My Friend, Greg

stand by me

I’m not sure exactly what this post has to do with ethics. Obligation, perhaps. Still, I have to write it.

Yesterday, I learned that Greg Davidson had died. The news thrust me into the heart of some intense and strange hybrid of “Stand By Me,” “Animal House,” “Mister Roberts,” and “The Sandlot.” I hadn’t seen or talked to Greg for 41 years, since the day he sold me my first car, a red Nova that I paid for with cash, using my bank account started for me by my Dad when I was a baby. Wiped it out, too. But that’s not why Greg Davidson was important in my life.

I met Greg in the 7th Grade, when we were both 12. He was the first un-self-consciously cool kid I ever met, and one of the few people I have known had this distinction. (I will embarrass him by saying this, but my son is one of them too.) If you can picture the character of Chris (River Phoenix) in “Stand by Me,” that was Greg—athletic, physically graceful, blond, with a buzz cut, relatively quiet, and a natural leader. He was, essentially, a man in attitude and conduct long before the rest of us (some of us are still working at it)—he won the affections of my 6th grade crush, Margie, and formed a famous, much admired steady couple with her that lasted well into high school.

He was smart, but defiant in a puckish and courageous way: this was the early Sixties, and we all regarded the regimentation of school as an insult. Greg undermined that, regularly, and at considerable personal cost, by waging clever, chaotic war against authority that he considered an affront to human dignity—the equivalent of Mr.Roberts throwing the Captain’s palm tree into the drink. One of my favorites was when he tweaked a pompous high school English teacher who chafed under the nick-name Greg had devised for him—“Tweety Bird”—because it caught on, and because it was so dead-on accurate. Greg went to the trouble of making stationery with a small picture of the Warner Brothers avian in the corner, distributed it, and that week poor Mr. Hendrickson received an assigned essay from every student on Tweety paper. Greg denied that he had anything to do with the plot, but accompanied his denials with Otter’s iconic wink to Dean Wormer, so he left no doubt who Mr. H’s true tormenter was, not there was any doubt.

The teacher did not take it well. Continue reading

More Airport Encounters: Saying Thanks To An Accidental Mentor

Better late than never.

I previously wrote about the dilemma of whether to impose on celebrities who you encounter as they engage in the necessities of life (though I did not mention the time I was using a Kennedy Center urinal next to Colonel Sanders). I generally have ambivalence about the situation, but when I saw former Senator Alan Simpson standing at my gate as I disembarked at La Guardia, there was no question in my mind. I crossed over to him immediately, shook his hand, and said thank you.

I owe him, you see. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Heathers

All right, cooking your child doesn't mean you're a bad person.

Heather #1: Ethics Hero Heather Elliott, who saw two small boys locked in a car parked outside a Kroger store in Indianapolis. The temperature was in the 90s and climbing, and the boys looked red-faced and hot. One was screaming and crying, and banging at the closed window. Elliott decided to take action, and began to try to find a way to open the car doors.

Heather #2: Ethics Dunce Heather Query, 21-year-old mother of the two cooking boys, who arrived on the scene just as Heather #1 was trying to rescue her children. “How long were you in that store?’ Heather #1 asked #2.  “It’s 100 degrees outside.” ‘What do you care?” said Ethics Dunce Heather. “Mind your own business” When Ethics Hero Heather responded, “I’m just concerned about your kids. I’m just thinking about the safety of your kids,” Heather #2 attacked her, punching her in the face.

There’s gratitude for you. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Lincoln School in Spring Valley, Illinois

Thanks to Lincoln School, this isn't me. Yet.

Thank you, oh thank you, Lincoln School in Spring Valley, Illinois! Your superb and inspiring decision has stopped me, for the moment at least, from seeking species reassignment surgery. My membership in the human race has been an embarrassment to be of late, and I had been seeking alternatives. You give me hope.

Spring Valley’s Lincoln School gymnasium held a day of appreciation this week for custodian Edward “Red” Nestler,  88, who will retire on June 30. To his surprise, Red did not receive just a free lunch, or a watch, or a jacket, or a plaque in appreciation and commemoration of his many years with the school, a journey that began when he was a student there in the 1930s. On his “day,” Red learned that the school board, responding to a petition from students and staff, had voted to name the school gymnasium in his honor. Continue reading

Recognition and Gratitude Time

Despite the lightest traffic Ethics Alarms had experienced since Christmas in the week running up to Memorial Day, May 2011 will break the blog’s previous record for most visits, and end up approximately 300% busier than May 2010.

My heartfelt thanks to regulars and occasional visitors too—even those who still want to argue about the Tide commercials—with Acti-Lift!—for making my efforts here seem, if not especially influential, not entirely unappreciated either.