric thoughts were eclipsed by momentary feelings. Most of the relationships I had with women were fantasies where they imagined me to be someone whom I’m not and vice versa. Often it led to rude awakenings or mysterious endings. Alienated as a child, I would stare and daydream in class of being somewhere else. Most of the schools alienated me by typecasting and cliques in new neighborhoods in which I had no connections. My parents were not connected to the neighborhood and lent me no connections and trusts. It was rather hostile. My mother was somewhat hostile to family and most in the neighborhoods. I had no sense of familiarity and “inclusiveness.” I never sensed our rightness and belonging. Worse than originating from the Bronx, declaring ones origins was even more of a social handicap. It symbolized a lifestyle, people and class well below and outside of respectable society. It was an inferior identity to any other borough or place in the United States and carried every story of unsocial behavior norms and ideals. Could any good come out of Nazareth, they asked about Jesus.  It was the same question about the Bronx and its citizens. Societal ignorance Aside from the abuse, the lack of information limited my options and chances. My parents had an evolutionary view of their own and the life of their children. Whatever I discovered or came to do was uncovered and discovered circumstantially and accidentally. I cannot blame my parents, because neither of them was educated nor appreciated the value of education. My father simply wanted to give me all the things he never had and my mother wanted to discipline me. The bills were always paid and we were never poor. I never had the fear of abject poverty and what comes with poverty, yet I knew frugality and living with bare necessities. Yes, the bills were always paid and I never can recall any arguments about the lack of money.  My mother just nagged about saving for the future and not spending anything on recreation. My father totally disagreed. She knew that I needed more than she did and her husband could give, but was very nonchalant about education. My father could only witness what a few of his brothers were doing with their children, but he was not so inclined. This lack of motivation and vision was at the heart of the limited information and scope of the possibilities open and available to me. At school, there were few discussions that I understood or related to; most of my fellow students in high school, I later learned, were very career and education oriented. I was too concerned with overcoming my handicaps, my parent’s relationship and low self-esteem that an education and career was not an important part of my life. I recall meeting with the high school guidance counselor who tried matching my lack of scholarship and interest with real life careers and opportunities. Since I was employed by a decorating store, she recommended I pursue interior decorating. She then solicited the assistance of Dr. Kurzband, who helped me put a portfolio together to apply for NYSofID. What more could have been done, I do not know. I do know I had a natural love of music; I later turned out to have an aptitude for medicine. I remember not even knowing what interior decorators and designers do. I did not know what it meant to design. I did not know the difference between an architect or engineer. I did not know what either an architect or engineer actually did. My cousin was studying to become a lawyer and was a scholar. Perhaps I, too, could have chosen law; I even taught quasi law as part of professional practice courses later in life. But I had no idea about, nor did anyone explain the law or its profession to me. I was terrible at math and arithmetic, so I could not do anything involving math; for that, I was grateful the profession of accounting was never offered. Of course, it was not just the information, but the interest and enthusiasm of my parents and their friends about any profession or career. It was just chauffeuring, hanging drapes, sewing – mostly labor related.  Even construction trades were not offered, nor did I know anyone who could guide me. I was limited by the information that I had and the information I did not have. Had I more information and adults to walk me through, I believe things would have been somewhat different. It is neither with regret nor with malice, but I do know that information played a part in the decisions I made and the opportunities I grasped. Had we been able to earn more, I could have drawn more drawings, played in bands, sang, acted, and done more in the arts. But I could not. I had to earn an income, so I let myself be employed by others to work at jobs utilizing architectural, management and business skills. I believed that a person could not only be anything he wanted, but also could be that thing at the highest standard in our society because society would reward accomplishment in skill, knowledge and accomplishment by placing such a person above the rest or, at the very least, accepting such persons into the highest realms of society. I often voiced this with employers, teachers, friends and family. They all thought that these things were preposterous. I felt alienated from them. They had a vision of a reality that I did not share. They were supposedly grown up and mature, while I was merely unrealistic and impractical and a childish dreamer. I also saw the world on a global scale, believing that whatever I could learn and do I could carry out anywhere on the planet and if something I was doing did not bring success in one place, it would in another. I had all the makings of a globalized, affluent brat! The more I think about post-war America in this period, the less I am convinced that the clash between conformity and rebellion understood as culturally distinct attitudes is sufficient to explain its peculiarities. “Conformity” shouldn’t be a dirty word – it’s just “belonging.” They’re people who want to belong. Yes, all of us, all of America, conformist, beatnik, etc., were suffering from alienation, anomie and change. Jewish writers, in particular, were specialists in alienation and virtuosos of moral anguish. The comedy, drama, and theatre of the time tried to explain the rifts and tears and help us through the choices. It was biblical! Righteousness and being amongst the “right” and “it” of our society seemed to make us choose sides and compete, when in fact that was all a diversion from the life we were living despite our circumstances. This period looks very different if we take “belonging” and not “conforming” as the imperative. “Alienation” – such a hip word among critics of the 1950s and 1960s. The Bronx seemed to be the center of alienation, codependence and angst. One only had to go on the streets to meet anyone and they would share their hostility, anger and depression. It is why I could befriend and circulate, because I knew we were all feeling the same need and missed the boat. Belonging is not the monopoly of ethnic minorities. It is the “rightness” that Paul explains in the Bible. I came to understand that all people in all walks of life, whatever their status, were overwhelmed by the same underlying need. That was the need to be a citizen of the “right” inner circle of security, common protection and shared values. “It not what you know, but who you know,” is a colloquial that has dominated my relations in work, ministry and social life. It is biblical and helpful in achieving success and viability in most contexts. I could see it repeating itself in school, on the street and at work. There was segregation, discrimination and minority identification on Faile and Simpson streets.

PS 48 Muster Hall sixty years later

PS 48 Muster Hall sixty years later

Communications and other maladies (5,714 words) I believe that many of the bullies and the beatings I received from them was because I’d say something in anger to “kids” I should not. The first really good lessons I received were from Mr. and Mrs. Silverman, who taught me what to say to customers and workroom people. It worked and I was able to perform the duties of sales in the store. Later, Mr. Silverman taught me what to say when we visited customers about the problems and the remedies. My best teacher, though, was Stanley Sommers, who taught me exactly what to say from when I entered until I left the house.  Keep in mind I visited on average seven apartments daily, six days a week for about three years. At the beginning, it was very rough, but as time went on with Stanley’s and Herman’s patience, I really became quite polished at engaging customers and dealing with the worst problems in a polite, friendly and graceful manner.  People asked for me, gave me huge tips, and complemented Stanley on sending me to do the work. Later my father gave me lessons in chauffeuring people to the mountains and Asbury Park. Eventually, I learned and again the customers were so happy. I learned to care and keep my “cool” under stress and handle their questions and criticisms with grace and charm. You will notice the reticence of dialogue running throughout this autobiography because most of the human contact I had did not include a great deal of dialogue. My earliest metaphoric works were on a miniature stage of silence, with two-dimensional figures going from side to side without speaking, only gesturing with one facial expression. I could speak to a dysfunctional personality. From this, I rationalized throughout my life that God led me and directed me with my handicapped to where he wanted me to be. It is all part of my persona and contributes to my peculiarity and significant difference. It has contributed to the changes and readjustments as well as the way in which we returned and departed contexts. It has kept us apart from many and involved with some. I also realized that for my family, I had become an irritant too caustic to be tolerated and better known at a distance. I believed that this was eventually true for both my parents and brother. It was probably true for many of my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins as well. It wasn’t my humor; it was my reactions to their comments and concerns. I always knew they loved me in their own way, but found my beliefs and manner of expressing myself foreign and difficult. Introduction My knowledge differs from others because of the different combination my teachers, experiences and interests. Furthermore, I did not accept things as they were and I had trouble adjusting to the status quo. By my trying to find a way to adjust, I discovered things that others missed. My peers were in the same place, but experiencing things differently. This was true in the South Bronx as it was in Brooklyn or New Haven. It was certainly true in Saudi Arabia. My curiosity differed from others. I was also motivated differently than others to learn things at different times and about different things than others. For example, in Saudi Arabia and India, I really did not care much about the culture and historical artifacts. I cared about winning souls, trade and commerce. Unlike others, I was brave and had the courage to learn and experience the unknown. I could not learn things that others found interesting and was left with what others avoided. The crumbs and leftovers of mainstream interest struck my curiosity. Why wasn’t anyone interested in this or that? I have always found myself delving and exploring unpopular themes. I just couldn’t imagine that my questions hadn’t already been asked and already answered. Why did I first have to be the one to open the subject and expose the truth. Where were the others and those that came before me? Many of my contemporaries found me daft. Being of low esteem and a vague and ubiquitous identity, it was easy for me to engage those bigoted persons who bust with pride and intolerance at their own, family and tribal identity. I was inherently inquisitive – showing all the signs of an intellect, prophet, teacher and scholar. I am not saying I had more or less intelligence than the next, nor that I was superior in any way; as a matter of fact, I have never believed, thought, or nearly imagined myself to be above or superior to anyone’s class nor above reproach. I had early in life learned the difference between discussion, debate, argument or encircling. I had also learned about rebuking, rejecting and shutting off communications with an adversary or one who is totally and completely wrong, one whose primary beliefs are evil, destructive, anarchical, irresponsible, capricious and maliciously harmful. God equipped me to have the capacity to care and pray for the souls of others so that when I see someone or I am asked to preach, I ask God what is needed by these people or by the one person. I was free to choose my subjects and learned early that freedom is real and not something imagined. It means to be free from the fear and obedience to sin, Satan and evil, As Galatians 5:1 says, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. My vague, complex and contradictory identity became an asset at a very early age both exacerbating my peers, as well as engaging their occasional acceptance into their bigoted world. It, too, was ambient in the Bronx Stardust and something I had to reckon with regularly. The numbers of persons and ideas that ruled and reigned in my life over time and beyond have been innumerable.  They are, in fact, timeless and many not even in this time, but long dead.  They are the many intellects, prophets, writers, playwrights, artists and thinkers that have left remnants of their life to impact my life. However, on a more personal and intimate note relative to those who lived amongst us during my lifetime, I wish to acknowledge the following for their significant contribution to the building of the metaphor of my life. These are some of the people God provided to enable and encourage me in His will. These are the special people who affected my life and made a significant difference. They were unique and made my life special. Many other these people shared their intolerance and prejudice, while others silently discriminated by not openly joining us in out of context activities. Bigotry My earliest introduction to intolerance and prejudicial behavior came on Faile Street at school, where kids jeered and called each other by derisionary slang terms to define their religion, sex or nationality. We had to learn them and try to remember to call each other that name and especially to respond when called in either anger or acknowledgment. Kike, Guinea, Pollock, Spic – these were just some of the terms. Cliques and gangs emerged that were ethnocentric and led by the chief trainer. The older I got, the more these gangs became lethal and dangerous. I did try to fit in, but could not; I just did not have the hate, anger and violent passion for rage and violence. So I was the outsider and the only friends I had were the few that enjoyed knowing me and sheltered me from the rest as a guest and visitor. It is this that Billy on Faile Street and John on Simpson Street did for me. It was from these experiences that I learned to be in, but not of the world as a practical matter. I was in the neighborhood context, but not in the gangs and cliques. It was here that I found I always did love the enemy and could not discriminate against him because he beat me to it, and I therefore respected him for that. It was another trait that carried me through many corporations, school and Saudi Arabia. It lasted with me all my life. On the other hand, I have been as much of a bigot being the victim and separating from the others. My happiest life moments have come when I could relate to the bigots and know in my mind and with God that I was sanctified and set apart. So I walked on 42nd Street at 2 a.m., ministered in LaPearla, Saudi, India, Philippines and gave international bible studies. Being in God’s love in the danger zones is my birthplace. The Bible is replete with urgings against intolerance and bigotry, including Galatians 5:15, But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Both the bigot and the victim are bigots with our love. Even spiritual bigotry is loving God’s creations more than God does. We do this when we covet his creations and out-own fleshly identity when we choose and judge. Bigotry is also the people who stick to one or another procedure and will not change because he believes his ways is better. I do this in English language, drafting, marriage, following Christ, politics and nationality. The below persons I have know in one or another context and have not challenged them beyond the narrow framework of our relationship.

