Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Eating the Elephant," A #YA Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Tess, how’s your school research project going?” her mother asked.

“Not well.”

Tess had three weeks to finish a research paper for her seventh-grade social studies class, and she had made no progress in her first week.

“What’s the problem?”

“It seems like more than I can handle!”

“The topic is Native American tribes of New York State, right?”

“Yes, The Iroquois Confederacy, the Five Nations: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onandagas, Cayugas, and the Senecas.”

Tess’s mother taught in her middle school. “There’s a lot written about them. They had a form of democracy and their women owned the land and taught the children. Lakes and a river were named after the tribes.”

“My problem is not too little information, but too much!”

“How much more time do you have before it’s due?”

“Two weeks. I’ve already wasted a week. I’m a mess!”

“No. Don’t say that. You just need to get organized and get started.”


“Plan to do a section on each tribe and then a final section comparing them. Figure out what you want to include, like where they lived in New York, how big they were, what they did for food and shelter, what they contributed to Indian and later colonial culture…those kinds of things. For each tribe, you will have to look up the information. Sources in books and on the Internet will have information about several tribes or details about one or more tribes. It won’t be that hard.”

Rick came by. “Still worrying about that project, Tess?”

“Yes, of course.”

“As our basketball coach says, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“Thanks, bro, you’re a big help.”

“Well, you do have to get going on it, and I’m going to get going…out.”

Mr. Williams chimed in, “Slow but steady wins the race, Tess.”

“I can do slow, but I am not winning.”

Her dad, always helpful, added, “The Chinese wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You just have got to start and then keep going.”

The only family member who did not tell Tess how to do the work was Tim, but as a fourth-grader, he did not think of himself as an expert, as one or two or three of the others thought themselves to be.

“OK, everybody, I’ve got the picture. Rick, will you give me a ride to the library?”

“Sure, it’s on my way.”

Tess did finally finish the project, got an A, and promised herself she would start earlier next time.

“Oh, Rick,” she said when the work was finished, “I was given one more piece of advice on handling big jobs: ‘Eat the elephant one bite at a time.’” She added, “And that’s what doing this project tasted like!”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Falling in Love at Cornell


In the second semester of my junior year, when I fell in love with Tina, I had to tell Ellen that she and I were through: “It’s not you, it’s me” or, more correctly, “’s Tina.”

Tina Han Su, the girl originally from Kunming, China, and Douglas Winslow Cooper, the boy originally from Manhattan, met in the course Chinese 102 on the first day of the second semester at Cornell, in January 1963. In retrospect, it seems miraculous, life-altering, for both of us.

The so-sophisticated and experienced upperclassman was enchanted immediately. Beautiful, slender, refined, soft-spoken, smart, Tina was his Platonic ideal of femininity. Quiet, with a bright smile and an easy laugh. Nothing crude, nothing coarse, somewhat shy, not quite a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma (Churchill on the Soviet Union) but–yes, it’s a cliché –initially a bit inscrutable. Blouse and skirt were her standard attire, rather unrevealing, modest.

I asked her out for a “coffee date” with me at the student union—a traditional way at Cornell to start. Did she drink tea? Did I? Can’t recall. The lovely face, the soft but confident voice, the delicate hands, the just-right lips, flawless light tan skin, jet-black hair, and adorable nose, the brains coupled with modesty. The more I learned, the more I liked. Her family was quite educated, and they were Republicans, my brand. She played the piano seriously and exceptionally well. She herself was serious but happy, at ease. I thought maybe she liked me.

She says she liked my sense of humor and my intelligence. I liked to joke. Tina liked to laugh. It was a good match.

So considerate. I had little money, as she knew. One early date, we walked downtown to a movie. It was late and cold, and I suggested a cab for the trip back. She would not hear of it. Later, Tina would carry out some of her prepaid lunches from her dorm to share with me at nearby Noyes Lodge, overlooking the small and scenic Beebe Lake.

Diplomatic almost to a fault, Tina would find the nicest way to express her disagreement. It took time for me to learn to translate the hint of an objection to mean she really didn’t agree or didn’t want what was proposed. “Not necessary” or “you needn’t bother” often meant “not wanted.”

We’ll back up a bit here before we continue. Tina’s very close friend, Elaine Tashiro Gerbert writes about the young woman Tina was during her first semester at Cornell (a longer version of Elaine’s memoir can be found in the “Tributes” section at the end of this book):

I first saw Tina the day I moved into Clara Dickson Hall VI at Cornell in September 1962. It was in the lounge area of the dorm, where there was a grand piano. She was playing something (which she later told me was Schubert) that sounded terribly complicated and difficult—a waterfall of notes that kept coming….
Tina and I noticed each other right away. There were few Asians at Cornell in 1962, and none from upstate New York, except us. Moreover, she was from an area not far from my hometown of Geneva. I recall being introduced to her parents and older sister in the lounge area. Her sister smiled at me with kind interest. As an Asian in a virtually all-white university in the early l960s, one was an anomalous presence in an environment that was grand, imposing, and sometimes forbidding….
[Tina] dressed simply, and her clothes were well made and different from the store-bought skirts and blouses that a lot of the young women wore. Understated elegance might be a way to describe them. She seemed not to have many outfits….Her dress was subdued…I now realize her mother’s influence and the taste of a Chinese gentlewoman with scholarly inclinations in her clothes….
Tina was a disciplined person. Her manner was soft and she was kind to others. But strict with herself….
Years later, fellow Cornellian Georgia Paul remembered Tina as being “a cut above the rest of us.”
Of the Chinese women students at Cornell at the time, she seemed more mature, more refined, wiser, and fundamentally surer of herself and her values. She made an impression on Caucasians. In the spring of 1963, she went through sorority rush because she wanted to experience it, although she did not intend to join a sorority. I heard someone say that Tina Su had received an invitation to join from every single sorority that she had visited.
She seemed to have a date every Saturday night. On one occasion she went out with a Caucasian student named Rick, who was a friend of a woman in my corridor. I recall Moneen telling someone that Rick felt that Tina was uneasy about going out with a non-Chinese man. I also heard that she was criticized by the people in the Chinese student community for doing so.

Chinese 102

Chinese 102 was the second semester of the double-credit, six-days-a-week introduction to Chinese at Cornell. It met at 8:00 a.m. in the basement of an ivy-covered building. Adorable, cheerful, pint-sized Mrs. Ni taught most of the spoken Chinese lessons, being a native speaker. Miss Mills, attractive, serious, taller and somewhat sterner, a former resident of China, dealt more with the written language and the grammar. The class had eight students and was rather informal. We all were interested in the language and enjoyed the class despite the early hour.

