Thursday, October 11, 2018

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CLXXX

by Bob Schulenberg

1970:  This is my friend, Craig Caswell whom I’d met two years earlier in August of 1968. When I first met him he’d come up to Manhattan from Washington, DC where he was a student at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  I was immediately struck by his very obvious intelligence.  He’d gone to a prep school in France in the ancient picturesque “student city” of Lille near the Belgian border.
He spoke perfect French and had an academic interest that fascinated me since during this period in Manhattan most 21-year-olds were more interested in contemporary Vietnam War problems without much interest or curiosity about the past.  He told me his favorite composer was Haydn!  Even though I’d studied piano for 20 years and considered it as a career, I’d never met anyone whose favorite composer was Franz Joseph Haydn!
One thing he’d mentioned during our first long conversation was that he was an adoptee.

That left me grasping for an appropriate response and all I could think of diplomatically was “what would you think or do if you found your birth parents?” He said, “I would forgive them.”

I thought that was a pretty telling comment indicative of — something and not being able to think of anything else to say I changed the subject.

He had gone back to finish and graduate from Georgetown and was now back in New York.  I still felt a bit responsible for his welfare in the city as I feared his parents were having negative thoughts about me and just possibly thinking I’d influenced him to leave Georgetown in 1968!

As the years passed and well into the future I learned more about myself during the friendship than I learned about Craig.

But that was in the future!
For now, Craig and I just made light conversation about his plans — if any?
I met Paul Bartel for dinner at The Ginger Man across from Lincoln Center.
The next day I had an appointment in the Time-Life Building and afterwards met Mara at the Blossom Coffee Shop on the West Side.
Over the weekend, a relaxed time at the farm. 
I returned to the city Sunday afternoon to meet Phil Austin and his then wife Analee for dinner.  Phil was my brother’s close friend since grammar school in Fresno and now Phil was having great success as one of the four members of The Firesign Theater, the name stemming from the fact that all four had birthdays that were astrological Fire signs!
Now the group, Phil, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor had even greater success with a comedy album released by Columbia Records, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him.
My brother had been telling me that Phil had recorded a comedy album and that he, my brother, had assisted with sound effects.  At the same time, I was telling him, speaking of comedy albums, that WBAI-fm was playing a hysterically funny comedy album!  We were unaware that we were talking about the same album!  (My brother, being born in December was also a fire sign, a sometime fifth member — uncredited.)

So the following Thursday Phil and the boys were in Manhattan for a performance at WBAI!

A funny coincidence but recently hearing Phil Proctor on a radio interview talking about the beginning of Firesign’s recording career, I learned that it was my cousin Adrienne’s husband, Columbia producer John McClure, who was responsible for the group recording for Columbia.

I never knew ...

My brother did their legal work, and I did a later album package.
The back:
And “cousin” John had made it all possible!  A sort of family and friends project!

On Tuesday I went with Mara and her dog, a beautiful husky named Glinka, to a pet store called Kitten Cottage on First Avenue and 54th Street where she bought some stuff for him.  They sold dog stuff too in spite of the name.  I saw there were some kittens on display so I went over to take a look.  Immediately a beautiful little black Persian kitten ran over to the window to greet me!  Even with the glass separating us I was able to play with him. Having completed her shopping Mara came over to where I was and we left the shop as I kept telling her what a wonderful kitten it was!

$450.00!  Expensive — but wonderful.
He looked just like this little beauty.
I went home and as I looked at my own beautiful white Persian, Tybalt I kept thinking about the kitten and thinking it might be good if Tybalt had a companion.  After all, I’d always said if I ever saw a kitten with as great a personality as Tybalt’s I’d get him a little friend.

Here was a kitten with a marvelous personality — and a black Persian!

WELL?

The next day I went back to Kitten Cottage and bought the kitten whom I named Othello!  My brother, an avid Shakespeare scholar, had started a family custom of giving pets names from Shakespeare’s plays.  Tybalt, King of Cats, Juliet’s brother from Romeo and Juliet so why not Othello for a black kitten!

I introduced him to Tybalt.

Tybalt hated him on sight!

I thought it best to keep Othello in the other apartment across the hall and I spent the night there with him.

It was no better the following day so Othello stayed in the other apartment.

Paul and I went to see The Magic Flute at Lincoln Center and then back to The Ginger Man for dinner.
The next day, the WBAI Church and a full house enthusiastic audience waiting for Firesign!
And here they were! In person!
Contact Bob here.
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