Bonding moments with a parent usually occur at a young age; playing catch, tuning up a car, fixing the house, knitting are examples of how parents bond with their children while giving them a skill for success. When I was 10 or so, I desperately wanted that wholesome bonding moment with the Old Man – I wanted him to teach me how to throw a baseball. He taught me how to throw Three Card Monte. Par for the course when your father is Meyer Lansky and you’re looking for Ward Cleaver. Actually, our bonding moment would come 21 years later in the East Village.
In 2000, Mom and Dad were visiting Scot in New Jersey. Dad decided to come into the city and stay with me for a night on one condition: we would go down to the neighborhood and hang out with Mouse and the Professor at the Big Bar on 7th Street. As we walked down 3rd Ave, my father noticed my head was constantly on a swivel, gauging what was going on around us. “You’re from the Street now, not Bloomfield Hills,” he shook his head but surprisingly not in disgust. “I never wanted that for you but at least I can talk to you now.”
I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. My father was treating me like an equal of some sort, not his child. I had never considered my self as a street guy although I’d acquired the requisite Lower East Side accent and expletive laden way of expressing even the most tender of thoughts, not to mention the proper scowl to keep the skells at bay while walking home at 4:35am. Ironically, the silence continued until we reached 2nd Ave and St. Marks. “What’s this neighborhood called,” he asked.
“People refer to it as the East Village but it’s always been part of the Lower East Side,” I told him.
“So this is the neighborhood you first came to when you got to the city,” he asked.
“Yes. I consider this my home,” I said.
Silently he circled the four way three times. After each circle he stopped at the northeast corner and looked right at the Gem Spa newsstand and nodded. After the third circle, he grabbed my forearm and locked his eyes right on to mine. “This was the right place to learn how to read the street,” he said.
I was beyond giddy. Within a four-block radius I not only bonded with my Old Man but got his approval for my life choices. Of course this good will lasted until we got to the Big Bar 5 minutes later and he used the parental third person ploy to complain to the Professor about my life choices.
This moment is one of those things I have kept to myself for 12 years, an extremely fond memory I had yet to tell or confess to anyone, except someone close to me a bit ago as we walked down Fairfax Ave. That’s when that deserted Los Angeles street he lived on just long enough to acquire a visceral hatred of everything California became 2nd Ave and St Marks Place in 2000 and I swear I could see the Old Man nodding. And right then for that exact moment he was more brilliantly, willfully alive then I ever remembered and more dead than he’ll ever be.
Happy Father’s Day!
(Hat Tip: Bryan Krasner)