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Three for the Road, in Light and Shadows

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Edward Curtin       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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By Edward Curtin

From Paul Newman {MID-179591}
Paul Newman
(Image by classic film scans)
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"You road I travel and look around! I believe you

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Are not all that is here!

I believe that something unseen is also here." - Walt Whitman, Poem of the Road

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Fast Eddie

It was getting dark on the street as the young man emerged from his high school on New York's Upper East Side after basketball practice. He had lost track of time as he dreamed his basketball dreams and headed to the subway for the long ride home. It was December, 1961. A man, dressed in a cashmere overcoat and carrying a silver bowl, was walking his dog on the street. The boy asked him for the time. The man told him, adding with a grin that his watch always ran fast. The boy recognized the grin from what seemed like a dream. He pet the man's dog, and the man asked him about the imposing school next to them. He asked the boy his name and the boy said "Eddie." While the dog did its business in the street, they chatted for a few minutes. The man wished him luck with his basketball and said his name was Paul.

As the boy hustled toward the subway, Paul Newman shouted after him, "See you, Fast Eddie."

The next week the boy went to see Paul Newman playing Fast Eddie Felson in "The Hustler." He always remembered Eddie's words:

Fast Eddie: How should I play that one, Bert? Play it safe? That's the way you always told me to play it: safe... play the percentage. Well, here we go: fast and loose. One ball, corner pocket. Yeah, percentage players die broke, too, don't they, Bert?

A Fair World

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In 1964/5, New York held a World's Fair. The United States President John Kennedy had been assassinated a few months earlier, but the Fair celebrated the great future that was coming down the road. The new President, Lyndon Johnson, sent a greeting: "The 1964/5 New York World's Fair is a symbol of our hopes and an instrument of our progress in the most urgent task of our time: the building of 'peace through understanding.' "

The General Motors exhibit, the Fair's central attraction, allowed visitors to be whisked around on moving chairs fitted with loudspeakers to see tomorrow's world. One view was of "the jungle cleared: a modern community rises on the green carpet of the jungle".to clear the way, trees are felled by beams of laser light; instant turnpikes are laid down by a machine that levels, grades and paves all at once."

Meanwhile, in the Lowenbrau beer garden exhibit nearby, under a canopy of green trees through which speckled sun sparkled, a group of American teenage boys was getting bombed out of their minds.

And in Vietnam, jungles were being cleared, and General Motors was working hard on how to supply the Pentagon with the 469,217 M16A1 rifles they would provide for the slaughter.

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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is

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