At Hobeau Farm
At Hobeau Farm

Experiences and Thoughts: Page One

In this section, I’ll discuss aptitudes, my personality, Mark Twain, and a suggestion for Congress.

Aptitudes

In the section on Probabilities in A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked, I discuss aptitudes at some length, so I’ll be brief here. Some of my aptitudes or disaptitudes, you might call them, I got from my father.

Aptitudes as I see it are gadgets in the brain that come with the baby. I can’t prove it by pictures of the brain. But think of the homing pigeon and his perfect sense of direction, and the bird dog and his aptitude for smelling. One aptitude we all have, a strong one, is an aptitude not to die. If we didn’t have that aptitude our manufacturer would be wasting His time. Another aptitude that most of us have is what we call a conscience. It’s really a judge in the brain. When He decides we’ve done something good, He makes us feel better with a little happy juice. When He decides we’ve done something bad, He punishes us with a little unhappy juice. The neurotic has a tough judge.

I lack many aptitudes. My sense of direction is in backwards. My copying device is faulty. My ability to remember names is so bad it’s embarrassing. And I have a mechanical I.Q. of about seven. One good aptitude I was born with is a sense of probabilities.

My aptitudes to forget names and get lost I inherited directly from my father. Let me illustrate Dad’s ability to forget names: Dad and my wife Joan and I were taking a train to Ocala, Florida. Hobeau Farm was being built by my farm manager and friend, Elmer Heubeck, and his lovely wife Harriet. On the train we drilled Dad. Every couple of hours we’d have him repeat Elmer and Harriet, Elmer and Harriet. We arrived at Hobeau Farm and went to a trailer to have lunch. Dad walked in and said, “Hello, Elmer. Hello, Harriet.” And Joan and I were proud.

Harriet has a pet name for Elmer. She calls him Abbie. During lunch she would say, “Abbie, may I have some coffee.” “Abbie, please pass the butter.” Abbie this, Abbie that. Dad couldn’t stand it any longer. He said, “I know this is Elmer. I know this is Harriet. But why does she keep calling him Chuck?”

I could give you illustrations of my father’s ability to get lost, but why pick on Dad. I’ll tell you a story that demonstrates my own talent: One day I was at the races at Aqueduct and didn’t have my car. An apprentice jockey, Terry Drawdy, had just come to New York and had won the last race on a horse of mine. I was wondering how I could get a ride home when my trainer, Allen, said Terry would drive me, if I would show him the way. That was no problem, I’d been to Aqueduct at least 2000 times.

We had the bad luck to leave on the wrong road, and the first thing I knew we were on Atlantic Avenue, heading for Brooklyn. I was unperturbed and asked a gas station attendant how to get to New York. He said, “No problem. Just follow this road till you come to the Manhattan Bridge, take that and you’ll be there.” We followed instructions and went over the bridge. Now we were supposed to be in Manhattan, but I knew Manhattan was loaded with street numbers, ten, eleven, twelve, and so forth, and we couldn’t find any. We drove around and around, looking for street numbers. I thought, this is peculiar. Finally we came to a familiar sign, Holland Tunnel. Now I knew where we were. Years earlier at Lehigh, Monroe Lewis used to drive me to New York and we always went through the Holland Tunnel. So we went through the Holland Tunnel—and came out in New Jersey. I’d overlooked the possibility that the Holland Tunnel went both ways. No problem, we went up the Jersey side to the Lincoln Tunnel, through that, and up to 75th and Madison, where I live. It took us three hours and twenty minutes to make a forty-minute trip. I’ve been told this is the only time anybody went from Aqueduct to 75th Street by way of New Jersey. I could tell endless stories about my getting lost but it’ll seem like I’m bragging, because in A Tramp Abroad, my friend Mark Twain said, “For me, East is West, and West is East.”

Personality

I prefer not to be called Mr. Dreyfus, and try to get everybody to call me Jack. A few won’t, they say it doesn’t show proper respect. But believe me, you can disrespect a person and still call him Mister. They say clothes make the man. I don’t think that’s all of it. I wear good clothes but never a tie and collar, if I can get away with it. Take Donald Trump for instance. People wouldn’t mistake Mr. Trump for an unsuccessful person, even without a tie and collar.  He has a presence. Apparently I have an absence, and I project it.

