welcome to me

the autobiography of ralph robert moore



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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2003 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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volume one: the crib years
section one

My first memory was told to me by my mother.

My parents were living in a third floor walk-up on Steamboat Road in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was the early fifties.

Steamboat Road traveled, in a modest, two-lane way, down a narrow strip of land surrounded by Long Island Sound, the backyards of the houses on either side leading down to small private piers, wheeling white sea gulls, and strong sea smells. My maternal grandparents owned a home farther down the road than my parents' walk-up, closer to the harbor (the value of a home on Steamboat Road rose according to how close it was to Greenwich Harbor); my maternal uncle Jimmy lived closest of all to the solid granite pier at the very end of Steamboat (no guardrails, this was the fifties), a pier on which years later I'd stand at the very edge of the wet, hard drop-off, modest white surf crashing and swirling five feet below, to stare out past the sailing ships and narrowness of the harbor to the open sea beyond.

At its opposite end, Steamboat Road passed fields and stone walls to disappear under the large, black iron diamonds of an overhead railroad trestle, emerging out from under all that weight and workmanship as Greenwich Avenue, the main commercial street in Greenwich, gently sloping up block after block past two-story shops, the occasional large, grey-granite public building or church, to its very top, where cars could turn onto the Boston Post Road, at that time the quickest route out of town.

According to my mother, my first memory, which took place in that third-floor walk-up, involved me every morning bending over on my uncertain legs, laboriously lifting up one phone directory after another, toddling its weight over to the front, seaward window of the walk-up, where I'd plop it down, baby-racing back to the black dial phone to scrabble up the next directory, carrying it, as if it were a cat, to add to the height I was building. Once I had the phone directories all slopped atop each other under the window, I'd climb up the sliding pile, rest my forearms on the white sill of the window, and watch the big boats sail into, and more importantly out of, Greenwich Harbor. According to my mother, who repeated this story to me until she died, until it became not only her recollection but mine, this was my main activity each day. Watching ships float away for somewhere else.

My first memory, in other words, was of leaving.

I was a first-born, named after my father.

Most of the people I am going to write about now, nearly all of them, are dead. They say someone lives as long as at least one person remembers them, so here they come, walking towards us down the quiet street, gently changing ages as they get nearer.

My ancestors on my mother's paternal side arrived in America from Ireland in the mid-1800's, desperate like all their countrymen to find sustenance somewhere in the world outside poor dear Eire, where the potato famine was at its worse. My maternal great grandfather, James D. Walker, a big man with a walrus moustache, settled in Greenwich, at that time alternately known as Green Witch, soon becoming one of its most successful contractors, building the Town Hall, which still stands, although flanked now by wings built by someone with a more modest imagination; the original Greenwich Library halfway down Greenwich Avenue, razed during my early teens to put up a Woolworth's department store, a Colonial cornice added to its top when the townspeople protested it didn't fit in architecturally with the rest of the town buildings; and a large number of splendid, grey-granite residences, most of them behind tall iron gates, their heaviness tucked within the emerald boughs of the trees nestling them, their castle-like extravagance, in those times, in the damp, early-evening lightening luxury of the young nineteen hundreds, what was expected by the wealthy for their private residences.

James D. fathered two sons, Johnny, my grandfather, and Dewey. Long after his death, long after only knowing him as a tall, skinny man with a shock of white hair who dressed only in black, with sneakers, lower face sunken in because all his teeth except the short row of lower front incisors were gone, giving him a voodoo doll appearance, I saw photographs of John as a young man, in his early twenties, black and white ghost-like photos from early in this century, when trees so dominate the shots, and was struck by how contemporary he looked with his handsome face, his squint at the camera, black hair and, astonishingly, a moustache.

John went to college, unusual in those days, around 1910, in Stamford, Connecticut, earning an engineering degree. I remember him a half-century later, in the dark front parlor of my grandparents' home, asking me and my younger cousin Joan, his whiskey-fruited breath between us on the couch, what the shortest distance was between two points. I recall him, knowing him then only as someone who sipped all during the day, flask weighing down the left side of his back pocket, who went into occasional rages in my grandparents' kitchen, toothlessly laying down the law, being astonished that he knew the answer Joan and I didn't, a straight line. It was one of the few tricks he had left by then, that had survived into the swinging sixties.

