Summer - 1943
When I was older, a Marine Corps vet, Montana resident, avid hunter, My mother once asked in truly perplexed incomprehension, "What kind of a Jew pulls a trigger?" It was not blood lust but a desire to put food on my plate that came from the mountains, woods, and fields where I always planned to live, which was not going to be Baltimore. No fish. I hated fish, especially the burnt offerings served up by my mother still reeking of wharf. I'd pack the stuff into my cheek like a goddamn squirrel and kept that mush-ball in the pouch until I could slip it under the table to Daisy, my dog, who'd eat anything. Los Angeles did introduce me to sushi which I avoided like rat turds until one day, came a Hollywood lunch, I didn't, any more. Tuna sushi became God's gift and one reason to prolong my stay in LA long after I should have left. There were other reasons like beautiful actresses, one of whom,was Jamie Donnelly,. Our union is coming into 39 years with a long way to go. I'd walk out the door of our first house in Beachwood Canyon to doves, coyotes, maybe a cougar, hawks, hummingbirds, human comedy, but not elk, deer, bear - grizzly & black - beaver, woodchucks, geese, ducks, ,,,eagles, hawks. I only hunted deer and elk,,duck and geese, although while in the tropics I did help take a wild boar, with a cutlass no less, all of it eaten by the locals in a grand feast. At some point I will go further into this subject. Now I want to talk about Baltimore, Maryland, 1943.
Where did a suburban Jewish kid get the idea of traveling to all kinds of places where there were no Jews, (1). and (2). Why do you do things like a goy? To which I had no answer, just visions and dreams, things I wanted to do. Religion played no part in it. I have a close friend, a smart, adventurous fellow, excellent wing shot, asked me the same question, excuse me, made the following statement, "Funny, you dress like a wasp. You've got the hobbies of a wasp. We're in the Yale Club having scotch, but you're a Jew, right?" He was a genuine wasp himself and somewhat bemused at this infidel. Never planned it that way. Never thought that Jews were inferior to anybody. Never even imagined that I was anything other than me, and, truthfully, at that time in my life and for years thereafter, I really didn't yet know who I was, just steppin' up, just puttin' it all together piece by piece.
It was the summer of 1943. I know it was summer because I was wearing shorts with a small emblem on the pocket that I thought pretty neat and had a full canteen with me, a little boy just shy of three and not much over two feet tall.
Our backyard at 3814 was fenced in by a white picket fence. I think there were only three houses on our block, no housing development of any kind, just surrounding acres and acres of woodland, and street-lights burning blue gas flames within large, clear glass enclosures. Imagine: an endless surround of woods, thick all around. In one corner of the fence abutting the forest was, I think, a lilac bush. It towered over me and hid me from view - my hide-out, my place of peace and comfort. I''d bring string, find a proper length of flexible wood, sit down on the lip at the corner of that white picket fence, and fashion a bow-and-arrow. This was ground zero. I then climbed over the fence and began stalking through the woods "hunting" squirrels and other wild game. I was dead serious. I was hunting! Something marvelous happened.
I stopped under a tree and watched a squirrel scurry among the branches. It froze, looked at me, and made the usual squirrel sound, that chatter. In places like Alaska it's a method of alerting other animals there's a human lurking close by. That day when I was three I didn't know what it was saying, however, for some reason, I said it back. I chattered. The squirrel chattered back then I chattered back, chatter, chatter, chatter, and damn if that squirrel didn't crawl down from the tree and crawled up on me, stayed on my shoulder for I don't know how long, but it did. It stayed right there.
I was able to keep up this conversation with squirrels for a long time. When I was in grad school the campus was filled with oak, beech, and elm trees, in other words, lots of nuts and of squirrels. I could still get their attention, even get them to move a couple of feet or so towards me, but, except for when I was three, I could not get them to come any closer.
Now, decades, a lifetime later, I sometimes get them to look, sometimes stop perhaps for a nano-second, but then they move on, and so do I.