Books Are My Closest Friends

      It may have started way back in time, when I was a kid in high school, probably at age sixteen… Or it may have begun as an eighteen-year-old entering the United States Army—not the most likely period. Then comes some certainty as a man turning twenty-one years of age, beginning to recognize how little I could consider of any great or meager consequence. Everything was still in my own little niche of what I effectually consider a young person’s “rectal delirium”.
      Please do yourselves a favor by not attempting to find the definition. It’s a Harvey Kalmenson coinage for a man who still had his head up his ass. My baseball coach delivered the line to me as I prepared to sign a professional baseball contract; his actual words of advice to me were: “Keep your head out of your ass and you’ll ultimately be okay.” Of course, Coach was correct in his assumption that all teenage boys only looked like men. Their chronological age required them to remain as boys with their heads you-know-where and remain for many more years to come.
      Ergo, after suffering an athletic injury, I left home and found myself at age twenty at the top of a hill in North Korea, twenty-five miles north of the 38th parallel.
      My reading consisted of newspaper articles written by reporters from the three Los Angeles papers then in existence, sent to me by my older sister. For whatever reason, I found myself being more and more detached from the reportage contained within the news clippings. As I entered my second year in Korea, I found myself in the strange position of not even attempting to read any of what my sister sent me.
      By then, I was living in the operating room of a World War II, bombed-out, Japanese hospital. It was a complete “Shangri-La” in comparison to my previous lodging in an army ten-man squad tent (similar to the ones on the TV show, MASH). I was no longer in any bodily danger; a cease-fire was in place.
      I was put in charge of a major Eighth Army engineer supply point (yeah, yeah); I was the sole leader of the joint. And believe it or not, although I wasn’t as yet aware, I was becoming “da harv”. And would you believe, I had a houseboy to take care of keeping the place sparkling clean? Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the place.
      I gave my army cot to my houseboy, who lived in a very comfortable side-storage room—but I had my own personal toilet—given the circumstances, both were unheard of.
Poignant note: The houseboy’s name was Gin-gie. About 4 months went by and he asked me if he can bring his dad by to meet me. “Sure, but I’d have to get him a pass to get onto the compound”—with the materials being hot commodities, it was well guarded. About a month later, Gin-gie showed up with his dad. We bowed to each other upon meeting, shook hands, and I said, “Glad to meet you, Mr. Kim”. He was dressed in a nice jacket with a shirt and tie and cleaned up for the occasion. That was about the extent of it until the time came for me to rotate home. Mr. Kim showed up once again and this time, he brought a nameplate that he had personally carved for me. Although he couldn’t speak any English, it was a tearful moment when we said our goodbyes. 
      Somehow, I got my hands on a twin-size bed from a Korean trader; it cost me about two bucks. I can’t recall what the sheets and bedspread had cost me, but it wasn’t much. Having a bed, as opposed to an army cot, proved most favorable for me at certain times (figure it out—only for adult consumption).
Note: My army work had nothing to do with voiceover, but it did allow me to really dig into a series of articles being written for a magazine called “Fabulous Las Vegas”, by my cousin, the comedian, Dave Barry. During the time period and continuing for sixteen years, Dave was the opening act for “Wayne Newton” in Las Vegas.
      It was then that my life really began; “let the games begin”. I discovered there were more Kalmensons in the entertainment business than I was ever aware of. I began noticing the name Kalmenson, here and there, scattered around in a variety of books about the old days of Hollywood. It wasn’t a big or world-changing event, but in a brief moment, my life of discovery took hold. It was moments when books began to take shape for me, and what turned out to be lifelong friendships. Books became my erstwhile partner; I knew they’d be there for me to turn to for the rest of my life.

      Without knowingly going for it, learning had become a very healthy obsession. The neighborhood public library was my free college and in short order, my own private university. Once, and almost each and every week, my young wife would be out doing our grocery shopping, and also stop by the library in order to bring home the friends I would entrust with my in-depth schooling. There were always one or two shopping bags filled with books to be found in our small apartment.
      In those days, what I read was a real “Clobbiosh” mixture of many intellectual things, especially of an abstract nature caused by the input of many European societies (usually brought to the USA by German immigrants, we think). In case you want to know, Wikipedia states: “Clobbiosh, also known as Bela, is the Anglo-Jewish trick-taking card game variety of Klabberjas played in Jewish communities in many parts of the world…” And the beat goes on. How often some things never change.

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