Blogpost # 903         AWOKEN

As a brief respite, or “breath of fresh air,” from the atmospheric pollution of current storm of Donald Trump indictments, we would offer a recalled experience, from early life. The subject event was especially memorable, as a startling, empirical, demonstration of a phenomenon, previously, known, but not empirically, experienced.

 Let us begin with our background prior to such unique and enlightening event. At the age of 23, having graduated from college and law school, it was our desire to start our career as soon as possible. There was a war in existence and a military draft. Under a Federal Statute, passed at the time, one could satisfy his military obligation, by securing admission into his State’s National Guard, and thereby, only be required to perform active duty with the army for a period of six months, and completing, its six required years of membership, inclusive, only, of training for two weeks each summer, plus one meeting per week. After being admitted to a company of the New York National Guard, we were shortly thereafter, shipped out to perform the mandatory, six months active service with the Army. There, following the required four weeks of Basic Training, we were sent to Aberdeen Training Grounds, in Maryland, for the balance of our six-month active service.

It was during our period of service at Aberdeen Training Grounds, that the scenario, giving rise to the narrative and the thematic purpose of this writing took place.  However, for clarity of purpose and context, we must briefly stop to furnish a few relevant observations.

For the period, inclusive of our Junior High School and High School, attendance, perhaps ten years, our family resided in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, an area populated by working-class white and black citizens. It cannot be said that the venue was free of any racial tensions, but, generally, interaction between residents was ordinarily, peaceful, if not exemplary. We, and presumably, most of our black neighbors, were, in general, accommodated to living in a mixed-color, varied ethnic neighborhood. Over the years, we were cognizant of the National problems of racial strife, but our experiences of such conflict were limited. White and black students attended class, taught by white and some black teachers, black and white boys played sports (especially, half-court basketball), and, as recalled, racial tensions were more implicit than publicly demonstrated. Among our closest friends was a black youngster, Joseph Glencamp, who, in our household, was assigned the [affectionate, (Yiddish]) name of “Yussie.” In brief, we were, certainly, aware of the egregious racial prejudice, practiced against black Americans, especially in the “South,” but, in our young, residential life, saw little of its overt dynamics.

I would often be granted weekend passes and would travel home by bus. The bus stop just outside of the military installation was adjacent to an old-fashioned diner. On the weekend in question, I was quite early and so I stopped for coffee and a slice of apple pie at the long counter of the diner. I do not have the time or energy to distinguish Army coffee from regular diner coffee; let us just say that if Army coffee was any worse, it would legally, have to contain a “hazmat” warning.

I was enjoying the coffee and pie when a young soldier, no doubt also, somewhat, early for the bus and sat in the next stool. We nodded a brief hello. He was, like us, wearing the Army dress uniform with a military patch indicating New York, and I assume, awaiting the same bus. The only difference was that he was black. He asked what I was having and I replied that it was apple pie. He smiled and asked the man at the counter for the same thing. The next thing was silence and angry glares emanating from the men sitting to our right along the counter. Frankly, we were both, equally puzzled.

Finally, the counterman came over and said to the new (black) arrival, “Look, if you want coffee, I will give it to you in a paper cup, but you have to drink it outside.” He left and I, naively, was still confused, until the angry glares of the other (white) diners, communicated their hateful prejudice to me. I was at first, confused, then nervously, and uncomfortably, finished my pie and coffee, paid and disgustedly, left.

To this day, I, painfully regret, not walking out with my fellow American and brother –in arms and instead, finished my snack. The counterman, when I paid my check said “Look, buddy, it makes no difference to me but I don’t want to lose my customers,”

I was then, uncomfortably, rendered, “awoke.”


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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