Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hit and Run

It could have been worse back there in 1955 when I opened my front door to two detectives. They didn't cuff me or haul me away but handed me a summons to appear in court the next Thursday. I was charged with hit and run.

Two evenings earlier I was driving to a meeting with my friend, Frank. A full-grown collie darted in front of my car. It was a residential street and I wasn't going more than 35 but probably distracted talking politics with Frank. I felt the impact, a sickening soft thud. I got out of my De Soto but as I did the dog ran away. I remember Frank saying, "C’mon let's go or we'll be late." I also heard someone call out, "You'd better stop." That was either the dog's owner or my conscience.

My day in court was also the day when honor students from high school were privileged to sit in the judge's chair with the judge behind them. For the student's benefit and mine the judge lectured me about dogs being our best friend. I fully agreed and gladly paid the $25 fine.

Without saying I just barked up the wrong tree there's more to this tale. If Frank is still out there 55 years later he might tell it this way:

I was out of work but, through my wife, had a few connections with the right people in Senator Knowland's office. He got me a job working undercover for the F.B.I. We were hunting for subversives and I won the trust of Norm, by chance, just hanging around the campus of L.A. City College. Every Tuesday night we drove to a house where a radical journalist named Martin Hall would review the current geo-political news with a left-wing slant.

That night when the dog was hit would be my last chance to collect names for the field office. I couldn’t risk being late because everyone socialized before the speaker began and that’s when I learned their names. The whole episode got me a few paychecks and I don’t think anyone ever suspected why I was there. I also got a friendship with Norm which lasted about ten years.

If Frank used me, I also used Frank. His wife’s mother was the sister of a rich and famous entertainment figure. When my daughter was born deaf in 1962, my wife and I were eager to get her enrolled in the John Tracy Clinic program. The clinic is named after Spencer Tracy’s son and supported by Hollywood elite. It happened to have been a year with a large population of hearing impaired babies due to a German measles epidemic. The Tracy Clinic was regarded as the best pre-school organization for teaching children to learn lip reading and oralism as a first language. It was through a letter from Frank’s wife's aunt that Janice was accepted in the very limited enrollment.

Regrettably Frank disappeared from my life. I liked the guy for his easy manner and marginal life-style. He got his haircuts at a barber college and his teeth cleaned at dental school. I never suspected his role as informer until years later when I met the man at whose house we used to meet for our Tuesday gatherings. He told me he never trusted Frank and even wondered about me having brought him into the group. It prompted me to send for my FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act. What I received was a three-page document with every word blacked-out except for pronouns and conjunctions.In the end maybe all the verbs and nouns can be left to the imagination. It's life's conjuctions that count the most.

1 comment:

  1. Norm--Those were indeed wierd times. My brother-in-law, who has since passed away, got a job as an economist with the Rand Corp. He had to leave because he was unable to get security clearance. He served in the army but that was trumped by the fact he'd attended several jazz concerts sponsored by the party and backed Henry Wallace in 1948. Jack