This is the only picture I have of one of the friends I made in Korea. Chuck Cavallero is on the left and Bill Baily on the right. But Chuck is the one I'm referring to. He arrived just before the war ended and we hit it off right away. He was from Philadelphia and had aspirations of being a dancer on Broadway. I'm quick to point out here that although most of the male dancers in New York are gay, Chuck was not one of them. He noticed me working on one of my song lyrics and decided then he'd like to join me in that endeavor. We started collaborating musically, both sort of doing lyrics and me doing the music. We even had an idea for a Broadway musical and outlined most of the songs and orchestrations. One I remember was called "The Show's Closing," and one of the musical interludes was going to be "Study in Chartreuse." How pretentious. We wrote other songs just to be writing songs and made plans for me to join him and his brother in Philadelphia after he got home. I was mustered out in July of 1954 and he sometime in the fall. Our plan was for me to fly to Philadelphia for New Year's Eve, stay there at his parents' house, and then Chuck and I and Chuck's brother Joe would take the train to New York, find an apartment, find jobs, and then continue with our plans for hitting Tin Pan Alley. He would continue his dance lessons, I would take singing lessons, and we'd continue writing music.
And that's kind of what we did. We got jobs with the Washington Detective Agency, working undercover (ooo, doesn't that sound interesting) for two brothers straight out of Damon Runyon. I say undercover because what they assigned us to was sort of illegal. Chuck and I had a clandestine meeting with the owner of White Towers, a chain of hamburger joints up and down the East Coast. We were taken to the meeting by one of the brothers, offered the opportunity of working at various of the New York based White Towers, just to keep our eyes open for any scams our fellow employees might be running that were costing the White Tower Corporation money. I worked in three different locations, the last one right across the street from Madison Square Garden. The scams involved stealing the coffee creamers (big deal) and using one bag of coffee for two pots of coffee, one pot for White Towers and one for the employees to split. Doesn't sound like much but in the course of a day in maybe five hundred locations that would add up to quite a bit. Once a week we'd meet one of the brothers in some hotel lobby, report our findings, get paid in cash from him (usually about $50) to go with what we made above the table from White Towers. It came out to about $100 a week, which in 1955 was equal to about $1,000 a week today. The White Tower thing lasted two or three months. Then we were made official, had our fingerprints taken at one of the police precincts and filled out the paperwork to become private detectives in New York State.
My last assignment was in the Bulova Watch Company out on Long Island. I was to work as an assistant oiler, simply listening for any talk of unionizing and reporting back to one of the brothers. Again, I got paid from both places, both above the table. I was there for one or two months before I decided I'd had enough of New York. I never heard a word about unionizing.
In the six months I was in New York, I drank way too much, saw about a million movies, broke my left metatarsal when I dropped a full fifty-five gallon barrel of oil on my foot, took about a dozen singing lessons (my specialty song was "Young and Foolish" from a short running Broadway musical called Plain and Fancy), wrote very few songs, although we did have two of them recorded on a demo disk, and that's about it.
The things I never did are more characteristic. Not to be taken for a country hick, I never looked up when I was walking down a NY street or avenue, never climbed the Empire State Building, never went to Central Park, never went to UN Headquarters, never went to any shows other than Plain and Fancy. To complete my list of nevers, after I left Chuck and Joe in New York, I never once wrote to Chuck or contacted him in any way. That was always one of the things I would do someday. Yeah, someday. By the time I finally located him some fifty years later, he had already died from cancer.
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I’m a collector. I collect things that simply drive my wife crazy. One never knows when one will need one or more of the things I collect. The daily "Arizona Republic" arrives with a rubber band holding it together. I dutifully remove it from the paper and drop it into my collection drawer in the kitchen. I now have in the neighborhood of two thousand rubber bands in that drawer. One never knows when one will need a rubber band. They reside loosely in the drawer along with the many empty prescription bottles there. I collect those also. I just can’t bring myself to throw away perfectly good empty prescription bottles. I suppose I should start putting the rubber bands into the prescription bottles. Maybe next week. I also have a collection of cocktail picks for the many olives we consume in our evening Scotch-and-waters. My favorites are the black ones from Outback. Whenever we eat at Outback, we each have two dirty martinis with three olives and I carefully save the picks to bring home with me. We must have three or four hundred variously colored cocktail picks. One never knows when one will need another cocktail pick. We also go through a lot of kitty litter, which we buy at CostCo in forty-pound buckets, square white plastic containers with snap-down lids. What does one do with an empty plastic bucket? Well, one saves it. What else? And they make admirable containers for the many books I collect. I keep books by author in those plastic containers. I must now have twenty or more in the garage, filled with books by author. And my collecting of books can just barely keep up with the cats’ usage of their litter. I have about six empty buckets right now, so I think I’m safe for a while. The obvious question that comes up with all this collecting: What happens to it all when I die? In the old days, when I was a mere thirty or forty, death was never a consideration. The collections would always be around and would always be needed. But now, at seventy-five, I have to think about a cutoff point in my collecting. When I go to CostCo to buy "stuff" in quantity, how many cans of green beans or jars of olives or large boxes of cereal or cans of albacore tuna or chicken or plastic kitchen garbage bags or bags of frozen chicken breasts should I buy? I must always think ahead to the possibility of death. And one wouldn’t want to meet his maker leaving behind too much "stuff." Maybe I should get rid of some of the prescription bottles. Nah, the prescription bottles might come in handy for storing my ashes.