What brought Tina to Chinese 102? What brought me?

Tina and I were both in the College of Arts and Sciences, which had a foreign language requirement. I think that a few years of college language training were sufficient. The first-year courses were typically double courses, so I could meet this requirement by taking a language in my junior and senior years.

Tina entered Cornell in the fall of 1962, as a pre-med student. I had entered in the fall of 1960, intending to major in physics, which met the requirements of some of my scholarship aid. Tina had learned enough spoken Chinese, but not the written language, to skip the first semester–Chinese 101–as long as she worked on the written language on her own, which she had done. She had taken French in high school, but French was no longer the useful, “universal language” it once was; perhaps she could more quickly become proficient in Chinese. (Was there even the thought that she might one day marry someone from China?).

Why was I taking Chinese? I had studied French and Latin in high school and could likely have passed Cornell’s language proficiency test with only another year of college French. But ever since my elementary school years, when I would go a half-dozen city blocks to bring my father’s shirts to the Chinese laundry, I had been fascinated by the little picture-words, ideographs, characters, of the written Chinese language. The people at the laundry, through kindness or merely good business practice, were friendly toward me. My stamp collection and coin collection had many more examples of the cryptic written Chinese. I was curious.

In practical terms, China was a potential world power, though slow to bloom, and my Chinese might lead to an alternate career, if physics did not work out. I did take enough of the language to be able to pursue a master’s degree if I chose to and came very close to enlisting in the U.S. Army to be trained as a Chinese interpreter/translator.

The spoken language, the Mandarin dialect of Peking and of the educated classes, has a simple grammar but is hard for Westerners to master because it has many homonyms whose only distinguishing characteristics are the tones superimposed on the syllables. Mau can mean feather or cat, depending on the tone, and there are at least two more mau words with still different meanings. (A few years later, during her first marriage, Tina lived for a time with her in-laws in Taiwan; her confusing the tones sometimes led to humorous misunderstandings, with some loss of face for her.)

The written language has its own special difficulties. Some of the Chinese characters are self evident: “-” is yi, meaning “one” and “=” is er, meaning “two,” and three has an added horizontal line. But from there on, the numbers are not obvious: “+” is ten, for example. A small box is a mouth, and the word for “middle” or “central” has an added vertical stroke. Most of the ideographs simply have to be memorized. They are composed of one or more of 214 “radicals,” often combined so as to give hints as to sound or meaning or both.

A reader of Chinese newspapers can get by with between a thousand and two thousand such characters, where we ended up after the first two years. More challenging work might require memorization of as many as 5,000 characters. Contrast that with the typical educated speaker of English, who probably can read and spell correctly (or almost correctly) 50,000 or more different words.

This disadvantage of the Chinese written language is offset by the fact that speakers of different dialects of Chinese, which differ from one another as much as do the various Romance languages, use the same ideographs for the same words. They can all read the same texts. Sometimes, two speakers of different dialects trace the word-pictures on each other’s palms to communicate.

Tina and I had pleasant times each morning in Chinese 102, followed by hand-in-hand walks to whatever came next, often a coffee or tea date. When it was cold, we would each take off a single glove and hold hands inside the pocket of my coat. Bliss.

By Valentine’s Day 1963, we were deeply in love. We still are, 48 years later. I can offer reasons that we fell in love, but I’m not wholly convinced reasons explain it. Ducklings follow their mothers right after being born, but if they first are in contact with a human being instead, they will follow him, I’ve read. Would they offer up reasons for following him? Perhaps. Some mix of reason and physical attraction had put me head-over-heels in love with Tina. Still am. Character trumps all the rest, and she has proved she has it, in spades.

Destinations in Flux

When Tina and I met, I was pre-physicist, if there had been such a designation. Actually, I was in the “B” physics option, for those who might not be intending to go on to physics in graduate school. I wasn’t certain. The Soviet satellite Sputnik had launched in 1957, and the nation was hot for science. It looked like a way to get an interesting white-collar job, indoor work with no heavy lifting. I did not want to have the money worries my family had during my early years. My freshman year advisor, eventually a Nobel laureate, had little interest in my plans, whatever they were. It may have been clear even then that I would not be a physics superstar, but well-above-average was still achievable.

After a poor start, I got better grades and eventually graduated cum laude in physics, not spectacular but not chopped liver, either. By my junior year, I had obtained a much better part-time job, minding and “tuning up” the atom-smashing cyclotron overnight on Saturdays (and some other hours). I watched an oscilloscope, with its faint, dancing lines, and twiddled with any of a dozen or so knobs and switches to keep this beam of charged particles at a high current.

Often, however, one needed only make sure the current stayed between certain limits, and the job was about as taxing as babysitting a sleeping child. That left lots of time to study my Chinese, memorizing those little characters and practicing the words with the different tones. Many a Sunday morning, after my shift was over, Tina and I would eat breakfast together in Noyes Lodge overlooking the lake.

Tina’s pre-med coursework went well until she came to the dissection laboratory, probably in comparative anatomy. The cat saturated with formaldehyde was her Waterloo. She was often tired, too, and may even then have been showing early signs of her (as-yet undiagnosed) multiple sclerosis. At that point Tina’s sister, Irene, was studying dentistry (and eventually, orthodontia). Their parents had high expectations for the children, including Tina, but Tina herself was not really committed to medicine. That semester, she switched to Asian Studies, in which she graduated With Distinction three years later.

Tina’s parents would ultimately get their M.D. child in their youngest, Gene. He had no trouble with Brown University, Rochester School of Medicine, and whatever extra hurdles he needed to jump to become the rheumatologist he is today. He married a smart and career-oriented Caucasian girl, Christin Carter, whom he met at Brown. They now live in Ann Arbor, where he has his medical practice, and where Christy is a professor in the physiology department at the University of Michigan, as well as the associate director of a biomedical research center focusing on diabetes.

To brag a bit about my own family: Nick graduated in civil engineering from Cornell and has become one of the vice presidents of a major engineering firm. Diana became a nurse, worked a variety of jobs, and subsequently has cared for my mother at home. Cliff obtained an M.S. in biology, then to law school for a J.D., and on to become a finance manager at a car dealership in California. Chris majored in chemistry, earning his B.S. from Clemson and his M.S. and Ph.D. at Stanford. Chris is now Senior Director of Chemistry for the TB Alliance in New York City, a nonprofit research-management organization dedicated to fighting drug-resistant tuberculosis with the help of money from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, among others.

