Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Myer Edelstein

[ From the chess photo archives of Tony Cortisas (tens of thousands of chess images), he found picturer of Myer Edelstein as background spectator at the Karpov at Harvard - 1990 and enlarged his portion of the photo. ]

Middle 1970's with the post Vietnam War recession in full bloom, many people were out of work especially difficult for recent college grads to find a job. The BCF at the YMCU/Young Man's Christian Union, being open from about 6am to midnight seven days a week (or even longer for special occasions) became a popular hangout for unemployed people who spent the morning looking for work and the afternoons killing time. Larry Tapper
[not to be confused with Tom Sifter]
and myself were the "lucky" two who had obtained a teaching job in the City of Boston. Larry at Trade and me at South Boston High. Given there were 10,000 plus other teaching graduates in Massachusetts for the few hundred positions available we were beyond lucky.

Another group of BCF regulars were the folks who were retired. Many of these gentlemen dressed down below their true financial stature to be able to move more safely to and from the YMCU through the nearby Combat Zone and dark regions of the train station entrances where other unemployed youths were looking to shake down vulnerable people who look like they might have some money. Other members lived in boarding houses, renting a room in the South End, decades before they were condo-ized at plus million prices.

High percentage of people in attendance at the club didn't play much chess at all, but due to it being the Fischer Era and given the excitement, camaraderie, and action, they hung around the club for the social contact.

Every evening a group would congregate and discuss where to go and what to eat. Chairing the conversation was Myer "Mike" Edelstein. If Harry Lyman was The Dean of New England Chess; Myer Edelstein was the BCC Cruise and Entertainment Director. Myer was the funniest guy I ever met. Not funny in a gut busting way but everything and everyone surrounding him was caught in a Sienfieldian tsunami. Although not typically vaudevillian, some of his specialties were: if anyone made the statement "On the other hand" Myer would state "She wore a glove". People who were not rocket scientists "Wore Earlaps". And if he heard about a blunder you made he would call you a "schlepperhead". According to tireless director and librarian Bernardo Iglesias,
Meyer didn't play in many OTB tournaments but was a serious club contributor to the BCC Met League second team winning many games. Meyer was a proponent of "lateral thinking" as outlined by Edward de Bono. And Myer a pharmacist, was decades ahead of Atkins. He avoided carbohydrates: no bread and especially bad was the killer potato being on the top of his hit list. The potato he would state was a member of the nightshade family and should be feared as such.

There were two big rooms at the YMCU, a playing hall with tables and sets where the tournaments were played, besides a fantastic skittles room separated from the hall by a glass wall, so you could watch everything going on in either room. A typical Friday night was teeming with people, numbers as high as a tournament on the weekend; skittles playing, blitz, backgammon, kibitzing, and there were all types of discussions all around. Many visitors would drop in: foreigners, sailors, students, always guests. Myer would be holding court sitting in a big comfortable chair in the corner of the skittles room.

One Friday when I showed up only one other person was there. Because Myer had a tip on a greyhound with 99 to 1 odds at the Wonderland Dog Track in Revere and persuaded everyone to have dinner there and try their luck.

The economy was so bad at the time one good player was volunteering to take experimental clinical drugs in order to obtain walking around money. Given the dark economic cloud that was dragging on many people, Myer was a beacon. I still get a warm happy glow just thinking of the subtle genius, zaniness, and never ending optimism that emanated from the man. We were all saddened when he passed in 1993. Do you have any Myer Edelstein stories? Please Comment.


A special thank you to Bernardo Iglesias who helped research information for this essay.

Lateral thinking & Edward de Bono author of Serious Creativity Using the Powers of Lateral Thinking

We may need to solve some problems not by removing the cause but by designing the way forward even if the cause remains in place

– (Edward de Bono) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_thinking

Mike Griffin 04/01/2008

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