Jim the Freak

by Tonawanda

In 1970, calling yourself a freak meant something.

Maybe not what Jim meant, or what others understood it to mean, but something not trite, not vainglorious.

Probably was glomming onto the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, so what.  No one else was keen to be called a freak.

Jim entered the freshman class and quickly left, the class not  the campus.

Jim faithfully sat through a lot of weather Buddha-like in the quad. As you face Butler Library, he sat on the end point of the right wall, more than enough room for his slight body.

columbia-university-quad

The quad is another world, a privilege to enter, unbeknownst as such by some inhabitants, not Jim.

Jim had impossibly straight blond hair.  It was long, parted in the middle.  His eyes were muddied blue.

He wore a black leather jacket in most of the weather.  The black and blond so striking.

Jim smoked Buddha-like on the pilaster, cigarettes he rolled himself.  He and Sam Steinberg (outside the student union, when you could drink beer) were roughly kitty-corner, if Jim was one of the corners and Sam the other.

Like Sam, who sold his paintings, Jim sold to support himself.  Sam also sold chocolate bars.

Was Jim a friend?

Jim was the premier pong player at the West End, there with us.  We were with him.

Our admiration (pride?) with the association was genuine.  We basked.

He took us once to the massage parlor where girlfriend Liz worked, and Liz was awesome, and she hung out with us a few times.

And when he wanted to kick heroin, he asked us to his apartment (and Liz’) on 72d street to lock him in a room for three days.

We obeyed his instructions to ignore him and were proud.

We ignored him, he was grateful, we were grateful.

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