When I was a child, my Aunt Pearl, Pearl Weiss, was a glamorous figure. She was my father’s younger sister, about four years younger than Pop. She had shared his hard times during the Great Depression and before and had folded newspapers for his delivery route. But when I knew her, in the last 1940s and 1950s, she was rich. Her husband, Davey Weiss, co-owned a meat packing company in Schenectady. He made real money, sixty thousand a year or more in the 1940s, when that was a fortune.
She lived in a colonial style house on a simply beautiful street called Central Parkway in Schenectady. Pearl always was dressed dashingly, had live in help, and had a cool car. I remember in particular that she had what I recall as a sky blue Buick Skylark the first year they came out in the mid 1950s. It had leather upholstery and power window and seats… a far cry from our modest Chevrolet with its crank windows and cloth seats.
Once, and once only, in 1950, our family drove down to Miami Beach for a winter vacation. We stayed in a modest hotel called “The Billows.”
Aunt Pearl, her husband Davey, and their children, the beautiful Laura and the irrepressible Jeffrey, stayed at the fabulously posh Roney Plaza. It was before the Fontainebleau and it was not huge, but it had louvered windows in the lobby and tile floors and armies of footmen. It was right on the beach and it was exactly what I wanted out of life.
Time passed. Jeffrey and Laura became successful, Jeffrey in oil, Laura as a decorator. Something happened and Aunt Pearl and Uncle Davey got divorced. Laura married the business partner of Jeffrey. They had lovely children and then they got divorced.
Jeffrey got to be rich as can be. He bought his mother a Rolls-Royce. He had a special room built onto his favorite restaurant so he and his friends could eat there undisturbed.
Once, long ago, when Jeffrey was visiting L.A., I took him (or he took me) to Mr. Chow, an extremely high end Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. It was a hangout of mine. Jeffrey asked me what entrees I liked.
“They’re all good,” I said, and Jeffrey ordered them all.
Then, things began to unravel. Jeffrey made a bet too big for him to afford to lose on the price of oil. He lost. His economic situation became perilous.
Aunt Pearl was deeply sad for Jeffrey’s problems, but she continued to live her life, by now in Sarasota. She played tennis, played cards, lived frugally, and smoked cigarettes, as she had all of her adult life. When I visited her, she was the soul of courtesy. I reminded her endlessly of how when my parents were somehow unable to come to my college graduation, she and my grandmother Jesse (her mother) came instead and were perfect stand-ins.
She told me about how it was to have such a super-braino as my father for her brother. She was extremely proud of him and his achievements, even though she was a leftist Democrat and my father was extremely Republican (as his father had been — a Prohibitionist). She told me how hard times were when her father could not find work for most of the 1930s, and when my grandmother supported them on modest wages indeed as a salesgirl at a department store.
To me, it seemed as if, no matter what her age, and despite the long-absent Buick Skylark, Aunt Pearl was still and always glamorous. She also was endlessly complimentary to me. “You’re a good kid,” she would say, even when I was in my 60s. “That’s what you always were. A good kid.”
About a year and a half ago, fate dealt her a deadly blow.… Cousin Jeffrey died suddenly under unexplained circumstances. It was a devastating shock and by then she was already 92 or 93. She never really recovered. She sought to put a brave face on it, but she was staggered.
Laura and my sister, the saintly Rachel, especially Laura, spent a lot of time with Pearl as Pearl slowly drifted off into eternity. She entered hospice care about ten days ago, and on New Year’s Eve, she entered immortality quietly, at age 95.
End of an era. Now all the sisters and cousins of my father and mother’s generation are gone. Beloved Laura, who was so amazingly devoted to Aunt Pearl, has lost her brother and her mother in quick succession. She is brave and not alone, but the pain is overwhelming.
Glamorous, sleek, witty, rich, Skylark-driving Aunt Pearl is no more on this earth. She lives in my memories as a Gatsbyesque figure from when the Steins lived with prudence. That was a long time ago. God bless my sister and Laura, who were so devout.
Now, from the sublime to the insane. I am writing this on Saturday, January 3, 2015. The lead story on the front page of the New York Times is about the piece of slime who murdered the two cops in Brooklyn about two weeks ago, an Islamist black cold-blooded killer named Ismaaiyl Brinsley or something similar.
The article, a meandering, pitiful piece of garbage, talks about his life and attempts over and over to say that Brinsley did not dislike police, never planned to kill police, had no intention to kill police, was really about sub-capital crimes and trying to make himself look cool to the ladies. The article says explicitly that Brinsley just killed the police by a tragic accident without any intent.
How humiliating for the New York Times. Mr. Brinsley left one Internet note after another about how he planned to kill police that day. He specifically said he was going to kill two police to “avenge” the killings of black men by police. He had a gun with him. He took a bus to New York with the expressed intent to kill police.
Then, somehow, this man who only killed by accident, according to the Times, approached a police car, messaged to people to watch what he did next, then took a shooter’s stance next to the police car and fired at the two cops who were eating lunch. He shot until they were both dead.
How could that possibly be an accident? How could that be the foul evil deed of a man who did not dislike cops? Are there no editors at the Times now? Are there no reporters? How shameful for all of the decent journalists in the whole world to have the Times publish such rubbish. The Times will go to any lengths to lionize the guilty, but this is ridiculous. There has to be some racial politics in the newsroom at the Times and it smells horrible.
And in the same vein… we are having record-breaking cold in California. I mean, it is really cold, especially at night. Where are the headlines pointing out that if Southern California has prolonged record-breaking cold, maybe there is some further research to do on “global warming.”
Better to think about this than about mortality in the Stein family.
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