Pop’s Pool Room
At the crossroads of the two major avenues of the East Bronx was a magical, idyllic spot known as Pop’s Pool Room. It was the place where I spent most of my spare time between the ages of 16 and 24, subtracting the two years that Pop banned me from his establishment.
I don’t recall (honestly) why I was exiled, but I did get excellent grades at CCNY those years, which probably lifted my grade point average and allowed me to go to dental school. Pop had given me the sobriquet or nickname “The Millionaire Kid” because my parents owned a successful dry-goods store on 174th street.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Seoul, Korea.
I was a dental officer working in the Marvin W. Carius Clinic. (He was a dentist who was killed in the Korean War.) The year was 1960 and the army base was in Yongsan, Seoul.
“Show me your papers.”
It’s a phrase that most of us never expect to hear. It’s something that only happens to other people, right?
Not in Arizona. Not anymore.
A new draconian immigration bill requires police officers in the state to check a person’s immigration status if the officer suspects that the person is here illegally.
I have never thought of myself as a particularly brave person; however, each day I take upon myself a truly terrifying task. People have been killed, maimed, or scarred for life doing this thing that I have chosen to do, and knowing this, I must somehow find the courage to continue on. I wish I could now segue into my dazzling adventures as a mountain climber or Bengal tiger trainer, or something with equal glamour, but unfortunately that’s not where this is going; I’m talking about driving on Jericho Turnpike.
In April. when the first green buds appear on bare trees, the Long Island landscape begins to resemble an impressionist painting in progress. That, and migrating spring birds make it my favorite time of year to bird. Last spring, my friend Walter and I went to three places on two successive weekends to observe the annual spring migration. In each locale there were scenes that looked like paintings and migrant birds heading north.
I have never been much of a card player. Somehow, myself and three other gentlemen formed a Monday night gin rummy game. It has been classified as a Damon Runyonesque experience because the players are alumni from the streets of the Bronx and Brooklyn circa 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
It’s school budget time, and wrath is in the air. Politicians are raging, taxpayers fuming, students protesting. The frustration is easy to understand. School budget votes in our region are a lose-lose proposition. Vote against the budget, and the ones we hurt are the children. Vote in favor, and we perpetuate the ruinous tax spiral that is devastating families and crippling our economy.
People are certain that “there must be places we can cut.” But individual local school budgets are the wrong places to look. For the most part, when you cut a district budget, you curtail some service.
It was Halloween. The year was 1953.
I was studying calculus in my apartment in the East Bronx on the high ground floor. It was above Sid’s Candy Store. Sid’s was a noisy neighborhood hangout for the unemployed and the indigent.
The streets were gripped in Halloween fever. Kids ran back and forth decorating each other with multicolored shades of chalk. I was trying to study, but the street sounds captured my weak attention span. My sister Sandy, (8 years my junior) was the most flagrant offender and her voice and screams carried above all the others. She was the loudest.
The volcanic explosion in Iceland affected me in two distinct ways. One, it reminded me of my visit to this North Atlantic Island about 10 years ago. We chose Iceland, just to say we had been there.
The drive from the airport to Reykjavik, the capital, looked like we had landed on the lunar surface. The ground was rutted and barren and there was a sense of desolation. Soon we arrived at our luxurious hotel and the 20th century was more evident. The town was modern and it looked like a small town in the Wisconsin, Minnesota area.
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