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Sit Ubu Sit Archives

January 25, 2008

It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Blogging

I don’t own a computer. I write long hand on a yellow legal pad. I don’t watch any TV. I rarely go to movies and I don’t subscribe to any magazines. I only recently purchased a cell phone at the insistence of my daughter who wanted me to have one, at least for traveling. I’m roughly 53 years behind the curve in terms of technology and popular culture. And, yet, “Look ma no hands. I’m blogging.” So, as we used to say in Brooklyn, “Wha’ happened?”

Wha' happened is I wrote a book, Sit Ubu Sit, which is coming out February 5th. And, evidently a lot of people, I mean really a lot, do use the Internet as a way to communicate with each other. Who knew? So, here I am. And, so here you are, I guess, if you’re reading this. So, what is it I want to blog you?

I hope you like the book. I guess that’s first. No, I hope you buy the book. That has to be first. But, if you do buy it and don’t like it I’ll be sad because it’s very personal. The story of my accidental career in show business. My 40 year love affair with my wife Diana, and, of course there’s a lot in there about Ubu and Michael J. Fox with whom I also am in love.

I like one thing about the book. After 35 years in show business I have no really terrible stories to tell. No mean gossip or tales of back-stabbing and betrayal. Some minor annoyances, but you get those in any business. Mostly I’ve been treated with kindness and respect. Been lucky to be around some lovely and extremely talented show business folk. And, both my daughters grew up to be writers. And, the men they’ve partnered with are also writers. And, I love them all – a lot.

Wow! That got very personal very fast. That can happen in a blog they tell me. Maybe it’s even supposed to. This seems like a lot for a first time discussion. So, I’ll stop now. Maybe I’ll write another one tomorrow. I still have a lot of legal pads in my drawer.


February 18, 2008

My Excellent Website Adventure

Since I don’t have a computer of my own I had to go over to my friends Jimmy and Cathy’s house and view my website there, on their computer. As we walked into the den, and I saw the sleek shiny machine, I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek. Or, back visiting Tomorrowland at The World’s Fair in Queens, in 1964. It was the new Apple iMac with a 24” screen and it looked like it could very easily go to Jupiter and beyond. Cathy could sense I was a little nervous.

“You want me to turn it on?”

“Not yet.”

“Take your time.”

They had prepared some soothing green tea for me and I sipped slowly staring at the monster.

“It’s on there, huh?”

“Yeah. GaryDavidGoldberg.com.”

“Wow, that sounds pretentious.”

Jimmy assured me this was common. And, there was nothing vain about using your own name on your own website.

“That’s more or less the point,” he assured me.

There was brief silence then Cathy put her hand gently on my knee.

“You want me to turn it on, now?”

“Not yet.”

I sipped some more green tea and stared some more at the iMac 24 and I was instantly transported to my grandma’s living room back in Brooklyn. It was 1948 and she had the first TV in the neighborhood. I was only 4 and my brother Stan was 9 and all the kids on the block had come over to watch The Howdy Doody Show with us on our 10” black and white Crosley.

We sat silently, almost afraid to move, and stared at this incredible machine. Harvey Jacobowitz, who was fragile in the best of times, actually gasped when Buffalo Bob looked directly into the camera and asked us if we knew what time it was?

“It’s Howdy Doody time,” Jacobowitz screamed and then started to spontaneously cry, either from excitement or fear or just too much emotion. Or, maybe all three. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen to me when we finally turned on this computer.

I stared at the screen for another minute. Cathy’s screensaver a soothing sunset scene. Nice step up from the test patterns that were the 1948 equivalent. I took a deep breath.

“OK, let ‘er rip,” I told Cathy, and she clicked, and there it was. My picture. A lot of stuff about my life, about my family, about my book. One small step for mankind. One giant step for me. I gasped. Jacobowitz, I know how you felt.

February 29, 2008

WWAKD (What Would Alex Keaton Do)


It’s been almost twenty years since Family Ties went off the air. And, Alex P. Keaton’s political idols Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan have each gone off to their deserved places in history. Yet I still get asked a lot, well okay maybe not a lot but more than twice, whether Alex P. Keaton would be a Republican today. And, if so, who would be his candidate in the 2008 presidential election?

Before I go any further I should point out that I’m a registered Independent. I vote Democratic most of the time but not always. And, I am part of the 75% of Americans who strongly disapprove of the job George Bush has done as President of our United States.

I should also point out that in order to properly represent Alex and his political point of view I, as well as the rest of the Family Ties writers, did a great deal of research on this subject. And during that time I developed a very healthy respect for the true conservative point of view. A powerful and proud strain of American political thought. And, even today I bow to no one in my desire to see the capital gains tax eliminated.

