West Los Angeles in early July of 1977.
I find myself caught in the force field of a magnetic man. His name is Arthur Doctor. A Jew. Born in Russia – in Vladivostok – but raised in Detroit. Sixty-two years old. Moderate height. Chunky. Pocked and wrinkled face, long flowing white hair – not quite shoulder length – sparkling blue eyes and a friendly smiling face. Somewhat nervous appearing and fidgety. Speaks with a heavy east coast, New York accent. Something like a Garment District Jew who left the garment district many years ago to live in California.
In Yiddish, Luft means air and Mensch means person. The expression, Luftmensch, comes from the small Jewish ghetto towns – Shtetels – of late nineteenth century Eastern Europe. A Luftmensch was a person without perceivable employment status who would leave his wife and children at home each morning and disappear onto the road and into the marketplaces. To buy a little here and to sell a little there, until, out of the Luft, comes enough profit to feed his family and to survive another day. Arthur Doctor was a Shtetel Luftmensch operating in Los Angeles.
Arthur had no family, and his profits exceeded survival needs, but he actually did live by taking advantage of whatever the day brought him. Not only had I seen him do this many times, but I knew his lifestyle because one such day brought me to him. Less than two months after I met him I found myself with the keys to his apartment, the keys to his post office box and to all of his automobiles – four of them, all carefully recycled. I was taking care of his affairs while he pursued an undertaking in Europe! He had put $20,000 into my hands with no legal hold on the funds. His psychological hold was strong.