Truth and hypocrisy It was somewhere during this “stardust” period that I wanted the truth. I wanted the truth and wanted to know the truth about someone and that they should know the truth about me. Hide nothing and keep nothing back was my motto. It was only with a few that this was possible and particularly before sin entered into my life or before I was aware that I was sinning. It seemed that sin prevented such total candor. However, before this, I was able to be open with several and they were my friends – friends for a lifetime. It is hypocrisy that changed this attitude and my relations with most people.

Southern Boulevard under the El

Southern Boulevard under the El

In my parents home What did I do? Sociological handicap (4,683 words) How I dealt with my shortcomings and my  parents’ role in shaping my persona I carried boxes, bolts of fabric, curtain rods and cornices and drilled up into ceilings for several years, which caused me to have painful bursitis in both of my shoulders. I carried these things in ice and snow and sometimes for several New York City blocks. To tell the story of the Bronx without examples of the affects of the context would be two-dimensional. Like many other communities of the time, the Bronx had its share of dysfunctionals and grief. It is a grief normalized in the 21st century, but in the mid-20th century, infidelity was unacceptable and male chauvinism was very acceptable. Our context, family and especially allegiance, must be focused and not divided. My family had to become those that shared what God was dispensing. I urged my family to join me on this journey, but they refused. I missed them and longed for them to come with me. I’d write when I did not see them and cajole when we were together. However, my father later converted and I always suspected that my mother did as well. Math12:30 says, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. So, I, too, believed I must be consequent and clear with “them.” People in my context considered me Pollyanna, impractical and out of touch as I was going through the eye of the needle. I was the epitome of stardust and its affects. I considered them irrelevant, uncommitted, drifting, victims of flesh, world and circumstance. I was preparing to be a knight. I needed a king and a kingdom. Recently Barbara-Anne, the Klee’s daughter, asked my advice to encourage her son in his commitment to anything, including his studies and life itself. I suggested she not press him on any one thing except to support him to become a “knight.” If he does, he will somehow find his king and kingdom. In this way, I am very grateful to God for leading me so that I could become a knight and find Him, my King. Perhaps they were caught up in the moment of an American fantasy, ideal and dream. I surely did not seem to last very long. I cannot recollect bright moments – only flashes of being together, but no affection and happy lives.  Sometime in the early years, there are some recollections of laughter, doing things together. These were the years before my brother Saul was born, while we lived on Hoe Avenue and Home Street. I was less than four years old; I hardly remember, but it was very mixed.  I clearly remember arguments and harsh words as I lie in bed in the living room on Home Street. Then very early on, something went wrong. My mother was about 15 years my father’s senior, from a European/German work-ethic culture, while my father came from a Mediterranean and romantic culture. Both were distracted away from raising me by a failing economy and no business between them to earn. It was a dysfunctional family where there was neither intention, motivation, discipline nor will to behave. What they did was stay together hating, fighting, and avoiding each other. My mother would rant and rave and my father would escape. My mother would take out her hostilities on the “weakest link” – me. Otherwise, she was loving and caring. One could not have a mother who was always there; mine was always cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking me to doctors, school, beach, park. Her European work ethic and strong sense of duty and learned obedience made her the best caretaker that a child could ever have. The house was immaculate; I was totally clean, overdressed, and fed the most nutritious foods that God produced. She changed the sheets and towels daily. Our clothes were washed and cleaned; we never wore dirty and/or unwashed clothes. Her reaction to anomic stress was to hold on to the status quo of the concept and fact of her marriage and work as hard as she could to create the form, if not the substance, of a marriage. And she did! At what a cost to her life’s happiness and well being, she gave her life for her children. Her sense of responsibility overwhelmed her to the point of nagging and venting her frustrations. She was trying to do the right thing and for that I loved and worshipped her. She loved us and let us know that she loved us by telling us that she loved us and making sure our underwear was washed and ironed and all our clothes were in perfect condition. When I was old enough and before I met Christina, my mother was my best friend. She was intelligent and quick; we liked the same things – Chinese food, classical music, radio programs. She was such fun, but not in these early years! Yet, there must have been a closeness and warm relationship between us, because I can only recall a kind and loving presence. I can recall being nurtured and cared for and surely I was dressed, weaned and bathed. My mother was there attentive and caring. In my mother’s anomie, my father was immature, irresponsible, innocent and other directed. I assume she based her values on the standards and values of her parents and the norms of the day. It was an unwholesome combination that left us all separated and relieved to be separated. My father was the most loving, kind and gentle man I have ever known. He was very diplomatic and wanted the best for his children. My brother Saul seemed to know that he was amongst the wrong combination and soon found a way out in his early marriage to Francine. I did get married early, but under protest. It was Dorothy, not me, who wanted to get married. My father and mother told me the story of how they met and his proposal of marriage, “Two can live as cheaply as one.” She was living in the Brooklyn shipyard district of Brooklyn, adjacent to Bedford Stuyvesant where Pratt Institute was located (in the building of an abandoned shoe factory); and my father lived in Harlem. They met and dated in a very popular dance hall called the Palladium (near Roseland and Birdland). At 12, I learned at school that I needed to prepare myself. My parents were temporary; so I started to prepare myself. I needed discipline and I thought my parents did not realize this; I believed they only knew I misbehaved.  My mother said I talked too much; I did. I asked too many questions; I did.  I delved; I did. She predicted this would give me the most trouble in my life. After I stopped smoking in 1977 (at age 40) and would enter a restaurant before smoking was banned in restaurants and the maitre’d would ask, “Do you smoke?” (implying, would you like to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section of the restaurant), I would answer, “I only smoke when I’m on fire.” I know, neither did anyone else laugh; however, I always thought it was very funny. I started smoking in 1951 (at age 14), the first year I started attending high school, when I met Leon Goldstein on the bus commuting from our apartment on Simpson Street. He taught me how to smoke sitting on the black iron rail at the bus stop at Pelham Parkway at our destination before walking to school. After a long while of choking and coughing, I learned. Then I began what was years of taking a few cigarettes from my mother’s red pack of Pall Mall until I graduated, and then with the money I earned, I could buy my own. As much as I smoked, I never exceeded one pack per day. When my mother found out that I smoked I urged her not to tell my dad because I did not want to grow up. To me, smoking was growing up and I enjoyed being my father’s son. I thought that would all end once he knew I smoked. After a while, I would do the usual smoke after every meal, while driving, after sex and especially with coffee. My mother never missed the few cigarettes I took and in this way, I felt my mother and I bonded in a way I can never explain. We shared and she did keep a secret. After smoking regularly for several years, Stanley Sommers bet me on one New Year’s Eve that I could not stop smoking and that whoever of us started first would pay the other $100. I won and Stanley paid me $100. I am cosmopolitan and not rural or suburban. I don’t have any interest in baseball, football, soccer, popular rock stars, political candidates or fishing. Man can say that I’m not from around here. Even as a child, we moved often. I am overly traveled and am articulate, glib and conversant. I delve and invade subjects or withdraw and keep silent, concerned that I may overwhelm and offend.

