Many years ago, around January of 1965, I can’t believe it is 46 years ago; I met someone who would change my whole life, my perspective, my attitude and demeanor. As I sat in Mr. Ahn’s design class, waiting for him to enter for the first time, next to me was this funny looking character, who had so much character to make me wake up and take notice. Although his character to this day remains evil, you couldn’t help but love it.
Yes, he is indeed an evil character, who leaves a trail of love wherever he goes, and with anyone he meets! I noticed that day he seemed loose, somewhat free and easy, as compared to my style which was easy and free. Neither one of us knew each other, but there seemed to be an instant connection.
He introduced himself as “Phil” a name I am still suspicious of, since he looks too much like a Phil, so obviously the name is made up to match what he looks like. In my family world, if you were a pest, and tease, or a nuisance, you would be called a skootch, which is just what I described all in one word. This was “Phil” as he calls himself. I also dubbed him: “Phil the pill” because it was torturous to live with him every day. For instance: we were driving somewhere one day, and he has the radio on and some song is playing. I comment, “Oh, I love that music”, he asks: “You do?” and lowers it way down. Not enough? Then there is the constant squeezing my cheeks, when I’m not looking, sticking his index finger next to my face, calling me to turn around, and my cheek smashing right into his finger! Perhaps you would like something subtler? How about squeezing your kneecaps, or just trying to eat in peace? You go to lift your fork, and he puts his hand down on your arm as you start to raise it.
None of these deeds went unpunished. No, I dropped his transmission into neutral so many times he thought he was driving an economy car he coasted so many times! The time he helped himself to a donut at a diner in Hicksville, before taking a train to the city, I stirred my coffee, took the spoon out, and placed it on his thieving hand, sending coffee and donut flying.
He would bring whole loaves of Italian bread from a restaurant we had lunch at to art history class, and munch away while the professor is giving his lecture, or showing slides! Once, in the Bronx, on our way to meet some girls, he decided to take a short cut. He made a left down a one-way street, the WRONG WAY! Sure enough, the police catch it and pull him over. He is informed that he was going down the wrong way of the one-way street, and did he know what he was doing? On top of that, he was doing twice the speed limit. His excuse: and I quote, “Well officer, I knew it was a wrong way, but I wasn’t planning on coming back that way, so I thought I’d make up for it!” There is logic there; I just can’t figure it out yet!
When he first met my family, it was instant love. He arrived in his red Mercury convertible, top down on December 24th, for his first Christmas Eve dinner. I invited him by telling him to come for dinner and meet my family. I said we were celebrating another Jew’s birthday, and thought he might like to join us. He was an instant hit at home. My folks adopted him, gave me a shopping list to go out immediately for, and changed the locks on me, adopting him. Well, maybe not, but they did like him. Then every year until he married a few years and had kids of his own, he came for the holiday, and I would go out into the woods and put up a pine tree on my dad’s bar and we called it a Chanukah bush!
Why do I tell you all this? Because he has done something amazing, something I figured would never happen. He lived this long, Some father of a young lady never shot him! Today is his birthday, and he is still about 21 years of age, or how I met him, he is mentally about 6, but with me, if we combine the mental growth about 10!SO HAPPY BIRTHDAY “PHIL”
, you are the best friend a guy could ever have!TOMORROW:
What we really share as friends.