Hook mountain bike trail. Dell and I biked this several times, only it wasn’t paved. this edition is very personal, but there is an important political point here.
This is a story about first best friends.
This is also a story about Left v. Right and how so much has changed.
This is a story about how we can learn from our children; if it’s not too late.
I just found out Dell died. I swear my mother and Kathleen Setzer must have had our baby baskets side by side, because I lived on Tallman Ave., Dell lived on 6th Avenue. So our houses were also side by side. We were best friends and constant companions. We played in our backyards and Kathleen commented years later, when I told her I was performing musicals I wrote for kids, “Oh, you’re still doing that? That’s what you and Dell used to do. You had an imagination that never stopped.”
I remember it being not quite like that. Dell contributed a lot too.
Other than being the first two original members of world touring The Liberty Street Singers; if the world was only our houses and the local Baptist Church we both went to… Dell and I made up stories that went from typical war battles to way out there SciFi stories. Being incredibly smart, and tracked ahead of me in the same grade, the time I out “smarted” him was when we were super heroes. I chose super heat, he chose super cold. We got more and more extreme until I told him that’s as cold as cold can get: absolute zero.
That did NOT make Dell happy. I think that may have been one of the many days we were playing and suddenly Dell would run inside and stick his tongue out at me. I’d ask him why and he always said he didn’t know. About the 10th time he did that I finally had had it and ended up paying for a pane of glass. Dell ended up with a lightly bopped nose. That’s on me. It was wrong. But but he never did it again.
As we grew we both became politically active, though I think I was far more politically active than Dell. My father and I joined the local Conservative party after Dad encouraged me to investigate different factions on the right. The only one I remember was The John Birch Society. When I got the literature I went to Dad and said, “These guys are nuts. They think Ike was a commie.”
Dell’s father, Gene, was a trustee for Nyack. There were 3 trustees and a mayor. Both Dell, and his father, were Democrats. Gene and Bill Carman ran against each other in the mid 60’s, yet still they drove in together to work every day in NYC. Gene, despite being a Democrat, worked for Nelson Rockefeller. Dad, being what they called conservative then, had plenty of work friends on all sides, but probably less because, like many conservatives, was very vocal about it: the only thing Dell told me drove his father nuts on the way to work. Having skewed slowly to the left since the mid 70’s I can relate. For some reason Dad felt everyone must hear what he wanted to say, his judgments of others… whether they want to or not. Reminds me of the Sara Bareilles song: King of Anything.
However, from our early years, Dell and I never fought about politics. We came the closest to arguing when I was running the local phone bank for Goldwater in 64, then the Conservative slate in 67? 68? I don’t remember. Pretty sure 67 since we were busy with my mother dying in 68. BTW, by “run” I mean I was the only one calling Nyack to cull the vote. They thought it cute that a 10 year old could be adult enough to run a one person phone bank, and by 67 I was the local party phone bank expert because I was the only one willing to do that. I had to call all numbers, so when I called the Setzer house Dell answered.
A few kindly jabs, I read the scripted line, “Thank you for your support,” and he said, “Yeah, THAT will happen.” I think we both chuckled.
My point here being that kids, last I knew, KNOW how to be friends. KNOW that friendship is more important than politics. KNOW, like Gene and Bill, that being good neighbors is more important than any partisan divide. Being a good PERSON means relations is more important than any partisan divide. And, in another category, my mother was close to a fundamentalist, my father back then best described as an agnostic. But they knew raising the kids and having a wonderful marriage was far more important than religious differences.
Where is that today? My guess is if I could survey partisans these days the answer would be, “If it weren’t for THEM…” But, as they used to say in the 60’s: this is a “cop out.” Accusing ONLY one side in such things is politically convenient escapism. Sometimes it reminds me of the playground where the bully and the victim both say, “He started it.” As I have matured over the years more and more I understand the teacher’s retort, “I don’t care who started it…” Playground bullies aside, in many of these events it only ends up being a long list of grievances, imagined grievances and really bad miscommunication. “I don’t care who started it…” may be more apt a response in some political and religious fights than among kids.
Why am I writing this?
I left Nyack in the mid 60’s, hardly ever looking back. As we get older we tend to look back more. So Dell and I connected years later. Dell had led a grand, yet hard life. A lot of NYC stage work, in the forefront of computer revolution I remember telling him my frustrations with computers and he responded, “I wake up every day going, ‘I HATE computers, I love computers. I HATE…’” My last visit with him was returning from my Mead judging exam on Long Island. We had to keep our distance. His digestive system problems led to a lot of other problems I know so little about, let’s just say he was very vulnerable. At the height of COVID two old friends leaned on their cars several feet away from each other shared life’s war stories.
I found out Dell passed last year, not long after I contacted him about visiting summer of 2021. From what I read the sickness was brief. His neighbors miss him, his friends: especially a very old one. Good friends, just like spouses, teach each other great lessons without being heavy handed. I guess the final lesson, Dell, is that relationships are far more important than what we believe: no matter how strong our belief is. If I had taken the stance some take these days Dell and I never would be friends, And that’s a lot of memories I would NEVER want to throw away.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for almost 50 years, first published in fall of 1972. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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