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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Bronx 1965

 


All those ancient Jewish women on lawn chairs—as I walked by they pinched my cheeks as if I was a piece of prime meat. "Such a nice boy, he is Minnie's grandson," they crowed. These old women—once their now deflated breasts—fed their children shtetl milk. And in the hall of my grandmother’s building—a waft of Eastern European cooking—I could Daven—like a religious man: "kishka, herring, schmaltz, borscht, flanken, blintzes, chopped liver...amen." My grandmother—senile— scolded my father, "You went all over Europe, you were a playboy!" My father replied: "Ma! I was in the army—World War II!" "A playboy, a playboy," she muttered. Uncle Dave, a rare book dealer, Homburg hat, cane, never cracked a smile, a brilliant bald head under the lights—started out selling books on pushcarts in the Lower East Side— "I had to make a living," he explained—called George Gershwin—"A good kid." He grew up with him—urchins darting up and down the street, roasting spuds in back alleys—there was music—Klezmer, Jazz, the neighs of horses, the come-on from peddlers, prayers on tenement rooftops, the cooing of pigeons on fire escapes...


                                                                      —Doug Holder