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aquart

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 69,014

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Saturday was Langston Hughes' birthday. I met him.

Won 5th prize in an NYC poetry contest for high school students. 1st to 4th prizes got a check. I got a lousy book. I was so mad, so bitter, I shook the hand of this man I didn't know as he presented me this book, his book, inscribed to me in green ink, and sat down again.

Got home, put the book on a shelf, didn't read it.

Until the day, years later, I read in the newspaper that Langston Hughes had died. That's when I took the dusty book down from the high shelf and read my first edition of Selected Poems.

I have so many regrets of the fool things I've done with my life, but the greatest seems to be that I was too ignorant, too unread, and too churlish to tell Mr. Hughes how brilliant he was and how his poems gutted me straight to the heart.

I had the chance.

Before America had heard of Mario Cuomo...

In a heatwave with rolling brownouts my temp agency sent me to the Court Street, Brooklyn offices of a lawyer with the good Italian name of Mario Cuomo. The air conditioning was off, the lighting was dimmed. A fan had been rigged up. But the Selectrics were working. The man behind the desk admitted the conditions were awful and he'd understand if I decided to go, BUT HERE WAS WHY HE NEEDED ME TO STAY...and future Governor Mario Cuomo, in that very hot room, calmly and earnestly brought me up to speed on the details and previous dictation of The Forest Hills Report, which would bring him to statewide prominence.

Anyone who has ever been a temp knows how rare this was. So I stayed. And I learned that this man didn't think he had all the answers and didn't much like the answers he did have to the problems of Forest Hills. As he dictated, if he saw a question on my face (me, a TEMP!) he would stop dictating and ask me what my question was and I would ask it. His face would fall, as if he'd been hoping I was an angel of God coming with the perfect solution, and a few paragraphs later I would find myself writing "some people think (my question) but this is not so because (answer to my question). This happened more than once and he never lost hope that maybe this time....

In the afternoon even the Selectrics failed and Mr. Cuomo told me to fill out my timesheet for the whole day, signed it and sent me home. I never worked for him again but I was taken off other jobs and sent to other lawyers in his offices when they needed someone.

Everytime that rare man ran for office, he got my vote.
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