Once he graduated college John joined his father's construction firm, and probably would have done quite well at it except his father, James D, died suddenly of a heart attack. Johnny and Dewey, just out of their teens, had to take over the business, but were not at all prepared for that weight yet. For years I had in my possession a small notebook with a pale yellow cover, spine tightly sewn with white thread, which has since floated away, in which my grandfather entered his business activities during 1916, 1917 and 1918. In his careful, black spidery script, he recorded expenses for each construction job, and the hours each of the men under him worked. Interesting in its early pages for how little things cost then, the journal progressively becomes a record of fewer and fewer construction jobs secured, with bottom-page entries of having to lay so-and-so off today. The strain probably started his drinking. The pages at the back half of the notebook were blank and, still, a half century later, bright, having never been cracked apart until I did.

John married early, to Nellie Sweeney, my maternal grandmother, who got off the boat from Ireland and found a job as a maid in one of the great stone homes James D built. This is such a coincidence, I assume that's where Johnny and Nellie met, he the tall young son of the owner of the construction firm that built the home, standing in the high-ceilinged foyer waiting for the home owner to come out of the library, Nellie the plump young giggling thing with blue eyes and crimson cheeks who let John in. I know nothing of their courtship, or how they were with each other those early years, but I'm sure they were happy in the way most young couples are, spending time alone together, getting their first home together, staying up evenings talking around the kitchen table while the rest of the world, beyond the windows, did unimportant things. I do know Johnny played the violin, and Nellie the cello, and that often, according to my mother, they would play a piece together for their children, after dinner, in the parlor, where there were chairs and paintings, but no TV, or even radio at first. All this comes down to me through my mother, of course: by the time I knew them, the relationship had changed over the years into one where Johnny spent most of the day up at the local Knights of Columbus, shooting pool and drinking with his cronies, coming home around dinnertime sometimes in a good mood, sometimes not, taking his black wool cap off to sit in the best chair in the parlor, the lamp behind him shining down on his white shock of hair and thin, ruddy cheeks while he read the local paper and expounded on the world for my benefit. When, as a child, I visited my grandparents, which was often, because I enjoyed my grandmother's company so much, she was the kindest person I knew, there was throughout the day the mild worry over what mood my grandfather would be in when we heard his heavy steps on the front porch, his muttered curses as he flipped through the keys on his ring to find the right one. When he brought friends home with him, my grandmother would whisper to me not to put Mitch Miller on TV, because she feared they all would then push back their chairs away from the kitchen table, where they were drinking and laughing, filling the entrance to the parlor where she and I sat, to start singing along. Sometimes, a few times, my grandmother and I sat halfway up the stairs, side by side on the landing at the turn, while they cavorted downstairs in the parlor we had had to abandon. Instinctively, I knew not to tell my parents about these times, for fear I wouldn't be allowed to come back. I always wanted to come back. I loved my grandmother.

Like most parents, Johnny and Nellie named two of their children after themselves, but these were the two children they outlived. John Jr. died at age two of pneumonia; their daughter Nellie, the oldest of the children, and considered the star of the family, died soon after marrying, while preparing dinner for her young husband, thinking she had properly lit the gas jets of the oven, when in fact she hadn't, the gas seeping silently through the kitchen while she chopped and peeled. Nellie talked sometimes about the tragedy, her voice dropping, her faith in God asserting itself. Johnny never did.

The death of their daughter made my mother, Elizabeth, the eldest child. Next oldest was Jimmy; youngest was Mary.

Jimmy was an all-American Irish Catholic boy: a few centimeters away from handsome, but still good-looking enough with his strong face and longish black hair, a lock of which would always fall across his forehead. I remember old photos of him on a long-ago football field, dressed in old-fashioned grey sweats just before the game; pictures of him in black robes and hat, with a long string of rosary beads down his side, while he studied at a seminary to become a priest. World War Two broke out, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and Jimmy, like a lot of young men his age, dropped what they were doing to enlist, in his case in the Marines, which was very much like him. My grandfather kept a copy of the famous Iwo Jima photograph on the wall in the front parlor. I remember during the sixties he and one or another of his friends arguing over the identities of the four or five men raising the American flag above an important mudrise, each convinced one of the Marines was their own son.

After the war was won, Jimmy came home and decided he didn't want to be a priest after all. He asked his father, Johnny, for the tuition to attend Fordham University in New York City, an hour's commute away by train, but my grandfather would only lend the money if Jimmy agreed to stop smoking (my grandfather himself smoked a pipe until his teeth fell out, then switched to Lucky Strikes, which he smoked right up to his death). Jimmy bridled at the idea of any strings being attached to the money, and took part-time jobs to raise the tuition himself. If a rift existed between father and son before this, surely it worsened then. I remember Jimmy often mentioning this incident later when he spoke to me.

