Category Archives: The Conversation

The Conversation

Excerpts from an ongoing online conversation full of twists and turns of topic


To:Bill & David, On My Experience Of Being Shot At:

Only once that I can think of at the moment and it was collective rather than personal. In the 1980s I was invited to lecture in Nigeria at Ibadan. Talk about God protects fools and babies; it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t just be a “tourist” on my own in Nigeria.

I took a bush taxi van to go from Ib. to Osogbo where there is an extraordinary artists’ colony/community. The van was as you might imagine, men in business suits, others in local Yoruba robes, women with babies, chickens and one small goat. I had seen that there were unofficial roadblocks where drivers had to pay to pass, but any vehicle I had been in had always stopped and paid off the bandits. This driver decided to run the blockade.

As the driver picked up speed, the savvy folk in the van hit the floor, or as close to it as one could get. The man next to me pushed me down on the pile of people and stuff at my feet and he stretched sideways across the seat. Bullets flew; two hit the back window, one of them went all the way through the van and out the front windshield.

The driver barreled on, but once we were definitely in the clear most of the passengers screamed and cursed at him at length – – he had done it only to keep all of the money we had paid him for the trip rather than pay some of it for safe passage. I just sat there for most of the rest of the trip, too numb/stunned to do more than breathe.


To: Bill: My reply to his comment that having my parents’ FBI files was super cool.

Cool today; rough stuff at the time. I was born in NYC, where we lived, and my mother was from Worcester, MA, but my father’s family was from Jacksonville, FL. Post- war, being black in the South and having the FBI suddenly knock on you door to demand info about your flaming red relative up North was some seriously terrifying s**t which caused family rifts that survive to this day – – it’s like we were radioactive.

I got the files more than a dozen years ago and the procedure might be different today. I just called DC and asked how to do it and was sent forms to fill out. It all took well over a year, however, because their files had not been “processed” so they had to be located and then carefully redacted — there’s a certain amount blacked out, informers’ names, etc.

Go for it and let us know how it works these days.


From Freddie McKenna: My Dad’s a nice Jewish doctor and garden variety democrat. My mom’s an embittered housewife, like most of my friends’ moms. She still irons my father’s underwear and hand-washes his socks in the bathtub. I’d be bitter too.

We DID lose everybody on my grandmother’s side in the Warsaw Ghetto, and both my Armenian great grandparents on my French mother’s side had to flee the Turkish genocide. I also have an Alsatian great-great uncle who killed his wife and her lover after finding them in flagrante delicto. He fled across the Atlantic and ended up in Texas where the trail ends.

@Freddie: See if this opens

or just Google, in quotes, “This is our common destiny”

Conversation diagram ->