Blue Hippopotamus : A Semi-Autobiographical Novel As Told by Earle Porlock, (Aka Paul Ehrlich

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-08-29
  • Publisher: Textstream
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Writing The Blue Hippopotamus was great fun-sort of reliving my early life and making some incidents even better than they were the first time. What I wanted most of all was to write a page-turner, to give the reader a chance to actually live and feel what I had lived and felt. In a sense, my own life was a page-turner, from day to day, and a wonderful one that I enjoyed and loved-even the difficult and painful happenings. I think that I've been tremendously lucky to have had such a-almost a charmed life-and that's what I wanted to share with the reader. Yes, there were moments and incidents that were difficult and sometimes very painful, like when I said my final goodbye to Maidi, the love of my life, and what a remarkable love that was-several professional authors have called that good-bye "heartbreaking," and so it was. It was my heart that was breaking, and Maidi's, but we both knew that it had to be that way, and we accepted it. And then of course, many, many years later, we finally met again by chance, or by accident, in Paris, and the closure we had needed for so many years finally arrived. I wrote the book when I was ninety, and I was the last survivor of our group of five. We had all been made to swear that we would never tell. But after seventy years, I felt the story could, and should, be told.


My friend Tommy had a great joke that he would pull at appropriate times when someone had uttered a large pomposity, especially on the radio (there was no TV in those days). In a very statesman-like voice—he called it his "stentorian" voice, though I think he got the definition slightly wrong—in tones of great sadness, compassion and resolve he would begin some famous quotation, like WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS IT BECOMES NECESSARY FOR ONE NATION TO BUU—AHH—AHH—AHH, at which point his eyes would roll up and his body would start to convulse and people would run screaming, sure he was going to vomit all over them, while the rest of us would roll on the floor screaming with laughter. He didn't do it often, but when he did it, the reaction was a higher form of existence. Tommy and the rest of our little group were on the Boys High track team—I was the sprinter—the 100 yard dash, the 220, and, when pressed, the 440 relay, which I hated—I was very fast, but I had no endurance, and they always put me on anchor. The reason I was so fast was my little secret, shared only by Tommy, who had been my best friend since 4th grade. In elementary school I was one of the slowest, but after a few "Field Days" where I got used to cat-calls and laughs I sat down with myself one day and figured it all out—which muscles to work out, which arm moves speeded up the legs, and then, since that speeded up the legs but shortened the stride, which moved you faster but not much—how to get around that defect by lengthening your stride without slowing the legs. You'd like to know? Hah!! In your dreams. One nice result of being so fast was I didn't have to go to practice. Mr. Palmer, the track coach, was very nice about it when I explained that I'd quit the team. Sometimes I'd practice by myself—we lived in Brooklyn, Bedford Avenue between I and J, and there was a bus that turned the corner at J, and I'd race it to Avenue I—the long city block—and usually beat it. Mr. Palmer wanted me to try out for the Olympics, but he said I'd have to go to practice. That was the year the Olympics were held in Germany and Jesse Owens won all the medals, to the great embarrassment of Adolph Hitler and his "Master Race". I wonder what he would have done if a Jewish kid from Brooklyn won all the rest of the medals. By the time we all graduated the depression was pretty much over, and jobs were not hard to find. Some of us would still meet once or twice a week at the little coffee-shop near the Paramount building where we used to hang out, usually bringing our present (and sometimes interchangeable) girlfriends, and talk about what would be interesting to do now that we had nothing interesting to do. I would usually bring Betty, who I had met at track meets—she was the Girls High high jumper, and a great girl, and very pretty. Tommy, who had used our secret to become a great long jumper, would bring Astrid, and Frankie, our mile runner, would bring Eleanor, whose father was known as the Guru, or sometimes Frankie would show up with Kendra and Silvio the Ketchup man would bring Eleanor. Silvio was a huge handsome brute, the Shot-Put King, but we called him the Ketchup man because he was allergic to Ketchup. If anyone at our table put Ketchup on his fries or his burger Silvio would get nauseous. I had the same allergy but never showed it. It was a holdover from the depression days not too long before when sometimes all we had to eat was to go to the Blenheim Cafeteria and eat a bowl of Ketchup.

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