My uncle was an ambitious man, "ready to take on the world" in that wonderful phrase, and in fact not only ready but impatient to do so. Once he graduated he went to work in New York City for an employment placement firm, learning the business and making contacts, then set up his own company, The Walker Agency, in the fifties. When I was a young teenager he invited me to work in his office for a week or two during Summer break. I still remember the excitement of boarding the big, black train in Greenwich with him each morning, white steam rising out of the heaviness of its machinery, me in a makeshift suit that I think was really a jacket and pants that sort of matched, him talking to me all the way in about his life and his philosophy of business. He was a serious man, an honest man, out to earn a good income without compromising his values. A "square-shooter". Once in the City we'd go first to a tall, skinny Roman Catholic church down one of the sidestreets, where he'd pray briefly, then off to a huge cafeteria where we'd each have dispensed to us a cup of coffee, me trying to be nonchalant about being allowed to drink something so adult, in New York City of all places, both of us sitting at a little table surrounded by hundreds of men in business suits while he talked some more to me, never once telling a joke, his jet-black eyebrows furrowing sometimes as he made a particularly important point to me. I remember very little of his talks now, except that he would occasionally stop talking because he had asked me a question I hadn't heard, and was politely waiting for my answer, and that the question, once he at my request repeated it, was always to ask if he were boring me.

He had four daughters, each long-haired and blonde, but no son. Even at my early age I knew I was being groomed by him to take over the business, because what was the point of him creating this business if he had no one to pass it on to? And it was quite a business. Although he had only one employee, a white-haired male assistant who really was not all that go-getting, he placed Presidents and Vice-Presidents with different international companies: RCA, several oil companies, and others. He told me with pride how a top executive placement firm in Chicago called themselves the "Jimmy Walkers of Chicago." On the train one morning he confided that although a lot of the men on the train with us were boastful, he in fact made more money than most of them. For decades afterwards, on both coasts and in between, I was astonished at how many people I met who, once I mentioned the name Jimmy Walker, actually knew my uncle. Their faces would light up, they would immediately talk about how fine a man he was, and how much he had helped them. I knew one doorman who kept squeezing my shoulder as if squeezing Jimmy's, telling me how he had had a nervous breakdown and how Jimmy, who he barely knew, had helped arrange to get him into a treatment facility, and then visited him weekly over the two years it took before he was ready to go out into the world again.

But I didn't want to take over his business. I wanted to live my own life, not someone else's. One day I told my uncle that, while he had been talking about something else-- I suddenly brought it up, because I was sincere in not wanting him to think by my silence I was agreeing with his version of my future. We talked a little about it; he was enough of a gentleman not to try to talk me out of my decision, or to bully me with his adulthood; if he was disappointed, and I honestly believe he was, he never, ever showed it to me, and he was never any less friendly or helpful to me through his remaining years. When he did die, he died alone, a few days before Christmas, his body found by a cleaning woman early one morning on the floor in front of the wide wooden desk in his New York City office, his health having by then deteriorated to where he thought stone statues were talking to him. I remember coming home from school that day and my mother standing in the middle of the kitchen crying like I had never seen her cry before or since, touching my shoulder and telling me of Jimmy's death. The next day we got a Christmas card from him, which she apparently read and held and reread quite a few times, that was my impression, while waiting for me to get home so she could show it to me. Inside, there it was, the blue-inked "Jimmy" neatly signed below the printed text. When he did die, the business died with him. Today, probably no one knows who Jimmy Walker was, except me and a few others, and now you.

Jimmy loved, and was very protective of, his younger sister Mary. After his death, rummaging through the wide trunks stored in my grandparents' attic, I came across, incredibly, a not-bad short story he had written in the forties, in which a girl named Mary was featured as the heroine, as well as, from a later decade, a 45 RPM of Johnny Mathis' hit, 'What Would My Mary Say?"

Being the baby in the family, Mary was indulged in ways the others weren't. If my mother was the steady one, and Jimmy the Great Hope, Mary was the fast one.

