The first of these anecdotes comes courtesy of Paul Auster. "Paul Violi told me the funniest story I've ever heard about somebody's childhood," Auster told me.
Apparently Paul [Violi] didn't speak until he was three, going on four years old.
No one had ever heard him say a word.
Finally his mother got worried enough to take him to the doctor.
"He hasn't learned to talk," she said.
The doctor chided her. This is very serious. The boy could be in real trouble. Shame on you for waiting so long before taking him to me.
At which moment Paul uttered his very first words: "What are you, some kind of a jerk?”
Paul and I used to teach our poetry writing classes on the same night, Tuesday night, with our classes ending at the same time, 10:30 PM. Afterward we would meet at the Cafe Loup on West 13th Street, where a lot of our students, former students, friends and colleagues would also congregate. We used to drink. . .seltzer. A lot of . . .seltzer. And then he drove back to Putnam County. I didn’t even realize until yesterday, when we drove up the Taconic to Peekskill Hollow Road, where we attended a memorial service for Paul, that this was a fifty-mile journey. I just had to walk a few blocks to get home. Paul had to take the Henry Hudson to the Saw Mill River to the Taconic in the dark. Well, at least there as no traffic.
I remember once chatting with a friend at the bar, Matthew Yeager, who suddenly bade me turn around. Here is how Matthew recollected the incident in an e-mail:
I have been thinking about Paul a lot. In my final image of him, he is at the center of a throng of worshipful students at Cafe Loup, all of whom happened to be female. Do you remember that night? We were talking to each other, on stools. Ten feet away, Paul Violi looked like a painting of Plato in his prime, if Plato had taught women. He was glowing like a champion woman's basketball coach (whose team of also happened to be inexplicably good looking).... It is sad that he is gone.