In both families, Su and Cooper, the apples had not fallen far from the trees. Our parents were all college educated, at a time when such attainments were much rarer than they are today. Both families prized intelligence and education, and it showed.

Summer Vacation, 1963

In June of 1963, Tina and I were separated by the summer break. Tina worked at the University of Rochester library, and I was at the Cornell University cyclotron, “tuning up the beam.” It was hard on us to be apart. Letters helped.

A fellow graduate student, Charlie, was nice enough to agree to give me a ride to Rochester one Saturday, in return for Tina’s finding him a date for that evening. Coming out of the library that afternoon, Tina saw me and ran toward me, and that vision took my breath away. Lovely, beloved, loving—Tina was all that and more.

We could hardly wait for the fall and her return to Ithaca.

Fall semester was wonderful. Was this to be our last year together?

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Close But Not Quite," a #YA Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

Mr. and Mrs. Williams agreed on most things, but Mr. W. bought twenty-five lottery tickets to try to win a new mini-van, and Mrs. W. called it “buying a pig in a poke,’ as her husband had no clear idea of what the new van would be worth and how many other raffle tickets had been sold.

When they learned more about the raffle, they both had facts to support their points of view. Twenty-five thousand tickets had been sold at $1 apiece. There would be one winner of a new van worth somewhat more than half that price, so the charity [which shall be nameless here] would make a nice profit, and a lucky winner would get a fine prize.

Rick said, “With twenty-five tickets out of twenty-five thousand, Dad, our chances of winning are 1 in 1000.”

“It’s a long shot, I agree, but it would be fun to win. Let’s go to the hall where they will be holding the drawing.”

The family all piled into their used car to go to the hall. They met friends and neighbors, had refreshments, and awaited the selection of the winning ticket.

After announcing how successful the sales of raffle tickets had been and explaining how the money would be used, the master of ceremonies had a little girl come to the table that was holding the raffle tickets, close her eyes, reach in and pick one out.

“The winning ticket is 13589!” the M.C. shouted.

“We won! We won!” Tim said, pointing to one of their raffle ticket stubs.

“Let me see that, Tim,” said his dad. “No, the closest one we had was 13586. We missed by three. I see someone across the hall jumping up and down. They must have won.”

“We were close,” Tess said.

Mrs. W. was less excited, “There are some old sayings that apply, including ‘a miss is as good as a mile,’ meaning that being close is often worthless. Another is ‘close doesn’t count, except in horseshoes.’”

“…or hand grenades,” Rick joked.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer continued, “the Didsbury Movie Theatre has donated prizes for the runners-up: all of you who have the first four numbers right. Every ticket from 12380 to 12388 will be exchanged for a free pass to all the movies at the theatre for the rest of the year.”

“That’s us!” Tess exclaimed. Being a big movie fan, she was pleased with the prize.

“See, Mom, we won something,” Tim added.

“Yes, and we had a nice time, so it wasn’t a complete waste, but I am not a fan of gambling on anything.”

With a smile, Mr. Williams, as they got out of the car in their driveway, quoted Shakespeare, “All’s well that ends well.” Buying the raffle tickets had just barely been a good idea.


One of fifty instructive short stories we have written.




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

From TING AND I: A Memoir, At Cornell 1960-62


In September 1960, after a summer as head counselor at a small local summer camp, and a very pleasant romance with Rhoda, my co-counselor, I entered Cornell.

I love to joke. One person described me as a child as being “ebullient.” My motto is from Horace Walpole, “The world is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think.” Mostly, I find life funny. My first year at Cornell was anything but funny.

When I first arrived at 5406 University Halls (building #5, 4th floor, room 06), my roommate had preceded me. Jerry was stereotypical New York City, regardless of where he actually came from. He was NYC in speech, manner, dress. In his closet were a dozen, perhaps even two dozen suits. I had, at most, one. There was an income/wealth disparity.

For many of the students, including me, Cornell had not been their first choice. They may not have respected it the way those would who had aspired to go there. They were noisy, especially at night, often crude. I was disillusioned, depressed, sometimes angry. My fight record that year was two wins, no losses, against bigger opponents, as usual.

To cover living expenses I worked cleaning tables and washing dishes eight to twelve hours a week at Willard Straight Dining Hall. Boring and definitely not classy. Kind of thing to build character or at least a great familiarity with the tunes on the jukebox, including “Moon River,” “Warsaw Concerto” and “Scotch and Soda.” It helped pay the bills, as I was on my own.

Athletics for me that first year included intramural basketball and preparation for and participation in the freshman boxing tournament. Boxing was very tiring, even when the rounds were short, maybe two minutes each. Three rounds to the fight. By the third round, the fighters were exhausted. My record: one win, one draw. Good enough, and I had enough.

Physics, easy for me in high school, was hard: my first mid-term exam performance earned me 17 out of a possible 100 points. I jokingly asked the teaching assistant, “Is this my grade or my seat number?” Even graded “on a curve,” it was a relatively poor performance. In preparing for the exam, I had not worked on enough problems, having been satisfied to have understood the general principles, the big picture, or so I thought.

I had lost my religious faith and yet had retained conservative political views that put me in the minority at Cornell. The horror of the Nazi treatment of the Jews, as described in Erich Maria Remarque’s Spark of Life, shocked me. How could God let such a thing happen? Without God, unfortunately, there seemed little on which to base moral choices. Eventually I came to “Do onto others,” echoing Christ and, essentially, Kant.

Albert Camus and existentialism influenced me, too: one should make of one’s life a canvas, a work of art, one of which you could be pleased or proud. My mother’s advice was along the lines of “Don’t do anything you would need to keep a secret.” Of course, more easily said than done.

Not misbehaving was made easier by the paucity of those of the female persuasion. The ratio of men to women was high, perhaps four-to-one, and a freshman had little chance when compared to an upperclassman. With so many more guys than girls on campus, I rarely had a date.

I do remember going out with Judy, a pleasant, rather plain fellow frosh I had met during Freshman Orientation. We had a nice enough date, but we did not follow up. Sophomore year, Judy returned after summer vacation, transformed. She had undergone rhinoplasty (“nose job” in Cornellese), bleached her hair blond, and dressed very well. She had become a real knockout, with lots of suitors. It must have been more attention than she could handle, though, because by senior year, she had stopped bleaching her hair and stopped dressing up, looking more like the girl I had dated originally. Thoreau summed up such a situation thus: “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Robert Frost entitled one of his poems, “The Lovely Shall Be Choosers,” in which the choices often turn to have unpleasant, unexpected consequences.