When I think of my Aunt Mary, the first thing I think of is her hair, unfortunately. For as long as I can remember, it was dry, thin and fly-away from being dyed so many times to its 'natural color', red, although the roots showed black. I think it was very important to her that she be a redhead, because of its associations. Whereas everyone else in my family was married and boring, Mary was wild: single, flamboyant, restaurant-frequenting, a gourmet cook, with a different dark-haired man showing up each time she visited us in her silk dresses, red lipstick worn proudly. She was the first person who took me out to a grown-up restaurant, the first to introduce me to pizza, the first adult to drink in my presence. The first time I heard, rather than read, the word 'fuck', it was from her lips. She smoked longer than any of her siblings, right up to her death, glass ashtrays balanced on every surface in her different apartments. She was always talking. Her voice was high, fast and enthusiastic, impossible to interrupt, drifting into secret-sharing digressions mid-way, a knowing drawl within conversational parentheses; it was only towards the end of each speech of hers that her chatter would unexpectedly dip down, into a disappointed tone, into broken-off sentences, as if her skate across a subject, started so enthusiastically, had failed, ultimately, to glide her to where she wanted. When this happened, this sudden deflation, this running out of words, and it did happen at the end of nearly all her monologues, in fact brought about their end, she'd look momentarily smaller and older, sitting there saying "Yeah…" a few times, cigarette to her red lips, clearly casting about in her mind for something else to talk about, to run with, and sometimes then I'd get one of those lifted-eyebrow smiles, then she'd snort, lowering her head as she shook her hair, having just remembered something funny someone had said to her yesterday, but she'd need to fill me in on the background details first.

Mary worked as a Purchasing Agent for a bank in Greenwich, the first woman ever to be hired to that position (this was the fifties). Still living with her parents on Steamboat Road (Johnny and Nellie), she'd invite me down once a week, on a Thursday, for one of her meals, usually lobster tails or something else I would never get at home, on one occasion naively asking her mother, Nellie, in her fast New York voice, if 'herbs' were pronounced with or without a silent 'h'. Because she wasn't that conscientious about washing plates, standing sideways at the sink, white cigarette jutting out of her red lips as she hurriedly spun a dish cloth around the face of another plate, I tended the next day, Friday, to have to excuse myself from high school gym class because of the diarrhea which would hit by then, but I never minded.

A wealthy, kindly man about ten years older than her, a bank executive, with a face like a young Edward G, Robinson, courted her for several years, asking her a number of times to marry, but although he took her to some of the best night spots in New York City, and bought her extravagant gifts, wraps and jewelry, she kept turning him down. Eventually, in her thirties, she married Ed Dean, son of Edward Dean, owner of a rare books and manuscripts shop in New York City (I used to love to pore over his annual catalogs: he had the original holograph manuscript of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage for sale, as well as several Shakespeare folios, and more). Ed's younger brother was the New England artist Robert Dean.

She married Ed because he 'did it' for her, although at that early age in my life I didn't really comprehend what 'it' was, only that it made someone I loved more than almost anyone in the world very happy. Ed himself first showed up at my parents' home with Mary for an introductory dinner in a well-tailored dark suit, something we kids weren't used to. Even with his jacket off, sitting in the best chair in the living room, it was strange to see a man at that time of night still in a white dress shirt and tie (my father rarely sat in the living room in anything other than slacks and a dark shirt, shoes off, black silk socks on a hassock while he watched TV.) Ed had mild brown eyes, soft brown hair that curled atop his head, a 'man's man' big, open face, with a voice that projected down the hallway, but a voice polite, well-modulated, and intelligent in its phrasings and pauses. After that initial visit, after they married, I would visit with them often, he and I sitting in the living room, talking about books, the first time I had ever done so with an adult (adults to me seemed not to care at all about books) while Mary whipped up something in the kitchen of whatever apartment they were staying in then. Later, after producing one child, Sheila, Mary and Dean separated, got back together again, separated again, but never divorced. Visiting my grandparents, where Mary was staying again, now with Sheila, I would sit out in the kitchen while I heard Mary take her nightly call from Ed, the call always going well at first, always ending with her hissing in a whisper that could be heard throughout the first floor, over my stare at the floor and my grandmother's folded hands in her lap, "You bastard! You bastard!". Mary didn't date anyone else, although she was conscious, in her fast New York-talk, hair-swinging way, of other men's interest in her. The rift started when Ed, a senior executive with an import company, was offered the opportunity to move to India for a few years to head up the company's operations there. Mary didn't want to go because she was afraid of snakes. After a lot of long, polite discussion, Ed turned down the opportunity, and soon thereafter left the company. He wound up pumping gas at a station near their apartment in Dobbs Ferry, New York; dark grease on his delicate hands, a couple of teeth missing from his smile. Later, he tried to get the Veteran's Administration to help pay for the counseling he felt he needed to get him over his depression; when they refused to, he showed up outside the VA early one morning before cars were out on the street and hung himself from a tree in front of the VA building. I don't think my Aunt Mary was ever happy again.

