I fought every kid I had to back on the streets of Brooklyn. Yes, I was good friends with a bunch of kids who’s family business was well, sort of organized crime. Sometimes I had to fight them too, that’s how it was.
I fought some in the Boys’ Club in Flatbush, and I did OK.
I fought some in high school, those who thought they would roll over me. That went just fine.
I joined the 2nd How 187th Artillery Guard unit in Brooklyn, friends were a couple of young Irish cops. I fit in just fine. They decided to go to Officers Candidate School, urged me to go too. Frieda A”H asked what does it benefit me with, and I told her better pay, live in the BOQ (Batchelor Officers Quarters), eat in the Officers Mess (better than 99% of Manhattan fine restaurants) and get a driver to drive me everywhere I go (the driver I got was a made Mob guy, and a very good driver). All that time I had to look tough, act tough . . . which was fine ’cause I already was kind of tough . . .
In John Adams High School, they made me a Dean for the Freshman Boys, and that meant disciplining the sons of many men in the John Gotti organization. That was fine, and there too I had to act . . . tough.
New York City Public Schools refused to promote me to Assistant Principal (they were not looking to promote a tough, young, OCS-grad Jew back then) so I eventually began managing small apartment buildings on very, very good Manhattan streets. There again I had to look tough, for my tenants, my office staff, my vendors and trades people, and the sometimes mob connected folks I sometimes had to deal with.
My whole life I’ve had to look tough and be tough. Men don’t cry, I had heard.
When Frieda finished her nearly 8 years of battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, the day the doctor told me, at her request, that there were no more new chemo- treatments for her, it was a Friday night. She first sent me home to prepare the Friday night Sabbath turkey for me and the kids (grown, they came because her fight was . . . ) She then sent them home, too. Moments after I put the Turkey on their plates, the telephone rang . . . . The nurse said we must come NOW, there was no time. I sped to Shadyside Hospital (part of enormous UPMC). Frieda had died some 5 minutes before we got there. I cried. I cried a lot. I forgot being/looking tough. I cried, loudly.
Sylbie was taking these images of this incredible Black Swallowtail visit, from my hat, shoulders and eventually to my ear. A pair of coupled magnificent black swallowtails, resting . . . on my ear. Sylbie was right there, and, I tried to shield tears, hide them, but I don’t know how well I did, for I cried. I forgot the need to look tough, to swagger, to fear nothing. I cried, for I had no doubt that Frieda was there, right then, and that she was responsible for those OMG! finest of butterflies, perching on my ear.
No, I stopped trying to look tough. Just long enough to . . .