Friday, January 14, 2011

Birthday Boyz

I grew up on Long Island - and let's use that term (grew up) rather loosely, because, like all guys of a certain age, we think/hope/pray? that we're a lot younger than we really are. Be that as it may, it was a pretty good upbringing...I mean other than the funny accent, Long Island wasn't too bad a place to grow up. The beach was close (it IS a friggin' island, after all), the "city" was close, my schools were minutes away, there were cool cars (I actually had a '63 Chevy that rocked), there were Jack-in-the-Boxes, there was Nathan's in Oceanside, there were drive-in movies that showed porn - in general, not too bad.

And then there were the boyz. You see, we moved to Long Island when I started the 4th grade and was about 9 years old; I say moved because we had lived in Forest Hills, which is in Queens and which is part of New York City, so people don't think of it as Long Island, but go look at a map - it's part of Long Island no matter how you slice or dice it. Anyway, back to the boyz.

Starting in the 4th grade, I began to form friendships and bonds that are still intact. There are a good dozen or so guys (and throw in a few gals as well) whom I am in contact with and see on a regular basis. In the group some guys are closer to others, some couples are closer to others, but all in all, the friendships are mighty strong. I mean, I moved to California, stayed for 18 years and then returned, and the bonds are as strong as they ever were...maybe even more so as we...ahem...grow up.

Calling ourselves the boyz came early on. Maybe we watched too many gangster movies (yeah, they were called gangster movies, not gangsta); they were the real tough guys. The Godfather came out the year I graduated from high school, but there were plenty of Bogart and Edward G. Robinson movies before that - and don't tell me they couldn't have kicked Biggie's or Tupac's asses, just like Corleone would have. So everyone had a nickname even though most of us were nebbishy jewish kids; and even though there was no baby-face or scar-face, as a group, we were and still are, till this day: the boyz.

So why do I wax nostalgic about all this crap? Well, this month we start wishing each other, like we have for 40 or so years, a happy birthday. Only this year, it's different.

Why? Because two months ago, we lost one of our boyz...and he was the one who was the glue that pretty much kept us all together, with semi-annual poker games (did I tell you about the time we were all smoking cigars and his wife Ro came home early? Well, that was the last time we smoked cigars in their house), trips to Vegas or the Mohegan Sun, barbecues, and on and on.

Yep, our friend Ron passed on, after a long-time battle against kidney disease. And I say battle in a good way; no one should have to go through what Ron did, but he always did it with grace and aplomb. Ron liked to complain about everyday things same as we all do - he was almost as curmudgeonly as me - but he never complained about the hand he was dealt (except sometimes in those all-night poker games we boyz engaged in) when it came to his health. Nope - he would have none of that. He lived every day like it counted and like it might be his last; that's a lesson I know all the boyz learned from Ron over the years. He enjoyed every sandwich and every roll of the dice. All his time with his family; his great wife (also a high school friend of mine) and great kids. The little things. The things we often take for granted. It's easy to say we won't, but we will...we always do. We should just try not to.

Anyway - today is Ron's birthday, and I've shed a tear or two. It's another of the boyz' birthdays as well. I've already wished Morris (a nickname, don't you know?) a happy birthday. This is for Ron, who for sure is in a good place. Thanks for the good times and the memories, pal. The boyz won't ever forget.


  1. For anyone who is wondering, Mitch's nickname was, and still is, "Boss" (not to be confused with "The Boss" who we saw at the Santa Barbara County Bowl back in 1977). Thanks for the birthday wishes. As for "nebbishey," you must be mixing us up with some other boys, perhaps some blog-reading restaurant snobs from the upper East Side who know nothing of Pinky's, the creek, Carmellas, Lox Haven, and who never would have set foot in the Ole Salt.

    Long Island still rules, but John's Pizza and Virgils make the trip to Manhattan worth the toll. And so does seeing the boyz.


  2. Boss, nice post.

    The Tallman will most certainly be missed. He was truly one of a kind and a source of inspiration on how to live your life and move beyond personal adversity.

    Happy B-day to the January Boyz! I know Ron is looking down on you, and on you, Boss, and the rest of us - Morris, Beast of England/Beast of Ireland, Luscious, Guss, Wass, Cheech, Socko, Ricky, Stugan, Fin, Gipper, Monkey and the rest.


    PS: Thanks for mentioning Nathan's and Lox Haven. You're making hungry! I'll take a pastrami on seeded rye, side of fries, slaw, pickle and a diet cream soda please.

  3. @ Morris and Dolph: See what I'm saying. Just those nicknames make us out to be nebbishes...nebbishem?

    Seriously though, Lox Haven was a pretty wonderful resource.

    And Carmela's probably helped to start me on a food quest for the rest of my life. I'm making some pizza dough tonight for 'za tomorrow!

    We KNOW what the Ole Salt started me on...those bastards.

    As for Pinky's, check out what this lower east sider blog-writing "boy" had to say...about Faber's :-)...

  4. The Woim. Rest in Peace, my brother...