Academically, as well as socially, I was just getting by in my freshman year. After only one semester, I wanted out. My parents convinced me to give it another semester.


After another summer of being head camp counselor with Rhoda, who was from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, smart, attractive, athletic, and having what my mother described as a “Miss America figure,” I returned to Ithaca, to share a double room in Boldt Hall, much nicer than my freshman digs. Looked old. Had Ivy. My roommate was Miles, tall, smart, athletic, good-looking, and wealthy, quickly snapped up by the leading Jewish fraternity on campus, leaving me with a double room and without a roommate. Two plusses: more space, more privacy. My class work went better. My mood improved.

That fall, I “pledged” and then “de-pledged” a fraternity, Phi Epsilon Pi. I return to the Phi Ep story below. I was not fully the frat type. “I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member,” as Groucho Marx once said about himself.

Underscoring my unsuitability for fraternity life was the series of fights I got into, one much-too-early morning, with the fraternity located across the street from Boldt Hall. It was probably a spring Friday night. I wanted to study, and they wanted to party. I was sober and tired. They were drunk and loud. I wasn’t the only one to complain. Catcalls went back and forth to and from others at Boldt Hall and the brothers at the fraternity. Campus police were called, came and went, ineffectually.

I was fed up. I dressed, marched into the frat house, went upstairs and told the guardian of the record player to turn it down. “Turn it down yourself,” he replied. As I did so, he jumped me, but I put him down. On my way down the stairs another guy grabbed me. That was a draw, broken up by the brothers. On my way out, a very big brother came after me. I got in one good punch, then down I went. He could have been a lot meaner but wasn’t, so I merely got a fat lip and a bruised cheekbone. I felt good, though. Something had needed to be done. It wasn’t just the noise, but also the demeaning catcalls from the fraternity that seemed to require my direct action.

One bright spot my sophomore year was “Great Poets,” a course I took with Professor Forrest Read. The course fulfilled an English requirement and met at a convenient time, two considerations that outweighed the import of the topic. Poets? Maybe I’d meet some girls there. Prof. Read came to English literature after having started out as an engineer, so we had a technical bent in common. The poets were great– Donne, Pope, Keats, Robert Browning, Yeats and Frost–and some of the poetry has been unforgettable for me. I do not recall finding a girlfriend there.

I was pleased by what Prof. Read did when I, uncharacteristically, disputed a grade. He had given me a poor grade on a paper, thinking I had badly misinterpreted one of Donne’s poems. In his office I made the case for my interpretation, and he graciously backed down, raising my grade from 75 to nearly 100. On another paper, he was even more generous. We talked about other topics as well, and he gave me some good, avuncular advice. He was one of the few people I have admired. That could be a theme.

My grades improved, though not uniformly.

Another bright spot: my social life improved greatly. I forget how I met Ellen: brilliant, beautiful, violin-playing English major from a New York City suburb. Daughter of a far-left M.D. from New Jersey, she and I disagreed on many things, but we had somehow fallen for each other. She once said she had a “thing” for Christian guys. That matched well with my “thing” for Jewish girls, especially smart, pretty ones....

Despite some ups and downs, we went through the year as a romantic pair, and she replaced Rhoda as my co-counselor at the summer camp, my last year there. When I met Ellen again fifteen years later, she was still smart, attractive, sensitive, and still wholly at odds with me politically. A marriage would have been doomed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review of Memoir WHY I'M (NO LONGER) A MORMON

Once a Mormon…

Until I read this book I was mildly pro-Mormon, viewing the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) as a net plus for the country and for the Mormons themselves. After all, the Saints gave us Mitt Romney, a decent man who might have been a fine President.

Author Regina Samuelson [a pen name, a nom de plume, an alias, a nom de guerre] is inching her way out of the Mormon closet with this confessional contribution to the debunking of the faith that has helped make Mormons among the most successful people in the U.S. Mormons rule Utah and are highly influential is several other Western states.

Samuelson entertainingly and sometimes shockingly tells the story of her involvement, submersion really, in the Church, along with vignettes about many other members, and helps us understand why she no longer believes, although she is afraid to be known as an apostate.

She directs us to several books that have shown the “history” of the Church to have been largely fabricated, as was its core document, the Book of Mormon, which purports to tell of the coming of Jesus Christ to Latin America in the distant past, for which no evidence exists. The Garden of Eden was in Missouri. God lives on an unnamed planet by the star Kolob. Joseph Smith translated the BoM revelations inscribed on gold plates that later disappeared, dictating the BoM to a scribe who sat on the other side of a curtain. Some of Smith’s work involved “improving” the translation of earlier Biblical texts.

Smith and Brigham Young were notorious womanizers, as well as polygamists. They showed little concern for the travails of their followers during their arduous early-nineteenth-century westward migration.

The doctrines and the Church’s hierarchy place women in second-class roles, primarily as breeders and then mothers. The “lucky” ones go through extensive and intensive indoctrination as children, attend Brigham Young University, marry a fellow Mormon who has returned from a two-year mission, produce babies and help economize at home so 10% of the family income (a tithe) can come off the top and go to support the Church.

Men and women get recruited for “callings,” absorbing even more of their time and energy. Once a Mormon, your Church, your friends, your family require you to sacrifice repeatedly for the good of the LDS.

The emphasis on female chastity before marriage, while making out-of-wedlock births rare, leads to pent-up sexual demand that Samuelson believes explains why Utah has the highest per-capita consumption of pornography. Over and over, she details a rigidity of thinking and behavior that makes “blind faith” and “dysfunctional” and “Victorian” seem understatements.

The book’s dedication is touching and instructive:

To all those who have struggled as I have,

Who have yet to struggle as I have,

And to those who love us anyway.

One can only sympathize with the plight of good people who have built their honest faith on rotten foundations. They will populate the Earth at rates rivaling those of the Moslems, another all-inclusive religion that subjugates its adherents, especially women.


This review was also posted at,
where the book can be readily purchased.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"A Pig in a Poke," a #YA Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Mom, what’s a ‘pig in a poke’?” Tess asked at the dinner table.

“Where did you hear that?”

“Grandma Adams said something was like buying a pig in a poke.”

Mrs. Williams enjoyed these conversations as a chance to teach and to learn. “A poke is an old term for a bag. The saying meant that you should inspect something before you buy it. You should look it over carefully. It’s like ‘buyer beware.’”

“Or ‘all that glitters is not gold,” said Mr. Williams, getting into the spirit of the conversation. “Then, too, there’s ‘look before you leap,’ with much the same message.”