The period in a nutshell The Bronx is in revival and growing and Bronx Stardust is the bridge to the reader’s metaphor of the potential life and joys of the Bronx. Current residents can ask themselves: As I walk the streets now, as I drive through the streets now, as I play on the streets now, as I live in the tenements now, can I model myself to the same hopes and dreams of Barie and his family who came before me? I am part of a history of people in the Bronx, of people who lived in the same places and circumstances and they succeeded in their life. If Barie could do it, so can I. Old residents will see the potential of a neighbor, while new residents will find a kindred spirit upon which to move forward. The below schedule shows my life up until I was 21 in 1958 and living in my parent’s home.

PERIOD PLACE AGE SCHOOL 1937-1939 Hoe Ave                                 1-2 1939-1942 Home Street                           2-5                   Pre-Kinder 1942-1945 Faile Street                             5-9                   Ps 48 1946-1952 1012 Simpson Street              9-15                 Ps 20,Ps 75,Cc 1952-1958 2351 Holland Ave                  15-21               CCHS; NYSID; Columbia

2351 Holland Avenue

2351 Holland Avenue

These were the early years; from the time I was born until student days at Pratt Institute. The sociological character of the neighborhoods I lived in with my family was all urban. Although I wanted to move to Long Island, my mother refused. My father and brother were in agreement, but my mother wanted to be in the city. The suburbs seemed a fatal exile that she detested.  Hoe, Home, Faile, Simpson and finally Holland Avenue were where we moved instead of the suburbs, because it was close to CCHS, had trees and nice European people.

My Mother's last Apartment on Holland Ave

My Mother's last Apartment on Holland Ave

My mother lived here until she died in 1985. The move to Holland Avenue did change the culture of our family because in coincided with my high school days, my mother’s accelerated work schedule, and my father’s increased time with his new family. But there was more – radio was replaced by television, the stage shows ceased, ethnic music moved into the background in favor of modernism. There was a mood of disdain for the past. The city and its context had an all-consuming aura and finality, as though it were where everything was and that there was no point to visit any other place because New York had it all. And it all was the best there was. However, within that context I always yearned to get up and out of the Bronx and Simpson Street and that dismal environment – the environment of evil, chaos and violence. I associated all of this with the Family, Bronx, and people with certain slangs and accents. I wanted to getaway from all of this. It was not poverty, race, religion or nationality, but the evil lurking and permeating that motivated me to get up and out.

Mom’s home initially featured a three-piece sofa living room set covered in velveteen of burgundy red, yellow ocher and dark blue with slipcovers. The master bedroom was a dark, burled wood bedroom set including headboard and wooden bed with slats that always seemed to fall down, a chiffarobe with closet and chest of drawer, a vanity and vanity chair covered with dark brown velvet and a side chair and a wide dresser. When we moved to Holland Avenue, I had the entire house redecorated my Debrose in modern chartreuse prints, blond oak side tables and lamps with fiberglass shades and a three-way light. Also added were a blond oak floor model television made by Dumont with a ceramic green and brown TV lamp shining up to the ceiling, And a chartreuse wall-to-wall carpet and wall-to-wall drapes. For my bedroom, I had a special print made for casement windows and I designed and had built wrought iron brackets so as to install my air conditioner in the casement window and the curtains way out in front of the carrier air conditioner inside the room.

The below has four sub-chapters targeting  7,000+- words per chapter History Sub-Chapter 1.1: Tom Sawyer Days (11,151 words) (Hoe, Home and Faile streets)

I can remember each place we lived for different things, such as the very shiny wooden floors on Hoe Avenue, the corner of the building outside our window, the empty rooms before my parents bought their furniture, and the peace we had as a family. On September 10-22, 1938, the great hurricane hit Long Island and southern New England. Many people were killed and nearly $4 billion of damage was made (by today’s values). In 1939, the Depression officially ended, but few knew the difference because everyone was poor. The ’40s were when America was recovering from the Depression, led by the construction of everything including housing. When it began, I was two and 12 when it ended. In real estate, it was a renter’s or buyer’s market. You could live for six months free and then relocate without paying anything and those without steady jobs had to do this. As a child, this was amazing how we kept changing and moving. I learned to expect this and somehow understood the benefit to us as a family. Phonographs were not electric, but manually wound with a crank and a heavy spindle also containing the speaker held the needle. You placed your 78-rpm wax record on the turntable and the speaker’s spindle arm on the record and listened. There were record stores and the stars of the day of the early ’40s were Al Jolson, Eddy Cantor, Mae West, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, the Andrew sisters, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Helen O’Connell, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, the Barry sisters, and television begun with John Daily and the news, Milton Berle, the Show of Shows and Howdy Doody. This, along with great movies and stage shows at Radio City Music Hall, the Strand, the Paramount Theatre, the Roxy and even local shows at the Boulevard, were just great. Home Street In 1941, I attended kindergarten while we lived on Home Street and Pearl Harbor was invaded on December 8. I was four when my brother was born on December 4. We then moved to Faile Street and World War II started; the Bronx Zoo opened its African Plains with no cages and we started using Drake Park and the East River for recreation. There were great block parties on Faile Street.

Faile Street across the street from our house

Faile Street across the street from our house

On Home Street at night, I lay in my bed in the living room between my parent’s room and the kitchen. I could remember the sleepless nights having nightmares and the announcement made by President Roosevelt about the Japanese attacking on Pearl Harbor. I remember the sirens and the searchlights in the sky and then lying in bed listening to airplanes in the sky. I dreamt of thousands of flocklike teams of flying wings moving through the skies. Several years later, I actually saw a similar vision in a black and white movie by H.G. Wells called “The Shape of Things to Come”.

Home Street with the site of my building on the right

Home Street with the site of my building on the right

This one-bedroom apartment had a long entry hall with a door opening to a small kitchen with an small eating area kitchen to one side, followed by the living room spanning the width of the apartment, and followed by a small hall with a bathroom and then my parent’s bedroom. It was furnished with a mohair living set, royal blue high fan chair, crimson red club chair and a large sofa sitting on a large, square, machine-made Oriental rug. My parent’s bedroom had a suite of wood bedroom furniture with mahogany and birch inlay. All of these pieces of furniture my mother had with her until she abandoned them at Holland Avenue.

View form Southern Boulevard to the corner of Home Street

View form Southern Boulevard to the corner of Home Street

Across the street from my building was an enclosed garage where cars were stored and light repairs were made, and down the street where Westchester Avenue led under the elevated Pelham train line was a huge garage for gas and repairs. Up the street was an auto junkyard and further down a house with an open coal chute we could crawl in and play in the coal.

Several blocks away were wooden one-family houses where one was converted into the kindergarten I attended. The location was such that we could walk several very long blocks to visit my grandparents and shop at the Simpson market. My aunt Jean and Uncle Charles lived with their daughter, Carol, across the street and down the corner and my mother’s friend, Lily and her husband, Morris, lived upstairs. I got to know him very well. Here is where I saw many men returning from the war without their limbs…especially Morris with one leg. He was very sad and quiet. It was in this apartment that my brother Saul was born on December 4, 1941, nearly four years after I was born and just days before the invasion of Pearl Harbor. It was also here that my mother’s father visited, and where I heard President Roosevelt’s radio announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here I had my most vivid nightmares, as I’d lie in my bed in the living room where I listened to the earliest hushed arguments between my parents. Here was where I remember my mother making baby food from scratch and feeding us little children, especially my little brother in his high chair. The only special feature of this apartment was the nightly wartime blackouts, the air raid sirens and the wardens on the steps outside of our apartment. It was here I dreamt of the black flying wings clouding the skies. It was on the steps leading to the rear alley that I fell and opened a big cut over my eye. These were the first stitches I received. I later fell again on these steps and cut my knee, which also required stitches. The stairs were made of cement and had a curved metal edge strip. The stair led to the alley, which led to a court, and in this court was the entrance to the super’s apartment and another alley leading to the backyard of the building. I recall this area because it was then one of my favorite places around the building to explore. This was the time of the “food ration” books and so I recall my mother pasting her rations in the books and us going to stores waiting in lines to buy food. Of course, she and her friends would talk about where to go and what to buy. The metaphors I recall were less symbolic but more special, textural and pictorial. Sills, steps, iron rails, coal bins, all icons and images without much use…I was a child. But they made up the landmarks of my nest and place. They were to be explored and discovered and understood. Not for their use, but for the meaning they represented. I was looking for why things were the way they were. I needed to know the meanings and purposes of everything. In fact, I was rarely satisfied with men’s answers but looked to science, and later to God’s word, for the answers. I had nothing to which to compare them, and yet they demanded understanding. As a daily routine, my parents had to deal with rationing, which permeated everyone’s lives.  I asked thousands of questions, whose answers lied in my future mind and God’s dispensations. In 1941, shortly after I sat and listened in front of our floor model radio with the green eye and short-wave band settings, black outs and air raid sirens began their nightly howl. We had to turn off the lights in our apartment. The fist night, I heard something outside our door and opened it to find a tall man with a helmet climbing up the stairs. He introduced himself as our warden. “Warden?” I asked, “What’s that?” I asked and he explained. As he spoke, he took off his helmet and placed it on my head. He told me his name and duties. I became his deputy and felt I was part of something special. I was very happy and full of joy. I went into our apartment and told my mother and she, too, was very happy. I would roam the streets finding tires to hand over to my teacher at school and my mother complimented me on my efforts to help in the war effort. She mentioned that when I got older I might have to go to war and be a soldier. During this period, I built small hiding places and shadow boxes in which to take refuge. There were coupon racketeers and savvy filling station proprietors who were exploiting the OPA gasoline system that the “average motorist,” such as my father, was ignorant and innocent of. Or were they? It was a very complex and insidious process, where dad and his friends exchanged coupons between them as they needed. It was these events and these people that clouded my mind and reference points to determine that I did not want to dwell in these neighborhoods and with these people. I knows now that my opinions were wrongly placed, but that’s what it seemed at the moment. It was a compromising and shameful mess. I just felt that my father’s dignity and righteousness was being compromised over trivialities. It was all so petty and trivial. It was mundane and often unnecessary. If  I felt that way then and I was in America, I can imagine what young people in other countries, such as India, Philippines, Pakistan and Persia, think and feel about their contexts and generations. We have observed that corruption, crime and terrorism have no borders nor nationalities. We have known the same kind of people and conditions to one or another extent in most countries and cities in which we have lived. The only difference is that when you first get there, you may not notice it until you learn to see and hear what’s actually taking place. This has been a reason why we have decided to return to the U.S.A. where I am a citizen, have rights, and understand the context, language and political complexities and operations. Other places may offer one or another advantage, but the life itself is in the place in which God has birthed and placed us. It was the time when I learned, invented, and made metaphors. I had none. I had to make them up. The metaphors of my parents and their friends were the only metaphors I knew. I had none of my own. My play was like the Orientals who make silhouettes with light and shadow on curtains. I hid in fantasy and acted out my fears and anxiety. Shadow theatre is one of the world’s oldest art forms, linked with traditional storytelling and mythology. In countries like Turkey or Indonesia, the shadow puppets were projected onto a white screen by the flickering light of an oil lamp. While manipulating the set of puppets, a sole puppet-master chanted all the roles in the unfolding of the narrative. I used hand puppets, stages and props. I made my own story, used various flashlights, and played music from the radio. When God ordained our different languages, he did so that we would be kept dependent upon Him and not strengthened with unholy alliances and power over each other and between each other. The idea was to stay put and be different, depending and relying upon Him. In the name of pride, vanity, greed and self-righteousness, the world continues to rebel and disobey, and stretch our influence to rebuild the tower of Babel, but “horizontally.” We’re concerned with increasing our power by increasing our network and holdings and globalizing our influence and power base. It is the propensity of the world, but the Christian’s duty to bring light and salvation. The news, gossip and talk of the times revolved around these coupons, the black market, mobs and gangsters. We lived in the Bronx. Many of the gangsters were Jewish and lived in the Bronx. My father never mentioned any of this to me, but this was the environment in which he had to do business. His business and livelihood depended on being able to use his vehicles and complete service.

