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He had my number: no numbers, please

My eighth-grade teacher wrote a poem about the class. He devoted two lines to each student. He wrote of me:

D stands for Dean, who's as lean as a lath;

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His basketball tops his

performance in math.

My performance in math was miserable. Math teachers gave me the lowest passing grade, lest I return to torment them for another year.

At law school, I began accounting twice and twice had to withdraw. It was, and remains, a mystery to me.

As a lawyer, at closings I would count on my fingers. This did not inspire client confidence. Once during a tense negotiation, a partner barked, "Get me that lawyer's number." Unwisely, I relied on my memory. A puzzled shoe-store clerk answered the phone at the other end.

For things that interest me, I have an excellent memory. I amazed a friend by recalling that decades earlier he had written his college thesis on Cavour.

Another subject of interest to me is playing basketball.

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In high school, I was team captain. The school gym had low rafters. To score, the guards had to shoot over the rafters. We won our games at home, but nowhere else.

My talents were recognized by a city newspaper. It designated me "New York City All-Star Private School Basketball Team, Substitute Center." I relish the honor to this day.

On an island in Maine stands a basketball backboard named for me. At the opening ceremony years ago, I dribbled the ball the length of the court before assembled campers and counselors while musicians played. Near the basket, a functionary ran out with a ladder. Up the steps of the ladder I went to dunk the ball. Vigorous applause followed.

To this day, I consider the "swish" produced by a basketball passing through the net to be the sweetest of sounds. I continue to make my share of these shots.

How far-seeing of my teacher. Throughout life I have favored basketball over math.

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