ARTICLE BY JEFFREY A. FRIEDBERG
I have memories and dreams of youth. Like yesterday.
I once worked at the President Hotel-Motel pool, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was an ultra-exclusive vacation spot, and I was a certified life guard. It was big time. Prestigious. It was money. An adventure.
It was a Golden Age: America The Beautiful. A lost Age. A pastel Age. You’ll never see it, if you haven’t already. Too bad. In that case, I’m sorry for you. I am.
I met Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, there, at poolside. He was quiet. In 1964, I met Lyndon Baines Johnson; Averil Harriman; and Bobby Kennedy, there. Bobby Kennedy was a tiny, little, lobster-red guy. Averil Harriman was a chiseled statue of himself.
Lyndon Johnson. He was like fricking Pharaoh. I never saw such evil power radiate from a man. You had to have seen him in person, or it can never come across. He, of course, became President of the United States.
I had been given delegate’s credentials to the 1964 Presidential Convention. I was behind enemy lines. I got the credentials from a guest named Charlie Rose. He had no hands, because of World War II, but he knotted my credentials’ lanyard for me like he had hands.
I remember. The time; the place; the people. “I’d like two chairs facing the sun, and extra towels.” They’d always say that.
“Yes sir; yes ma’am. Coming right up,” I’d always answered.
That would usually result in a $2 tip. Today, that would equate to about $16. I learned a lot, back then—about money; people; presentation; and, demeanor. Like Trump, I’m sure.
I learned the value of Service, and fast times, out at night, on “the boards.” The boardwalk, where slick hucksters like Sam and Ron Popeil, chanted their con’—and today are worth $100M.
It was like a movie. Atlantic City. Mobsters, tricksters, slicksters, cons, spies, lies, and professional grifters.
In my movie role, I had one day made this drowning “rescue;” pulled a guy from the deep end of the pool. I’d seen he had been drowning. He was already dead. He’d had some sort of attack and was foaming from the mouth.
Somebody had been watching me just before I went in. She had “scoped” me out, she’d said. She was eighteen, like me.
“I’m Ali Lombardy,” she’d said.
I can’t forget her. She was 5’ 1”, 95 lbs, short dark hair cut in a shingle—Italian, and, to me, beautiful in light gray swim suit.
She’d tried to console me. Then she’d looked at me hard. Her eyes like a deity suddenly encountered in a clearing. And she’d told me she had loved me at first sight. Like having been struck by lightning, she’d said.
She’d been watching me, just as I dived in for the dead guy. She’d called me “hero.” She’d said she’d never felt like this before. Her eyes were soft despite the sun.
We talked, and, yes, I was in love, too. We were that young, you see. Eighteen and alive, in a pastel Golden Age.
But she told me we could never be together. Not in the clear. Never in Newark, where she resided, when not attending school in Switzerland. “There are men around my father who would never allow it. I’m afraid for you,” she’d said.
She’d feared for my life, she’d said. These men “around” her father. I didn’t know what that meant.
We talked. We didn’t allow a kiss, hug, or even a touch of hands. Not back then; not at that time; it wasn’t done. There were standards.
And, goodbye. She gave me her mailing address at school. We secretly corresponded for a while.
And we lost track.
Now—60 years later, for some reason, I wonder about Ali Lombardy. And a lost Era.
Ali Lombardy. From Newark, alive in pastel Golden Age.
I had loved Ali. Deeply, without thought, and Forever.
Now…I wonder what happened to her. How are you, Ali? I hope you’re fine.
I have missed you both.
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