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June 15th, 2014

Talking About My Dad

I wrote this in September 2008 a few days after my dad died. 

So many people ask me to describe my dad. For those who weren’t at the funeral I say, read the eulogy. Yet, with each passing day, I come up with dozens of memories that were not included (I mean, it couldn’t be THAT long a eulogy).

Sometimes I feel like I say the same thing over and over:

He was a brilliant, intellectual man with a great sense of humor.

He skipped out on his college graduation at UC Berkeley to see a famous race horse run (Citation).

He wrote great concepts, copy and headlines when he was in the advertising business from the mid-1950′s to the late 1980′s (Aunt Jamima, what took you so long? Who Says a Newspaper Has To Be Dull? Quaker Oats: The Cereal Shot From Guns, Do It The French Way, Step up to Dutch Masters and smile brother smile, Quisp and Quake, Get Your Daily Dose of Dallas…to name a few).

He wrote a screenplay about the night Henry David Thoreau spent in jail, a Thoreau calendar, an opera based on Nixon’s Checkers speech, a suite of songs which can be heard on a terrific album by Bob Dorough called This Is A Recording of Pop Art Songs with lyrics based on a weather report, a Brooks Brothers collection bill, a traffic ticket, a laundry ticket and the Webster’s dictionary definition of love. There was also the bestselling book he co-authored called The Couple.

He loved to birdwatch, to read, and to look at his view of the lower Manhattan skyline.

He studied the New Yorker listings for art, theater, music, and films he wanted to see.

He loved his house in rural East Greenwich, New York. It was his 40 acres and a lake not too far from Saratoga Race Track.

He watched the towers fall on 9/11 and told me: “What was once the most beautiful view in the world is now the ugliest.”

He told fantastic stories. My son has them memorized but I will miss the way he told them.

He was a funny, funny man who had a magnetic personality. He was a tough critic and a great person to walk through a museum with though it could be intimidating. He loved the opera,  Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet; he collected jazz and classical LP’s.

He was a loving and protective dad; I  remember he called the morning of Hurricane Gloria back in 1986 and told me to stay home and I did.

He reached for my hand when I crossed the street until I was well past 30; he almost didn’t let me go on a bike trip with two girlfriends from North Carolina to West Virgina when I was 16. Finally he relented; he wouldn’t let me take a semester off from college afraid I’d never return; he visited me every day when I was in the hospital with pre-term labor with Henry…

I cherished every word he wrote me in birthday cards. I especially loved his doodles of elephants and airplanes.

It was easy to take care of him the way we did at the end. Our love for him abundant and overflowing.

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