Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ross In Chicago Autumn Quarter 1977


Ross arrived at the University Of Chicago in mid-September 1977.

His theme song: New Kid In Town by The Eagles:

He established a presence in the Research Archives

of the Oriental Institute.

On Ross' desk: Erik Iversen's Canon And Proportions In Egyptian Art and ancient Egyptian paper doll action figures, models for his planned animated film.

He audited Professor Helene J. Kantor's Art Of The Ancient Near East. He learned about the Gebel el-Arak Knife handle and the Narmer Palette. He quoted the Propyläen Kunstgeschichte and the Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte. He even offered to excavate Chogha Mish in Iran. Ms. Kantor gently explained that only Ph.D Candidates were eligible.

Breaks were at "The Club," the C-Shop in the Reynolds Club. The jukebox played the "Don't Be Cruel" / "Hound Dog" 45rpm single by the recently deceased Elvis Presley.

Ross rented a room near the Joseph Regenstein Library in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house, 5625 S. University Ave. On Saturday night oceans of beer flooded the main stairs leaving a sticky and smelly residue to greet Sunday morning visitors.

"A strict vegetarian," Ross shared my meal plan at Woodward Court. Ross waited in the dining room with Sylvia Plath expert Joe from St Louis, Political Science grad student Takahachi and sometimes our Near Eastern Languages colleagues Liz (University Of Colorado), Rita (Bryn Mawr) and Carolyn (Assyrian Studies). I showed my paid ID and went through the main cafeteria line. Ross took my empty plate to the Seconds steam table. The arrangement worked well until he tried it without me.

Contests of discipline and self-control were common. After Ross fasted for a number of days, his prize was a meal at Lucita's Mexican Restaurant on 57th Street.

Ross kept his sense of humor despite the cold, depressing, overpoweringly negative aspects of Chicago academia. He spoke of Madame Blop-um-Blavatsky and Sahidic Blop-um-bloptic. In the afterglow of THE ROSS STORY published earlier that year, he jokingly portrayed me as "Mr Coffee" (I switched to tea) and as an overly studious "Nazi guy." He wrote, "That Nazi guy don't look too happy" on the door of my apartment mailbox.

Still the University Of Chicago was not the ideal environment for Ross. Uptightness was everywhere. Even the most minor utterance ignited a rapid-fire severely judged intelligence competition. Laser-sharp "Eye Beams" constantly scrutinized one's achievements, credentials and publications. 6.3" of snow in November and 19.2" in December 1977 may have discouraged Ross. He was not in Chicago Winter Quarter 1978. He wrote and called for five years but

I never saw him again.