Alex Keaton was a true conservative Republican. He was for limited government. He was strongly against government involvement in the personal lives of its citizens. He was competent and capable. The ultimate over-achiever. But, above all Alex Keaton was a firm believer in the power of ideas. The true conservative belief in the competitive marketplace of intellectual discourse. Where the best ideas win – usually Alex’s. And, so it’s difficult to recognize in this current incarnation of the Republican party, a party whose legacy will include Terri Schiavo and Hurricane Katrina, a place where Alex Keaton might feel the least bit comfortable.

Alex was smart. Real smart. And, proud of it. He also believed deeply in the power of science. And, the free exchange of scientific ideas. Uncensored. Unfettered by excessive government regulation. Not stifled by religious orthodoxy. Not re-written by political hacks with no academic or scientific credentials. So, it’s hard to picture Alex in a party which seems to be waging war against science. And, where their presidential candidates seem comfortable debating whether or not the earth is round.

On the other hand, I can’t see Alex easily voting for a Democrat. Alex was loyal. I think his natural inclination would have been to go for John McCain. But, that would have been John McCain in 2000, when he was still talking straight: Jerry Falwell was an agent of intolerance. And, waterboarding is torture. McCain going back on those two key points would have certainly kept Alex from pulling the lever for him now.

I think Ron Paul’s message is one that would resonate with Alex. And, he would appreciate Paul’s intellectual power, and his willingness to state his positions unequivocally and without regard to which way the political winds were blowing. I think he’d really like Huckabee’s ideas of getting rid of the IRS. (I know I do.) But, ultimately Alex likes to win and I think that would have kept him from fully committing to either of those guys.

Hillary Clinton? I have to disclose that I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 20+ years. I think she’s a warm, funny and caring person of formidable intelligence. And, I admire her greatly. And, I would love to be able to say that Alex would vote for her. But, I don’t think I believe that it could happen. If he did vote for her it would have to be a “very special” episode of Family Ties, indeed.

So, what about Barack Obama then? I honestly don’t know. I think Alex is an Independent now. And, certainly as deeply engaged in politics as ever. He would be intrigued by Obama. Impressed with his eloquence and his intelligence. Unhappy with his plan to tax the wealthy at a higher rate. But, keenly aware that eight years of neglect and corruption and no-bid contracts have to somehow be overturned. And, I think Obama’s slogan is very similar to Alex’s own personal mantra – “Of Course I Can.”

I think that Alex might just be ready to take a chance. Might just. I can picture him stepping into the voting booth, closing the curtain behind him, taking a very deep breath and then for the first time in his life putting his hand up to the Democratic party lever. He touches it tentatively, trying to get comfortable. Takes his hand off. Puts it back. He grasps the lever firmly now. Squeezes it. And, as he’s about to pull we FADE OUT. And, there’s your ACT BREAK.

For what it’s worth Michael Fox and I have differing opinions about just where Alex Keaton is today. I believe he does pro bono legal work for The Children’s Defense Fund.

Mike thinks he’s just now getting out of prison.

March 27, 2008

Cross Training

The Labrador Retriever puppy is not happy without his human family. That was the opening sentence in the book Diana and I had checked out of the Berkeley library to help us train our new two-month old puppy, Ubu. Little did we know it at the time but Ubu had his own ideas about “training” and they weren’t going to be found in any book.

I had been walking on the Berkeley campus the day before, and at the foot of Sproul Plaza, next to the “LESBIAN NON-SMOKING VEGTARIAN STALINISTS AGAINST THE WAR” table I saw a young woman seated, cradling a box of cute, black, furry puppies in her lap. I smiled at her, told her I thought the jury was pretty much in on Stalin but I might be willing to give him a second look if only for her sake. She smiled and pointed to the box of puppies and the hand written sign “free to non-Republican families.”

I shook my head sadly “no” and walked on thinking I would really love to have a dog but my parents won’t let me. And then I remembered. I don’t live with my parents anymore. I haven’t for about seven years. I live with a beautiful young woman, Diana Meehan, who I know loves dogs, cats, squirrels and oddly enough seems to love me although at this point in our relationship I’m probably after cats but before squirrels.

In about ten minutes, an excited Diana joined me on campus to help pick out our puppy. As we studied the box of puppies carefully we realized this was not going to be an easy choice. We met the mother, Frieda, a beautiful elegant canine. Father unknown but everyone suspected Rusty, a handsome roguish Labrador who lived off Telegraph Avenue and was tangentially connected to the physics department.

As we took each puppy out for a walk it became clear that we really wanted to take them all. Since our apartment didn’t allow any pets at all, it seemed the wiser course perhaps would be to just take one. And, it was clear that the one we liked best was this little guy who kept rubbing against our legs, almost like a cat and then looking up at us with those burnt-sugar eyes that said “take me home.” And,we did.