As often happens in autobiographies, I have less to say about my father's side of the family than about my mother's, simply because I know less about them. We visited them, and were visited by them, rarely; I don't think my mother really cared for any of them, for whatever reason.

My mother told me occasionally over the years that the family name, Moore, was not our real name; that my father's father told her once he had changed the family name to Moore because of the growing anti-German sentiment in America during the early years of the twentieth century (as if the Irish were really that much more respected, back then). What, then, was our real name? She wasn't sure, but thought it had been either Muir or Muri. Each time she would bring this up, my father, if within earshot, would insist that Moore was, in fact, our real name, and that it had never been changed from anything else. It had always been Moore. I like Moore better than Muir or Muri, but I suspect my mother was probably right about this, and my father wrong.

My father, Ralph Moore, was the youngest of about four boys and three girls. I have only the faintest memories of his father, whose name I believe was Edward, since Edward died of a heart attack while I was still very young, but I do vaguely remember bringing him cookies whenever we'd visit, and talking to him. I can't recall what the cookies were, or what we talked about, but I do authentically remember that I always enjoyed visiting him and talking to him. As I see him, he has a rather large head, white-haired and balding, and rimless glasses. This is probably not at all what he looked like, but it is how I've conveniently come to picture him when I think of him, which is rare.

My father's mother, my paternal grandmother, came from County Cork, in Ireland. Growing up, I saw her less frequently than Nellie, my maternal grandmother. I can't, at the moment, recall her first name, although I'm sure I heard it many times growing up. She was a quiet woman, with thick glasses. She could sit in a room with me for over an hour and not say a word. If I said something to her, she'd come out of whatever reverie she had been in, might ask me to repeat my remark, and then give a quick nod, saying "Oh, yes." or something similar before returning to her own thoughts. She lived a long life, longer than my other three grandparents, dying in her late eighties or early nineties. The time that I knew her, she lived in what were then called "projects", meaning low-income housing. The project she lived in consisted of several two and three-story structures, all built with unusually white concrete, filled with breezeways and outdoor stairways that seemed like they probably weren't safe places to pass by, after dark. Every time my father and I went to visit her, there'd be kids everywhere, running, screaming, playing in the dirt. Her apartment was on the first floor, which was good because she had some difficulty walking. There wasn't much furniture inside. None of us really talked very much during the visits-- usually we'd open the blinds if they weren't already open, and look out at the kids, and the cars that would occasionally pull up, or leave. Once, at my family's kitchen table, for some reason I don't recall I asked her if she could sing, and she surprisingly obliged me on the spot, tilting her head back and singing a tune I didn't recognize, in Gaelic.

I had little contact with my father's brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts, growing up.

One sister married a man named Ray, who I believe was very poor, and lived with him and their children in a grey-boarded shack that was so close to the water it was almost in it; this was on a grassy stretch of land one passed on the way to the Greenwich Harbor Club, an exclusive area: how Ray managed to secure what must have been some of the most expensive real estate in town, and not have it be somehow taken from him if for no other reason than that the shack was a terrible eyesore, always at least a few of its boards falling off, I don't have a clue. After the aunt of mine he was married to died at a young age, he married another one of my father's sisters.

My father's oldest brother was named Clarence. I saw him only once in my life, when I was in my early teens. Clarence moved away from Connecticut soon after returning from World War II, spending years in the Southwest prospecting for gold and uranium. Eventually he settled in Arizona where he worked on a local paper, I believe as a typesetter, while continuing his search. He retired in Florida, where he died. The one time I saw him, I was surprised to see he had grey hair, because none of my other uncles or aunts did at that point. He looked a bit like Liberace, by which I mean the same eyes, teeth and forehead.