Not to be outdone, Rick contributed, “Our wood shop teacher used to say, ‘Measure twice, cut once,” meaning make sure you are right before cutting.”

“I wish my hair stylist had done something like that last time I went in. She clipped it sorter than I wanted, and I had to wait for it to grow back.”

“You still looked great,” her husband gallantly stated.

“My teacher says, ‘Better safe than sorry.’”

“That’s right, Tim, we have that as a slogan at the firehouse.”

“In science class we are taught not to jump to conclusions, which is using another kind of caution.”

“Right, Rick. My mother also used to say, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ It did not matter how good it looked, you only knew for sure after you tasted it. I’ve told my classes that several times.”

“I’ve heard ‘once bit, twice shy,’ but I’m not sure what it means,” said Tess.

Her father explained, “If a dog bit you when you tried to pet it, you’d be careful not to try that again. If a situation causes you problems, you’d shy away from it the next time.”

Rick saw some problems with this approach. “Sometimes you have to go ahead, even if you know you might get hurt. Sometimes you have to stop studying something and ‘just do it.’ There’s the saying, ‘he who hesitates is lost,’ which goes against some of these others.”

“Yes, and ‘faint heart never wins fair lady,’ meaning you have to pursue your love bravely.” His dad continued, “These old sayings seem good, but sometimes they contradict one another.”

The telephone rang and Mr. Williams answered it. “Yes…. Yes…. Okay…. Put me down for twenty-five dollars…. Bye.”

“What was that, Dear?”

“They were selling raffle tickets for a charity.”

“What are they raffling off? How many tickets are they selling?” Mrs. Williams had her doubts about such phone calls.

“A new car of some sort. I didn’t ask what our chances of winning were. Perhaps I should have. Seemed like a good cause.”

“I think you just bought a pig in a poke.”

Mr. Williams had the last word, another old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”


One of 50 instructive short stories by Cooper and Maher.

Friday, March 7, 2014

From TING AND I, Beginnings: Doug


Born December 21, 1942, in Manhattan, I got off to a rocky start. Within a month or so, I was near death from the swelling of my brain due to hydrocephalus, “water on the brain.” My mother says the doctors advised her to kiss me goodbye. Instead, she came daily to comfort her tiny first child, praying I might be spared, promising God I would be a good person. According to my mother, one doctor said that my brain was being so overstimulated that I would either die or become a genius.

Two other close calls occurred before I was twelve. In both instances, I ran out into the street, from between parked cars, obliviously caught up in playing tag the first time and, the second time, playing stoop-ball. The first time, I was only grazed by the passing car, struck by the door handle. In the second instance, the driver saw the ball emerge ahead of me and put on his brakes, stopping only a few feet ahead of me as I came out. Lucky? Fate? God? Safe driving habits?


I went to Hunter College Elementary School, HCES, admitted on the basis of an IQ test score. Hunter was at 68th Street and Park Avenue, but I lived on 181st Street and Riverside Drive, about five miles away. I made my way there by bus or subway or a combination. I started Hunter at nearly seven years of age, skipped second grade, and progressed apace thereafter.

It was an elite school, with pleasant and interested teachers, generally well-behaved kids and an accelerated curriculum, plus quite a bit of testing to follow the progress of the little “geniuses.” In an early grade I was photographed explaining eclipses, with the picture carried as part of a story about the school in a weekly magazine. With parental help, we staged the musical South Pacific. There I was, third from the left in the sailor chorus.

I fell in love with my elementary school teacher, Miss Audain, who taught my homeroom for three of those years. Edith V. Audain was black, beautiful, smart, kind and my special friend. She seemed to know I came from a rougher environment than most of the other kids. She did not marry me, however, but chose a Mr. Alleyne, much to my disappointment.

Unlike some of the other HCES elite parents, mine (especially my mother) were opposed to discrimination against blacks (“colored people” being the euphemism of the time). Mom wrote a sympathetic fictional story decrying segregation, published in Harlem’s Amsterdam News. My parents shaped my own views of race relations. A neighbor of ours ten years later told my mother, “With your attitude, one day one of your kids will marry a Negro.” Foreshadowing?

I remember several little girls from HCES, but I doubt they remember me. Joan? Abby? Wendy? Majda? Anyone?

Actually, I do have one sweet memory. Judy Copland may have been her name, and she was a couple of years older than I. We both rode the Fifth Avenue Coach Line to and from HCES, though her stop was much closer to school than mine. Her parents once took me along on a family outing to the amusement park at Coney Island—a nice, generous thing to do. I do like the music of Aaron Copland (despite his politics). Maybe they were related.

I often took the subway train rather than the bus. The “A” train station was at 181st Street and Ft. Washington Avenue, half a dozen blocks from home. I would stand at the very front window of the front car and watch the train zip along the tracks, sometimes slowing or even stopping in response to yellow or red signal lights.



My first eleven years were spent living with my mother, father, and siblings in a two-bedroom apartment in a set of five-story buildings abutting the George Washington Bridge on Riverside Drive, near the northern end of Manhattan Island. By the time I was nine, three of my four younger siblings had come along: Nick in 1948, Diana, in 1949, and Cliff in 1951. Chris was born much later, in 1959.

The neighborhood was almost exclusively Catholic, while I was Protestant, a “left-footer,” out of step. Their school, All Hallows, was parochial; mine, Hunter College Elementary School, was nondenominational.

Although I participated in all the kids’ games, I was viewed as different. “The way he talks makes me feel funny” was how one contemporary explained this to my mother. At age nine or ten I beat up one of my main antagonists and had much less trouble thereafter. I was thin, wiry. The local tailor had been asked to take in a hand-me-down jacket so it would fit me, and he replied that if he took it in any more, there wouldn’t be a jacket.

It was around 1950. We played a lot of hide-and-seek, urban type. The buildings were five stories high, without elevators. I liked to hide in the dumbwaiters, large, open wooden boxes attached to a rope on pulleys at the top of the shaft. You could bring your groceries upstairs or your trash downstairs with these devices. Each apartment had a door that opened onto this shaft, so the residents could put in or take out objects. I would get into the box at the cellar level, then pull on the rope enough to pull myself above the lowest opening. Hard for kids to find me, a good thing—but the smells were unpleasant.

We played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, war, sword fights (sticks, rolled-up newspapers). Advanced weaponry included linoleum guns, sticks with a nail at the front end, a long rubber band, and small (one-inch) squares of cut-up linoleum to put in the stretched rubber band before releasing it toward your foe.

