Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, August 1, 2016

Loop the Mercenary, Your Ghost for Hire

No one really knows anyone. Not even a spouse really knows the person they married. We have a closet of suits for every occasion and that is what others see of us, our suits – costumes, if you wish. Most days I would wake up and put on my work suit. Now for many decades my work suit was an actual business suit, pants, jacket, vest, necktie and shirt. But I was deeper than just the clothes I donned. Yes, there was this whole persona that said, “right now I am a working man.”  When I came home and on weekends I put on my husband-at-home suit. We need to understand we all live different lives every day, sometimes multi-lives in each.  During some periods we interact with others in a certain way and during other periods we interact with others entirely differently. The split persons we become seldom meet and all the people in our life know us generally by but one aspect of whom we are.
For example, in the picture above Lois is coming out of a store in Philadelphia. I guess she is in her young suburban housewife out shopping suit. On the right is Lois in another suit and as another person she became in 1967.

We had our secret identities, like Batman and Robin. By day we were grunts earning a living; by night we turned into Hippies, and the moon didn’t even need to be full.

As I previously explained, Atlantic Refining finally kept their promise and gave me a true Level 6 Job, Ledger Clerk in Accounts Receivable, a department with about 54-55 clerks working in it. Meanwhile, Bob Kane got my old position as Group Leader in Addressograph. As I turned over the keys to that kingdom, so to speak, I would meet with Bob over a couple weeks to show him the ropes. During this period he would sometimes mutter a complaint or two about his problems editing “The Communicator”.
“I can’t get enough well written pieces to fill the paper,” he said. “There just isn’t that much talent available.”
Philadelphia Community College is a two-year school leading to an Associate Degree. Today in has over 34,000 students, but in early 1966 it was a brand new institution. It was founded in September 1965, locating its campus in the old Snellenberg Department Store’s Mens Annex on 11th Street just off Market. It may have yet been getting its feet wet in the academic world. I do not know what enrollment was in those beginning semesters. Maybe it was still small in number and didn’t have students interested in writing for the paper.
Nonetheless, I mentioned to Bob that I was a writer. I really didn’t have much in the way of credits to offer. I had written several things in high school, I won a prize in Writers Digest’s Short Fiction Contest and attracted the attentions of a well-known agent, but beyond that I hadn’t actually published anything. I could show him a drawer full of rejection slip, all neatly ordered, but I didn’t.  I brashly threw my claim out there and he simply accepted my gracious offer to write for his paper.
There was one hitch. Of course there was. My life is a whole slew of hitches. I couldn’t write under my own name because only students of the college were allowed to write for the newspaper. So, okay, I needed to write under some kind of non de plume.
Now, non de plume is French. I could have said a Pen Name, but I had three years of French in high school, so let’s make some use of that, although just about everyone already knows the term nom de plume and I didn’t need all those hours of conjugating and memorizing vocabulary to know it myself. "Nom", of course, means "name". No mystery there. “De” means “of” and that the word of which nom is of is masculine gender. I never understood how words could have a sex. Perhaps it is because they were Romance Languages. Anyway, “Plume” does not mean “Pen”.  French for pen is stylo. “Plume” means “feather”. Non de plume is “name of feather” or "feather name". Perhaps they had a quill in mind when they coined the phrase. I have no idea how old the phrase is.
I needed a pen name. Now when I began in Accounts Receivable I was introduced around and one of the Ledgerman, a fellow who fancied himself a wit, greeted me as “Larry Looper”, a pun on the name of a deep-voiced singer on the Lawrence Welk TV Show named Larry Hooper (right). That was all it took, too. That stuck. I could not escape him calling me Larry Looper forever and a day, except over time the nickname got a nickname and I became Loop.
I don’t know, Loop seemed like the perfect pen name for this assignment.

Now what I needed was subject matter to scribble about. I began to think about hot topics with college students. There were three getting a lot of attention around academia, the growing Viet Nam war, drug use and the God is Dead Movement.  There was a good deal of discussion circulating about these controversies on any of Philadelphia’s campuses. I saw all the hand-lettered signs of rallies and protests tied to trees up on Temple's quadrangle as I came and went to class. Generally, the college crowd was against the Viet Nam War, positive for drug use and believed God was indeed dead. In case you are curious about the photo, it is a protester burning his draft card in March of 1966. It was also becoming popular for young women to burn their bras, which may have been an interesting subject to have covered...or uncovered as the case may be.
Anyway, since these were the popular issues that college kids were into I would do a series of articles on the subjects.  Would I justify the stance of the students? No way, Jose!  (Am I gonna get heat from the low-IQ PC crowd for that expression?) Just to rattle everyone’s cages I would take an opposing view.

The first article I wrote was “A Work in Needlepoint”, belittled the taking of drugs. Drugs were beginning to really pop around the cities youth spots, especially something known as LSD. It had even created its own Guru-God, this moron from Harvard named Timothy Leary, he of the "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" stupidity.  Talk about drugs addling the brain, here was a prime case, assuming his brains weren't addled to begin with. 
I followed up with support of our troops in Viet Nam in “Be a Man, My Son”.
Finally, I turned theologian and did a piece called, “God Resurrected”.

Did I believe everything I wrote in my articles? No, not really. I didn’t care really. I could look at an argument and see both sides and in many ways I was a blank slate. I didn’t hold strong opinions on any of these issues, yet anyway. As far as Viet Nam, well I was classified at 1-Y, man. I was safe. I was removed from that skirmish and my article neither defended or condemned the war. It really tried to tell people to cool it on attacking guys in uniform.
As for the God is dead thing. We’ll be back to that whole faith thing soon, because I was on the verge of losing what little faith I had and it wasn’t that I would turn to any philosophy saying God had died. I would simply reach a point where I didn’t believe God ever existed.

I did have convictions about drug use. They weren’t for me. It had  nothing to do with morals. It had much to do with ego. I believed I was pretty intellectual and rather creative. I had no intensions of doing anything that might mess up this glorious brain; therefore, I never experimented with, tried, tested or took drugs. Sometimes having a swelled head can save your head.
Alcohol? Well, that was a different horse that I would ride.

Meanwhile, a great opportunity blossomed after my articles began appearing in “The Communicator”. I don’t know if Bob Kane spread the word or what, but people began coming to me for writing advice. Soon it went beyond just advice and became a business proposition. For a small fee I would write your college essay, term paper, whatever. Loop became a full-blown ghost.
It was a cheat, but for these guys and gals who took up my services it paid off. Everything I wrote earned them an A. These people were getting better marks on their English papers than I was getting on my own. I was taking Composition at Temple and getting mostly Cs, but at La Salle and St. Joseph’s University I was a straight A student, even though I wasn’t really there. (My own English grades would jump up to A once I was finished with Composition.)
I viewed myself as a mercenary, a gun for hire; have typewriter – will travel.

The other benefit was I was becoming part of a group. We were much alike, in age of  course, but also that we worked a day job, then went to college at night and we all wanted to make it in The Arts someday. And when the sun went down, we considered ourselves part of the street scene and we gravitated toward the Hippie Philosophy, for the Hippies had arrived.
I even drove the right kind of car, which almost got me murdered one night in Valley Forge.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Your hippie phase Lar! Most interesting.