Because I was a baby who could turn its head to only one side, my mother had special problems caring for me. This and the fact that I was hyperactive with sinus and hearing problems gave my mother an undue burden. Called congenital torticollis, understanding what causes it takes a quick anatomy lesson. There is a muscle located on each side of the neck called the sternocleidomastoid muscle (pronounced STER-no-KLY-do-MAST-oid). It is somewhat of a strange muscle because it attaches in three separate places, namely at the sternum (the breastbone), the clavicle (the collarbone) and the mastoid (the jawbone). It allows us to turn the neck. As the muscles develop in the baby while inside the mother, there is an influence the baby’s position has on that development. Usually, the baby has some room for movement, which allows the muscles to stretch and contract. This stretching and contracting is necessary to allow for the muscles to grow to the proper length. My neck may have gotten tilted to one side for an extended period of time. This was due to unusual positioning within my mother’s uterus.  When the neck remains tilted, the muscles on one side of the neck get stretched while the other side never receives this stretching. Therefore, the sternocleidomastoid muscle develops in a position of contraction. Consequently, I was unable to turn my head to one side because the contracted sternocleidomastoid muscles wouldn’t allow it. It is like being on a long trip in a compact car that has very little leg room. When you first get out, you have to stretch a bit before you can walk normally. This is essentially what occurred while I was developing torticollis. The muscles were all there; they just hadn’t been used much. And because this process occurs over several months during pregnancy, getting the muscles to work properly takes a stretching regimen that took months to fix.

Home Street is on the left

Home Street is on the left

We had special relationships with neighbors like Ethel and Morris. Ethel and Morris were a young couple who lived upstairs in our building on Home Street. They had no children and Ethel was ga ga over me.  Her husband, Morris, had just been drafted and she needed a second family.  The fit was perfect.  She would care for me all the time so my mother could go shopping, visit friends, and take care of the house. Ethel would dress me, bathe me, and hold me close in her bed.  One day she made the terrible error of taking me to a movie. The name of the movie was The Mummy.  It was the first movie I had ever been to. When we came into the dark theatre, I thought the theatre was moving.  After she assured me it was not, we began seeing the mummy, who had been lying still, begin to rise.  I let out a scream, and with supernatural animal strength climbed over everyone in our row, screaming shrieks of death as I then ran up the aisle and on to the street and toward our house, which was many blocks from the theatre.  I knew exactly where Home Street was and where I was headed.  Well, poor Ethel finally caught up with me and made it all go away somehow – mostly by telling me it was not real and that to look around and notice that there was no mummies here. It was just in that theatre. I cannot say that I never again went to another movie, but some time did pass before the second movie experience. Some while later, Morris returned from the Army with a missing leg.  He was so quiet and I was ridiculous. I just could not understand what happened to his leg. He was so kind to me and really appreciated my stupid questions, which seemed to reflect his own heart. He, too, could not understand what happened. In any case, our friendships continued until they moved away. They needed to change to go back to their parents. I always will love and miss them both.

During this time, the local county board of the Office of Price Administration issued every man, woman and child a ration book during the war. The book held stamps, which Americans used to buy rationed foods. Government officials rationed some food because of limited supply. So much food needed to be set aside for military use that the government restricted civilian purchases. County boards rationed sugar, coffee, meat, butter, margarine, cheese, canned milk, canned fish, canned fruits and vegetables, soups and fruit juices. Shortages of rubber led to the rationing of tires and gasoline. The government also prohibited the making of many household appliances because of a lack of metals. We could not buy hot water heaters, refrigerators, stoves, lawn mowers, vacuums, irons, radios and toasters. The government needed rubber and metals to make airplanes, trucks, tanks, ships and rifles. We had to ration food and materials to help win the war. American responses to rationing varied from cheerful compliance to resigned grumbling to instances of black market subversion and profiteering. We were cajoled into giving over to the government all our spare tires except one, many going along with this gambit. These were almost never used, but accumulated in mountainous piles all over the country and spent the war rotting in these junk yards instead of helping to “win the war.” The kindergarten I attended was at a house near Home Street run by volunteer ladies and containing various rooms where I learned to identify and arrange blocks. Finally, my mother was asked not to bring me anymore because I was building very large structures which eventually toppled and could  (but did not) hurt the other children. They said I was too advanced and individualistic. This did not make my mom happy and she complained. It was a shame because it was one of those things that gave my mom a sense of normalcy and contact with other nice women. I knew she was very disappointed and irate about their rejection. She, indeed, took it personally and was insulted. How dare they! I am sure this added to her already well-formed disdain of society and its wiles. My brother was not yet born and the war was on; everything worked off of ration stamps and long lines. The kindergarten building was red brick and had a backyard.

Hunts Point Avenue bridge over railroad with shops like the Ponte Vecchio

Hunts Point Avenue bridge over railroad with shops like the Ponte Vecchio

Faille Street The southernmost extant station of the NY, NH & H is the Hunts Point station, on Hunts Point Avenue near the Bruckner Expressway. Most of the station is intact, including many of its peculiar architectural traits. The Hunts Point station today is home to a variety of businesses – a deli, a pizza place, a travel agency and a topless joint. Hunts Point received passengers until about 1931. It had dormer windows and a crenellated roof. The roof spires and crenellation are now gone.

Faile Street: poor white Italians, Armenians, Jews and Germans

I was a skinny, adventurous child on Faile Street. It was where I learned to play on the street. It was not a typical urban tenement area. It was the mid-point of Hunts Point – a  real Tom Sawyer paradise.

PS48 Drake Public school

PS48 Drake Public school

PS48, a six-story public school, stood on a hill and I could wander for 50 streets and never get lost because I could always see my school and the street on which I lived.

PS 48 as seen from Hunts Point Boulevard

PS 48 as seen from Hunts Point Boulevard

At the time, landlords competed for your tenancy, giving free months rent up to six months, as well as free electric, water, etc. I remember us visiting the house for the first time and meeting the owners of this two-story house. It was three stories in the rear where the lower story was for the garages and the front was two stories. To the right side of the house was a hill and to the left the alley for the auto driveway to the rear.

