by Elan Dresher
I have been given the opportunity to submit “a (very!) short piece” in honor of Alan Prince. This request brings to mind a memory that illustrates Alan’s attitude to limitations of time and space.
It was a phonology workshop a long time ago, I think at UMass, Amherst. The speakers sat behind a table facing the audience, and the chair of the session sat at the front, across the table from the speaker. The chairs had a series of time sheets which they would discreetly slide along the table to the speaker at the appropriate intervals. The speakers would glance at the sheet, make a quick acknowledgement that they had seen it, usually without pausing in the talk, and the chair would retract it and prepare the next sheet.
It all went pretty smoothly until it was Alan’s turn to talk. When the time came, the chair of his session slid the first sheet toward him. Alan stopped speaking. He picked up the sheet, studied it for a few seconds, crumpled it up into a ball, and threw it into the middle of the room. Then he resumed his talk from where he had left off.
Rabbi Leib son of Sarah said: “I did not go to the Maggid (the great sage Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch) to hear him teach Torah; I went to see how he unties his shoes and ties them again.”
To Alan, with best wishes and congratulations,
Dresher, Elan. 2015. Alan’s attitude to limitations of time and space. In Short ’schrift for Alan Prince, compiled by Eric Baković. https://princeshortschrift.wordpress.com/stories/dresher/.