Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By Bob Aldrich

I wasn’t going to write anything about the loss of Raymond Lieberman until I realized the absence of a note from me might be considered indifference. Such is not the case as he was one of the closest friends I ever had in my lifetime.

We met at age nine when his parents came with him to my house for a Wear Ever Aluminum dinner party with all the foods provided by the salesman and cooked, of course, by him in this new fangled way (1932). The dinner was successful in that a few pots of cookware were eventually sold. My meeting Raymond was not. I hated him. He was “spoiled” by all standards, dominating and just plain obnoxious. This “cool” period continued for several years until we met in junior high and became tolerant of each other.

It wasn’t until the tenth grade when Adrian had built a new high school with an enormous swimming pool (25 yards long!) that we became friends officially since we were on the swimming team. He did freestyle and I did backstroke and became the diver on the team. The Liebermans had a cottage on Devil’s Lake and we had one on an adjoining lake, so we grew up summering “at the Lake,” where everyone knew everyone.

After practice during swimming season we would walk toward home down Church Street and separate with Raymond going north and I going south on Main Street. These walks became great fun as Raymond had vivid imaginations and was a wonderful source of laughter.
He was the first one in our gang to get a driver’s license and since his father ran a shoe store downtown, his family car was available until the store closed at about 6 p.m. His father was most generous in letting Raymond use it, too. And with gas at 19.5 cents per gallon, we could use it! (It was always full as I remember.) If we needed more (it did occasionally), we headed for Joe Scholter’s station where “gyp” gas was 14.2 cents per gallon. We’d take up a collection to get a gallon or two.

When John Wood graduated and started college (at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) we would occasionally find some excuse to visit him. We were still in high school. It was only 40 miles away. The aura and excitement of Ann Arbor was stimulating to us all.

Jack Wood (John’s brother) and I decided to try to go the U of M and were accepted. Raymond went to the University of Iowa at Iowa City. So, in September, 1941, we set off for college. Then, Raymond and I started a letter writing exchange that further sealed our friendship (How I wish I still had his letters).

Three months later (Dec. 7, 1941), World War II began and eventually involved us all. Raymond and I continued to write. In the summer of 1942, we worked in war factories, Raymond and Tom (a mutual friend) in Kewaunee Manufacturing Company. I got a job in Fort Wayne, Ind., with my dad making material for the British was effort.

Eventually, we all joined the Army in some capacity. Raymond’s brother was killed in the Naval Air Corps in Corpus Christi, Texas, early in the war. It was a very difficult time for Raymond’s parents as well as for him. Raymond was in training to become a bombardier and even sent me detailed plans of the high altitude Norden Bomb Sight. (When I was in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War, I went to an Air Power demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and saw the air crew do its job from 35,000 feet. I’m still impressed.)

After the war, Raymond’s parents retired and moved to Florida but soon decided to move on to California and settled in Burbank. Raymond joined them there and entered USC and again after going to Paris to work for the Marshall Plan and then worked in New York City as a writer. Katie and I benefitted by his stopping in Michigan coming and going! He had the great opportunity of watching our kids grow and grow and grow. Our Raymond didn’t arrive until 1968 when I was 45! We built the family home in 1959 so Big Raymond had the entire lower level with great space for visits anytime. They were annual events. Sometimes more.

We met in Europe several times: in London; for travel in Portugal and Spain; in Greece and to Crete and sailing the Aegean – one of the greatest trips of our lives! My favorite photo is one of these two hicks from Adrian, Mich., standing in front of the Parthenon in Athens.

And, finally, the best part of knowing Raymond was being introduced to his friends who became ours as well: Terry, Chuck, Marianne, Louise, Mickey, Edith, Bob Chapman and many others. He enlarged our lives with museums, music, opera, theater and countless other cultural pursuits. He expanded our senses, made us laugh and loved our kids (which was “reciprocated”).

We’ll miss him severely. May God bless him always.

Note from Kate Aldrich:
How can I condense the adventures we have had in our 62 years of friendship into a few paragraphs? The answer is I can’t. Life will be different now, not as interesting, not as challenging and probably, never again as much fun!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Raymond Story...

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By Ray Aldrich

You all know him as “Raymond,” but for me, he was always, “Big Raymond.” You see, we share a name and for as long as I’ve been around, I’ve only known him by that moniker. This, of course, implied that I was referred to as “Little Raymond,” which made sense in the early years. It eliminated confusion when he would visit and the two of us were under one roof. At some point, I chose to be called, “Ray,” which worked with new people I met and still works today in my adult life. But, when I started going by “Ray,” Raymond never followed along, always referring to me in the long form. I think he felt it was a little cheap and inelegant than the full, two syllable name. For me, it was a point of differentiation and marked my independence.
He was pleased when I informed him that I thought I had figured out what our name meant. “King of the world,” I said with great confidence. I was completely wrong. I thought of “Ray” in terms of king (Rey in Spanish) and “mond” as in le monde (French for world). Raymond is, in fact, from Germanic origin, from the name “Reginmund,” composed of the elements ragin ("counselor") and mund ("protector").

