Dik's Ravings

Dik Saalfeld '80
Washington correspondent
Spring 2012

"Blessed are the cheese-makers," we learn from the gospel of Monty Python's "Life of Brian." Bob Sweitzer '79 is our cheese-maker, having ditched the papermaking business a few years ago. He and his business partner own Cooperstown Cheese Company, 107 Oxbow Road at Rt. 28 in Milford, New York. They make cheeses and sell them in the store attached to their cheesery, or whatever you call a place where cheese is made. Cheeseorama. Cheesatorium. Whatever. The store also sells a variety of New York State-made comestibles, in addition to cheese. They buy milk from local farmers, and believe in supporting the New York economy.

Also from the "whatever happened to" file is word from long-time news source Bob Montione '80, who reports that his wife, Jennie Mosher, ran into brother Cuyle Rockwell '79 at a meeting about schools near their hometown of Schoharie, New York. Cuyle is a communications specialist for the Ilion Central School District. Cuyle was a one-man fall pledge class when Monti and I were rushing the fraternity. Monti and I were part of a 20-man class, which made it easier to fade into the woodwork when there was work to be done. It all caught up to me before initiation, though, when Pledgemaster Andy Henderson and Initiation Drill Sergeant Aldo Morell put me on gravel detail. I must have shoveled a billion tons of gravel in the back parking lot while Tom Berg, Paul Lego, Brad Smith and others sat around and built the shed on the side of the house. I still have nightmares about the blisters. Dik doing manual labor! If you can imagine. The horror.

Fraternity pledging at Cornell - as we knew it, anyway - is a thing of the past. This recent development is probably described elsewhere in this publication. We can look back on it wistfully, but it's just as well that it's different now, especially the hazing. I remember our pledging as being mostly benign, but some fraternities engaged in physical hazing that would land them in jail, now. I have a confession. I once engaged in a hazing activity with Jim Kopp '78, during which we "kidnapped" pledge Ed Cohen '81 and took him to the Rongo in Trumansburg, where we bought him whatever he wanted. Jim and I weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. When Ed went to the Gents' room, Jim said "hey, wasn't this HIS idea? Also, why are we paying for everything?" So we decided that the true hazing part would be to leave Ed in Trumansburg without a ride home. When we got back to the fratlodge, there was Ed, sitting on the couch watching television.

A couple of years later, Ed talked me into driving us down to Woodstock to meet the Tibetan Buddhist, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala and the 11th descendent in the line of Trungpa tulkus. Ed was looking for enlightenment, but I was pretty sure the road trip would result in meeting a bunch of zaftig space cadets in peasant dresses, a notion I was quickly disabused of. I never knew you could braid armpit hair. Also, wouldn't you think a meditation retreat at fabled Woodstock would be the perfect setting for, say, a keg and a bag of weed? You would be wrong. Very, very wrong.

The Royal Palm Tavern in Collegetown closed for good. The Palms was the only saloon I was ever kicked out of, incredibly, not counting one in either Amsterdam or Copenhagen, I forget which, but I couldn't understand what the hell they were saying and it's possible they were loudly proclaiming their admiration for my table dancing skills, rather than screaming at me to leave. (There were times Harold van Boven, proprietor of the Chapter House, looked at me funny, but he never gave me the boot.) It wasn't a permanent ban and I returned to the Palms, most recently at my 30th Reunion in 2010. I tried to determine if the place had changed in 30 years, but it was hard to tell. It had that old timey, 1940s lunch-pail and boiled egg feel to it in the '70s, and presumably up until it closed. I'd like to say I'll miss the Palms, but I won't. I'll miss the neon sign, although the one at the Chanticleer on State Street was better. Gibber once pointed out that I should probably stop giving directions based on the locations of bars when I grew up - the old neon signs were great landmarks, and nobody can read a street sign after 14 beers - but he was just being fussy, and besides, he did it, too: "Sure, counselor, you know how to get there - it's just past Joe's, but not as far as the Farmers and Shippers."