Preface I was 21 years when I wrote this song I’m 22 now, but I won’t be for long Time hurries on And the leaves that are green turn to brown Paul Simon, Leaves that Are Green 1968 was a tumultuous year. America was convulsed by the Viet- nam War, nowhere more than on college campuses. The assassina- tions of Martin Luther King and of Robert Kennedy tore at the na- tion’s heart. The Democratic convention in Chicago was marked by violent riots. America, for many, had become Amerika, the villain. “Do your own thing” was the admonition that resonated so power- fully. Resist authority. Nonconformity was the supreme virtue. For this fledgling mathematician it was a critical juncture. I had left graduate school without a degree. Would my talents find a focus in this chaotic world? My mind swirled with mathematical ideas, but I seemed unable to turn these ideas into a cohesive whole. Then I met Paul Erd˝ os. Everyone called him Uncle Paul. While others spoke constantly of it, nonconformity was always Uncle Paul’s modus operandi. He had no job he worked constantly. He had no home the world was his home. Possessions were a nuisance money a bore. Paul lived on a web of trust, traveling ceaselessly ix
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