I was thinking earlier this week about the short time I claimed to be a philosophy student--this was in between the years I was a secondary education student and a dance student--and was wondering whatever had happened to price charlson, one of my professors at suny new paltz. I looked him up, but he seems to have vanished. google notes a lot of his publications, the most recent of which is 1980, a few years before I studied with him.
after that his existence seems to simply peter out. he's not listed as either a professor or an emeritus on the current suny-new paltz philosophy department's website, and there are no other listings for him, whether he's teaching at another school--doubtful, since I think he's upwards of his late 80s by now--or his death. there is a letter to his alma mater's magazine posted in 2007, but on further examination it was originally published in 1964. it's as if he has become an unperson.
I don't think that should happen to anybody. and in the event anyone else googles his name to find him, I'd like there to be some reflection of him available. to that event I've been recalling as much as I can of charlson.
- he was a short, squat man with a perpetual slump who looked like he should have shuffled but took deliberate steps like he was always walking across ice floes;
- he seemed to be always drunk, and he might have been because every time I got near him he smelled like alcohol; but for all I know he was diabetic and his blood sugar was perpetually low. I did see him most evenings for at least a little while at bacchus in new paltz, where he comandered a table near the front windows and sat by himself for hours, even during the most raucous nights when it seemed like everyone in town was there, sipping a glass of red wine. people would mill around his seat, as if silently demanding by their presence that he give up his table. I'm not aware that he ever did. he left each evening at around 9 or 10:00 and wouldn't budge before then;
- the rumor had it that he took in young men new to the college and rented a room to them in his large house for less than most places, in exchange for sexual favors. I never heard that from anyone who claimed to have been one of those young men;
- I studied with him in 4 classes and the one I remember best was about existentialism. it was a small seminar of 4 of us and we read the first two-thirds of heidegger's being and time. on the first day of class he walked in and switched off the lights, saying, "by all rights we should study this book at 5:00 on a cold morning when there's no heat and in dim light." he made a point of switching off the lights each time we held class no matter how cloudy it was (and I think that class was in fall so there were lots of rainy, cloudy days).
- the last time I saw him was in the early 90s on the street in new paltz. he was dressed the way he had always been--dark suit and tie, brown oxfords, dark overcoat--and carrying his briefcase that swung almost jauntily in contrast to the way he walked. I didn't see where he might have gone to but since it was late afternoon I suspect it was to bacchus to start his night.
(the photo of course is not of price charlson--I can't find any--but is of jean-paul sartre who, except for the wayward eye and a twist of dark hair across his brow, charlson resembled.)