How to Paint a Wall

In the spring of 1968 I wanted to go to college. I had spent all of the summer after high school traveling around the western states, hiking and hitchhiking. By the time I returned home I was too late to register for any college, including my local community college.

I spent the fall semester of 1967 going to the library determined to read the entire stack that included philosophy and religion. I struggled with the Upanishad’s and Veda’s, handled Buddhism pretty well, got stuck on Oahspe and comparative Philosophy. So, naturally I decided to major in philosophy when I finally entered college. Great job opportunities in philosophy.

When the spring semester came around I tried to register. Still not being aware of what it was like to enter college I was far too late to register at the state school, so I tried to register at the local community college. I was late there as well, but they would let me register for two classes as a trial. If I succeeded I could continue as a full-time student in the fall, and get my draft exemption.

At least I was a college student with my two classes. I signed up as a philosophy major taking a humanities class, and a philosophy class. I felt well prepared. Both classes were taught by the same professor, Dr. Pasquale Anania. I better like this professor.

I did not like him, I loved him. He was like nothing I had ever experienced, radical in the extreme. He had two phd’s in the hard sciences, not those crappy phd’s in education that you can pay $10,000 from a diploma mill. He had an interesting background and was very well read. He was absolutely despised by his fellow faculty. I thought they were jealous.

Years later I found out the source of their dislike. They thought he was lazy, pompous, and mostly a liar. A really big fat liar. Lying in academia is the worst offense, it’s like plagiarism. They also found his teaching style suspect. He had an official outline, and handouts for every class. If you were brave enough to ask questions about the handouts he would answer directly. But if no student had questions he would lecture on anything that currently was on his mind. And his mind wandered.

That is what I really loved about him. I learned so much that wasn’t about humanities/philosophy. One day he started the class by asking, “How do you paint a wall?” Then he said he had spent the weekend watching professional painters painting his home. It seemed to him that they painted differently than what he had always done. Logic would state that there are five possibilities. 1) left to right 2) right to left 3) top to bottom 4) bottom to top, or finally 5) center outwards.

What Dr. Anania observed was none of these. Instead, he saw the painters apply a blob of thick paint somewhere on the wall, then every subsequent stroke of paint was directed towards it. You paint into the paint, you never drag it out. The wall is completely covered in one coat.

I am aware of Kant, Locke and Aristotle. I do not use their philosophies. I have painted dozens of walls with professional results.

After years of student with Dr. Anania I was aware of all the questionable stories of his personal life. I fully understood why many, or most of his stories were unbelievable. Speech writer for Harry Truman? Shipwrecked on a deserted island during WWII? His mother a famous opera singer at the New York Metropolitan Opera? I mean, come on, one amazing story after another.

In 1971 I found myself drafted, then reenlisted in the US Army. I was there in New Jersey at advanced training in crypto-electronics. I was also allowed to live off-post while going to school. I had a one room apartment, bath down the hall, on the second story of an old Victorian near the ocean beach. Mr. Carlo Ponti was my landlord, he was quite elderly and puttered in the garden on weekend mornings.

I watched him one Saturday and he suddenly burst into song. It wasn’t a meek muttering, it was fully operatic and wonderful!! I was mesmerized and decide to go downstairs to talk with him.

“Mr. Ponti, that was amazing! You could have been a professional!”

“I was a professional, for years I performed regularly at the New York Metropolitan Opera.”

Bells went off in my head, NY Met?

“Mr. Ponti, did you ever run into a singer by the name of Maria Anania?”

“Yes, of course. She was a great artist, and we became very good friends. I used to babysit her little boy, Pasquale!”

Years later Pat Anania and I became good friends. I never doubted any of his stories. I still give him credit of my knowing how to paint a wall.