Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BD and Me

Hi Bill

Today I’m thinking about my good friend BD. I’m pretty sure that you never met BD, but he was (and is) an interesting character.

During my fourth year of college (it took me about 5 years to graduate) I moved out of the apartment that I had shared with three of my friends because I wanted to be able to have some private time. I also needed to lower my rent costs and I found a very inexpensive one-room apartment in another building owned by the same rental company.

I moved into my basement (studio) room, which provided a bed, refrigerator, dresser, and closet. I had to use a shared bathroom in the hallway which serviced other small (studio) rooms. There was no running water in those rooms. Water was available in the bathrooms and the laundry room which was at the beginning of the hallway. A locked door in that hallway also led to a game room with a pool table and stairs up to the larger apartments. My new room was not luxurious, but it worked for me after I bought a hotplate and a small toaster oven.

Shortly after I moved in, I met the guy who lived in the room next to me. His name was BD and he was also a student at Pitt, where he was pursuing a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree. BD introduced himself to me and then sort of told me how to cope with living in a small studio room with amenities in the hallway. He also showed me the cracks in the wall that I should plug up because he could see into my room and I could see into his. These rooms were newly built in that basement and there were problems that we eventually had to work out.

BD in his kitchen in Fall 1970

BD was from Johnstown PA, which you know is not far from Altoona/Hollidaysburg where we grew up. Therefore BD and I had similar backgrounds and we became friends. I quickly realized that BD was somewhat socially challenged and sort of a loner. However, I (and other tenants) in those basement rooms eventually accepted BD as our friend. Probably the most obvious characteristic that I (and others) recognized about BD was that he was extremely intelligent, which unfortunately did not help his social status. He did not walk around intending to show how extremely intelligent he was, but he just couldn’t prevent his brainiac self from surfacing when he interacted with most people.

BD playing pool in the game room early 1971

I don’t understand why, but his superior intelligence did not bother me, not because I was a braianic (I certainly was not, and am not). However, I was curious and fascinated by, almost anything that I didn’t know much about. Also, I was not intimidated by BD’s knowledge, and I came to know him very well in a fairly short period of time. Almost everyone who lived in those studio rooms were very tolerant and friendly and I believe we all came to know and like BD, even though we had to tolerate his eccentricities sometimes.

BD and I became very good friends and we also became good friends with most of the other people who lived along that basement hallway. One of the great things about living there was the symbiotic group of people. BD and I became good friends with Janice T and her friend Betty, Jorge N (from Venezuela), Robert G (from Jamaica), and others wonderful people. When you share bathrooms you get to know people pretty well.

Jorge was a party animal and he hosted many great parties that we held in the hallway, and in any rooms with open doors. At first BD did not participate in the parties. He was not a big drinker, unlike most of us. However, eventually he participated more often in those parties. Although he certainly liked women, he was not particularly debonair with members of the opposite sex. I remember one party, which BD spent with a woman. They were both drinking and soon they were hugging, kissing and having a very nice time. Those of us who knew BD were surprised and pleased that he was having a good time. The next day we mentioned it to BD and asked him about the woman. He said she was very nice and he enjoyed her company. We asked him if he remembered anything unusual about her and he said no. We tactfully mentioned that she was missing one arm. BD was flabbergasted because he had no recollection of that. I don’t remember whether they ever got together again. Anyway BD was part of that basement life for almost two years. He had good friends there including the love of my life, Pat, who had moved in during my senior year. BD really liked Pat, but I was very happy that she decided to date me.

BD was a very thoughtful and helpful friend. I remember that I brought a car from home during the 1971 fall semester. It was a 1967 red Opal Kadett that my father had bought used a few years earlier. Mom couldn’t drive a stick shift so after Dad died I talked her into letting me use it. I decided to drive it from Pittsburgh to visit you, Bill, just north of Philadelphia. Unfortunately it stalled about thirty miles east of Pittsburgh and I could not get it started. I didn’t have any money, so I just left it by the roadside and hitched my way back to The Burgh. BD was surprised to see me back in my room. I told him what happened and he took a bus to somewhere near where I abandoned the car, got it started, and drove it back me. BD was a very good mechanic.