To be sure, there are no two better words to describe my friend Raymond than a counselor and protector. He was my first true friend who was deeply interested to know about everything I was doing, why I was doing it and with whom. In my teen days, I referred to outings with girlfriends as “going out with them.” He wanted details and “them” would not satisfy him for a moment. Over time, our relationship grew and I found ways to counsel him as much as he counseled me.

Of course, one of my ways of helping him was through the many hours of computer technical support. It’s my fault, I guess. I encouraged him to get a computer. When I lived in Los Angeles, I remember countless times when I would venture up the hill to his house for “one small issue” that would lead to a marathon work session. Printing his spreadsheets for his taxes proved consistently a challenge. Raymond was so detail-focused and had to have every column lined up perfectly on every single page. I’ve always been a patient person, but Raymond, at times, pushed very hard against my reserves. But, he always appreciated my help and thanked me profusely. It wasn’t until later that I grasped the depth of his tenacity and passion for getting things perfect. He hated anything not in its place or any piece out of alignment or any modifier dangling. Hopefully, anyone? (The debate on this word rages on.)

For me, it has been a wonderful life to have had Raymond in it. I’ve always called him my adopted uncle, which probably undersells our relationship, but to the outsider, was easy to digest. Since his death, I can’t go a day without running across something he would love to talk about. A new techie gadget, a new movie or especially, a good joke. Raymond and laughter were inseparable and will forever inspire me to use my sense of humor to make life better for those around me.
When my six-year-old son, Turner Raymond Aldrich, heard of Raymond’s passing, he told me he had hoped to get a picture of the three of us. “You know, little Raymond (himself), medium Raymond (me) and big Raymond together.” I told him that would be very nice and that, if he wanted, he could call himself, “T. Raymond Aldrich.” Only time will tell if he takes this on, but I know we will both be better having Raymond with us wherever we go. My name is Raymond Louis Aldrich.

By Mimi (Aldrich) West

I lit a candle in memory of Raymond in a church adjacent to Piazza Navona in early May. This seemed appropriate as it was Raymond who insisted I go there on my first visit to Rome over 25 years ago to eat Nocciola ice cream at Tre Scalini. He often 'instructed' me in the finer things in life, and as usual, he was right. There isn't any finer ice cream.

Indeed, his enthusiasm for travel and European countries was infectious. As was his mastery of the New York Times' crossword puzzles, or his love of any book by Jane Austen or Willa Cather, these, too, rubbed off on those of us who spent time with him. Eventually, I had time to do the crossword and to read Willa Cather, and again he was right. And I told him so.

Raymond never was one to accept the pat response or give a polite evasion. He saw you as you were, not as you wanted to be seen. He gave me the courage to see that difference, not only in myself but in others.

I'm a richer and more genuine person for having known and loved him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

By Bonnie and Arnold Hano

The three of us all worked at Magazine Management, on the fourteenth floor of the Empire State Building. Bonnie and Arnold had been at Magazine Management since 1949; Raymond arrived two years later.

Magazine Management was a compendium of mediocrity, run by Martin Goodman, a former hobo who became a millionaire by copying good stuff and imitating it. And doing it all on the cheap. Goodman prided himself for paying Mickey Spillane an eighth of a cent a word for Spillane’s early pulp short stories. This translates to five dollars for a 4,000-word piece. Arnold ran Goodman’s paperbacks, Lion Books. Bonnie became the production manager of the comic book line, headed by Goodman’s nephew Stan Lee. Raymond came along, a breath of fresh air in dingy sharp elbowed Manhattan. His first job was in the mailroom, which he handled adroitly, a handsome son of sunny California. Soon Bessie Little, who ran the fan magazines and confessions, brought Raymond to her side.

The three of us found common ground. We had an apartment with a kitchenette, the size of a phone booth. Raymond joined us for frequent suppers. Arnold believes we ate standing up. Or we ate at Raymond’s place, dark and dank, with sharp corners you needed a white cane to traverse safely. And the smell of his cat’s litter box permeated all. This was Manhattan more than a half century ago. This was also the time of Martini lunches. All the editors would go out in search of the biggest Martini. . We drank Martnis every Friday noon and came back to work slight sloggered. All but Raymond who was his usual teetotaling self. And his thrifty self. When the check arrived, it was divided by the number of us at the table. “I didn’t have a drink,” he would grouse and rightfully so. But he had to pay for our drinking.

