Fiction Stranger Than Truth?
From Matthew Burtch '82
I read with great interest the profile of Reed alumnus Steven Rubin '80 [August 2000], which provided a fawning, almost hagiographic depiction of its subject. Had your writer bothered to dig a bit deeper, however, a far darker portrait of the man would have emerged. I had occasion to know Mr. Rubin during the late '70s and early '80s, and I can affirm that he is hardly the paragon of virtue that your writer indicated him to be. His housemates at the time reported that on at least two occasions Mr. Rubin failed to replace the cap on the household tube of toothpaste in a timely manner. One of them further hinted vaguely that T-shirts belonging to Mr. Rubin would at times go for hours, if not days, before being hung up properly, and several of us remember with perfect clarity the sight of Mr. Rubin at his thesis desk in the library, hunched over in what must be described as atrocious posture.
As for his photography, which is the (excuse the word) focus of the piece, it's worth noting that the reason that West Athens, Maine does not show up on any Rand McNally maps is because it does not exist. "West Athens, Maine" was actually built as part of the PovertyWorld exhibit at Walt Disney World, and the people shown in Mr. Rubin's photos are, in fact, animatronic robots programmed to pick sullenly at plates of hominy grits made from space-age resins. Mr. Rubin has on more than one occasion defended this deception by insisting that Dorothea Lange used discarded Macy's mannequins in setting up her famed Dust Bowl shots, but I, for one, remain unconvinced.
The Hibernating Owl
From W. Cullen Moore '36
Somewhere along the way from the early 1930s, the House F Owl metamorphosed into the Doyle Owl. It has an interesting lifestyle, being well known to reverse the usual hibernation pattern of most animals_nesting down during the summer and fall months and being active during winter and spring. Like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, it fades in and out of public view, presumably at the whim of its patrons. Let the record show the following irrefutable facts: during the Reed Open House of 1934-35, it acquired a youthful voice (not unlike Art Allen's '36) and flashing yellow eyes to welcome visitors to the third-floor landing of House F, where it held court, chained to the iron railing. The ruse to spirit it away at a late evening hour involved a decoy heavy bag making a dramatically staged escape, while the true House F Owl made a safe retreat in the rear seat of Art Allen's venerable Flint Master sedan. The summer and fall of 1935 (the owl's hibernation period) were spent under the side porch of 5524 SE Hawthorne, undisturbed in the company of my canoe. It revived in early fall into the hands of a new patron. My "cerebral search engine" comes up with the last name of Brown (his first name lies buried in the 87-year-old tangled mass of seemingly random synaptic geometries).
Responsibility Needs to Be Shared
From David Tyler '55
As an ecologist, reading Laurie Lindquist's piece about Miriam Yarfitz '00 in the August issue, "Those without a voice," I couldn't help but admire and agree with her Jewish concepts of tikkum olam (repairing the world), and tzedakah (administering justice and charity) as shared responsibility of all people. However, the photo and caption (p. 21) brought some other thoughts to mind. First, how deliciously Reed-like! Second, how disingenuous! If these scions of the (face it) over-privileged really wanted to do something about Reed's "lack of diversity," silence is the last thing needed. Voice, not silence, is what's needed! Each could speak up! Tell their parental units to divert their tuition for next year to the United Negro College Fund or some such. Earnest Reedies could drop out a year and work like hell to raise money to pay their own way. Hmmm. . . . Come to think of it, though, Reedies are alleged to be among the smartest in the nation; maybe, that's why silence is more appealing.