Remember our classmate Maxwell J. Chiu? He was in Section 6 with me during our first year. Tom Stachler started calling him “Max the Cat!”–proper spelling includes the exclamation point–rather early in our first semester, and the name stuck.
Max the Cat! was one of the more interesting people I’ve ever met. He was originally from Hong Kong, but had come to law school by way of New Jersey and a few other places. He was one of us “older returning students”–between undergrad and law school, he’d spent a couple of years in the Peace Corps in Benin, one of the smaller West African countries. He told me once that the nearest theater was across the border in the next country, so that he needed his passport if he wanted to go to the movies.
When we came back for our second year in the fall of 1987, Max the Cat! wasn’t among us. Our 1L Legal Writing instructor Barbara McFarland got a short handwritten letter from him in late August, postmarked somewhere in California, informing her that he was dropping out of law school. He included one sentence of explanation, which went something like this (quoting from memory):
I was on the platform at the station in Princeton, ready to come back to Cincinnati, but then I followed a trail of mystery and romance that led me here.
That’s almost the last I ever heard of him. Several years ago, I saw an online comment to an article in the New York Times that was signed “Maxwell Chiu.” The article was on West Africa, and the commenter mentioned having gone there while in the Peace Corps, so I’m pretty sure that was our guy.
If anyone knows anything more than that about our old friend Max the Cat!, please leave a comment.
Oh, I almost forgot, there was one other sighting, kind of. When my son Alex was in Montessori preschool and he was starting to learn to read, he brought home a beginning reader with the title Max the Cat.
Lucky for me, the book wasn’t written by someone named Tom Stachler–that would have been entirely too weird to deal with.