For a variety of reasons we three all quit Magazine Management. Bonnie and Arnold had a baby; Arnold felt he could freelance anywhere. So we set out for who knows where and ended up in Laguna Beach, a place we had never heard of. We had a three bedroom house and a large lot, spitting distance from the Pacific for $85 a month. Raymond followed us soon after, returning to LA where he landed a job as an editor which pleased Arnold who was always looking for magazine assignments. “I’ll write for you,” Arnold said.” “No, you won’t,” Raymond said,. “You won’t want to write for these magazines.” Arnold thought that was nonsense and asked for copies of the magazine. When Raymond brought them, we were both appalled and asked how he could possibly think that Arnold would consider writing for them. “You asked,” Raymond said, and that was the truth. And then we discovered mutual friends. Soon after we moved to Laguna, we had met Tom and Ulla Hubble (of the Hubble telescope family) who turned out to be old friends of Raymond from the time the three of them met while living in Paris . So when Raymond came to visit us in Laguna, we often met with the Hubbels.

We went frequently to Hollywood where Bonnie’s mother, out of Sioux City , Iowa , was spending her last years. After a visit we would meet with Raymond and sometimes the Howards joined us for a supper at different ethnic restaurant, which Raymond categorized as the Hanos’ poison pits. These were the best of times. We would drive up to Hollywood to see Mama and then visit Raymond; he would drive down to see us. And cheap as Raymond was, he also had music in LA, where we all would sit in the best seats to the glorious sounds of Beethoven or Brahms or others of that wonderful time long before dissonance took over the world of sound.

We went with Raymond and the Howards to the David Hockney staged production of Tristan and Isolde. Mickey Howard leaned over and said, “You have to agree, the Nazi bastard could write.’ And we had to agree. Age caught up with us. Hospital time intruded. We lived off the phone. Bonnie and Raymond had great long conversations. And at the end, when Raymond knew it was over, he said to Bonnie, ”Tell your husband, ‘You son of a bitch, you’ve outlived me’” So it goes. So it went. He was special. A young man who never became an old man. Bonnie’s addendum: I’m just terribly sorry that I didn’t get to say goodbye to Raymond in person. I really loved him.

Jane Aldrich-Bohne said...

Raymond Lieberman, a.k.a., Big Raymond, English Teacher, Raywan Liberwax, Rx, The Great Wordsman. No matter what you called him, he will always remain one of the most influencial people in my life.

As a child he taught me how to stand up for myself and as a young adult-how remain calm under pressure. He could always come up with snappy comebacks-that you wished you had been clever enough to have thought of in the first place.
Raymond shared millions of words of wisdom through the years and taught us many inventive ways to use words like: schlep, kvetch and blivet. Oy!

As a true wordsmith, he was never a man to mince them. I remember the time I came home from college thinking that smoking cigarettes seemed like a good idea. I lit one up on the porch in front of him-trying to look cool. He looked at me, calmly watched me puff on it, and then yelled--for all the neighbors to hear, "Are you out of your f_cking mind?!" No one else could be that blunt and to the point. Right?

Raymond was my third parent and my closest confidante. What mattered to me-mattered to him. That's what you call a true friend. He always knew what to say when you had a problem; were feeling down, or just needed a good laugh. And let's face it, there was no one who enjoyed a joke or good story more than Rx. If the Aldrich family put their heads together right now, we could probably come up with 1,000 classic jokes, limericks and stories that were told and retold with zeal and relish, by Mr. Lieberman. I miss hearing his laugh so much.

What about the wide net he cast that allowed you to meet and get to know some of the most interesting and talented people in the world? Without Raymond, we never would have met and fallen in love with Terry & Chuck, Marianne, Mickey & Edith, Louise and Caroline, Fred & Patricia and sweet Shelia. His friends became your friends. What a gift!

There will never be another man like Raymond Lieberman. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on the planet to have known him, vacationed with him, laughed with him, chowed-down with him, watched movies with him, debated with him, got ticked off with him and loved him for 54 incredible years.

I miss him so much...and always will.

"Good-night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

By Shirley Engel

The Lieberman family and my family were part of the Adrian, Michigan, small Jewish community. My family moved to Los Angeles in 1941;the Liebermans came after WWII. Since Raymond was seven years older than I, I really did not know him as a child, but after his family came to LA, we became fast friends.

Raymond had started USC where he majored in International Relations. I was a student at UCLA. The world was emerging from the horrors of the war, and the future was bright and exciting. We were going to change the world with our innocence of youth and new ideas. I had never met anyone quite like Raymond. He was an iconoclast who shared my views. We could talk about anything. Always witty, always direct, he would sometimes say the most outrageous things. We would see each other often. He loved movies, and introduced me to the art of watching them. Of course, we always went dutch, but we were just students.

Raymond wanted to see the world. He had year at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. We exchanged letters often. When he returned to LA, we resumed our old activities until he left to live in France. We still kept in contact, but our lives changed. I married my husband, and our contact ended. I have not seen Raymond for almost 60 years when I saw his obituary in the LA Times. I remember him vividly with pleasure. He was an experience I will not forget. He was an important part of my life.