633 Faile Bronx Hunts Point

633 Faile Bronx Hunts Point

I have photos of my mother and brother sitting on chairs in front of the garage sunning themselves. The side alley had a door to the stairs up to our landlord with an interior door from the kitchen also leading to the stairs.  Before we even moved in, the owners made us a dresser of drawers with red-orange round screw-on knobs, which I cherished for as long as I could remember. He had a son who went to war and never returned. There were two entrances at the front of the house a top a few steps to both the lower and upper floors. Ours was to the left and opened into the sun parlor.  It was in this room that my brother and I would play. It was here I divided the room in half so that he would have his, and, I, my area to play.  Mine was the half furthest from the door so that I could build out of boxes and cloth my own little house with rooms and shelves and places to hide.  Of course, I’d invite my brother in to visit. My parent’s master bedroom was just adjacent to this parlor, separated by a wall with a big double window, which they kept closed and curtained.  Across from the front door and leading into a long hall way to the living room and the rear of the house was a multi-paned glass door.  It was through this door that my brother one day in one of our sliding in the hallway games slide and but his arm though and cut himself so badly we had to rush him to a hospital. As the living room, the kitchen spanned the width of the house, with windows on both sides and next to the window on the left was the community stair connecting from the garage below to the apartment of the owner above. Continuing to the rear of the house was the bathroom on the left and the pantry to the right, and then finally a spare room on the right and the bedroom shared by my brother and I on the left.  Both the spare and our bedroom had windows facing the backyard where below was the entrance to the garage where my father parked his car. Hunts Point Boulevard actually began at the end of Hunts Point at the East River port of Hunts Point and ended at southern boulevard and 163 Street. It had a cobblestone surface embedded with steel trolley tracks. Because I was so little, I remember it being huge and the way it bowed up in the center and was low at the curbs for sewer drainage. We walked this boulevard often to shop at the Simpson market, visit my grandma, or shop at the Hunts Point market on the steel bridge where there were a variety of shops, especially a cheese shop where my mother was served by a very handsome and kind gentleman. Also on Hunts Point Boulevard lived a little handicapped girl named Theresa from my class in public school. Also, my father’s accountant, Jimmy, lived in big apartment building next to the Wonder Bread factory. We would often stop at this factory late at night to buy fresh baked bread. We’d always smell the bread being baked every time we drove, trollied, or walked by. There were shops under the building along the way. Some were closed with their glass painted black. Faille Street began at a 45-degree angle off of Hunts Point Boulevard, having some shops and especially our corner grocery owned by Mr. Teitlebaum and across the street from him a corner candy store/luncheonette. It was in this store that I’d buy those sugar dots on paper and for a penny you could watch flip card movies by placing your eyes at a steel view finder and cranking the handle fast or slow as you wish to see a train with smoke coming out, Charlie chaplain running around, etc. When I was four and half Billy, Ralph and his brother, Johnny, took me every Saturday on the trolley to the YMCA. We’d transfer several times. The trolleys were painted red and yellow with wooden seats and brass bars to prevent falling. On other occasions, we’d hitch a ride on the back of the trolley holding on to the electric cable and spool. We’d ride from the swing park down to the end of trolley line, which was only several blocks east.  From that point on, hunts Point Boulevard ended because it was not paved.  Also, the rest of Hunts Point was industrial, with factories, military storage and auto repair. At the lower corner, there was an empty lot and a bush under which I dug a big hole and this place was my hiding place. There was an empty lot across from this on Faile Street next to the Italian family’s house. They built a hut there and I would go and eat and play there. This same Italian family’s house had a basement and I was invited there occasionally to watch the women cook in giant black vats. They were dressed in black dresses and black stockings. In the morning, they would walk along sidewalk green areas and pick up green growing leafy vegetables, which they used in their recipes. It was here that my love and passion for Italy was planted. I was well known to the old lady and her husband who owned the Italian store across from the cemetery. I could sense their loneliness for their homeland and they could sense my affection for their dialect, dress and food smells. They encouraged me to play with their goats, which prepared me well for my encounter with goats on the little bridges in Amsterdam 20 years later. As the neighbors on my street, she wore black dresses and stockings. Later when I visited Italy, the only time I saw such dresses was in the southern provinces of Positano, Pompeii, etc. I remember that when my father returned from the war he was in his uniform; and I did not immediately jump into his arms. My mother had to prompt me.  I depended a lot on my mother. My father understood. There was a fire, a big fire, on the next cross street.  A big warehouse garage building burned down.  I stood with others and watched it. In Saudi Arabia, there was a similar fire of a warehouse the next night after we moved in to Rahima. It was so similar to this fire. The building burned and we watched.  Little was done to put out the fire. I remember the size and mass of the blaze.  Eventually, firemen did come and being how it was the first time I’d seen a building on fire, it was an important event.

Drake Park

Drake Park

This neighborhood was filled with special features having great significance to me: ¨      A factory making pickled peppers; a pepper factory where we took a very hot pepper and ate it.  I thought I was going to die from the burning sensation in my mouth. I ran from factory to factory until some nice man gave me something sweet that put the fire out in my mouth. ¨      Lumberyard, with its pile of sawdust where we would go and play inside the sawdust mound – one day, the yardman found and chased us along with his very noisy dog. We never went back there. ¨

Cemetary in Drake Park

Cemetary in Drake Park

Drake Cemetery surrounded by a park with a giant tree in the middle: It was here that lightning struck a big oak tree and killed one of my friends. ¨      Abandoned hut with porcelain toilet and marbles ¨      Italian grocery with goats and lady with black dress and stockings ¨      Abandoned military trucks with searchlight trucks and tanks ¨      East River pier with big war and merchant ships where we could swim amongst human fishes.  This is a far cry from the cornice of Saudi Arabia and the Philippine beaches. ¨      Apple tree on neighbor’s property ¨     

Townhouses painted black with wooden stairs and wood and glass doors ¨      German family living on the next block ¨      Corner brick two-family house ¨      Auto repair junkyard ¨      Mission soda factory where Joe Nuzzi worked ¨      PS48 on a hill and the tallest structure as a landmark on my street ¨      The bush and hut at the end of the block ¨      The Italian family living across and down the street with their hut and cellar caldron kitchen ¨     

The block parties held on Faille Street during the war ¨      The swing park on the opposite corner ¨      The steep hill on which I scooted down with my red wagon ¨      The steep hill next to my house where we rode our sleighs and I broke my foot by stopping my ride with my left foot and where I had my foot broken by mischievous boys with a crow bar as I put my foot out to stop them from smashing something and where I saw myself as I was when I was older. ¨      The chicken factory where you could get fresh chickens by selecting the one you wanted, watch it get its head chopped off, and then for an extra five cents they would burn off the feathers. ¨      The many cross and lateral streets, which I would later discover connected to other neighborhoods and thoroughfares. ¨

My side of the street

My side of the street

I used my little red wagon to emulate the other boys who had made wagons out of wooden crates and iron skates and raced down the big hill by the school.  They had fitted brakes on their wagons but I did not and as the speed picked up, I realized I had no way of stopping. Through a miracle when I reached the bottom, my mother was at the bottom telling me to turn the wagon, which I did and on Faile Street, it slowed and finally stooped at the park benches. ¨      Another time I sled down the hill on the lot next to our house planning to break my run by crashing into the snow hill on the opposite side of the street when a car came and stopped there as I was coming down.  I had no choice but to put my right foot out to stop my run, which broke my leg.  My mother was very angry and yelled at a male neighbor for not preventing this from happening. The man said later that he did not feel it was his responsibility. My father, in one of his rare moments of anger, threatened a fight with the man to warn him to be a better neighbor. ¨      My broken leg kept me out of school for about eight weeks, at which time I listened to all the radio programs, ate, and got lovely cards and letters from my classmates and visits from them with toys and cards. Children came and visited me to see my cast, which was put on my whole leg.  Eventually they began to sign my cast and write nice sayings on my cast.  It was one of the nicest times in my entire childhood. ¨      Several months later, I was with some boys on the lot on top of the hill nest to my house and they were banging and breaking things in a fire and for some reason, I just wanted them to stop and go away. They refuse and I insisted. They still refused and as they were banging, I put my foot in the midst of the fire, thinking that would somehow make them stop the banging. Most stopped, except one who brought his stick crashing on my foot and broke it. Again, I was back in a cast and getting visitors.

My Faille Street fantasy

I dreamt of a village of brick one- and two-story houses and friendly people living in this small village. Later we were to see a village of similar size on the Mississippi.  I was tempted to open a bank account in the local bank to tie my memory to this village prototype. I met the current owner of this building while test driving a Lexus in Fort Myers. He was the salesman trying to sell me the car. Though most commonly identified as a center for food distribution and commercial activity, Hunts Point is also an area with a rich cultural and architectural history. Often overlooked by residents, employees and visitors, Hunts Points landmarks provide valuable clues to the community’s diverse historical background. Standing tall at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Tiffany Street, the Bronx Apparel Center serves as a monument to New York’s industrial past. Built in 1911, this mammoth brick structure once housed the American Bank Note Company. Serving as a mint for such countries as Mexico and Haiti, the Bank Note Company not only issued currency, but also printed travelers’ checks and lottery tickets. Today the building is home to the Bronx Apparel Center. With nearly 148,000 square feet of commercial space, the Apparel Center is host to a number of corporations, specializing in a diverse array of products and services from apparel and food to construction and security services.

Townhouses Adjacent to the Hunts Point Peninsula, the Longwood Historic District is another area of historical interest in the South Bronx. Situated on the opposite side of the Bruckner Expressway in the Longwood section of the Bronx, the Historic District is a community of elaborately embellished turn-of-the-century row houses. Built by architect Warren C. Dickerson between 1897 and 1901, these colorful two- and three-story houses have been designated landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. In an effort to restore their historic beauty, the Longwood Historic Society has initiated a plan to renovate the homes within the district. Today, these row houses serve as homes to many of Hunts Point’s employees.

There were houses built in this style on my block as well, and my father’s cousin lived on the street where many of these houses were. I once meet my future cousin, Dorothy, walking on this street.

Drake Park is laid out through the former estates of Barretto, Spofford, Dickey, Faile and Hoe, which were subdivisions of the earlier Leggett and Hunt lands of Revolutionary times. The street is named for the poet Joseph Rodman Drake, and this led to the naming of adjoining avenues for Halleck, Longfellow and Whittier. Joseph Rodman Drake was born in New York City on August 17, 1795, and died there on September 21, 1820.

In the midst of the concrete, steel and brick that dominate Hunts Point sits a patch of parkland that contrasts the area’s industrial flavor. Drake Park, located between Hunts Point and Oak Point avenues, is another reminder of the community’s history. Within the park is a small graveyard. Aged stone monuments mark the resting place of some of Hunts Point’s earliest settlers. Among those buried, there are Poet Joseph Rodman Drake and members of the Hunt family, who once framed the peninsula. This experience was just two years later and after my brother was born, my father was away at war, and, we had moved to Faile Street. The school building was on the very same block on which we lived, so I could walk to school without crossing the street. The classroom was large and the very first day, a little girl made friends with me.  Everyone was very nice in the room; the teacher taught us the normal things.

