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  • Keith and I were visiting Syracuse and drove past the corner where Becky got mugged almost exactly forty-three years ago. It's no longer considered PC in some corners to mention race or ethnicity when describing a crime, so I will just say that she was surrounded by a number of youths whose skin color and manner of speech was different than her own. She was in tears when she came to our apartment, a block away. They had reached inside her bra, looking for money or copping a feel. Or both. They had taken what little money she had. We were far from rich. Every penny was important.

    I made her a cup of tea with oranges and gave her a homemade cookie. We lived in a sunny basement apartment with large windows and large windowsills. We filled the windows with plants. Becky made salads and I made brown rice and oatmeal cookies. She swept the rugs every day with a broom because we did not have a vacuum cleaner.

    Becky was an art student at Syracuse University. I was a wildlife management major at small green stumpy school (ESF). I liked to draw and she liked nature and we both liked boys so it worked out great. She liked my friends and I liked hers. We had lived together before at the hippie house in Chittenango.

    We walked to school up through Oakwood Cemetery where another girl our age was kidnapped, raped and murdered and lay all winter in the cemetery just a few feet from our route to school. We didn't see her. But we got the willies when she was found there. I had stopped right there, a few feet from her body, to take pictures of the old barn that served as a storage area for cemetery equipment, grave diggers and tractors.

    One night, our friends Ray and Jean came over and we all of took pictures with new macro lenses of eyes and lips and noses and nipples and flowers. I still have those pictures. Becky had such pretty eyes. Such perfect eyebrows.

    Becky went off to the Boston Museum school of fine arts, to New Denver, BC, and then to Victoria BC. It was during the Vietnam war and she joined a group of friends fleeing the draft and the war. She became an expat, a landed immigrant in Canada, a Canadian citizen, and an exceptionally good artist. We stayed in touch for over thirty years and I went out to visit her recently. She was as vivacious, energetic, talented and sweet as ever. We climbed around on rocks at a waterfall, flirted with a man we met driving to Vancouver, walked all day in the Botanical Gardens. She seemed the very picture of good health, but shortly after I returned home, she died of cancer. I was bereft.

    Funny how a nondescript corner in a city where I no longer live can set off so many memories. Names and more names come flooding in: Lou Chagnon, Phillip DeWitt, Ray Curran, Jean Kilquist, Mark Sukoenig, John Morrison, Chris Burnett, Joli Greene and Craig Greene, who we also lost to cancer (another story for another day). And on and on, floodgates of memory thrown open by a simple corner. A nothing corner. A corner you would probably never notice, if you ever happened to drive by.


    The image is a very poor reproduction of an etching Rebecca made when she lived in New Denver BC, escaping the Viet Nam draft, may years ago. Her recent work was huge abstracts, colorful and exciting.
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