Televisions were rare. We did have many radio programs that included my favorite heroes: The Lone Ranger (cue up Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”); Tom Mix; Roy Rogers, his horse, Trigger, and his significant other, Dale Evans; Gene Autry; The Shadow (“Able to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him. Who knows? The Shadow knows.”); the Green Lantern; Sgt. Preston of the Yukon; the Green Hornet (cue up Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and his trusty sidekick Kato (Japanese?); Detective Johnny Dollar (who organized his story around his expense account vouchers). Babysitting my younger siblings—at that point I had a sister and two brothers; went fine during the hours these shows were on, but later in the evening radio became quite boring.

Much of my social life was with the Fort Washington Collegiate Church, one of four Dutch Reformed churches in the city. Our minister, Rev. Daniel Poling, lost a brother in World War II. The brother, Clarke, had given his lifejacket to another soldier when their boat had been on the verge of sinking. Rev. Poling had a son who was stricken with cerebral palsy—pitifully, severely. The father’s faith must have been tested. He became a leading figure in the Dutch Reformed Church of America. I collected a slew of perfect or near-perfect attendance pins for Sunday school and can still quote Scripture, often on either side of an issue. Members of scout troops associated with the church, we were theoretical wilderness experts but went almost nowhere.

Whether it was with scouts or just as a small pack of urban urchins, we crossed the George Washington Bridge one day to collect wildlife samples from the wilds of New Jersey. I proudly brought back a jar of active tiny swimmers, misidentifying them as tiny tadpoles. Mom had me flush them down the toilet: they were mosquito larvae.

Hardly any girls to speak of at church. Certainly none we spoke to. I would have made an exception for blond and lovely Pamela Knight. Alas.

Decades later, when I stopped by the Riverside Drive apartments, I was amazed at how much smaller everything looked than I remembered it. Perhaps we measure things in part by their ratios to our own dimensions, such as height.


Not only did I occasionally fight in my neighborhood, I had a couple of fights at HCES. Nicky R., much bigger than I was, was obnoxious to me once, while I was hobbled with a very painful ingrown toenail. I challenged him to a fight to be held when I recovered. We ended up with boxing gloves in Roger Sachs’s living room, in a very nice West Side apartment; several other classmates were in attendance. I bloodied Nicky’s face and was the undisputed winner. I forget the reason for the other fight, but I won that one, too. I liked to watch boxing on TV and would imitate the fighters’ moves. I doubt HCES had many other fans of professional boxing among its students and faculty.

Lessons from this period were to continue to stand up for myself and not to be impressed by people bigger or richer than I was.



I was in love with my mother, a blonde model. I liked girls. Of kindergarten age, I was at summer camp (in return for a favor done by my father) and had a crush on a little blonde named “Lorraine.” I thought it was fate: my home phone number was LOrraine 8-9180. Nothing much came of that. At HCES, I liked several of the girls, including one pretty brunette who eventually became a Fall or Spring Weekend Queen at Cornell. When I called her during my first semester there, I learned that her dance card was full.


Like most Americans, I had sympathy for the underdogs. Around ten years of age, I befriended a boy who was an outcast, living a few blocks away from me. I did not see why he did not have friends, and I tried to be a friend to him. It wasn’t long before he did something, I forget what, that revealed why the others did not like him. Perhaps “no good deed goes unpunished” or “the friendless earn their status” were the lessons learned. Some of the underdogs are under there for a reason. Some who have been under there a long time now hold a grudge.

Smart and Cheap

Young and smart and cheap: when buying some potatoes, I told the local grocer to weigh the potatoes before, not after, he put them in a paper bag, “because we want to pay for the potatoes, not the bag.”

Smart was discovering on my own that the sum of the numbers from 1 to N is (1/2)(N)(N+1), so that if N=10, the sum is 55. I later found out that the great mathematician/physicist C. F. Gauss had discovered this at a younger age almost two hundred years before me. He went on to substantially greater achievements and well-earned greater fame.

Smart? Cheap? Hard to classify was my propensity to look for coins on the ground under the George Washington Bridge near the spot where a man had recently jumped to his death. My parents called off that hunt.

During my elementary school years on Riverside Drive, we (the neighborhood kids) looked for beer and soda deposit bottles in the trash, to return for five cents apiece. Recycling–the early years. Some of that recycling loot I would spend at what I thought was “the bean store,” a candy store that was in fact named after its owner, Mr. Levine.

Sometimes we would take a bamboo pole (from rug deliveries?) and put chewing gum at the end of it, poke it down through the sidewalk grates that helped ventilate the subways, and pull up coins that had been dropped accidentally through the grating.

Our expenditures would often be for ice cream or rubber balls (“spaldeens,” actually Spaldings) or baseball trading cards. One could play the game of flipping the cards from waist height to the ground, matching or failing to match the heads or tails of one’s opponent’s card, winner take all. A variant of this was to skim cards toward a wall with the flick of the wrist, the winner being the one closest to the wall. Cards were a form of currency.

Outdoor sports were played mainly in the street: punch ball, stickball, hockey on roller skates. Hand-ball was played against the building’s exterior walls. Games included hide-and-seek, blind-man’s bluff, ring-a-levio, and tag. Life was hell in the urban jungle.

My family had a dog named “Tony,” part Chow, part terrier. She was a lovely light brown, a blond, and she was named for an Italian sweet, bisque tortoni, which has a light-brown top. Like so many pet owners, we did not keep her from getting fat. She waddled, huffed and puffed, trying to keep up with us, especially Mom. She was very smart, too, perhaps from the Chow ancestors, perhaps from the terrier side. She bit me only once, when I tried to move her food dish before she was done. Once bitten, twice smart. It did smart.

At that time, the rent on my parents’ ground-floor two-bedroom apartment was $40/month, and sometimes I would be delegated to carry that enormous sum across the hall to the building manager/superintendent. Some months it was not certain we would have the rent money. Milk sold for about a quarter a quart, and bread was about a quarter a loaf, one-tenth today’s prices. We were allowed to run a tab, have credit, at the little local grocery store.

Gold sold then for $35/ounce, not that we ever bought any. It’s forty times that today. First-class postage stamps were three cents, more our speed. On postage, we went first-class.


Not far from Riverside Drive, Junior High School 152 was my next rung on the academic ladder.

Another year, another couple of fights, winning one and losing one.

Girls? I can’t recall. I do recall one teacher, Miss Kupersmith, however; she had a set of low-cut dresses that made big impressions. I doubt she remained “Miss” Kupersmith for long.

