The Greyhound, the Butterfly, and the Iron Horse

Built during the Depression, the Empire State Building was the center of a competition between Walter Chrysler (kaput!) and John Jakob Raskob - the creator of General Motors (kaput!) - to see who could build the tallest building.

Located at 350 Fifth Avenue, The Empire State Building is 1,454 feet tall with 102 floors. I found out only last year, after a visit to New York with my sister, that Father hadn't been to the top after all. The observatory is on the 86th floor.



I was seven when she was born. She was a preemie. You've never seen a smaller human being. 3 pounds 7 ounces. I had nightmares for months from the sight of her. All shriveled and bony. Tubes and wires sticking out of every orifice. Her eyes were covered with gauze, and she was kept warm by a red lamp, suspended above her plastic cage. It was nauseating.

Mother wanted to name her Debra. Father wanted another son. I wanted to throw up.

For six weeks Debbie remained "hooked up" in that plastic cage. I refused to visit her in the hospital. Even after she was allowed home I hesitated looking in her direction for fear I might turn to stone or something.

Father fell madly in love with Debra. He called her his "little miracle." I was a Greyhound. Shewas a miracle.

A butterfly.

Last year I accompanied Debra to the Ford Models building on Greene Street in New York City. She was to be featured in an upcoming Mademoiselle Magazine.

Incidentally, an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard appeared in this issue. Kurt Vonnegut is a genius. And my sister is beautiful.


The 86th floor of the Empire State Building is plenty high. We went there and thought of our Dad. The Greyhound and the Butterfly.

In the 34th Street lobby, there are illuminated color panels by artist Roy Sparkia (kaput!) and his wife Renee Nemerov (kaput!) who interpreted the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and an Eighth Wonder from the modern world, the Empire State Building. Father's favorite was the Tomb of King Mausolus (kaput!). I still carry a postcard copy in my wallet.


My sister and I are not the only descendants of The Executioner's daughter and my Father. There are two other sons. Scott is a musician. Joshua is a baseball player.

A baseball player. Oh, the irony of it all.


My father was a great athlete. He was an All-American Tight End at Vanderbilt. They weren't very good back then, either. But he evidently shined. He was also an avid runner. Check that, he was a marathonrunner. He was training for his sixth when Dale Murphy was working on those 121 RBI's.

Being an exceptional athlete made this particular diagnosis especially cruel. The doctor gave my Dad a pre-race, routine physical and said that he was in great shape. "But you might want to see about the twitching in your arm."

Why not?Within days, several tests had been run and now he sat there half-listening to the litany of sobering results.

"Okay, bottom line doc. Can I run in the race or not?"

"I don't think you understand... You have a progressive neurological disorder... It's called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis... You have Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Lou Gehrig...He thought. Interesting.

My Dad found something almost complimentary about both the challenge and the nature of his death sentence. Lou Gehrig was the "Iron Horse." He played in over 2,000 consecutive games. Almost 15 years without missing a single turn at bat.

Lou Gehrig was a national icon... (kaput!)