Le Winter Of Our Discontent

AN IMPORTANT NOTICE: I know that most of you like to get this out of the way in one sitting. I also know that many of you use these essays as part of your bathroom reading material. This one is going to be a lot longer than the ideal length that I aim for. Therefore, I’d suggest that unless you’re having a colonoscopy tomorrow, this time, take a newspaper or magazine in with you instead.

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From time to time I get some mail out of the blue from my sister, Charnie. Since my parents died in 2001 my first impulse has been to think that she’s come across a miscalculation or a rounding error in the settlement of our parent’s “estate” and is sending me my additional share.  I’ve always been disappointed. And then, about two weeks ago, I found an envelope from her in my mailbox that was different from others that I had received.  It was one of those padded envelopes usually used to send something important or valuable. My hopes skyrocketed, thinking that there was a reasonable chance that it was filled with wads of cash.  It wasn’t.

What it contained, instead, was a trove of stuff related to my bar mitzvah.  My mother saved countless things like this and apparently, after our parents died, this material found its way into the attic of Charnie’s house.

I set aside some time to go through the stuff.  The first thing that got my attention was an itemized accounting my mother had kept of the cost of my bar mitzvah party which was a catered affair somewhere in Brooklyn. The total for 100 guests was an absurdly low figure.  But then again, money went a lot further in the 1800’s.  Then I cameScan-stamp across a response card that had never been mailed. It still had the mint 3¢ stamp that had been licked on more than a half-century ago. This was exciting. I couldn’t figure out how Charnie had let a collectible like this slip through her fingers.  Forget the cash that hadn’t shown up, this had to be worth a ton. I was about to google the methodology for carefully removing a very old stamp but thought I should check Ebay first to see what kind of fortune I had come into.  It’s possible that a few weeks ago you may have felt a huge blast of air come out of nowhere. That was caused by the bursting of my bubble. You can get all the mint, fifty year old 3¢ cent stamps you want for a nickel a piece on Ebay. C’est le guerre!Scan-lewinter[3]signature

I now moved on to the other stuff that was in the envelope which consisted mostly of gift cards, note cards and the occasional letter from an aunt.  There must have been fifty or sixty of these.  I decided to separate them (isn’t retirement great!) into four piles of the following categories: “Dead”, “Gotta Be Dead”, “Possibly Alive” and “Known To Be Alive”.   There were six cards in each of the last two stacks. I put aside the first two piles (may they rest in peace) and was drawn to a note from Scan-lewinter2[2] cropped carda guy I had been friends with in Junior High, Marty Le Winter.  I remembered him as being a really nice guy but I don’t remember being such good friends that he would have been invited to my bar mitzvah.  (After JHS we wound up going to different high schools and I never saw or heard from him again.) But the curious thing about his card was that he had his own freakin’  stationery. At age thirteen!

(I have no recollection whatsoever of my bar mitzvah.  So for researching this piece I got out my bar mitzvah album. There are a few people I recognize (mostly from Piles #1 and #2). And then there are a lot of photos of  a short, chubby kid with a pompadour who purportedly  is me.  Who knows . . .maybe it is.)

I was telling this story to my friend, Retep when he interrupted to tell me that he knew a “Martin Le Winter” from Brooklyn–they had gone to Columbia together and were friendly. Almost certainly it was the same guy. I decided to google my old friend and found that there is a cardiologist associated with the University of Vermont named Martin Le Winter. Right undergraduate school and right age.  Bingo!

Retep was all for emailing him (to his University email)–I was conflicted.  It seemed a little creepy and pathetic that this is how I spend my time.  (God, I may need to take up golf.)  But I polled some friends including my Everyman, Luap, and all thought it wasn’t too weird, at all.  So, I sent him a short email saying how I had come across his card from my bar mitzvah and wasn’t it coincidental that I was friends with Retep.  I scanned and attached his note stationery and probably made some snarky comment about its existence.

That was a few weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing back from Dr. Le Winter.  Retep is incensed and wants to take a road trip to Vermont and confront, as he says “this Le Winter character”.  (I think he really needs to take up golf.) I’m much more sanguine about the matter.

What I’m not so sanguine about is that I now have all this bar mitzvah stuff that I don’t know what to do with it.  My mother saved it for forty-odd years and it seems, how shall I say . . . almost callous and a sacrilege to just dump it.  It makes me envy those writers and other famous people who donate their “papers” to a museum or the university they attended.  Imagine that, they’ll pick up the crap that’s been collecting dust in your attic and store it for you in theirs!  And you get a tax deduction to boot. What a racket!

Unfortunately, I graduated from Brooklyn College with a class of about eighteen thousand which was too many for me to differentiate myself. They don’t know me from a hole in the wall.  I did take some grad courses at City College, but that was a long time ago and again, I didn’t make my mark there (what a great expression!). Actually, the institution that I’ve had most to do with lately is, in fact, the University of Vermont  So what I’ve decided to do is send all this stuff on up to their Religious Studies Department with a cover letter explaining that this might be an important addition to their collection seeing that it includes an old and original Le Winter artifact.  Maybe, as a sweetener, I’ll send along the album, as well.


4 Responses to “Le Winter Of Our Discontent”

  1. Rich Says:

    I was hoping your experience with Mr. Le Winter would help me decide whether to send an email to Asher R., who was my a close friend until age 12, when he moved away to Long Island. His email address (short story about this) has been sitting on my desk ever since I got it from Irma G (remember her?), when I met her for coffee in Berkeley at least 10-15 years ago. It’s been 59 years since I’ve seen Asher. What do you think? I know for a fact he would be in pile four if I had such a pile. Your story had an unstisfactory ending for me, although this might not be the last of it. Dr. Le Winter (what kind of name is that?) might very well show up at your door one day.


    • iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

      Rich… I’ve been in touch with this Asher fellow. He turned out not to be such a nice guy. (and, he’s quite old now.) so don’t beat yourself up. a couple of other things to consider—remember what happened the last time we tried to get ‘in touch’ with an old friend of ours. this is risky business. i’m 1/2 expecting Le Winter’s grieving widow to get in touch and really tear into me.

      i had never really thought that much about his name—but it worked so perfectly for the title for this blog. could you imagine if it was entitled, ‘The Berger of our discontent’–kind of loses something.

      i’ll be in touch

  2. Sister Says:

    This is hysterical!! Finally, all that practice made you perfect!
    (btw,No backsies)

    • iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

      Backsies!…who said anything about backsies. I’ve decided to donate the ‘papers’ to YIVO instead.

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