[And so,] I arranged to interview for a different job [ ] at a place called the Marine Biological Laboratory. A few days later I was being interviewed by the crusty old dowdy named Jane, the Head Librarian.
I had heard and read about the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, WHOI, mainly because of the deep sea research they had done in a submersible called the Alvin, but I had never before heard of the Marine Biological Laboratory, or MBL as it is commonly known. I soon found out that the MBL was a really amazing place in its own right, and although the two institutions were technically separate they shared a common library called the MBL/WHOI Library and that is where I went to a job interview conducted by the crusty old librarian named Jane.
Jane offered me the job of Library Assistant, and I eagerly seized the chance to climb aboard. Soon I was immersed in an environment where the summer students at MBL and WHOI came from all over the world; although neither was an “official” college or university, MBL and WHOI were so prestigious that the students always received credit for their work when they returned to their home institutions when the summer was over.
I suddenly had access to seven floors of scientific books and journals, with the responsibility of seeing to it that all seven floors of them were always properly organized, and I couldn’t help but notice that the studying tables in the library were absolutely top shelf
The MBL Library turned out to be a serious gold mine. Besides Jane, there was a gaggle of other librarians ranging from young to old, happy to sad, and distant to stubborn; one of my favorites was Judy, a biomedical reference librarian who immediately took it upon herself to become my friend and surrogate mom if I ever got kicked out of the house and needed a place to crash (which later, I did).
Another cast member deserving of special note would be Roberto, the funny-man janitor from Guatemala whose definitive prop was the big mop and bucket combo that he would slog around dejectedly (if he was talking to Jane, for example) or alternatively, with great pep and vivacity (if he was talking to me, for example). Roberto had become some kind of legend at the MBL a portly old Black man with the whitest teeth, pinkest tongue, and biggest smile I’d ever seen.
Roberto had a battery of stories regarding his former life and family under the Guatemalan government, with all sorts of little details involving the CIA, the United Fruit Company, and the fact that the Guatemalan government had expropriated a bunch of land belonging to his family. According to Roberto, what had been taken included some number of items of valuable pre-Columbian artifacts, like statues and so forth, and the entire matter was the subject of an appeal before the current Guatemalan judicial system. There would be a full accounting someday, he explained fervently, and when that happened his family would be restored to their former way of life, he would be a rich man, and he would no longer have to push his mop and bucket around the library.
“When I get thee whole of thee money,” he would start to begin his sentences whenever he got going on the subject, and besides telling me about what he was going to do when he “got ahol’ of thee whole of thee money,” Roberto would also talk to me about how, if I was patient, he would tell me “thee whole of thee story.”
Roberto also had a great interest in the Harvard Business School, and seemed to know some professors there. He gave me a good suggestion on a book to read regarding a famous stock brokerage, all about the rise and fall of the House of Lehman.
Had it not been for this library job, then, I would’ve been spending my summer scrubbing lobster off dirty dinner plates rather than stacking books and journals, chatting up scientists young and old, and picking the brains of astute Guatemalan refugees.
Another nice bennie was the free summer lecture series hosted by the MBL. Right about this time, I attended lecture given by a chap name of Erik Candle, his talk was entitled “The Long and Short of Memory,” a Friday Evening Lecture delivered in mid-August of ’86. I enjoyed Dr. Candle’s talk a great deal, and I found that some of his upshots tended to bolster my case against Will Anders’ artful and designing persuasion. Dr. Candle, who hailed from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, professed that short term memory encoding (learning) can take place rather instantly and persists only for a period of minutes to hours, while long-term memory requires, on the other hand, that the stimulus be presented repeatedly over a period of days or weeks. The reason for this is that the former is associated with changes in already existing brain proteins, whereas the latter is associated with entirely new protein synthesis. The upshot of this is that our minds are characterized by a certain “plasticity,” as Dr. Candle told his lecture audience, and “When we speak or otherwise interact with one another, we are probably causing morphological changes in each other’s brains – a fact which, if you think about it, can have serious ethical implications!”
Most of the scientific luminaries in the audience chuckled at Candle’s philosophical digression, but his point was well taken: if you’re bent on teaching me something, you really ought to exercise some caution in how you decide to go about it.