Mr Paul Andrew Mitchell
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Me at 19
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Well, I managed to go, roughly, 35 years before nostalgia crept over, and around my mental block! So I went on the net to find out whatever happened to David Sherman, only to discover our mutual appearance on the Missing Alumni page. A few short hops around, and ten minutes later, I received a phone call from Kenneth Sonnenfeld, arguably my best friend between the years of 9-15, and someone I hadn't talked to in, you guessed it, 35 years! We had a grand time talking and re-connecting.
My history is as follows (warning, I like to talk, especially about myself, this will be long) - I never finished my Senior year at South; I was in some personal funk (I think it's called adolescence, which, in my case, came quite late!) and my mother wisely talked the school into allowing me to take English and Philosophy courses at Queens College, having the credits extend back to South. This worked remarkably well, as it was quite a challenge and we'd already relocated back to the same Queens neighborhood, where we'd come from 4 years before.
During those early college years, I pretty much followed my brother, and in fact, followed him up to Buffalo, where I attended both Buffalo State, and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Thanks to the nights spent driving around Great Neck in Sam Schwartzs Volvo (with Gabe Lopez and Joe Keller) I fell in love with fiddle music (heard on various 8-track cassettes that Gabe had programmed, thanks Gabe). Consequently, I spent almost the total time I was in Buffalo dropping out of various institutions in order to continue my obsession with oldtime fiddle music.
Somewhere along the way, I acquired a degree in Psychology, and a wife!
(In fact, Kenneth Sonnenfeld and Joe Keller attended my wedding, at the Three Coins restaurant in NYC).
We started out in Wolfeboro, NH where my wife taught Math in the elementary school, and I substitute taught, worked in the grocery store and joined the only bowling league I've ever been in. This didn't last, however, and we relocated to Somerville, MA, where my long-suffering wife took a computer course, looked at her fiddle playing fool of a husband and moved on with her life. Still following in my brothers footsteps, I trained to be a psychotherapist at the Life Involvement Institute and worked at various mental hospitals. All these institutions soon realized I was uniquely unqualified to help anyone get better adjusted, so I ended up working as a *gopher* (go for this, go for that - an expediter actually) for Production Control, in a missile plant. Believe it or not, this was the perfect place to be in this stage of my life. Not knowing what to do with the "college-kid" they dumped me in with the Numerical Control programmers (who used a Fortran like language to program mechanical lathes and drilling machines). One of them got into a argument with the woman who accepted the decks of cards we used, so I sat down at one of the new terminals and discovered that I take to computers like a kid to candy. I soon transferred up to the Computer-aided Engineering Department and watched the entire plant become automated. I also fell in with a crazy French Canadian, "Rusty" LeMontaine, an old-timer who played country music and we'd hook up with Yodeling' Phil, and sometimes my brother, to play all around the French Canadian communities in Lowell and Methuen, as well as the Cambridge coffee houses.
From there I spent 10 years at MIT Lincoln Labs, on a peacenik project, involving real time analysis of windshear for the FAA. I spent most every weekend out in Vermont, at the home of an old friend and former-band mate from Buffalo, playing (you guessed it) oldtime fiddle music (is there a pattern emerging?^). During this time, I met my real partner, Deb, at a music party in Lincoln, MA. We've been together 15 years now (no children, I'm sorry to say, but a steady supply of cats and a new 12 week old pup). The skills I learned at MIT enabled me to be hired at the Univ.
of N. Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I've been here since 1994, running large Unix servers for statistical, database and Bio-informatics research.
We also play tons of music, and one of the real thrills of my life has been to study and play out with the last Black oldtime fiddler from Orange County, NC, Joe Thompson. (In fact, you can see us at http://www.unc.edu/~pmitchel/joe.html - apologies for the time it takes to load the pictures. That's Deb and me on the left, three pictures down from the top). Nowadays, I've taken an interest in Irish music (go figure, I wouldn't listen to it in Boston or NYC!) but you get to garden almost year round down here and I don't expect to return up North, except for a quick visit. My father passed, quite suddenly (and peacefully) 6 years ago, my mother and brother (and his family) all reside in the Boston area.
I know this has gone on a bit, but I'd like to clarify one thing. For some unknown reason, my parents never told me about Joe Kellers passing, until years afterwards. I'd fallen out of touch with him sometime in my first marriage and just let it go. So it was great to read the passage on him in the memoriam section. I'd have to say, hoping I don't sound too far gone, that Joe Keller was undoubtedly my Guardian Angel. Many was the time he'd drop what he was doing and drive up to Buffalo, or New Hampshire at a moments notice (because I, in my typical dreamers daze, had forgotten to find a place to stay and the dorms were closing for the winters break).
I remember the great music we went to hear all over the city and his ability to instantly appreciate the scratchy, completely non-classical, offerings of the fiddle music I'd developed an ear for. I can see him dancing a jig to my playing at my folks apartment in Queens. I miss his great sense of humor and comic ability. I know there were struggles, and I probably aided and abetted more than a few of them. I unearthed some of his drawings the other day (and Kenneth tells me he has the entire Borscht Man series, I'd forgotten about those). Hopefully, I'll scan some of the tamer ones in soon and let you see them. Rest in Peace, old friend.