PS 48

PS 48

PS48 was the tallest building for miles and it was on a hill which made it “a lighthouse” to guide me home from wherever I would roam. It had a yard and whenever we had fire drills, we’d be led to the street behind the school to where there were really nice houses. It had a caged-in area on the roof where we would be taken to play.  There were bullies in this school who would gang up and threaten me. I only attended the school a short time, but never would forget the building, the adjacent hill and the park just across the street from the school. I remember when I broke my left foot from stopping my self against a car on a sleigh riding down the hill next to my house; my classmates signed cards and brought them to me. Wow, did that make me feel good. They came and sang for me and asked practically every day how I felt. It was the closest thing to a small town that I ever knew. I had tonsillitis and the doctor in the school was able to operate on me. After the operation, I was kept for a few hours in a bed in the school and given ice cream. I was a very happy person.

I found that it is associations that bigots and hypocrites find neutrality and are able to subordinate their pride and peculiarities for some mutually beneficial purpose. It could be an association of sports, politics, education, religion, entertainment, recreation and social. From the 15th century on, old French bigot meant, “an excessively devoted or hypocritical person.” Bigot is first recorded in English in 1598 with the sense “a superstitious hypocrite.” I have been in associations that flaunted their bigotry, calling it identity, peculiarity and distinction. The Yale Club comes to mind. Engineering societies tend to shun architects and architects shun engineers. But it is in the association where personal distinctives are kept at bay for the association’s stated aims and objectives. The same may be said for business and large companies, except I have found that most bigotry about spiritual and moral values is excused by trying to maintain a neutral place.

Cub Scouts

In 1943, when we lived on Faile Street, my father took me to my first meeting of the Cub Scouts in a gigantic mansion on a hill in our neighborhood. The significance of belonging to the scouts was the building and the children I met from nearby neighborhoods. I often recall this hill and this mansion being the place my father parked the car and we listened on the radio to Lionel Hampton and Ink Spots.

Boy Scouts In 1950, I bought the entire uniform in the Army and Navy store near Wishnas on Southern Boulevard. My mother was concerned that I was buying the uniform and that I wouldn’t wear and keep going to the meetings. Did I? I went to all the meetings, on hikes and even to their summer camp for three weeks. Milton recalls the times I took him to meetings where he agonized learning how to tie knots. In summer, I spent several weeks learning canoeing, which meant I tipped over my canoe and had to get back in again (I failed). I also learned how to keep warm when late at night you are sitting in your stark wooden cabin freezing (you hug some other boy and exchange body heart without becoming romantic); to take gigantic vitamin pills without keeping them in your mouth to melt and taste sour and awful; and how to become at one with every allergic growing thing on the planet. I learned to tie knots and remain an expert in this field to this day. I never went on to become an Eagle Scout, though, because I was rescued by my interest to work instead.

Trolley: (173 words)

The model of the trolley I rode in and upon since I can first remember. It was our primary means of public transpiration living on Faile and Spofford from the time I was four until nine. It was the trolley that took us to see grandma on Simpson Street and Ralph, Johnny, Billy and me to the YMCA way on the other side of the Bronx near Webster Avenue. We’d ride on the back holding onto the string. And on Saturday morning when we’d ride to the Y, I’d steer the trolley holding onto its controls that were dormant when the conductor was operating the trolley at the other end. I clanged the bell and rang the buzzer. The seats were cane and always shiny. We live real close to the last stop so we could watch the trolley turn. We knew when the trolley was coming because we saw it pass us and could see the conductor go into the bar at the end to take his break. Most of the time, we’d walk down Hunts Point Boulevard to see grandma because it was a great walk and we could save the money.

I am so grateful to Billy Parks for being my big brother and protecting me, and bringing joy and adventure into my life. Besides my father, Billy was my first hero and “good guy.” He was a typical urban Tom Sawyer whose non-reasoned use of the city kept him active and exploring. We were too young to relate as urban or rural, but when ever I think of Billy, rural comes to mind because other than the Y, the places he took me were rural, even if they were the junkyards and factories of Hunts Point. We explored and discovered. It could have been the Mississippi and Billy, Tom Sawyer. When I later read and saw the Tom Sawyer movies, I thought of my time with Billy.

The Nuzzi's Home adjacent to the park

The Nuzzi's Home adjacent to the park

The first Christmas tree I ever saw was at the Nuzzi’s home on Faile Street. On the radio and later black and white TV was the mass from the Vatican and in the kitchen was Jean Nuzzi cooking. I remember the first Christmas I did not even know what was happening, but my mother hung a felt stocking, which had a distinctive musty smell that I always felt singularly belonged to Christmas. She would hang them on the door and tell me to open it the next morning. I did, and I recall the thrill and hers when I would open my presents. Later, this custom was elaborated on when mom would take us to Alexander’s to see Santa Claus and he would give us presents. Christmas was always a special time for mom to give us presents. Later, when I grew up, I could not give my mother enough. We bought her grills, musical ballerinas and more. But it never was with the same joy and excitement as when she gave on Christmas. Because Aunt Shirley was a Christian and designed toys, visiting Aunt Shirley and receiving gifts from her and singing Christmas carols was very special.

Bronx Radio: (8,099 total words)

