Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The F & T Deli

I am delighted that Marvin Fox got in touch. As one of the proprietors of the F & T Deli, his food fueled many of Jerry's theories. He writes:
"Jerry Lettvin was a wonderful man! He was a customer in my restaurant, the F & T Deli. In fact, there is a memorial plaque in Kendall Square about the restaurant. One of the paragraphs is: 
"Over the decades, the restaurant's counter and tables were filled with truck drivers, hardhats, MIT faculty and students, and tradespeople of all kinds. The conversation ranged from the Red Sox to the race tracks, from problems at construction sites, to how frogs see, to the origins of the universe." 
Jerry told me that the conclusion of this study "What the frog's eye tells the frog's brain" was formulated in my deli. He also wrote a dirge about Fox & Tishman. 
There's no pub
in the Hub -
only singles bars
and bistros run by hockey stars.

There's no fare
in the Square -
only Harvbard Yard
and clip-joints that take a credit card.

What they sell
at Lobdell
is recycled sludge
prepared to nourish, at best, a grudge.

Sky and school and spirit are gray -
Where can we eat in a civilized way?

Fox and Tishman, Tishman and Fox,
dealt us compassion with bagels and lox,
meatloaf with morals, lentils with leers -
they warped our palates as we bent their ears.
Execs and secs, jocks and crocks
lunched at leisure at Tishman and Fox

Now this bastion
has cashed in
The sagging ceiling, the flaked chrome
that gave us home
are no more to be.

Fox and Tishman
Fox and Tishman
Fox and Tishman

have been F'd by the "T."
(The F&T was closed to make room for an MBTA station.)
My favorite story has to do with his appearance on David Susskind's Show about popular college professors. Susskind was upset with Jerry because, unlike the other members of the panel, he was not wearing a jacket and tie (remember things were very different in those days).
He made this known and asked if this type of informal attire set a tone for his students. Your father replied that he was a fat man and he felt comfortable in an open short sleeve shirt. He then said that he did not care how his students dressed when they came to class; if they brought their girlfriends or boyfriends; or their sandwiches. 
He said, "I am only interested in their enjoying my class and getting something out of it."
The next week, when your he and mother came into the diner, I told him, to his surprise, that I had seen him on TV. I further said that I liked his reply except, when he said sandwiches, why didn't he say the sandwiches they got at the F & T? 
He laughed and said, "Marvin, if I had thought of it, I would have said that."

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