The City of Falling Objects

Adelbert Hay

Later this month I’ll be off to my 40th college reunion down in New Haven, Connecticut, which will always be, for me, the City of Falling Objects.

Back in my college days, I was playing bridge with some friends of mine in the basement of a building constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt to house a chapter of the Delta Psi fraternity, known generally as St. Anthony’s Hall, St. A’s for short.

This was in the 70s, said the crotchety old dude, but it still felt like the 60s. We had liberated the fraternity in the name of the revolution and opened its membership to anyone who cared to join.

Before that, and since, I’m afraid, it was one of those clubs where you had to wait to be ‘tapped,’ a custom which, I suppose, gave its members a feeling that they were part of an elite, as if they weren’t already as students at Yale.

It was a delightful foursome: Kristina Pickering, Geoffrey Walker, Larry Maloney and myself, and we played all night.

We emerged from ‘the crypt,’ as the basement room was known, to get breakfast across the street, and found that in the night a student had been locked out of his room and tried to get in through a fourth-story window.

He had slipped and fallen and landed right on Pickering’s Audi and was lying beside it in the alley. He had no pants on, and his body was blue.

The following week I was studying in a room that overlooked the same side street, and I saw a puppy on the roof. That’s a typical goofy college thing to do, let your puppy out on the roof.

I thought I ought to tell whoever it was to bring it in, but when I looked again, the puppy’s body was lying lifeless in the street.

And then, to make a very long story short, we (the crew at the liberated St. A’s) had a friend who had once been a student at the Yale Divinity School, a giant guy, immensely strong, named Sam the Sham, who spoke in rhyme. He was the Arian from Darien, coast to coast with the Holy Ghost.

Sam the Sham was being “treated” for a mental disorder with a dose of lithium that was thirty (30) times the dose recommended today. He wound up killing himself by jumping off a cliff known as East Rock.

As fans of this blog know, I have been lately immersed in a book called The Five of Hearts by Patricia O’Toole. One of the ‘hearts’ was John Hay, a close friend of Henry Adams.

In 1901, Hay’s son Adelbert was about to take a job, at the White House as secretary to President McKinley, a job his father had held under Abraham Lincoln.

Before assuming his post, he went to his third reunion at Yale and fell to his death from a window at the New Haven House. Apparently he was sitting on the windowsill having a late-night cigarette. More here.

Adelbert Hay was named for his uncle, who drowned at Yale on a geological expedition.

Is it any wonder, then, that New Haven will always be, for me, the City of Falling Objects?