BD took me to his family’s house near Johnstown a couple of times where I met his parents and sister. His older brother had already moved out of the house and eventually became very successful in Silicon Valley. BD’s family were very nice people and they lived in a wonderful home on a large wooded lot. Those were fun visits.

BD and I stayed in that basement for almost two years. However, for some reason that I don’t remember BD moved to a different room down the hallway. His new room had no windows. We often referred to it as the cave. I suppose it was slightly cheaper than the other windowed rooms. Later, I think he tired of the cave and we decided that he could move into my room for a small fee. He used 2x4s to construct a bunk bed over the existing bed in my room. He slept on top and I slept on the bottom bed. Of course he had to move some of his possessions into my room also. It was extremely crowded and that led to some friction between us, especially when I wanted to entertain in my room. Unfortunately, one of the building maintenance workers discovered the bunk bed and told us that it had to go immediately. He cited one of the building codes and informed us that it was not legal and we would both be evicted if BD didn’t get out of my room soon. We tore down his bunk bed and he moved to a very rundown apartment in a rough neighborhood in the Bloomfield area of The Burgh, where he feared for his life at times, but survived. However we remained good friends and BD visited us basement tenants often.

After I finally finished my Bachelor’s degree, I moved to Philadelphia during the summer of 1972. Then in September I married Pat at the Lutheran University Center in Pittsburgh near the Pitt campus. BD would have been my best man, but after he had graduated he had joined the Peace Corp and was building irrigation systems in Kenya.

BD and I continued our friendship after he returned from the Peace Corp. He went back to school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and he earned a Master’s degree and became a Physics teacher somewhere in North Carolina – I’m not sure about the location. Unfortunately, BD’s high expectations for his students exceeded their abilities and/or their desires to meet those expectations. He quit that job and moved around to several other teaching positions, but his students could never meet his expectations. Eventually he went back to Pittsburgh and worked with an investment advisor to develop an investment computer program that made them both fairly wealthy. However, their partnership did not last.

I remember Pat and I met him in Pittsburgh when we were there to visit Pat’s parents. We went downtown to a movie with him that night. When we were walking in a downtown area after the movie we didn’t feel very safe. However, BD showed us the revolver that he carried with him everywhere and told us not to worry. That was a surprise, but we did feel a little safer. One other time he visited us when we were at Pat’s parent’s house in the Pittsburgh area. We then went to dinner with him and our kids. It was a fun evening.

BD and me at Pat's parent's house
in West Mifflin PA , near Christmas, early 1990s

BD and me
Pat, Rayna, and Zeb
At Pat's parent's house near Christmas, early 1990s

BD has moved through several jobs in several states. He has had some good times and tough times over the years, but he has kept in touch with Pat and me. He visited us when we lived in Philadelphia, when we lived in Omaha a couple of times, and when we lived in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he has never visited us since we moved to South Dakota in 1983. We have tried to get together but have not been about connect yet.

I am very happy to say that BD finally found a compatible and enjoyable job working in a prison in California. No, he is not a guard. However, he does interact with prisoners, because he manages the activities and equipment that are part of the rehabilitation process. He has been doing that at the same prison for over ten years. He earns a good salary and has good benefits, including a pension. He has also been a longtime active member of Mensa International (the high IQ society), which enables him to exercise his high IQ with other brainiacs.  He intends to remain in California and to keep doing what he does for as long as possible. I hope that turns out to be a long, long time.

Now, I think I will give him a call just to say “Hi” and gab about what’s happening in our lives.

Bill, I wish BD and Pat and I lived closer to each other. I also very much wish Pat and I lived closer to you. However, for some very strange reason South Dakota seems to be our “Home on the Range” and we have no plans to leave.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and have a Happy New Year.

Sincerely Clark

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