The Washington Post Sunday May 5, 1991
By Dana Thomas

Back in the '70s, David Greenberger, armed with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, went forth into the working world with the belief that maybe he could make things a little better. "I had been painting and getting into shows," he says, "but I had a real desire to do something with elderly people - but I wasn't sure what."

Then he heard of a job at a Massachusetts nursing home as an activities director. Perfect he thought. He could teach the residents painting and other crafts, and make their lives a little more enjoyable.

But first he went around to all the residents and spoke to them, questioned them. He was surprised by some of their answers. Especially when he asked them far-out questions like what their fears were or what they thought about love. "The whole purpose," he says," was to get to know them."

He found some of the answers so revealing and creative he published them in a sort of free-form literary magazine. He called it the Duplex Planet, a spin of the Daily Planet and the Duplex Nursing Home, where all these people lived. "The first issue I did wasn't too slick," Greenberger recalls. "It was 8 1/2 by 11 sheets stapled in the corner. And friends were reading it as if it were literature."

He refined it, changing it to a 4 x 6 inch chap book and giving each edition a theme: coffee, Frankenstein, gravity, broken hearts. He types up the entries on a manual typewriter and intersperses them with photos and illustrations.

On storms: "I was never in a bad storm. I've been just outside them."- Mildred Makowski

"1938, that was a seven-foot storm. The whole city was tied up. We worked around the clock, I worked 22 hours out of 24, keepin' the highways clean." - Andy Legrice On Holidays:

"Every day's a holiday for me!" - Roy Elliot

"My birthday should be a legal holiday - why not? I'm human, ain't I" -Viljo Lehto

A few years ago, the Duplex Nursing Home closed. Greenberger moved to Upstate New York, near Schenectedy, and began doing graphics work while continuing to publish the Duplex Planet. He now interviews residents of several area nursing homes. And his subscription base has grown from a couple hundred to nearly 500 - "people who have a tendency to want to read," he says, "There is a certain amount of sophistication, I suppose." And why, you ask? "Because you can learn something from someone who can't complete sentences," says Greenberger

David Greenberger is presenting readings in "Visit to a Duplex Planet," along with Kurt Sayenga reading short stories and a dance performance by Amie Dowling and friends at d.c. space tomorrow night at 9. Tickets are $4. For information, call 202-347-1145.

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