Long ago we had a pal, Vincent Roark, who lived a rich life slopping around midtown in shabby clothes, sliding onto café stools next to other pals, wheedling them into buying him coffee.
Occasionally he got arrested.
“Whatya got in the sack?” the officer would say.
That time he was carrying borrowed scissors from a friend’s apartment to his own cheap hovel.
The deadly weapon got him taken downtown, earned him a police record notation like: “Arrested investigation recent burglaries vicinity 39th and Main.”
Many entries like that but no convictions, not even any charges.
Sipping his coffee, Vince might whip out a sheet of paper and stab it with a pencil.
“OK, that’s a point.
That’s NO dimension.”
He drags the lead across the paper to form a line. “Now we got ONE dimension.”
Quickly, his pencil turns it into a square.
“TWO dimensions! So now we move the square in a direction not contained within it.”
Like a conjurer, with his big-knuckled hands hovering over the square, he turns it 6 inches upward.
“Now it’s a cube. THREE dimensions!”
Triumphantly, those gnarly hands grab the imaginary cube and again slide it upward, this time diagonally.
“So we move the cube in a direction not contained within it, and whatta we got? The fourth dimension!”
“Star Wars” did the Fourth Dimension better, but we enjoyed Vince’s version.
Gluing together cotton applicator sticks, he built countless geometric figures — octahedra inside tetrahedra inside dodecahedrons inside icosahedrons.
They won him an exhibit at the UMKC art museum. Today geometric drawings by Vincent Edward Roark (1929-2005) sell for $180-$200 on the internet.
Not bad for an orphan kid, mentally challenged, named after old St. Vincent Hospital where he was born, reared by foster parents.
I miss all our long-gone scrappy, fantastic friends.
My wife, Lenore, and I met them nearly 60 years ago at the Paseo home of artist Gordon Laite and his wife, Jeanne, members of the Bahá’í World Faith.
While Gordon slaved away in our presence painting illustrations for Little Golden Books, Jeanne told us about the Faith.
It’s a great religion, for most of two centuries preaching the equality of women and the races — long before other religions caught on.
I confess that Jeanne’s excellent cookies distracted us.
They didn’t own a car.
In our 1960 Ford Falcon we drove them one glorious rainy day on a tour of Weston, with its ornate antique houses tucked down into hilly niches along the Missouri River. It was our car but Gordon’s tour as he lectured from his own deep knowledge on the history of the styles.
In gratitude for that day’s transportation, Gordon painted “Very Big Geraniums,” which still hangs high in our entry hall. The art of Gordon Laite (1927-1978) today also sells big on the internet.
In those old days Vincent — never a car owner — often telephoned saying he’d met a guy who did own one, wanted to bring him for supper.
OK, all right, we would groan, bring him. We hated that era’s pop music, loud rock ‘n’ roll, corny country.
So the extra guest invited us to hear on his Sony tape player just one new song, “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.
That’s how we got back on board for the music of our era, the folk rock of Don Mclean, Cat Stevens, Grace Slick, James Taylor, Jefferson Airplane, whose time-worn albums still grace our music shelves.
What a rich vein we mined in those days, slopping around midtown like Vince, we and everybody else so relatively poor.
Then we got older and moved to the suburbs.
Rarely anymore do we meet the down-at-heels, wonderful screwballs of the world.
In my last column also I used the word “yearn.”
That’s what you do when you get old.
I yearn for that ancient era and those talented nuts.