Radio is the ultimate one-way communicator. Someone talks nicely to me, whether it is Christian or secular, and, in whatever language. I have always kept a radio near by and listened. Now when I lay down to sleep, I listen to God and His message without the radio. But, when I’m in the car traveling, I listen to the news and commentary, preaching and teaching, and stories. Often it is the tone and steady chatter that appeals; while other times it is the familiar character and its mantra of persona whom I could worship and adore. Yes, I said worship and adore because that is exactly what it amounts to when you listen with rapt attention to the sounds of another soul. Rarely is it edifying and turning heart and soul to God. However, when it does, that radio is a blessing. Radio taught me to believe, imagine and perceive the “unseen.” With these gifts, I am able to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, while listening to late night TV, Charles Stanley taught me that the Bible was the word of God because so many in so many different times so testified and God’s words harmonized in the whole and detail of the Bible. In that same sermon, he likewise dispelled my overt anger at Jesus for Him to become my best friend as God come to earth to personally walk me toward eternity away from evil flesh. Christina and my father both learned to know God in a special because of the TV evangelism of Oral Roberts. The music, theatre, radio and television programs have portrayed public truth about who we were. The arts have been used to sell clothes, fashion, furniture, food and real estate; used to fight wars, establish family values, marriage and procreation. Radio especially reaffirms self and clan; context and life’s opportunities. Radio was also my urban connector in feeding me the mantras of urbanity and teaching me what it meant to be a city boy, cosmopolitan and urban. It combined music with drama and information with myth. It stimulated my intellect and my ability to imagine and picture what words and music were “saying.” I learned about the places and sounds and myths of the metropolis and was introduced to the heroes of the city.  These heroes included the sound effects men, actors, actresses, musicians, studio directors and bandleaders.  They were all my heroes. Of course, the characters in the programs were also urban heroes and I learned that a city isn’t complete without them. It is for that reason that I have meticulously listed their names, themes and sponsors below. As an intellect with a very vivid imagination, they were as much a part of my history and what shaped and filled my life as real family, neighbors, school chums, etc. Between the characters and places in radio, movies and records, my urban landscape was full and bubbly. I lived in media and balanced it with the experience on the streets, boulevards, subways, downtown, theaters and shops. Life was full and rich with personas so colorful and functional that the dysfunctionals of my own family were eclipsed and dimmed. I had friends and neighbors who were very pleasing and would let me focus on their good will, charm and stories of peace and kindness. The below are just a few of the key players of this period. Of course, I pictured all of them as living in the Bronx. Arthur Godfrey ranks as one of the important on-air stars of the first decade of American television. Indeed, prior to 1959, there was no bigger TV luminary than this freckle-faced, ukulele playing host/pitchman. It was from him that I ordered my first ukulele and sheet music. By listening to him, I learned to play. He demonstrated how to finger the chords and strum the strings. When I sang, I mimicked his style and voice tone. I learned to resonate the lower tones of my voice from him and Vaughn Monroe. Radio was my connection with downtown, intelligence and coherence. My soul identified, authenticated, and was built by what I heard on the radio. Radio and the characters with their dialogue spoiled me for the rest of the world because it became my standard. My early year favorite was Ethel and Albert, a program where a couple would talk to each other about life, neighbors and current events. In 1947, Marie Wilson starred in the radio sitcom, My Friend Irma. Throughout its radio run, in a 1952-54 television series and in two films, the new comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was introduced. Wilson’s open, grinning face belied her age. Irma spoiled me for the rest of the girls that would follow. Duffy’s Tavern was a place on Third Avenue and 23rd Street in New York City, where the “elite meet to eat, Duffy ain’t here, Archie the manager speakin’…” Anyone who loved old time radio probably knows that phone patter by heart! Ed Gardner played Archie, the manager of Duffy’s Tavern, and he was as real sounding as any character on radio, as he had grown up in the Big Apple. His use and abuse of language was exemplary – the same type of local “parlese” that made The Damon Runyan Theater a favorite with New Yorkers everywhere. Gardner was a theatrical veteran, whose wife, Shirley Booth, the well-known stage and screen actress, began on the show with him. William Bendix, who played Riley, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906. The Life of Riley radio show starred the wonderful William Bendix and aired from 1944-1951(ABC, NBC). The airplane riveter with a heart of gold, Chester A. Riley got himself and his family into the funniest craziest misunderstandings. (Bendix ran a grocery store until the business failed. He was a batboy for the New York Giants and New York Yankees when he was a child. He saw Babe Ruth hit more than 100 home runs. He later played Babe Ruth in the 1948 movie, The Babe Ruth Story. Also, he was nominated in 1942 for best supporting actor in the movie Wake Island). He’d often say on the show, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” This show led into the television version that started in 1949 and ended in 1958. Numerous actors played the radio characters over the years, including Rosemary DeCamp (born November 14, 1910, in Prescott, Arizona), Peg Riley (Riley’s wife) and John Brown as Digby “Digger O’Dell (the undertaker). Digger’s Quotes “It is I, indeed, Digby O’Dell, the friendly undertaker.” “A new calendar, have a happy year.” “You’re looking fine, very natural.” “I’ve covered a lot of ground today.” Riley: “Take a few minutes out, stretch out some place.” Digger: “Oh, I don’t dare. You see, I have a nearsighted assistant.” “Cheerio, I’d better be shoveling off.” Life with Luigi Originating on radio as The Little Immigrant, Life with Luigi is the story of a gentle Italian and other immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia taking U.S. citizenship night school classes. Their new home is Chicago, and their heartwarming encounters with American ways makes this show as contemporary now as it was post WWII, or at any time in the 19th or 20th centuries. J. Carroll Naish, veteran character actor of stage and screen, makes Luigi Basco come to life in each and every show. He is a perfect Luigi! The cast is stellar. Hans Conreid is Schultz, a German with more of an upright and straightforward manner. Alan Reed is Pasquale, Luigi’s friend and sponsor who has already made a success of himself in America as a restaurateur. Jody Gilbert plays Pasquali’s chubby daughter, Rosa. Mary Shipp is Miss Spaulding, the teacher of the night class. Joe Forte is Horowitz, and Ken Peters is Olsen, Luigi’s classmates. Gil Straton is Jimmy, who is Luigi’s partner in a small antique business that Luigi has opened, as he grew up on the outskirts of Rome and has always loved the past and its glories. But his eyes were on the New World, and now, that New World is his own. Baby Snooks Baby Snooks came about through bad dentistry. Fanny Brice had had teeth problems for years, and before one particular radio rehearsal, her dentist let her come away without her dentures. Fanny was unable to speak properly. Frantic, the producer suddenly remembered a cute baby act Fanny would do at parties and in front of friends. It was the only thing she could do in her current condition. “What do you call her?” the producer cried. “Schnooks,” lisped Fanny. But she needed material – instantly. Rapp and David Freedman (his writing partner at the time) frantically searched the nearest bookcase and came up with an out-of-print (public domain) collection of sketches by Robert James Burdette titled Chimes From a Jester’s Bells. Finding a humorous piece about a kid and his uncle called “The Simple Story of George Washington,” the kid was switched to a girl, Rapp changed “Schnooks” to “Snooks,” and history was made. Fanny Brice was born on October 29, 1891, and found early fame starring in the Ziegfield Follies from 1911 to 1923. And it was on Ziegfield Follies of the Air (which Phil Rapp wrote and directed from 1936-37) that Baby Snooks took her first hilarious step. The Snooks sketches began as a regular feature in 1937 on the variety show Good News, and became the main attraction on Maxwell House Coffee Time in 1940. In 1944, the impish problem child began her own radio program, The Baby Snooks Show. The series dealt with the childish innocence and constant questioning from little baby Snooks, which clashed with considerable force against the long-suffering “Daddy,” first played by film actor Frank Morgan. Alan Reed next took over the adult role. But it is Hanley Stafford who is best remembered as Daddy, with his incredibly painful line readings of, “Oooooh……. Snooooooks!” Listening to the radio as a child on Home Street, I thought that when we’d return the program to which we were listening would resume and we would not miss anything.  I could not understand that it continued without us being there to listen.  Why would it continue? I believed entertainment was a means by which we focused on God’s peace, joy and righteousness, per Romans 14:17. The radio was always an anathema; on one hand, it extolled the myths and virtues of urbanism while itself providing relief from the infrastructure and woes involved in living in the city. It lifted the city off its stark reality and opened it up to another and more polite view of our darkest and dirtiest corners. I enjoyed listening to late night, up-all-night radio, just to leave it on as I went to sleep. As a child I’d listen to static, and tune into remote and hard-to-hear stations from far away.  I did the same thing in Saudi, listening to so many foreign stations from around the world. As a child on Simpson street, I enjoyed sounds and the din of the trains coming and going from the station, the sirens of the police and fire trucks, the sounds of people passing in front of our ground floor window, and, of course, the endless sound of traffic, no matter where we lived. Big Joe, whose theme song was “Somebody cares.” could be heard only on NYC radio from midnight until 2 a.m. weeknights. It was a call-in program. Most of his guests were chiropractors. I called in many times and listened often. Nobody that I knew listened to this program. And nobody I knew then nor now ever heard of him. I loved him! So who was “Big Joe” Rosenfeld(courtesy of Don Browne)? I was too young then to know all the details, but Don Browne writes that Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange was a time-brokered program that first appeared on WABC in 1959. David Fentress wrote that he may have read in a paperback book about him, entitled The Happiness Exchange, that he ran this street-front social services agency until one day a little old lady died and left him a million bucks in her will and he disappeared. Others say that The Happiness Exchange was funded by The Salvationists (the Salvation Army folks). I recall he’d been a big drinker and on the air in New Orleans before he came to NYC. David Fentress writes that “Big Joe” Rosenfeld (sometimes spelled Rosenfield) is one of those New York radio personalities who has been surrounded by a culture of mystery. The fact that he was usually heard after midnight in that radio “no man’s land” dedicated to time-brokered shows (as an alternative to “sign-off”) adds to his mystique. Said Fentress, “I personally listened to his unusual program on several occasions in the late ’50s/early ’60s. As a ‘radio person,’ the program was difficult to listen to. There was plenty of ‘dead air’ during which times the audio processing of the period (Gates Level-Devil and Sta-Level) would bring up the studio ‘room tone’ to a point where you could hear a creaking chair or paper rustling.” I just loved all that and would listen to him every night. Both my mother and father were out working and I was all alone with my brother. Big Joe hosted one of the first telephone talk shows in early New York City radio. But you only heard his side of the conversation, then dead air while he alone heard the caller speaking, then he would paraphrase the caller. Bob Donnelly, a transmitter engineer at WHBI (105.9 Mhz, Newark, NJ) in 1962, reported that Big Joe time-brokered at that station for a time, but originated the program by landline from his Manhattan (storefront) office. After that, Big Joe became a mythological radio figure. Here is Joe’s song, remembered by Donald S. Browne: “Somebody cares if your blue and ever little thing that you do, so believe me my friends in case you didn’t know it, somebody cares.” Big Joe had a “street name” that was the complete opposite of his actual size. Big Joe was diminutive in stature – about five feet tall without lifts. Perhaps the big referred to the size of his heart. The success of Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange on a New Orleans radio station, probably WNOE (1060 kHz), brought Big Joe’s brokered radio program to NYC. There were many urban legends about Big Joe during his long career on time-brokered NYC radio. One persistent story, that Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange was bequeathed a million dollars from the estate of a loyal female listener is absolutely true! In 1959, the Happiness Exchange received a bequest of 22,060 shares of General Motor’s stock, then worth $1,213,300, in the will of Mrs. May Rockwell Page of Bristol, CT, widow of a General Motors vice president. She had been a loyal Happiness Exchange listener on WMGM. I remember that Joe would always say: “Have no fear, Big Joe is here. I don’t wanna be rich, I can’t be good looking. All I wanna be is happy, and what do you want to be. You do, well good, until four o’clock in the morning, Let’s be happy together, because somebody cares.” “Somebody cares about you And every little thing that you might do Somebody cares if you sleep well at night If your dreams have gone wrong Or your day has gone right Somebody cares if you’re blue And worries ’til the sun comes shining thru Please believe me it’s so But in case you didn’t know Somebody cares.

My father’s name was Joe, which made listening to Joe even more attractive. Joe made urbanity a small family, He was the clear communicator, especially educating me about chiropractic, which my father depended upon to ease his back pain. What I learned about that profession still is with me today. In addition to NBC, the radio stations playing music were: ¨      WPAT (music only) in Patterson: Paul diSovino was the radio engineer, then he hired me in Hartford to be his voice on WLAE. 93.7 FM ¨      WMGM: Ted Brown and the Redhead in the AM WINS: “Listen to Lacy” ¨      WNEW: “William B. Williams”: Good evening world, this is William B. Williams.” Theme: “You are the One” ¨

