Friday, June 22, 2012

The King and I (and Bruce)

This is a letter of apology to "Bruce", almost 47 years overdue.

My wife was rummaging through a massive cardboard box of memories earlier this week. With the Facebook mandate that every person attending a high school reunion locate and upload a photo of themselves as an irrepressibly cute child, she was undertaking this task when she happened upon it. Buried somewhere near the birthday card from my mother to my father in 1948, apologizing for not giving the birthday present he wanted (the birth of my sister, referred to as "him", who was born less than 2 weeks later) and exhorting my dad to "smoke heartily" (I can only imagine that cigarettes were the substitute gift) was a manila envelope containing 2 photographs. Accompanying these images was a typed and signed letter of September, 1965. It was from the original King (with all due respect to King James and his recent elevation), Arnold Palmer.

In the summer of '65, I had just turned 13. I was finishing up my eighth and final stay of 2 months at Camp Akiba. I began as a 6 year old, part of the Midgies division. From there, I moved on to the Bunks, then the Tunks and Sunks. I didn't stay long enough to make it to the final rung of the ladder, the Dunks.

My camp cubby was next to the bed I dutifully made each morning, being certain the hospital corners were nice and tight, so that my area would pass morning inspection. The cubby held not only all my clothing but also a stack of  post cards, pre-addressed to my parents. Several times each week we were required, before dinner, to advise our mothers and fathers of the unadulterated fun we were having. In the days before cell phones, computers, and omnipresent video, this was our only method of communication.

Letters home from those days were also located within the confines of the cardboard treasure chest my wife happened upon. One note advised that I now had a girlfriend. Joy Lutsky became the owner of a different sweater of mine each summer, as this girl from Passaic repeatedly accepted a material representation of at least the thought of "dating" me every July and August. But I am digressing.

Sometime during that summer, I must have taken it upon myself to forward a postcard to the King, as one of the hordes in Arnie's army. A few of my cards were not pre-addressed, in the very slim chance that I would voluntarily decide to write to someone other than my folks. I don't know what I said but I clearly wrote not only on my behalf, but for my friend Bruce. The problem is, try as I might, I have not one image or recollection of this person.There were only about 8 people living in each bunk, so it would be very hard not to have at least some moments of memorable interaction with every person housed within your quarters. And, I spent many summers with the same group as we moved in lock-step up the food chain of camper hierarchy.

Could this have been my version of "Harvey"? Was he an invention? Possibly he lived in another cabin, and we merely bonded in our mutual admiration of everything Arnie. While I am drawing nothing but blank space, I believe that he did exist, and somewhere in the recesses of what remains of my mind, I am convinced that this must be so. There is no other rational explanation.

Mr. Palmer's letter thanked me for contacting him and expressed appreciation for his legion of followers. He spoke of enclosing photos, signed by him, acknowledged to each of its intended recipients. The King asked only that I make sure that the photo earmarked for Bruce find its rightful owner.

Almost a half century later, even with the technological advances that have brought long forgotten friends back in contact with one another, there are limits to what we can accomplish. My self appointed task is to leave no stone unturned in determining the whereabouts of the boy with one name.

I have an obligation to live up to the mandate the King issued to me when he was in his prime and I still in my infancy. Some things, no matter, the time and distance, are too important to cast aside. And so, I hope to one day soon deliver the photograph, and my apologies, in person to my good friend, whoever he may be.


Anonymous said...

Great story today!


Anonymous said...

Springsteen, no doubt. The Boss and the King. PB

Anonymous said...



Marc said...

Rob - Don't you remember you used to call me Bruce at Akiba! I'll expect my photo any day now! Better late than never.