The relative I knew best on my father's side was my Uncle Eddie, the only one of the brothers to have lost his hair, because, my father would periodically tell me, he kept putting lotions in it ( I never used lotion in my hair, but during the sixties my father kept warning me of studies he had read that men with long hair, such as I had then, would lose their hair within a couple of years, because the essential oils in the hair couldn't travel the entire length of male hair, as opposed to female hair). Eddie was a plumber. I remember him as being a nice guy, although I also remember that he and my mother did not like each other at all, and became less civil with each other as the years went on. Eddie apparently wanted to go out to bars a lot with my dad, which made my mother nervous, since Eddie had been divorced by his wife for repeatedly cheating on her. My mother suggested they drink beer and eat peanuts in our home, in whatever room they wanted, instead. I believe my dad did go along with her suggestion after some discussion. I don't know if Eddie ever took my parents up on this beer-drinking and peanut-eating opportunity. When my wife Mary and I visited my folks in 1988 just prior to our traveling out across America again to find a new place to live, my mother took me aside at one point and showed me a folded-over newspaper clipping from the Greenwich Time, dated about a year prior to our visit, announcing that Eddie had been arrested for soliciting an undercover policewoman. There was triumph in her indignation.

I see that I've only mentioned two paternal uncles, Clarence and Eddie, and I can't think of a third (I may have been thinking at one point that Ray was my father's brother, but he wasn't), so it may be that my father's family consisted of three boys and four girls.

My mother and father met after the end of World War Two, and married in the late forties. I can still picture the wedding photograph from the Greenwich Times they saved all these years, that I've seen every decade or so. My dad looks quite handsome, my mom, beautiful. They both have their hands on a long knife with a wide blade, which they've angled above a white wedding cake. White satin ribbons are swirled around the knife's handle. My father had been working for the highway department, but around the time of the marriage got a job with the U.S. Post Office, delivering mail. My mother worked as a teller at a local bank, a job she held off and on until her retirement at sixty-five. She died in the late nineties. The last years of her life she had Alzheimer's Disease, and so although I sobbed when I learned she was dead, she was gone, I got over it quicker than I otherwise would have. To me, in a very real way she was taken from me the first time I called her at the nursing home and she didn't know, throughout the conversation, who she was talking to, because even though she was still alive, and in fact would live about another five years from that point, I could never again have a conversation with her. Which was a shame, because I always enjoyed our phone conversations, even though they rarely got beyond the weather, and how the car was behaving, and how my job was. In that sense, Alzheimer's is a two-way mirror. You can see them, but they can't see you.

Shortly after my parents married, in the late forties, they decided to start a family. By my calculations, counting backwards, my father got my mother pregnant on February 28, 1950, the last day of the shortest month of the year. Knowing my father's morbid fear of spending money, it's likely every window in their apartment was tightly shut that night against the cold air outside, and an old overcoat laid against the bottom of the hallway door, to keep out drafts, so there must have been a radiator smell in the rooms that night. I would have preferred fresh air blowing in past white curtains, their billowings almost knocking over a glass vase of tulips and daffodils, but of course I had no say in the matter. As my sperm reached my egg, I burrowed into me with a tremendous amount of tail-flapping, marking the beginning of my life long enthusiasm for sex. What is most surprising to me about the Internet at this point, early into the new Millenium, is how little information is on it. I have spent an hour or so trying to learn more about February 28, 1950 (what the weather was like in Greenwich that day, what movies had been playing at the local movie house the prior weekend which may have been the extra nudge my parents needed to start a family, what was on television that night, before they turned it off and a glint appeared in my father's eyes), but unlike my parents' efforts that night, mine today have been fruitless. I was born on November 24, 1950, a Friday, which perhaps explains why I like Fridays so much. These two dates are interesting to me, because they mean I was conceived during one Winter, and born in the next. 1950 itself was a year for a number of firsts, besides Yours Truly: Otis invented the elevator, Charles Schultz started "Peanuts", the Diners Club issued the first credit card, the Korean War started (World War 2.4, as Mort Sahl used to say), the first sex change operation was performed, on Christine Jargensen, and Mr. Potato Head debuted.

I was born at night, and in fact after midnight, meaning my mother was driven to the hospital on Thursday, November 23, as the nation gave Thanksgiving. I remember nothing of my birth, although given my nature, I am certain I emerged from my mother as politely as possible; had I been able to talk, I'm sure my first words on the way out would have been a mumbled, 'pardon me'.

This is the first of three sections comprising "Volume One: The Crib Years", which is Part One of Welcome To Me, my autobiography. On to Section Two of Volume One: The Crib Years.