Dear Candid Yam

When I returned to college at New Paltz in the fall of 1975, after having dropped out for a semester, it was a bit disorienting. Since I had been elected to the Student Government Association (SGA) Financial Council (by a handful of disputed votes – but that’s another story), I gravitated to hanging out in the SGA offices.
The SGA was not happy with the established student newspaper, The Oracle. It wasn’t that the Oracle was saying bad things about them; in fact, the paper was hardly saying ANYTHING about them, having been taking over by a bunch of folks who were concerned about prison reform and the United States policy re: Chile, to the near exclusion of local student issues. And there was one big issue that fall, the representation of students on some college governance committee that intended to cut student participation.
Because of its free speech concern, the SGA was loath to pressure the Oracle to write anything. Instead, it started a newsletter. A guy named David was the editor of the Wind Sun News, published every weekday. It was an odd name more suited to some environmental journal.
Soon, I started reading about some young woman I dubbed Candid Yam, for reasons I will explain some day, and her organization that opposed the governance change. I’d never heard of her, and I knew all the players in activist circles.
One day, I was in the office when Fran, the secretary, was talking to a young woman and called her by name. “So, YOU’RE Candid Yam!” I said. She was startled. Had she made some enemy from her newsletter exposure? No, and in fact we became fast friends.
Meanwhile, I got to be in charge of the events calendar for the WSN. The day before the big rally, I submitted the upcoming events. I was surprised to find that one of the events, some Bible study, I think, hadn’t made it into the galley copy. David took it out because it was taking place at the same time as the rally. I argued that we were the student newsletter and should put in everything that was submitted. This became an amazingly heated argument. Cheech, the Comptroller of the Financial Council, came in, took my side in the argument and shut down the WSN, effective after that newsletter.
The rally did go on that next day, with CY and I helping to lead the charge.
Later that semester, the WSN was reinstituted under the direction of my then and current friend Judy, and CY and I were staffers. It came out weekly, I believe.
For the following semester CY, a guy named Kevin, and I, nicknamed TR by CY, became co-editors of the WSN, which then came out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Kevin named himself OP just so we could be collectively called CYTROP.
It was clear that CY was first among equals. She and I had a routine of working on the paper on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, taking it to the printer that night, then later picking it up MWF to distribute, then go out drinking that night. Ah, the hard drinking journalists. Actually, some of the material we did was pretty good. I wrote about riding around in a village police car with a cop, which I liked and the cops didn’t hate.
CY turned 20 that semester, and was freaking out. A friend of hers, Pam, took her out to dinner, and Kevin and I got the paper to bed early, that is by 11:30 (usually it was closer to 1 a.m.. Or 2. Or even 3.)
She came back to the paper around 11:45, groaned that we were all there, figuring on work for her, so we were able to surprise her with a party.
During some school breaks, I went to visit her home in Westchester County. Mostly we sang. Her father got very angry once when we pooh-poohed our singing ability.
Ultimately, I graduated, but we were in regular contact, with me even crashing on her sofa for a few weeks in the fall of 1977.
I attended her graduation in 1980, and we managed to keep in touch.
Then a few years later, I called her and got her answering machine. This happened several times. Finally, I did get her and she said she’d call me back. Something in her voice said that this was untrue, though I didn’t know why. But I waited a few months, tried calling her again.
Finally, irritated, I sent her back the elephant.
The elephant was this huge, ugly orange and green and white stuffed animal she got as a child, and which she gave to me fairly early on. I figured this would anger her or hurt her, but it would generate a reaction. Nothing.
It’s been a long time now. I did try to track her down through the college alumni association but by the time the book came out, her address had changed.
One of the gifts I got being on JEOPARDY! was something called U.S. Search. I was surprised to find how many people had the same name and date of birth. Anyway, today CY is having a significant birthday. I always remember the date, because it’s arithmetically significant. If she was freaking out at 20, Allah knows how she’s feeling about THIS one. Happy birthday, CY, wherever you are.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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