A few illustrative experiences follow, some with ladies. That’s what I call them, being raised in Alabama. I’d have to be reincarnated before I’d call them guys. After watching the horses train at Hialeah, Maje Odom and I went to a diner for breakfast. On the way to our table there was a lady with a tiny baby. To be friendly, I said, “They’re making them awful small these days.” She said, “I’ll have a coke, please.” While I was in my bathing suit on the beach at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami, a lady strode up to me and said, indignantly, “I’d like to report that the toilet in the ladies’ room isn’t working.” I apologized—and passed the word along. I was sitting on a bench in Miami Beach, waiting to be picked up, when a lady came up to me and asked, “What time does the bus leave?” An empty bus was about fifty yards to the left. I said, “I don’t know, Ma’am.” She said, “You don’t know? Aren’t you the bus driver?” I demurred.

Now to the height of my career.

For several years I ate lunch at a small restaurant on 62nd Street, called Truffles. It had two window tables, a small one in the corner and a narrow one parallel to the window. One day I sat at the small table, facing the interior of the restaurant. I’d ordered my usual sandwich, cheese and tomato on a toasted roll, when two young ladies came in and sat at the other table. They hadn’t been there long when the one whose back was close to me turned around and started searching the floor. I said, “Did you lose something, Miss?” She said, “Yes, my wallet.” I looked around on the floor and said, “I don’t see anything.” She turned back to her companion and a moment later they had a heated discussion. My sandwich had arrived when the young lady turned around and glared at me. At first I didn’t get it, but when she continued to glare, I said, “My goodness, Miss, I don’t have your wallet.” She said, “You’re the only one who could. It was in my bag on the back of my chair.”

At that point the ladies got up and started to leave. I got up too and my new acquaintance said, in a loud voice, “I don’t mind the money but please leave my wallet, it has papers in it I need.” I went back into the restaurant and sat at my table, facing all the other guests. The lady nearest me seemed to shrink together with all her possessions. Everyone was staring at me. Understandable. It’s not often you can enjoy lunch, and look at a pickpocket at the same time. I counseled myself, “Now, cool it, don’t get upset. You haven’t done anything to be upset about. Don’t let this bother you. Eat your sandwich. Chew well,” and similar thoughts. After about ten minutes my friend came back. I stood up and she said, “I’m awfully sorry, I found my wallet in my car.” I could have given her a blast. But I said, “You’ve got a lot of guts to come back, and I appreciate it.”

Let me conclude with a nice story. I have been to Milan, Italy, twice—both times for medical conferences. The second time, I was staying at a lovely hotel, Principe di Savoia. I was to be picked up at 8:45 a.m. I had breakfast and went out front a little early. In the seven days I was in Milan, I saw the sun only once, but the air was always nice, compatible with my body’s electricity. When I got outside, I saw a little pussycat. It wasn’t that it was so little, it was so skinny it looked little. I hurried back to the breakfast room and bought some ham and turkey. When I came out the kitty was still there and I gave him the food. He didn’t eat it, he just inhaled it. I’ve never seen food disappear so quickly, and I realized I hadn’t given him enough.

Now I had a problem. I had a few hundred dollar bills, but no small change. So I went to the desk to get change. The desk had a piece of plastic on top of the nice wood that made it difficult to talk over. I waved to the young man who had shown me to my room. He spoke a fair amount of English. He came over, and I handed him a hundred dollar bill over the plastic and said, “Could I get change for this, please?” He said, “Oh, thank you so much, Mr. Dreyfus, this is so nice. I really appreciate this. You don’t know how much this means to me!” Well I remembered what Jesus said, “It’s better to give than to receive,” but this was a borderline case. I decided that I would go along with the thought, and smiled at him. I think I smiled—it felt more like a wince. Then I went back into the restaurant, negotiated a loan, and got more ham and turkey for the pussycat. This time it was eaten rapidly, but not inhaled, so I felt it was enough for the time being. I was picked up and taken to the meeting, and came back around 3:45. I was tired and went to my room, washed up a bit, and went out to enjoy the nice Milan air.

Across the street from the hotel was a tiny park, the shape of an ellipse. As I got to the park I saw two elderly people sitting on a bench. Their clothes looked more elderly than they. I was about to offer them some money, but decided against it—their feelings might have been hurt. I went to the other side of the park, sat on a bench, and enjoyed the air. It was so relaxing I lay down. Pretty soon I was asleep. I was wakened by a tap on my shoulder. I sat up and there was a well-dressed serious-looking lady holding out a ten-lire note. I couldn’t take the money, of course. But remembering my thought from the other side of the park, I took the note from the lady and thanked her very much. As she left there was a little smile on her face, proving that Jesus was right. And I had a feeling that in taking the note I’d given something myself, and felt happier too. It was a nice day.

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