As I write, some incidents are coming back to me. We moved to Payson Avenue, across the street from Inwood Park, near Dyckman Street, a mile north of the Riverside Drive apartment. Mom’s friend let us rent her lovely apartment. It must have had a third bedroom, because I got one of my own, instead of sharing with the others.

I also got a dog, a Siberian Husky-Golden Retriever mix, about one year old.. Handsome, smart, brave, tough, that was Duke. That same friend of my mother had him but couldn’t keep him. They had called him Pericles, after the Athenian general of ancient Greece. This was too ritzy for us, so I changed his name to Hercules, thinking it sounded close enough that he would respond. Then he became Herky, and finally Duke. He took it in stride.

One evening early in our relationship, when Duke became thirsty while in my bedroom, and seeing that I was not responding to his banging his aluminum dish with his paw, he picked the dish up in his mouth, placed it on the pillow in front of my face, and licked it to demonstrate it was empty. I told you he was smart.

Sometimes Duke was smarter than his master. I took him with me to the grocery store one afternoon and tied him to a pole by the curb. I bought the groceries and came home ... without him. He never said a word. Hours later, I scoured Inwood Park trying to find him. “He came home, didn’t he?” I asked my puzzled parents. Only then did I realize I had left him behind. I’d like to think I was just focused, but those who thought me forgetful can be excused. My mother is now in her mid-90s and an invalid. Just recently, I took great pains to attach her calling button to her bed, to prevent its falling, as had happened several times before. Having secured it, I forgot to plug it in to the wall outlet. Operator error.

A kid from Inwood Park demanded a quarter from me. I refused. A fight ensued. He won. He demanded the quarter. I refused again. He moved on. With a different kid, I won a one-punch fight: faked with my left, smashed with my right. Done.

Yes, I had a crush on a lovely, tall, slender black-haired girl. Vivian. If she had been interested, she would have gotten more space here. What does not go around does not come around.


If you buy a second-hand iron, do not merely turn it off after use; be sure to pull the plug from the wall socket, especially if you leave on an outing for the afternoon. Having thus inadvertently burned the interior of the apartment that we were renting in Inwood, we moved to Mt. Vernon, NY, the southern, not the affluent, region of Westchester County.

At the Minnie S. Graham Junior High School, a rough, racially mixed institution, my grades continued to be good and my fight record continued to be mixed.

We did have a champ in the family, however. Duke won best in show, mixed-breed category, at the local park. When the local paper referred to Duke as a “Husky-Retriever,” a competitive young friend of mine felt slighted by the write-up: “My dog is husky, too,” he said about his Beagle. Sure.

My desk encyclopedia tells me Huskies are known for their intelligence and gentle temperament. Duke was smart and gentle, but tough on other dogs. He even chased down a milk tanker truck when we lived in the country; he was so badly injured that the vet wanted him put down. My mother refused and nursed Duke back to health. Duke learned to make do with three working legs rather than four after that.

I played baseball for the “Tom Godfrey” team in Mt. Vernon’s PONY league that summer. I did well in the try-out session and was very pleased to have been picked. I still have a picture of myself dressed to play: the team had handsome uniforms, and my fielder’s glove was carefully anointed with 3-in-1 oil, making it very dark and very flexible. I was part-time second baseman and right fielder, where I could do little harm. Batted a modest .246. Had three hits one game. In another I caught a fly ball with my bare hand when it bounced off my glove. This was before video cameras accompanied every parent to the games, so there are no highlight clips available. Memories are made of these rare moments.

No memorable romances occurred for me in Mt. Vernon. I did have a good fight, though: I heard him running up behind me, and I dropped down just before we collided, sending him sprawling over my back. Then, I outran him.



We moved outside of metropolitan Walden (pop. 5,000) in 1956, then moved downtown in 1958. I went to Walden High for all four years. Walden is in the north-central portion of Orange County, about 70 miles north of New York City. My parents advised me that the stereotype of kids from “the City” was of being brash and too mouthy—wiseguys. They recommended a long period of modest silence, and I took their advice. It may have been for only a few months, but the vow of silence seemed to have lasted interminably. After a while, I opened up, often making jokes in class.

We lived about five miles from town at first, so my involvement in sports my freshman and sophomore years (basketball, football, baseball) required either hitchhiking home or riding my bike to and from school. No, it was not wholly uphill in both directions. Just felt that way.

Getting a ride home was the source of another near-death experience. A football teammate gave me ride a in his peppy Chevy: “Let’s see what this baby can do.” It did 106 miles per hour. One such ride was enough.

World history class in my freshman year was taught by Mr. Decker, also the driver’s education teacher. A Renaissance man of sorts, very nice. He once had a student who got 100 percent on the Regents’ world history exam. He said he hoped I would match that. I did.

Memorable was my sophomore year biology teacher, Mr. Ross, who shared –no, exceeded –my fondness for puns. One of them involved “testes” for “test these,” and there were many more of like character and quality. Biology puzzled some of my classmates, one of whom asked about the nature of identical twins when one was a male and the other a female. Will that be on the test?

Especially memorable was a compliment paid me in front of the rest of the football team one practice. At 150 pounds, I was among the lightest on the squad, and my position was defensive end, where my modest speed and modest agility could be offset by my determination and wiry strength. “If the rest of you played with the determination of Cooper, here, we’d never lose a game,” Coach Marone told them.

My sophomore year we lost only one football game and lost that one by a single point. Later that fall, Coach selected a few players to join him in attending the Heisman Trophy presentation being made to Pete Dawkins at West Point. I was one of those he chose, which came as a big surprise to me, as I was a substitute who rarely got into our games. Thanks, Coach.

Basketball and baseball took more skill than I had, and I only participated my first two years, mostly riding the bench. I scored a total of two points in Junior Varsity basketball, bunching them together with a single shot my second year.

I did referee basketball games in the church league for younger players. Someone criticized the refs in a letter to the editor of the Walden Citizen-Herald. I replied in kind. I wrote that I did not give a “tinker’s dam” about the outcomes.

Junior and senior years, besides playing football, I ran the mile and pole-vaulted in track and was near the middle among those against whom we competed. Oh, well.

My grades were much better than my running or pole vaulting. Professional track and field was not in my future.

I was in DeMolay, a junior affiliate of the Masons. I have a trophy for being “Eastern Jurisdictional Council Order of DeMolay Oratorical Contest Winner, 1958-59.” While I do not remember the details, I fared better than Jacques DeMolay himself, who had a bad Inquisition.

