Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Poisoning of Jerry

Jerry had been given a grant to conduct some research on octopus vision at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy. Since it was a grant associated with the military, he also had privileges at the Post Exchange (PX) and other facilities at the US Naval base near the city.

I was in my early teens and would sometimes think of myself as a lab assistant, but I am sure that Jerry thought me more of a nuisance than anything else. He would try to get rid of me by sending me to Max Braverman's lab to count sea urchin eggs, or to Andrew Packard's lab to try to teach octopuses to recognize shapes. I learned how to use a microscope, to use a microtome, to set up and stain slides, to draw glass pipettes and make other useful lab equipment. I'd get sent to do research in the library. I'd sometimes guide English-speaking tourists around the aquarium.

One of the few things I did around the lab that he did seem to appreciate, was to make him coffee.
I don't know if you realize that there was a difference between the coffee that Jerry drank because it was available, and the coffee he drank because it was the way he liked it. He would drink any coffee that was offered, but what he preferred was:
2 heaping teaspoons of instant Maxwell House coffee dissolved in
1 mugful of boiling water
2 teaspoons of sugar and
a dollop of cream

This coffee was viscous. It had more of the consistency of maple syrup than of coffee.

But that's the way Jerry liked it and with the bipod of caffeine and nicotine supporting his thought processes all progressed normally.

One day he had gone to the PX probably to pick up a couple of cartons of Kents (the black market always had Winston and Marlboro but the Italians weren't as fond of the rather dull packaging of Kents). While there he had seen a good deal on instant coffee. It wasn't Maxwell House, but it was so much cheaper, that I guess he decided to put up with it. He bought a big olive drab can of it and brought it in to the lab.

Not knowing any better (how could I) I used this coffee in the same proportions as usual. At the end of the day, some six or eight cups later, I noticed that Jerry was a little pale and jittery. By the time we got home he was sweating and shakey.

The coffee he had purchased at the PX was apparently something called watchstanders' coffee and what he didn't know was that it had about 6 to 10 times the caffeine of commercial coffees.

He was in the throes of caffeine poisoning and I had (innocently, I swear) done it to him. It was the only time I ever saw him drink anything other than Passover wine. He downed an entire bottle of brandy trying to knock himself out ... and failed.

I may be wrong, but I think it took him three or four days before he could get to sleep.

I've had Navy coffee myself since, but I've never had any that was as strong as that. But then, I've never developed a taste for the coffee sludge that Jerry drank.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Memorial

The memorial went well. It was an amazing gathering and celebration of Jerry's life. Some people told typical Jerry stories ... meaning that they were funny and inspiring and highlighted his quirky approach to life, the universe and everything.

I have a few stories and memories that have arrived in the last couple of months, and I will post them shortly. I am still taking submissions to the blog so please send me any further Jerrynalia. I'll have a couple of additional stories of my own up here in the next day or so.

I haven't yet heard when the video will be available, but as soon as it is I will put it up or provide some method for distribution to those who want to see or remember what happened.

Sorry for the long hiatus, but there has been too much going on, and too little time to think.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There has been a lot going on ...

... since the memorial and I really haven't had a chance to get back to this blog or the redesign of the website where some of Jerry's materials will be displayed.

I apologize for the delay. More stuff will be up soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

If you want to attend the memorial for Jerry, this is just about your last chance to RSVP. Please email me before Sept 14th to tell me who you are (especially in relation to Jerry), whether you want to talk, how many people you'd like to come with you, and any physical or sensory accommodations you might need.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jerry's "Elegy to Building 20"

Elegy for Building 20

Place of work is part of mind,
Memories imprint the wall,
Shabby artifacts recall
Crystal concepts, well-defined.

Down the halls of empty wings
Expurgated rooms extend;
When the wrecker comes, they end,
Broken down to formless things.

I'm not Faust, and will not pray
Time to take the time to dwell;
Status quo is gait of hell.
let those rooms be done away.

Academic monies buy
Only what it pays to know;
Newer fabrications grow
Where the older legends lie.

As the building comes apart,
Driven by a subtler trend,
Means that justify and end
Subsidize the wrecker's art

Past, reknown for past renown,
Cannot generate returns,
Just the interest it earns.
Tear that tattered engram down.


Brilliant ideas

Michael Brill has blogged an account of his first experiment in Jerry's lab.

Articles about Jerry

I've also started an online collection of articles about Jerry. I only have three up so far, but I have a huge collection of newspaper and magazine articles that I will start scanning and adding as I have the time.

Thanks to Leslie Lawrence and Sam Bertie for the articles already posted.