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A Whole Flock of Sheepskins

May 01, 1988|DICK RORABACK

Indian chief was clearly unobtainable, leaving doctor or lawyer. John Carini couldn't decide, so he went for both.

Carini, a University of Redlands student from Milwaukee, Wis., "always knew I wanted to be one or the other," so he began majors in chemistry and political science. When a sophomore course in physiology turned him off to medicine, he nevertheless continued pre-med studies "just in case I changed my mind later." Along the way, he had taken enough physics courses that he told himself, "let's give a triple major a shot. Then I was so close to a biology major that I said, 'What the heck? Let's give that a run too.' "

Carini, an engaging if superorganized senior, will graduate in June with BAs in physics, political science, biology and a BS in chemistry--"plus a minor in math," he says modestly.

On his desk these days is a recharging motorcycle battery ("I couldn't afford transportation the first three years, but now I have a used bike") as well as a pile of college catalogues: Carini finally has opted for law school, "maybe combine a JD with an AMBA."

And in his free time?

Along with working his way through college, Carini is president of Omicron Delta Kappa, national leadership fraternity; member of the debating team; active in Maroon and Gray and Mortarboard, local and national honor societies; admissions host; peer adviser. . . .

Carini, in a word, is a veritable polymath. "What's a polymath?" he asks. The guy's only human.

"Hey," he says. "You'd be surprised how much time I actually don't spend studying. My parents call occasionally, ask what I'm up to. I tell them I was watching TV or playing soccer in the dorm hall. Even they don't believe me. It's like, 'Oh, sure.' "

Oh, sure.

Ashleigh Brilliant: Mr. Succinct

"All I want is a warm bed, a kind word, and unlimited power." So says Ashleigh Brilliant. That and a whole lot more.

Brilliant is said by Howard Weeks, his publisher, to be "most likely the world's only professional epigrammatist." The Santa Barbaran's illustrated bons mots, appearing in syndication as Pot Shots, grace millions of postcards and are periodically collected in book form by Woodbridge Press, Weeks' company, also of Santa Barbara.

Latest of the Brilliant-Weeks collaborations, just out, is "I Try to Take One Day at a Time, but Sometimes Several Days Attack Me at Once." As customary, Brilliant's epigrams never exceed 17 words, a self-imposed limit not coincidentally coinciding with the length of a classical Japanese haiku. (Brilliant, says the London Times, is "endlessly brief.")

Unlike haiku, which usually deal with willows and wind and other such ephemera, Brilliant's stuff gets right down to it: "I know I was born with certain rights, but where did all my obligations come from?"; "Even with a round table, some people always seem able to sit at the head of it"; "There's nothing wrong with happiness, so long as you don't try to inflict yours on other people."

His is a rare talent, and "he aspires sometimes seriously, to the Nobel Prize for Literature," says publisher Weeks.

Brilliant, however is prepared to wait: "Don't worry about the inevitable," he says; "it will always know where to find you."

A Reunion for the Jasons, Boyle Heights' Boys of Summer

Once they numbered 67, this group of boys from Boyle Heights who got together in 1928 as a playground ball team. They called themselves the Jasons and, through Depression and war and fortune good and bad, they have stuck. This weekend the 26 surviving Jasons are marking their 60th anniversary.

The old gang is celebrating at a three-day wingding that winds up today at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach. But this is no reunion; indeed, the Jasons have met without fail for gin rummy and poker every Wednesday night for 60 years.

Today, their "social-athletic" club is more social than athletic. Most of the Jasons are retired now. Not one of them still lives in Boyle Heights, where a generation of newcomers from Latin America has claimed the neighborhood that was once home to their parents--immigrants who came over in the '20s from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The "boys" are scattered now from Pacific Palisades to Palm Springs, but their friendships are still intact. So are their memories--of 10-cent malts at the Wabash Sweet Shop, of dancing to the big bands at Ocean Park, of rumble-seat Fords that cost $175 and ran on 10-cent-a-gallon gas.

They have been there for one another for 60 years--at graduations and weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, at births and deaths. A longtime Jason wife who as a girl was courted by six Jasons said it best: "It's a family--an extended family."

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