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from Rincon Bayonne

by Thomas Wolfson,
copyright 2002

“…speaking of which, how’s your anesthetized mother?  Oh, I shouldn’t say that, but God, how I struggled (for what, twenty-three years?) to create some joy, some enthusiasm for living. Imagine her hating my Jackson Pollack, weeping at the sight of it!  And then to have to drag her out of that Greenwich Village apartment and that boring, boring socialist clique to move uptown to Henderson Place.”

“C’mon, Pop, you can’t dismiss the importance of the labor movement, or the importance of having a sense of social justice, or the fact that Mom has a lot of heart and caring.”

“Soft heart, leather cunt.  All that movement shit is liberation not for the oppressed masses but from her ownprivileged, sheltered upbringing.  Did you know that she was not allowed, never even entered, the kitchen of her own house until she was twenty-five?”

“Yes, Pop, you told me.”

“God!  What I had to put up with!  Of course you’ve heard the famous wedding story, how your great Aunt Margaret came up to me not knowing I was the Jew groom and confided, ‘Well, at least Abigail isn’t marrying a nigger.’  Imagine!  The outrage!”

Two years ago I had flown down to Puerto Rico overnight to help my then seventy-seven year old father return toNew York City in the spring.  We had begun drinking early in the day. He had taken several codeine to ease the phantom pain in his stump.  On the plane a small drunken Puerto Rican with a complexion and nose similar to Sammy Davis, Jr. stopped at our seats and pointed at me.

“You Jewish?  You from Philadelphia ?  Hunh?  You Jewish?”  He laughed and walked past us to his seat.  Later in the flight this same man was returning from the forward restroom as my father and I were sipping our champagne.  Cordially ending our conversation, my father handed me his glass and stood up.

Pointing his cane at the man, he bellowed, “You Sammy Davis?  Hunh?  You Sammy Davis?” Then he lunged at the man, punched him in the jaw, and knocked him down.

Stewards and stewardesses came running toward our seats.

“He’s crazy!  He’s crazy!  The old man, he hit me!” screamed the little Puerto Rican.

Quickly surrounded, the stunned man was firmly escorted back to his seat while one of the stewardesses whispered to my father, “Thank you, sir.  He’s been causing alot of trouble in the back of the plane.”

With great dignity my father sat back down into his seat.  “I’ll have my champagne now,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of class, Pop,” I said as we clicked our plastic glasses.