“His Unmistakeable Goodness Dealt Anti-Semitism A Painful Blow.”
Is the world redeemable? Is there any hope at all?
Once a friend, acting teacher and trauma coach David Tawil, emailed me a photograph of a sunflower that grew straight up through a concrete sidewalk in Coney Island, and I laughed through tears.
Majestic and undaunted, it said: “Take that modern world. Take that….electronic disconnect, despair, faithlessness. I am SUNFLOWER.”
I feel the same way about my father’s email today, pasted below. Just as I was myself becoming “the sidewalk”– it arrived. The now digitized recording of my father’s 1964 interview with his grandfather, my great grandfather, Alexander Marcus, who came from Tsarist Russia. The broadcast was so loved, it went viral, even though “viral” at the time meant WOR, and my father, had to make recorded discs and mail them to people. (I absolutely see my father doing this, night after night, with stacks of envelopes…)
Barry’s email, (re-published without permission of the author but soon as he gets off the air tonight I’ll get permission.)
A lucky break now brightens our path. (The Persian proverb tells us “Good fortune favors the industrious!”)
In September of 1963 when my elder daughter Bibi was three months old and Celia wasn’t yet born, I recorded an interview with Grandpa Marcus. He told of life in his “Fiddler on the Roof” shtetl in Russia, the big Trip to America, going to live with his brother in Savannah, watching Colonel Theodore Roosevelt marshal his troops for the Spanish-American War on horseback on Oglethorp Avenue, raising a family in the New World and so on.
When Grandpa died in January, 1964 I played that “Conversation with Grandpa” on WOR and it went viral. We had to have copies printed on records (that’s “discs”. Do you remember?) and we sold them for our cost, 90 cents per copy. The Boston Police Department asked if they might use the interview in their Community Outreach Program. We were all proud and happy that Grandpa’s love for America came blistering through. His unmistakable goodness dealt anti-semitism a painful blow.
A few months ago Cousin Judy importuned me to make copies for the children who never had a chance to know Grandpa and I resolved to have copies made for everybody. But we all know what happens to resolutions among the likes of me!
A dear friend who works for Newsmax.com, a center-right website, constantly peppers me with teasers, newspaper articles from the time of my father’s winning a major bridge tournament in 1941 coverage of my bar mitzvah in 1943, etc.
A few days ago my friend scored a knockout. He e-mailed me an invitation to go to “the Brookfield Pharmacy for a lemon snowball”. How could he know about the Brookfield Pharmacy? I called him. Turns out our “Conversation With Grandpa” somehow got purchased from E-Bay by someone who digitized it and put it on YouTube! And that’s where the good fortune kicks in. I was hours away from the agonizing task of remastering the interview and making MP3s for everybody and then sitting back and hoping everybody in the extended family had the technical means to listen in.
No problem now! There it is, for us family insiders and the world at large, on YouTube!
All you do it click on this link and you’re in touch with a relative we can all be so proud of!
I no longer need the ninety-cents per copy, but I’d love it if you’d take the time to let me know the reaction of your young ones who get aboard and listen.
If I may draw your attention to my favorite passage, which I have etched in audio memory (yes, I have the tape, and no, I never digitized it, because I am hopeless) it is 7:05 to 7:13.
I swear I have listened to it a hundred times over the years, wondering what became of this…quality, that causes his voice to slow and drop, right there, in those six seconds. He’s talking about the moment he saw her.
“She woz beeeeutiiful. She woz actually beeeautiiiiful. I told her: “I like you very much, Now let’s get married.”
It’s my favorite six seconds of recorded sound in the world, those words, in that warm Yiddish accent.
“She woz beeeautiful.” And then the “actually,”line–a poetic repetition that makes me want to hug his legs and sob.
Hilarious. Love you grandpa, though we never met.
(Rabbi Harizy, this is also for you.)