THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY)

Everyone has a shining moment. My Dad’s bears repeating. He really slayed it!

So Dad got the idea for a fantastic business related to patent filings and infringements, kind of an amalgam between legal and IT but not a legal practice, strictly speaking. As I am able to remember it, he had become friendly with Ed Greer, who was head patent counsel for the Union Carbide Corporation. Union Carbide was one of the biggest chemical corporations of the day and was headquartered in their own magnificent skyscraper two blocks up Park Avenue from the Pan Am Building.

It was a probably a simple matter for Dad to put it together that large corporate patent owners could benefit from some form of computer calendaring.
Keep in mind that a large company like Union Carbide owned a large portfolio of patents. They would initially file patent applications in the home country, USA for Union Carbide. And as they were a large multinational corporation selling their wares everywhere, once the patent applications were accepted here at home, they would then engage in an international filing program elsewhere, typically the largest 15 countries in Western Europe and then Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and maybe Brazil and South Africa to boot.

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84TH STREET STATION, 3RD AVE EL

With great sadness, I regret to inform my readers of the passing on September 29, 2016 of Kit Davidson, Director and Producer of “3RD AVE EL.”  I find myself fortunate to have interviewed him for this blog a few months before his death.  Please see my post above for a review of his film; I compared it to Roshomon!  This news was sent along to me by Mr. Joseph Frank, former police officer, who found my stories about THE LOST LINE.

You see, Joe grew up by the 3rd Avenue El and recently found my web site due to his interest in elevated trains.  Specifically, he is from the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan — where I live — which is an old German and Hungarian enclave from the 20th century.

GRAZING

Above: beautiful Charolais cows in France.  Livestock photo by the author.

During my furtive job search in 1985, Brown Brothers Harriman was obviously not the place where yours truly got closest to the Finest Escape from an injurious job situation.  That distinction belongs to an interesting entity called the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (“MHT”), otherwise known as “Manny Hanny.”  A storied bank that had grown on the back of multiple acquisitions, by the mid-1980s it was one of the largest in New York City (and the world, for that matter).

However come 1992, it was no more.  Kaput.

But in its day, one of its core strengths lay in its international banking operations, which was my particular interest.  Plunging my contact list, I came to visit the headquarters numerous times at 270 Park Avenue.  Astute readers may recognize that very same address from previous posts as Manny Hanny had purchased it from none other than Union Carbide.  This was the very same building that Dad had dragged me to when he went trolling for secretaries in the 1960s, see my post “THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY).”

It was the locale of the big score in my family, in other words, hallowed ground.  Maybe it would be the same for me, personally.

MAN-KILLER!!!

In my post last week named after Salvador Dali’s surrealistic masterpiece, “PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY,” I ended the story, “I dusted off my resume and …”

… sent it off to the HR departments at all of my favorite potential employers!  With, as previously noted, many misgivings.  But I had to do it.  It was time.

Not long after, some initial feedback trickled back to me and it was a little unsettling.

Turns out that I was no longer what you would consider to be a new graduate.  Technically speaking, this meant that I was trying to make a prospective “career change.”  In the job market, that’s a no-no and often a no-go.  You see, if you’re skilled in one thing, you are automatically presumed to be no good for anything else.  The job market is very simple-minded that way.

Look, I don’t write the rules.  Just a silly blog.  I’m merely reporting here.  You decide.

OF GIANTS AND DWARFS

Special note: Today is Dad’s 98th birthday!

As related in my last two posts, “THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS,” and “FIRST TEST,” my full-time entry into the family business was marked by both gloom and doom on one hand, and affirmation on the other.

You could say it was a study of extremes. Like my Dad.

The location of the office was, well, anything but standard.  It was close to my home in Manhattan — five miles as the crow flies.  Just across the river, the first stop.

Yet, it was hideous from the point of view of public transportation.  Two subway lines to Times Square; a bus from the New Jersey Embassy (otherwise known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal); and then a quarter mile uphill slog.  This was a tough commute of one hour’s duration, each way.  It was the Goddamn bus that took the longest, inching its way through hellacious traffic to and from the Lincoln Tunnel.  If I could have walked on water, I could have hoofed the whole thing in just about the same amount of time.

MING AND DARTH

Aside from World War II and the War of the Worlds broadcast, there were other haps in the 1930s and 1940s that informed my Dad’s interests and personality.  For example, as he told me numerous times, his favorite comic strip of the era was Flash Gordon.  Flash was big at the time.  Dad loved Flash so much, it was even his college nickname!

As I reviewed the original comic strip in preparation for this post, I was struck by how much it resembles Star Wars of my generation.  The action takes place on the planet Mongo, locale of kingdoms like Arboria (forests) and Frigia (ice).  Kings and Queens galore!  And the villain?  A bad guy with interesting headwear!

Ming the Merciless

Meet Ming the Merciless!

When looking at the above image of Ming, I am not sure if Darth Vader was ever so similar a lady killer.  Well, the young Jedi Anakin certainly was, in the prequels.  Unfortunately, he lost his man parts — GOP Presidential candidates please take note — on the lava planet (or moon, whichever) after losing the sword fight to Obi Wan.

On the other hand, what Flash didn’t have was the tiresome drama of Luke and Leia playing “who’s your daddy?”  Who needs parents anyway?  That’s right, you heard it asked here on the Bernard Olcott Story blog!

LEADING TO WAR

Over the past few weeks, I have written a lot about the 1940s, an era well before my time.  It was, by any measure, a very scary decade.

In my travels across Europe, I have gone looking for the remnants of World War II.  (Interestingly, none are visible in Japan, except for the gradual realization that all architecture is post 1950.)  There is the tour of Churchill’s bunker on King Charles Street in London.  Walking around Paris, you can’t help but notice the historical markers here and there memorializing the location where a patriot was shot by the Nazis.  In both cities, I have walked down certain streets and noticed numerous pockmarks on the graceful facades.¹

At times, I have looked up into the sky and tried to imagine the sounds of bombers, the rumble of artillery, or the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire.  From the damage to the buildings around me, I could tell I was standing in the very places where hell reigned.  But, in every case, I failed to feel it.  Just cloudy skies above, and the sounds of traffic around me.  I could sense the highs and graces of Europe, but I just couldn’t visualize or feel the war that was very real.

The drumbeat to the war is best documented, in my opinion, in William L. Shirer’s remarkable tome The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich.  A bigoted politician – whose ancestor had fortuitously changed the family name from something sounding silly ² – built a national campaign scapegoating minorities to win an election in a major European state.  He successfully manipulated the new media of the era – radio and motion pictures – to win the adulation of the masses.³

Sound familiar?  Can’t happen here, right?