Tuesday, November 6, 1990. Election Day. I was 36 and worked as aparalegal at the Strauss firm. After 5:00 PM I rode on an elevator at the office, heading home, alone with fellow paralegal Peter Jacoby. The elevator stopped at the third floor. Waiting for the elevator was firm founder, Bob Strauss. He paused for a moment when he spotted me then smiled as if he recognized me. Strauss should not have known who I was. We had never been introduced.
Days earlier, on Friday, November 2, at my weekly psychotherapy consult with Stanley Palombo, M.D. I had brought along the classical pianist, Arthur Rubinstein’s autobiography, My Early Years. I wanted to share the opening paragraph of the book. Rubinstein talks about an aunt, whom he viewed as undertaking the role of his Protector: “A seventh child, eight years after the last-born, I was utterly wanted by my parents, and if it had not been for the enthusiastic persuasion of Aunt Salomea Meyer, my intrusion into this valley of suffering might have been prevented.”
Coincidentally, Bob Strauss’s father, an aspiring concert pianist, had emigrated from Germany to the United States in the years before World War I, hoping — but never realizing his dream — to make a concert career. The elder Strauss ended up in Texas operating a dry goods store.
Riding the elevator that evening, Bob Strauss chatted with Peter Jacoby about the Congressional elections that day.
Wednesday, May 31, 1967. I was a 13-year-old eighth grade student. My
mother took me—at my urging—to see a performance of Wagner’s opera,
Lohengrin presented at Philadelphia’s Convention Hall as part of a
nationwide tour by the Metropolitan Opera. Lohengrin is a mythic tale
that concerns a knight of mysterious origins who appears on the scene to
defend the honor of a maiden, Elsa, who had been targeted with base
rumors and false accusations. Lohengrin embraces the role of Elsa’s
Sandor Konya, the Hungarian tenor, sang the title role. I wore a plaid
blazer. It was the first opera performance I had ever seen. At the end of
the evening, as my mother and I were walking out of Convention Hall, I
overheard an opera-goer say, “That opera was awful. It didn’t have any
memorable tunes. It had no memorable arias.” I remember feeling
insulted by her comments.