A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

Please allow me to introduce you to Bernard Olcott, 1918-2006, a man who led a legendary and iconoclastic American life.

Welcome to my blog.  My goal is to provide you with stories from times past by which you might catch glimpses of yourself, or of someone you know intimately. Bernard Olcott touched the world, from Japan to England to Egypt to Kansas to New Jersey. Maybe you know some of these places, too.

Every Thursday afternoon, I’ll present you with a new story, some new adventure or insight, dusted with more than just a little modern context and quirky cultural references. Dad loved screwball humor; although he took himself seriously as an attorney, he wouldn’t stop laughing if you called him an ‘ambulance chaser.’  You see, this is the point: we can’t pick our parents, but we sure as hell can cherry pick their best qualities. And that, my friends, is what will set you free.

THE BERNARD OLCOTT STORY IS ON SPRING, I MEAN, EXTENDED BREAK

As events in my story spin out of control due to, among other factors, stock market crashes, promises abrogated, people thieving, trolls gorging, sump pumps overflowing, and patents ever renewed, the Bernard Olcott Story is taking a break for a while.

The end point to this Phase One of the Story will be November 1995.  I have been building up to it for 3 years now.  We’re just about there.  I’ve got one story written, another one started, and the end in sight.

Update below!

THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY

Lenny, the star of my last post, “THE TROUBLE WITH LENNY,” was a strange character. He was actually introduced here, in THE BERNARD OLCOTT STORY, much earlier in my post, “OF GIANTS AND DWARFS.” I’ll leave it to the readers to determine into which category he belonged.

But Lenny definitely had sticky fingers. I knew him as my Dad’s secretary for a few weeks one summer.  The he dropped completely out of sight, out of mind for a school year, where I learned his end story as a kind of epilogue the following summer.

I thought Lenny was a forgettable character in the Bernard Olcott story. He should have been. But he wasn’t. He was one of those initial indicators that something might have been amiss. I was maybe 8 years old at the time. I didn’t recognize it as the signal I could have at the time.  If I were truly psychic.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31, REVISITED

The 2nd part of the Room 31 saga.  I stop and visit the Bates Motel.  Personally.  A repeat from last year.

23 years after the events of my last story, “CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31,” would you know that your humble narrator is still plying the highways of the Garden State? In fact, I drive through the Lincoln Tunnel regularly on my way to work.

As I pondered this story, I was furtively glancing over my shoulder while exiting or entering the I-495 trench leading to the gaping hole of the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s a very busy place, a “great attractor” of traffic where cars merge and change lanes on a moment’s notice. I could only steal a glimpse or two safely of the former York Motel, more easily on the New York-bound side. It’s still there, looking much more polished in 2017 than it did in 1994 (or 1982). Gone is the sign advertising “hourly rates.” Up is the new logo of a national motel chain and what appears to be coat of fresh looking white paint.

I had never been a guest of the York Motel on a nightly – or otherwise – basis and thought that stopping by for a quick look around might be interesting. I wondered if I would be able to find the infamous room 31 and what the motel might look and feel like close up.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31

Today, on tap for you is a repeat, my number one post from last year.  Please do continue to look under those motel mattresses, if you are a road warrior.

Crashes were not always relegated to software programs. Sometimes I experienced other kinds.  And they often happened close to the office.  Or next to scary places nearby.

In late spring 1994, Dad and I made a marketing call to a potential client without Bob. It was a major telecom company based in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from Weehawken. The prospect was already running one of our competitor’s patent management systems, and wasn’t looking for a change. Rather, this was going to be a straight-up discussion about annuity payment services, right down Dad’s alley.

After some preparation, we plunked down inside my Dad’s lobotomized Mercedes Benz and traced our way to the company via the Garden State’s ribbon of expressways as guided by a crusty folded highway map.  As mentioned in my post “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT,” Dad had a method of increasing gasoline efficiency in automobile engines. It involved disabling multiple cylinders within the engine based on the simple premise that each cylinder is a source of fuel consumption and combustion. If you can shut them off, you will consume less fuel.

What could be simpler?

THE TROUBLE WITH LENNY

The winter of 1963-1964 started off harshly for adults. Kids like me in kindergarten were oblivious and went about our business playing house, doctor, tag, World Wide Wrestling Federation re-enactments, and what-not.

First there was the Kennedy Assassination for Thanksgiving. I have no idea where I was when the shooting went down in Dallas that Friday at 1:30 PM EST other than that I was probably in class at The Cathedral School off of Eola Park in Orlando. No one came to inform us that the President had been shot and killed. Nope, we went home that day, just like normal, played with our toys for the weekend, and, when Monday came around, suddenly there was no school.  They had to tell us then.

“Why is there no school today?” I asked my Mom.

“It’s Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday. There’s no school this week,” came her reply.  I was too young to know that there is always school Monday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

That was just fine with me. I could catch up on Bullwinkle on the black and white TV. You see, we didn’t have the internet in 1963.

But I was stymied right away. Boris and Natasha, the famous Russian spies trying to seize power on behalf of Pottsylvania (they would have to wait until the Presidential election of 2016 before succeeding), were not on the screen scheming to block Rocky and Bullwinkle.

0575-ROCKY & BULLWINKLE CARTOON CHARACTER -- 0410332A.4645.jpg

SYMPATHY FOR THE YAK, PART 1

The Central Park Zoo in the mid-to-late 1960s barely resembles today’s facility.  The centerpiece, the Sea Lion Pool, which remains pretty much as it was (with the addition of plexiglass walls, so you can see the seals swimming underwater). But the rest of it, which resembled a prison for animals, has been dramatically remodeled to be the more “naturalistic” habitat seen today.

CP Zoo2

For one thing, back then you could tell when you were close to the Zoo by the strong smell of excrement. Today, the smell is gone, with one exception: the Penguin room which has a fairly strong scent of guano. Well, they do have a lot of water birds paddling around in the simulated Antarctic environment; the main attraction is their own indoor  large plexiglass pool where the aquatic acrobats can be admired while “flying” through the water.  According to the penguin keeper, they love it when the keepers “turn the rain on.”

Zoo Pengies.jpg

Back in the mid-1960s, I remember a row of cells behind the Sea Lion pool, where incarcerated animals could be seen behind two rows of bars. There was a gorilla, a leopard, and several other inmates. They either sat at the bars looking out sullenly, or paced back and forth endlessly.

THE AUTOMAT

From the hall of ersatz messages, we walked around the corner to the authentic original temple of modern dining, the Automat.

Long before McDonald’s and Burger King moved from strip mall paradises out on Highway 50 in Orlando to urban centers near Grand Central, Horn & Hardart had reigned supreme as America’s original fast food restaurant. Like the post office, the walls were covered with tiny glass windows displaying Salisbury steak, sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, pudding, or slices of cherry pie, all fed by kitchen staff behind the wall. After inserting either coin or token into the slot and turning the handle, you could raise the window and take out the delicacy.

There was also a cafeteria line if you had more time to wait.