The City of Fallen Objects

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I went to New Haven this weekend for my 45th college reunion. Not too many of my classmates showed up. I don’t think the class of 1974 identifies much with the institution. Some buddies of mine live in Niantic and Greenwich and they weren’t there. I confess I don’t have a Yale decal on my 1999 Civic, and when asked where I went to college I usually say Silliman College. If you say you went to Yale, it kind of lands on the ground with a ‘thud’ and kills the conversation. I suppose people’s unspoken response is, ‘So I guess you think you’re pretty cool.’

For me, New Haven will always be the City of Fallen Objects. One morning, after an all-night bridge game with Larry Maloney, Geoffrey Walker, and the Honorable Kristina Pickering of the Nevada Supreme Court (She wasn’t Honorable then; I mean she was honorable, but she wasn’t ‘the Honorable’) — Anyway, we emerged from the basement of St. Athony’s Hall to find that a student had fallen from a third-story ledge and landed on the roof of Pickering’s Audi. Grim. He had been locked out of his room and tried to climb in from the bathroom.

Shortly afterward I was in a friend’s room in Silliman College and looked out the window and across the street, above Naples Pizzeria, someone had let their puppy play on the slanted tilled roof. I thought that was unwise, and indeed when I looked a few minutes later, the puppy was lying lifeless on the sidewalk.

A few years later, Sam the Sham, aka the Aryan from Darien, a poet and shaman of our class, jumped off East Rock, a park on the outskirts of town.

Adelbert Hay
Adelbert Hay

Then, when reading The Five of Hearts by Patricia O’Toole, a really wonderful book, I read about Adelbert Hay, the son of John Hay, who fell to his death from a third-story window at the New Haven House, later the Taft Hotel while attending his third Yale reunion in 1901. He had just returned from a highly successful term as US consul in Pretoria during the Boer War, winning the praise of both the British and the Boers, and he was about to begin his duties as assistant secretary to President McKinley, the post his father held under President Abraham Lincoln.

The temperance people made much of the fact that he was seen drinking champagne with a vaudeville actress the night before, but he shouldn’t have been because he was engaged to Marguerite Cassini, later to be the mother of Oleg Cassini. Everything you wanted to know and much, much more!

And all of this brought to mind a brilliant story by Peter Bull, a housemate of mine who took a writing course with me. It’s called ‘The Night of the Frozen Pigeons,’ and it’s about the time it got so cold the pigeons froze solid and dropped to the ground like rocks. There’s also a passage about mom falling from a Piper Cub, and the onlookers admired the way the sun shone through her hair and they all agreed she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen fall from a plane.

So you can see why New Haven will always be for me The City of Fallen Objects.

A curious postscript: When I got home to Sunderland and booted up Facebook, there was a friend request from Peter Bull!