Maury Z. Levy

Posts Tagged ‘SJ Magazine’

Money in the Bank

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I remember the days, the days when dreams were lightning and thunder was desire. I had a car back then, my very first car, the car I took to the drive-in movie, the car I drove to my job selling ratchets and sockets at Sears on the Boulevard, the Boulevard of broken promises. It was, at its best, a ’53 Dodge Coronet, with a smooth cream white body, and a rich royal blue roof. It was my father’s car, the car he drove to work on Market Street, the car that took us, with certainty and surety, to visit our family in South Philly and then again in Brooklyn.176560
By the time I got to drive it, on May 22nd, 1962, the day after my sixteenth birthday, the tires had been patched like an old football. “You take care of this car,” my father told me. “It has a lot of life left.” My father wasn’t big on buying new things when the old things would do. It made no sense to him. We begged for years for a color TV. “They’re not perfected yet,” my father would say. “And there’s nothing wrong with the black and white set. Ed Sullivan’s a white guy, Sammy Davis is a colored guy. What more is there to see?”

My father was a man of thrift. He didn’t trust the banks, because the banks had failed him. Didn’t trust the financial experts because the experts had lied to him. So he kept his money where all smart people did – in a Florsheim shoebox in the back of the hall closet, underneath a pair of black rubber galoshes, size 9 and a half, that he had bought from a guy who knew a guy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Independence Day

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

liberty_bellBack then, back when men were men and wars were wars, the seats on the Frankford El, the city’s first low speed line, were made of hardened cane. They ripped at your skin and tore at your pants but they could never break your spirit.

Every year, on the Fourth of July, we would put on our Sunday best, my mother, my father, my sister and I, and take the B bus and the El train to the cradle of liberty, better known as the Fifth Street El stop. There, we would join the thousands of other sweating citizens who didn’t have barbecue plans that day, to sizzle in the sun while bands played and politicians did what politicians do.

This was back when the Liberty Bell was still in Independence Hall, before they moved it to that barren building that looked like a bad Burger King. This was back when patriotism wasn’t considered corny, back when this country was considered to be the smartest country in the world.

I remember sitting on those folding chairs on what would become Independence Mall and looking at all the military men in crisp, clean uniforms, thinking that was a good thing to do, to be a soldier.

In the years that followed those lazy lemonade days, I would grow up way too fast. Just like all the boys I knew, I would quickly be facing manhood, highly eligible for the war that everyone said would be the last ground war of our lifetime. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s Looking at You

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 4:26 pm

mauryWe always had supper at six. And we called it supper. Dinner was something you went out to. When the money was good, when my father worked seven days a week instead of just six, we would go to the Horn & Hardart.

“You get anything you want,” my father would tell me. My eyes would open like a lightning bug in a jar. I would order steak, Salisbury steak with thick brown gravy, and peas and mashed potatoes. If I had enough room, and my father had enough money left, I would finish with rice pudding. The Horn & Hardart rice pudding was creamy and rich, with raisins as plump as tapioca balls.

When we got home, my father would do what all fathers did after a good meal. He would sit in his club chair, put his feet up on the ottoman, and unbutton his pants. Now this was living. Often, as all fathers did, he would call to my mother, “Rosie, get me a Schlitz.” My father was always a Schlitz man. Sure, when company came, he’d lay in a six-pack of Miller High Life. But the Schlitz went so much better with his El Producto Blunts.

I did most of my growing up in a time and a neighborhood where men drank. Not some sissy cocktail like martinis. A working man had a two-choice drink list. You had a shot or you had a beer. Sometimes both.

I grew up in a neighborhood that had a taproom on almost every corner. We never called them bars. They were places where you could get a cold one from the tap and a more than generous fill of a shot glass. They were places where men went to forget and women went in the back door.

This time of year, as we played in the street until you couldn’t see the wire for wireball, we would watch our fathers come home. Many arrived in time for dinner. Then there were the men who came late. Billy Flanagan’s father never made it home in time. As the darkness crept, we would see him stumbling down the street, the brim of his hat pulled down over his eyes. His nose – red and bright and bulbous – would light the night.

Drinking wasn’t the answer, but it sure helped with the questions. As I grew up, I drank in moderation. Beer at the beginning. Then I worked my way to wine. Boone’s Farm Apple wine, now there was good drinking. There’s a study that just came out. I don’t know if you saw it. It says that, compared to their grandparents, young people in New Jersey today start drinking alcohol at an earlier age and are about ten times more likely to have used illegal drugs.

The survey says that 43 percent of 13- and 14-year olds now drink in some form. And 61 percent of young people have used illegal drugs. It would be easy to blame this all on advertising. All those beer commercials with people having the times of their lives.

The thing of it is, kids do what kids see. They don’t need messages from commercials. If they see their parents or grandparents drinking, that’s message enough. If they hear old war stories about how a little pot never hurt anyone, how could you blame them for experimenting? This isn’t about Madison Avenue. This is about Carlton Avenue and King’s Highway. This is about what happens at your dinner table. This is about making sure there is a family dinner table. As a parent, you have a pretty simple choice. You can act as a role model. Or you can answer the phone when the cops call.

