In Response to: Remembering James M. Polachek [6]

Dear Professor Waldron,

This is just a belated note of thanks for your appreciative notes on the passing of my onetime dear friend and college roommate Jim Polachek. Though he and I lost touch back in the ’70s, he had an enormous influence on the course of my life, and I had great admiration for his intellectual and also musical abilities. We studied Chinese together at Harvard, graduated together in 1966, and both went to UC Berkeley for graduate school. I was in the oriental languages department while he was in Asian studies and history. 

When he wrote me from Japan that he was staying on a second year, I applied for a scholarship to Kyoto University. Arriving in Tokyo he graciously met me at the airport and helped me settle into my year in Japan. Kyoto University was on strike the whole time I was there, a big flag of Che Guevara dominating the campus center. Jim came down from Tokyo and tried to persuade me that the only happy future for us was to leave the academic life behind. He was most persuasive, and in my case, he was probably right. Indeed a year or so later that was the choice I made, throwing my lot in with music — classical guitar, renaissance lute, and the folk music I'd grown up with. I thought it was somewhat ironic that he was the one to persevere as a scholar and teacher. We lost touch in the ’70s after I began a practice of Buddhist meditation — I think seeing me in a monastic setting was somehow unsettlling for him. Over the years I looked for him online, but without success. I wish I'd known he stayed on at Princeton through those years. I am sorry to learn now of his passing.

Again thank you for your kind words,