40 Years in America

Gus (Larry) Alden

Fundraisers overcome by the 193į heat!

It was 1978 in Buffalo, NY, and I was the fundraising captain of 12 Oakies just recently shipped over to the National MFT. One of them was a young Jewish fellow, short and stocky, and even more spaced out than the rest. For example, one day, I found him trying to assemble pieces of peanut crunch. I asked him what he was doing, and his reply was that he was recreating the tablets. His explanation was that it was a condition to liberate Moses.

Anyway, one Friday night, I had just dropped him off for a few hours of blitzing when some of his team members reported to me that they had smelled alcohol on his breath. Please understand, I wasnít exactly myself in those days -- you see, I was going by the name of Larry then (note the double letters) -- and I was mad as hell to hear it. I proceeded to drop everyone off as fast as I could and went searching for him.

I walked into every bar on his stretch, asking the bartenders if they had seen a short, stout fellow fundraising. Most of them had, but he had already come and gone. I must have gone to 10-15 bars looking for him. Finally, one bartender pointed to the back of the bar, and told me he was in the back room. I still remember it. It had my adrenaline going. I ran to the back of the bar and through a curtain into a dusky, smoky, little back room where there were about 20 old Polish men sitting at a long table, all nursing huge mugs of beer. And there he was, perched there at the table and sitting with them, nursing his own humungous mug of beer. I must say, he looked happy like Iíd never seen him before. He looked up at me, grinned, got up from the table and followed me out to the van. He put his bucket of flowers into the back, climbed in and went for the back seat, laid himself down and immediately went to sleep with not a word said.

I donít remember if I chewed him out later on, but I probably did, for one day a few days later, as he was climbing out of the van for drop off, and just a split second before slamming the door shut, he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Thanks a lot, Satan." Ah, the things one remembers!

A few days later still, we were in the van together, just the two of us. It was dark, and he was scribbling into a notebook. He would turn his head and peer at me for a few moments and then return to his writing. This happened a few times, so it began to stir my curiosity. I asked him, "What is it that youíre writing into your notebook?" He paused for a moment, and staring at me with a completely straight face said, "Iím.. writing.. down.. every.. word.. you.. speak.. and.. every.. damn.. move.. you.. make."

You might not be too terribly surprised to hear that he didnít stay with the movement for very long. Neither did the other 11 for that matter, but Iím sitting here now some 22 years later, chuckling uncontrollably to remember these things, and thinking that had I only kept the cooler in the van nicely stocked with ice cold beer, he might have stayed longer than he did. On that note, I think Iíll get a frothy one out of the fridge and offer a toast to Mr. Kamiyama.

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