The Old Ballgame

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm

mzl baseball copyI grew up in a land where men were men and women baked cakes. A land where fathers worked all day and slept all night. While the rest of us watched Milton Berle, my father, exhausted from bringing home the kishka, would plop in his overstuffed green sateen lounge chair and snooze ‘til he snored.

That was the daily routine. That was what work was. In our humble house, celebrations were few and far between. There were birthdays and the Fourth of July and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They were days of rest, they were days of play.

My favorite Father’s Day ever was when I was eight years old. My father loved watching sports. This day, we would celebrate by doing what my father and I loved most. We would go to Connie Mack Stadium. I loved that place. It was other-worldly. No grass was that green. No bases were that white. We got seats in the upper deck. That way, there was money left for food. My father bought me a hot dog, slathered in bright yellow mustard, and an ice cold Coca-Cola in a cup I needed two hands to hold. It was my favorite meal. Read the rest of this entry »

TV or Not TV

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 3:55 pm

old-tv-setGrowing up was a numbers game. We had six rooms in our little brick row house. Six rooms, three bedrooms, five people, one television. It was a little black and white set with Howdy Doody on it. It sat, a 15-inch screen in a giant mahogany cabinet, in the middle of our living room, with all chairs, sofas and slipcovers facing it.

It was something we all enjoyed, television. It brought us music and laughter and drama and sports. From that little room on Calvert Street, it was our window on the world. Even more important than our one telephone. This was before cell phones. Hey, this was before pushbutton phones.

We loved TV and all that it gave us. I remember the small smile on my father’s face when, after the dregs of a 12-hour workday, he got to be entertained by Berle and Benny and Burns and Allen.

As important as television was to us, it had its place. And its place wasn’t at the dinner table. Dinner was a time to talk. Read the rest of this entry »

Eat, Eat

In SJ Magazine on September 1, 2009 at 3:48 pm

salisbury-steak-2The first time I ever ate filet mignon was at the Pub on the Airport Circle, the circle with no airport. It was after my junior prom, which I remember like it was 44 years ago. The salad, disguised as half a head of lettuce, was covered with creamy Russian dressing. The girl was covered with dreamy pink organza.

The memory that lasted the longest was that steak, so thick and red and juicy. To that point in my life, the best cut I’d eaten was a rib steak, smothered in canned corn, accompanied by a baked potato with half a cup of sour cream on top. In those days, in my house, sour cream was a condiment.

The steak would be for special times – birthdays, anniversaries, pay days. The rest of the week, we ate the usual. Sweet and sour meatballs with kasha and bowties; boiled chicken with matzoh ball soup; brisket with brown potatoes and rice; and tuna with blintzes and sour cream or a big bowl of Creamettes, the Jewish pasta.

It was such an immovable feast. I loved to eat back then, except for Thursdays. Thursday was liver. I hated liver. I hated the look of it, the thought of it, the taste of it. I used to try to hide pieces of it under the lumps in the mashed potatoes. But my mother always found them and made me finish. “There are kids in Korea who don’t have food to eat,” she said. “Can we mail them my liver?” I asked.

It was years later that I learned the food I grew up on was horrible for me. Liver is an organ meat, full of impurities. And who knew about carbs or artery cloggers? “Eat, eat,”my mother would say. “It’s all good for you.”

Back then, it was done with premeditated love. Mothers only wanted us to have the best, the best their limited resources could provide. They did it out of love and they did it out of ignorance. Who knew that those pains I had in my stomach every day on the way to school were from an intolerance to sour cream? Who knew that the pure sugar I used to dump by the tablespoon on my shredded wheat and my French toast would result in diabetes? Nobody knew.

But we do know now. We know that over 60 percent of Americans are obese.And we know that you’re not supposed to supersize. And we know you can’t eat meat at every meal. And we know you shouldn’t always have fries with that.

I read a report just last week that radiologists are having increasing trouble taking x-rays of people because the machinery wasn’t made to penetrate so many layers of fat.

We were in a casual restaurant in Cherry Hill the other day. A family walked in and asked for several tables to be pushed together because they were too big to fit in a booth. There was grandma and grandpa and mom and dad. Together, they outweighed the Eagles’ offensive line. I felt sorry for them at first. But then I watched them order and eat. Fried cheese, loaded potato skins, big double-decker cheeseburgers. A pizza on the side. It was their kids, the little four- and six year olds who I really felt sorry for. What kind of a chance do they have in life? And what are these parents thinking?

Listen, if you want to kill yourself, you have the right to main line all the cheesecake you want. Hey, put some sour cream on top, for all I care. But, knowing what we now know, if you continue to stuff your kids silly, you’re not a good parent.You’re an abuser.Nothing less. If you really care, you should stop. Stop, in the name of common sense. Stop, in the name of love.

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