The high school chorus used my speaking abilities to read introductions to our songs, sometimes, at school presentations. I read better than I sang.


The people of Walden, NY, were generally very nice to newcomers like me, and I am grateful to them. Not all the people of Walden were delighted with me, however. I did have a sharp tongue.

I recall two fights at Walden, and again I split. On a freshman class picnic, I got into some argument with Tommy, a guy larger than I. As he rushed toward me, I grabbed his shirt, rolled backward, threw him over me with my feet, put him in a headlock, pressing my knuckle below his ear. He gave up. A dispute on the school bus my sophomore year got me into a fight with Jack, a much bigger senior, and he beat me easily; but at least I hadn’t backed down. Fortunately, I do not remember the details.



Our church (First Reformed, Protestant) was less than a block away. As I did at school, I participated in most of the church activities. I “dated” several of the girls at one time or other and had a real crush on a tall, thin, lovely girl, Carol Ann. One afternoon, parked in downtown Walden to pay the telephone company their bill, her father was killed and her mother and sister injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Our romance became irrelevant. Even today I can’t pass the location of the accident without thinking of her and her poor family. I believe she married a relative not long afterward, perhaps a father figure, and when that did not work out, a state trooper. Some traumas just shape the rest of one’s life.

More foreshadowing: Our church group took a two-week vacation at a campus-like retreat area nearby. Several other church groups were there as well. I quickly developed a crush, reciprocated, on a slender, pretty Eurasian teenager. Jean was the product of an American soldier stationed in Japan and a Japanese woman. Like many a summer romance, it faded with the coming of fall.

I was in the band, in the chorus, in the plays, was junior and senior class president, yearbook editor, the whole nine yards. Kept me busy and felt like success.

There was a monthly enrichment program for the top students in Orange County, where I met Mary Lou, more accurately “Marie-Louise Veronique, etc.” Smart, pretty, a would-be Holly Golightly, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We wrote a lot of letters to each other, funny stuff, we thought, and we went together to my Senior Prom. That meant she had found some way to get to Walden from her Port Jervis home, probably borrowing her father’s car. Eventually, she married a guy with a fine sports car, then went with him (U.S. military) to Kinshasa in the Congo. That marriage failed, leaving her with a son. There may have been another marriage. A few years ago, she contacted me over the Internet, as some others have done, to see if we could meet. Nice compliment, but no way would I do anything that could cause Tina concern.


Money was in short supply for us in the 1950s. We still ran a tab at the grocer and our cars were typically one step away from the auto-parts graveyard, imminent roadkill. One evening, we drove our old car by the Municipal Building, where a heated debate was taking place over a proposed dog leash law. “Woof! Woof!” we yelled out of our car window. The local paper quoted us correctly the next day, but attributed it to “a passing truck.” You cannot believe all that you read in the paper. “Truck,” indeed.

My first two years of high school, living outside Walden, I washed dishes during some holidays and over the summer vacation at the neighboring resort-cum-boarding house, on the fringe of the Catskills “Borscht Belt,” with much the same clientele. The pay was low, the hours long, but there was a swimming pool that was a perquisite. I ate well there, except one time when I was given chicken backs and told the dish was “a delicacy.” Too refined for me.

My last year of high school I worked a bit at a shoe store then moved to the big time, bagging groceries at the Thruway Market. These days when I see the young baggers there, I am tempted to tell them how it was a step on the road to my success. Then again, the casual way I dress may not inspire them. White socks, jeans, sweaters with holes in the sleeves and fraying cuffs will never go out of style, will they?

For several months I worked as a bookkeeper of sorts for a feed and grain store. I went over the bills and the payments and put them in some master log, then tallied them up at the end of the month. It was a form of double-entry bookkeeping, indoor work, no heavy lifting, at least not much heavy lifting. Some months I got everything to match up (balanced the books) easily. Other months took many extra hours to find my mistakes. I was eased out of that position at some fortuitous time, but it was clear to the boss and to me that I was not careful enough to make bookkeeping my career. A weakness, not being careful with details, but not as bad as being told one lacked sufficient personality to be an accountant, as the old joke goes.

None of these after-school pursuits were high-status. I invited a doctor’s daughter, Fran, to the Junior Prom. She accepted. She soon revealed to a mutual friend that she really wished Ricky (more handsome and athletic) had invited her. When I found this out, I told her I wouldn’t be taking her, “freeing” her for an invitation from Ricky that never came. I was nobody’s pushover.

No sense wasting the prom expense on someone who did not appreciate it. I took a good friend from church, Jean Jansen, and we had a great time, a time remembered fondly to this day by both.


My best friends in high school were Phil and Dave.

Phil was a year older, graduated in 1959, a year ahead of me, and has kept in touch one way or another since then. He served in the U.S. Air Force, continued his education to become a teacher, taught developmentally challenged elementary school students for decades, retiring only last year. Faithfully and happily married over forty years, Phil and Ginny Nodhturft have one son, Phil III, and he has made them proud. True friends of my family and me, they visit this area from Florida almost yearly. We have a friendship that is rare indeed. (See his contribution to “Tributes” at the end of the book.)

Dave was my classmate, a key part of our threesome, but he abandoned me our senior year, once he got a car and started dating one of the cheerleaders, a bitter pill for me. Eventually, he married that girl, had three children with her, abandoned them all for a younger woman and a Hollywood career, and died relatively young.

Lesson: don’t put a lot of faith in other people. Some will let you down.

Family Complete

With the birth of my youngest brother, Chris, in 1958, our family was complete: Michael J. Cooper, lawyer; Priscilla T. Cooper, homemaker; Nick, six years younger than I; Diana, seven years younger; Cliff, nine years younger; and Chris, sixteen years younger. Soon I would be leaving the crew to go to college.

College Applications

My senior year, I applied to M.I.T., Cal Tech, and Cornell–for admission and financial aid. Money was tight. Three applications would have to be enough. I was fairly confident, being valedictorian and having both the College Board verbal and mathematical aptitude scores being in the top percentile.

M.I.T. had a deadline for applying for financial aid that was a month earlier than their general admission application deadline. I was a few days late, and they informed me I would not be eligible for support until sophomore year, although they did admit me. I was very likely to get aid for three years, not enough. Taught me the importance of meeting deadlines.

Cal Tech did not accept me. Taught me there were plenty of others who were brighter than I.

Cornell accepted me, and I received a full-tuition scholarship, based on my very high score in the NYS Regents Scholarship Exam. Cornell it would be. The classy Ivy League, I hoped. Not quite, as I will explain.