WNEW (see Page 3) and re-established the “Make Believe Ballroom” at WABC on January 4, 1954. The pioneer DJ filled more than four hours, starting at 2:35 on weekdays and in morning and evening slots on Saturdays. ¨      Announcer Martin Block was the first radio disc jockey to become a star in his own right. Late in 1934, WNEW/New York hired Block, where he played music while the station awaited developments in the trial of accused kidnapper Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Block created the illusion that he was broadcasting from a ballroom with the nation’s top dance bands performing live. Block appropriated the name Make Believe Ballroom and the show was an instant hit. Make Believe Ballroom became so popular that when WNEW moved to a new studio on Fifth Avenue, they constructed a simulated ballroom – complete with chandelier and black linoleum – for Block’s broadcasts. Block left Make Believe Ballroom on January 1, 1954, to host The Martin Block Show for ABC Radio. Towards the end of his career, he was heard on WOR/New York. At the time, I was a drape hanger driving and one day under the Bronx EL Martin Block bemoaned the onslaught of the vulgarities and dissonance of rock. Of course, I agreed and sympathized with Block. One day he announced that his station, due to its ratings brought on by the alternates in taste and style, was taking Make Believe Ballroom off the air. I remember listening to the last broadcast as he played the songs and signed off for the last time. My heart broke. Martin Block died September 18, 1967. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988. Of course, I could think of nothing I’d like to do more than be a disc jockey. What I did not count on is that things change. It was devastating and important because my link to the future with all the values I cherished was failing, falling, and disintegrating and I was being abandoned to be alone and a ship at sea with an anchor. All my anchors were being abolished and with it my easy inclinations and intuition for career and potential applications of natural talent. Ethel And Albert, which was also titled The Private Lives Of Ethel And Albert, began life on American ABC radio (1944-1950), then transferred to TV (1953-56, first for NBC then CBS and finally ABC) before returning to radio as The Couple Next Door. The TV version starred Peg Lynch (also the series’ author) and Alan Bunce as the Arbuckles, who lived in Sandy Harbor. Before finding fame as a film actor, Richard Widmark played Albert when the series first aired on radio. One of the earliest forces for women in American radio and TV, Lynch, born in 1917, continued to perform Ethel And Albert scripts at U.S. universities up to the 1990s. Peg’s voice and the candor between the two presented conversation and communication between a married couple that I could not hear in my own home. It was revealing and demonstrated a functional relationship. Morey Amsterdam was an early face on television and my father said he grew up with Morey. It turns out that my father must have mistaken Morey for someone else. At the time, entertainers did not tell all the details of their background, so I assumed my father’s story was correct. A comedian and actor, Morey was born in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1908. The wisecracking television writer of the Dick Van Dyke Show started his career in vaudeville and on the nightclub circuit in the 1930s and made the move to television in the 1940s. Remembered for his corny jokes, Amsterdam also appeared on television’s Broadway Open House, Keep Talking and Hollywood Squares.

Simpson Street Elevated Train Station

Simpson Street Elevated Train Station

BronxTV Programs: (1,605 words)

(1,605  total words) ( 917 words text only)(688 words in three footnotes

All of TV was a kind of awesome experience for our family and friends. We believed that we would save money because “we won’t go out so much to the movies” and “we can see what our friends are seeing” and “everyone else that is anybody is getting one.” Seeing characters and personalities we grew up imagining on radio and experiencing the transformation from radio to movies or TV was like seeing gods. Seeing superman, the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and others was such a thrill. I can remember the theatres all competing by offering lower prices and air-conditioning and extra shows. I remember the stage shows that lured one and all to pack the theatres. You could not beat seeing your favorite personality in person.  Oh yes, there was then getting tickets and seeing live broadcasts. As we did with radio, so we did with TV. We saw Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and others. Part of the excitement was starting to finally see some of our most beloved radio personalities in person, on TV. It was very odd.  In person on TV – real to see, but not actually there. Just like radio. To hear, but not to see. Somehow, the visual was more dramatic. When TV went from black and white to color, it was very dramatic and exciting. It seemed wonderful. Eventually, we fond watching TV to be an inexpensive pacifier while living in places where we needed inexpensive ways to pass the time as well and satisfy our need for entertainment and contact with the world we knew. This was particularly true in Puerto Rico and Saudia Arabia.

Bronx Comedy:( 2,990 words in text only)

(502 words in One Footnote)

Humor is a social confirmation of metaphors. Secular humor diverts us from our spiritual inclinations while allying us to our fleshly world. While humor is my favorite way of communicating, I am mindful that it diverts as James 4:9 says, Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. God encourages us to be sober in these perilous times – times where evil lurks in our midst. The urban persona avoids God by satire. In their rebellion, they attack rather than acknowledge sin. They are a hairline away from being evangelists, where the word of God exposes folly, vice and stupidity and man is led to eternal life. Rebellious souls attack and expose folly, vice and stupidity with irony, sarcasm or cosmetic wit to acknowledge and accept to lead to eternal death. This humor desensitizes and inhibits maturity and spiritual growth. Jesus says blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted and the truth shall set you free. He wants us to face ourselves with Him and let Him and His Holy Spirit transform and redeem us not to acknowledge and accept, laughing our way to eternal damnation. However, humor and comic relief works well in preaching and personal evangelism. It’s all in the timing and knowing when to shift and close with an altar call. A preacher named John Warneke is an expert in such humor. My contemporary and fellow Bronxite, Earl Carlin, does the same. He even is as blunt about it as I am. I attack human vice and folly through irony, derision and, hopefully, wit. Like comics, I hope to expose the folly, vice and stupidity. My art is satiric, in the tradition of The National Lampoon (between 1973 and 1974) and the Fire Sign Theatre. From the time I can remember, there were comics and humor. Most of their humor seemed so relevant and gauged for people like us. We listened to them on the radio, then on television and in the movies. There were the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, Mort Saul, etc.  But those were the famous media-related comics. There were so many others that entertained at ShoreHaven and the hotels in the Adirondack Mountains and Yiddish Theater. Ed Sullivan had stand-up comics on once per week and the other variety shows on radio and TV also had stand-up comics. People liked to laugh. There was vaudeville and the comics that appeared on the stage shows at the Roxy, Radio City, the Strand, etc. They defined the culture and explained our urban dilemmas. They called our attention to the heart and passion of cross and multi-culturalism in the confines of our city. They gave our world a voice and characterized us. We could see ourselves, friends, children and parents in their humor, jokes and comedies. Most of the humor was about urban and common conditions such as marriage, relationships, driving, the police, army life, politics and political leaders, and our jobs. Other jokes were about life in the city and relations with neighbors and relatives. Many comedians made us aware of the clashes and farce of mixing cultures and the nonsense that conflicting behaviors present. People suffering from sometimes frustrating language, meaning, vocabulary and behavioral differences could only derive this kind of observation and presentation in urban contexts. There were lots of mother-in-law jokes and many jokes about wives’ cooking and husbands’ quirks. Fibber Magee and Molly, Archie, Ethel and Albert, My Friend Irma, and others poked fun at married life and how we say and do things that are ridiculous. The writers of these programs were comic writers and famous in their own right. TV’s Milton Berle did it all by totally making a fool out of himself every Tuesday night.  Martin and Lewis were latecomers, mostly seen in the movies. Feigned ignorance as irony in humor has prevailed much of my adult life. I am particularly alert to the incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs and will resort to the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. I will try to make a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. Between sarcasm and irony, many around me find themselves off guard but favoring my compassion and concern. Irony and noticing ironic situations seems to have prevailed in my persona and self-expression. In his explanation of Ironic Detachment as an Escape from Routine, Christopher Lasch explains that anxious self-scrutiny not only serves to regulate information signaled to others and to interpret signals received; it also establishes an ironic distance from the deadly routine of daily life. On the one hand, the degradation of work makes skill and competence increasingly irrelevant to material success and thus encourages the presentation of the self as a commodity; on the other hand, it discourages commitment to the job and drives people, as the only alternative to boredom and despair, to view work with self-critical detachment. It is a way of framing the circumstance and thereby making is it a metaphor with oneself as the subject. When jobs consist of little more than meaningless motions, and when social routines, formerly dignified as ritual, degenerate into role playing, the worker – whether he toils on an assembly line or holds down a high-paying job in a large bureaucracy – seeks to escape from the resulting sense of inauthenticity by creating an ironic distance from his daily routine. I attempt to transform role playing into a symbolic elevation of daily life. I take refuge in jokes, mockery and cynicism. When I  go to a party, I  show by my actions that it’s all a game – false, artificial, insincere; a grotesque travesty of sociability. In this way, I attempt to make myself invulnerable to the pressures of the situation. By refusing to take seriously the routines I have to perform, I deny their capacity to injure. Although I assume that it is impossible to alter the iron limits imposed by society, a detached awareness of those limits seem to make them matter less. By demystifying daily life, I convey to myself and others the impression that I have risen beyond it, even as I go through the motions and do what is expected. I also read and find humor in books. When I attended public school, we were taught to read and appreciated books. One of the books we read for several years was The Good Earth. We found it funny that when, after the settlers stopped, prayed, and read the bible, they always ate porridge. It was reported with such clarify and simplicity. The predictability and mundane nature of the report and their diet seemed funny to us little children. Other favorites on the screen were Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, Martin and Lewis, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Jackie Mason, etc. Broadway shows and music of the time included New York, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. All urban jazz taught us the virtues of urbanity. They lamented, personified, portrayed, pictured, and overlayed the sticks and stones with emotion, color, tone, attitude and personality. They personified the cosmopolitan urban mind. It was the content and subject of their humor. They would observe and reveal our obvious behaviors and help us see them and agree by our laughter that our behavior was at variance with good sense and logic. It was always hilarious. The key to their success was their writers for the material and the timing of their delivery of the material. Some of them dared to point out the absurdity and bedlam of our choices to perpetrate urbanity and its inevitable pitfalls. I was able to see parallels to our home life and my parent’s situation. I realized that my parents were preparing me for the foul play and farce of much of life’s challenges. The late ’50s and early ’60s brought the humor of Henry Morgan, Lenny Bruce and Nat Hentoff. Lenny was a metaphysical philosopher whose method of expressions defied the first amendment and got him ruled off limits, so ruining his career. Others and I enjoyed his insights and revelations, but not his use of vulgar language. It was this language that caused the problems. In December 2003, the governor of New York pardoned Lenny Bruce, who died at age 37 so many years before. I have come up with a number of humorous and occasionally funny lines, such as: I only smoke when I’m burning. The real world – where nothing makes sense like nonsense. My own experience with using Indian and Pakistani vocabulary and accents mirrors those of the actor and comedian Peter Sellers. In so doing, I gained an identity and manner that is comfortable and clear. In this guise and accent, I use such expressions as “very terrible,” “namis de,” etc. I also find it very easy to wag my head in compliance and acceptance during a conversation.

Loew's Paradise Movie Theatre on the Grand Concourse

Loews's Paradise Movie Theater on the Grand Concourse

Look of the Endtimes by Barie Fez-Barringten

Look of the Endtimes by Barie Fez-Barringten