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we remember Bob Lucid
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Dan Simpson:

I spent several hours today digging out and reading artifacts from a class, Counterculture Literature after Two World Wars, I took with Bob Lucid back in the mid '90s--a reading journal, a long paper on Lowell and Ginsberg, and extensive notes from a lecture Bob gave on "The Wasteland." We began the course with A Movable Feast and "The Wasteland," then moved to Mailer's Advertisements for Myself, Ginsberg's greatest hits, Naked Lunch, Cuckoo's Nest, and Sexual Politics. In reading Bob's "post mortem" on my paper, I was struck by how, even though Bob gave me an A, he kept challenging me to go deeper and open up new areas of exploration. As a former high school teacher, I know the value of reading logs and journals. Bob was the only professor I had at Penn who required students to keep one. Today, it is one of the products of my academic life that I most prize. Rereading it reminded me of a balance Bob maintained in the classroom and encouraged in our individual projects--a call to a high standard of scholarship which, at the same time, did not preclude or minimize one's personal relationship with books and one's emotional response to them.

When Bob found out that he had macular degeneration, he reached out to me, knowing that, as a blind person, I could help him tap into the network of organizations and resource providers. "Why don't we talk about it over dinner," he said, and invited me to join him at the White Dog. We had already gotten into the habit of long, sprawling conversations about life and literature in his office, so it was quite natural for us to pick up threads of our ongoing discussion and become completely immersed in almost everything but macular degeneration. Long after dessert had come and gone, I asked if we should at least touch on our intended topic. "The evening has flown," he said, "and I can imagine you would want not to get back home in the dead of night. I'm sure we can find another time to talk about all of that. How about if we just make a lunch date in the future and cover it then. After all, according to my doctors, it's not as though I'm going to wake up next Wednesday and suddenly find I can't see a thing. We'll have time. By the way, how do you plan to get home?" I said I would walk to 30th Street Station and catch the next train to Lansdowne. He wouldn't let me. "That sounds awfully involved for this hour; I'll just call a car and send you home. Won't that be a lot easier?" I put up a mild protest, but could tell right away that he would have none of it. I went home in style.

I always loved listening to Bob speak. You could tell immediately that he savored language and got much pleasure out of telling a good story. He knew how to turn a phrase. One afternoon when I arranged to stop by his home after he had moved back to Penn from Wilkes-Barre, we sat in his living room, catching up after a long gap, while his wife Joane, who was sick by this time, lay sleeping in her room. I asked him how he was doing with his adjustment to reduced vision and whether he had had a chance to check out some of the adaptive computer equipment he had expressed an interest in. "No," he said, "I haven't seen this print-enlarger you told me about, but I called a woman who apparently trains people on them and tried to line up a time to talk. Actually, I never reached her, but I did get her husband on the phone last week. He told me he knew exactly what I was talking about and that his wife was quite knowledgeable about the equipment and would probably be happy to help me if she could squeeze me into her very busy schedule. He said he would give her the message and that, if time permitted, she would call me back in the next couple of days."

"So what happened?" I asked.

"Well, I waited for nearly a week and didn't hear from her. Her husband had said she would call if she could take me on, and when I didn't hear from her I thought, "Well, what response could be more eloquent?"

I remember the elegant tea Bob and Joane invited our class to in their beautifully appointed apartment in Hill House. I will always be thankful to him for introducing me to the film Berkeley in the Sixties. I miss those long talks that could set my brain going in nineteen different directions at once. Mentor, colleague, father-figure, friend--Bob was all of those. I count myself indeed fortunate to have crossed paths with him while he walked this campus.

October 10, 2007