His most famous creation, Alexander Portnoy, is a graduate of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I am a graduate of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In "My Life as a Man," Peter Tarnopol lived just down the block from the New School on West 12th Street in New York. In 1973, I lived on the same block. In "Letting Go," Gabe Wallach's love affair founders against the background of academic life at the University of Chicago. My great love affair did not survive my true love's decision to do graduate work at the University of Chicago.
I take an active interest in astrology and other arcane and ancient methods to help peer into the future. I came to think that these coincidental parallels with Roth characters might hold some key to knowing my future and I began to daydream about meeting him and finding out what was going to happen to me next.
Amazingly, I did.
I drove a taxicab in New York City for 2 1/2 years. One winter evening I was flagged down at the corner of 81st and Madison (across the street from where I attended elementary school, another coincidence in itself) near a funeral parlor. Two men got in the cab. I immediately recognized the arc of his receding hairline. "Philip Roth?" I asked. "No, but I look like him," he said. His tone was not playful, the subtext being: Just drive pal, no autographs.
I kept my mouth shut and drove to our destination trying to figure out how to discreetly break into the conversation. Roth, however, was carrying on a one-sided conversation about Dusan Makevejev, a Yugoslav filmmaker who was all the rage at the time. When we arrived, his companion got out and Roth paid. "Well, I know you just look like him but I like your work a lot," I said.
As he was sliding out the door he said, "Thanks." He paused and added almost apologetically, "It gets to be a drag after a while." By now he was on the curb and my curiosity was killing me. I blurted out, "I went to Antioch, I lived on West 12th and I broke up with my girl at the University of Chicago. Where am I going next?"
He laughed and pointed, "That way, down Lexington Avenue." Michael Goldfarb