Blacks and Whites

My father was an expert.

Never one of the guys, he’d hold back in a group, make whiskey sours, thumb through newspapers and magazines at a speed so fast there was not a printing press that could keep up with him.

But just when you thought he wasn’t paying attention, he’d interrupt. He’d have to tell everybody how it really was.

And people listened. Because if Moe bothered to weigh in, it was akin to Moses coming down from the mountaintop, truth was going to be displayed on those tablets.

Not that everybody liked this. People love to tell their stories, to b.s., to put their own spin on the world. They don’t like to be set straight. But my father couldn’t tolerate inaccuracy. To let a falsehood go by was anathema to him.

So I’m driving on Sepulveda and Robin Quivers starts talking about how blacks and whites don’t want to live together. That’s what a new study days. And, of course, Robin is black, so she gets to be the authority.

No. Howard interrupts, just like my dad, and says he’s gonna say how it really happens.

And Robin doesn’t like this. And neither does the guest.

But Howard proceeds.

One black family moves into the neighborhood, and then everybody else sells. It’s not about racism so much as real estate. If they don’t sell now, they’re going to lose all that equity!

It was so different back then. There was no Internet, no authority. The world was smaller. You believed your parents were one step away from famous, they were just that wise.

And so many of their friends were famous. I’m not sure how it is with other ethnicities, but Jews always had nicknames for other families. The Big Knocker! That was a man who was too big for his britches. And there were suffixes on the long names. It was one roving party.

Except for my dad. His troubled past haunted him. It’s hard to never be a member of the group. Maybe that’s why he was attracted to my mother, the straw who stirs the drink, she broke three bones in two months last year and her friends waited on her hand and foot! Who was going to take them to New York? Who was going to say what movies to see? My mother is the social director. With a cutting tongue. My father was the one who found it hard to integrate, but he had a heart of gold.

And like Howard Stern he loved to testify about the blacks. Because that’s where his liquor store was, in an all black neighborhood.

You can’t argue with experience. Especially when the person proffering insight is smart.

They don’t come any sharper than my dad. And listeners know Howard Stern is brilliant. But he’s screwed up. He grew up in an all black neighborhood, a tall guy who was not an athlete. But his mother wouldn’t move as Roosevelt changed color. She wouldn’t be one of those people. Even though neighbors were leaving in the middle of the night, ashamed of what they were doing to the real estate values of those who remained.

And then everybody in the studio started testifying. Gary Dell’Abate told about the family behind his literally pulling up a moving van at three in the morning.

It reminded me of the old days. Living in the suburbs. When the world was smaller and shared experience was everything.

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