On the ride home Ubu sat in my lap as Diana drove. I was so excited I could barely contain myself. Evidentially so was Ubu, who promptly peed all over me. Diana looked at me and smiled, “That means he likes you.”

Ubu was wickedly smart and his training proceeded at a rapid pace. He got “sit” and “stay” in one morning. He thought the idea of “lie down” was excessive since we already had “sit” and “stay” but he good-naturedly picked it up in an afternoon. At this rate we’d have to introduce Algebra and Geometry soon to keep him interested.

As far as being apart from his human family this was not a problem for Ubu because he never was. We took him everywhere. School, movies, restaurants. He had a unique ability to “get small.” And, when he would hear that command – (Ubu preferred to think of it as a suggestion) - he would slink quietly along the floor and when we got seated in the classroom, or the theatre, or the restaurant he would silently curl himself into a black furry ball and get under my chair.

Ubu carried a Frisbee in his mouth most of the time and was really a world class player. Diana had written on the inside, Ubu’s Frisbee and listed his telephone number, too. When we went to class together a lot of times he would walk me to the door and then go trotting off to find someone on campus to play Frisbee with him. He was direct, as are most Labradors and he would go up to someone he thought a likely candidate and drop his Frisbee at their feet or on two unfortunate occasions drop it on an art project and a senior thesis. Sometimes I’d be walking with him and we’d pass someone I didn’t know who’d say, “Hi Ubu,” and Ubu would smile back. “Who’s that?” I would ask. “Just a guy I play Frisbee with.”

Ubu was, what I would later hear described as a “lifetime dog.” As in once in your lifetime, if you’re lucky, you meet that dog who’s going to change your life. And Ubu changed mine.

I had always wanted to be a guy who had a dog. A big dog who was never on a leash but who would be controlled by – (Ubu preferred “respond appropriately to”) - affection and respect. I was trying to change myself from a city kid, sports-crazed and rigid, to a more laid back country boy. More mellow, more in touch with nature. And, being with Ubu and his energy put you in contact with those natural rhythms.

Ubu taught me to play. Just play. Not worry about winning and losing but making time and space disappear as I watched this creature totally immersed in every moment of his life. Never false. Fiercely loyal. Unabashedly affectionate and generous of spirit. Qualities I wanted in myself. Ubu always expected the best of me and I tried to live up to that reflection. He gave me confidence to be who I wanted to be. He taught me patience. He taught me to take time to smell the flowers. And, occasionally to piss on them.

One night a few years later when Diana and I were both working as waiters in L.A. I got a call at work from the LAPD Station on San Vicente off of Sunset Blvd. Ubu had somehow gotten out of our apartment and had gone out looking for us when a Good Samaritan saved him by pulling him off the street. And, they were holding them there.

I rushed out forgetting my wallet with my I.D. and when I went to pick up Ubu they wouldn’t release him to me. “How do we know he’s your dog?” The desk sergeant asked. At that point Ubu who was chained to a brick in the wall in the next room heard my voice and started howling. Then there was a crash and then the sound of a chain scraping the floor and then Ubu came out into the front room.

He had gotten so excited when he heard my voice that he’d literally ripped the brick out of the wall and was dragging it behind him as he came to me and knocked me over with kisses and hugs. The cop looked at us rolling around on the floor together each making high-pitched squeals of delight. “Okay, I believe you. He’s your dog.”

Yeah. And, I was his guy.


March 28, 2008

There Is No “I” in Team or in Comedy

I was nearing the end of what I believed to have been one of my most profound parental lectures. A true teaching moment between myself and my then 11 year old daughter Shana. One she would remember forever. Perhaps passing on its wisdom one day to her own children. That time when her dad successfully linked together two of the seminal thoughts at the core of his personal philosophy: “It’s not the size of the man in the fight. But, the size of the fight in the man.” Elegantly linked with the equally profound, “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” I was about to explain how “you learn more about citizenship on the one yard line than in all the civics classes that you’ll every take” when Shana raised her hand and tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.

“You know, dad, not everything in life can be reduced to a sports-metaphor.”

I thought about that for a moment. And, then replied: “Yes, it can.”

Perhaps this deeply held belief is an attempt to justify the thousands of hours I put in, in dank lonely gymnasiums – a hundred dribbles with the right hand, a hundred dribbles with the left. No going home until you sank ten foul shots in a row, some nights it seeming like I’d have to sleep there. Or, an attempt to justify the painful wind sprints at the end of baseball practice. 100 yards, then ninety, then eighty ‘til everyone in sight was throwing up including people on the sidewalk who just happened to be walking by.

But, as March Madness overtakes my life once again. And, I thank God for my assistant Heather, who remembered to order the full package of mega-madness games for me on Direct TV. As I watch little Belmont take mighty Duke down to the final second. And, Davidson slay Georgetown. I am reminded anew of the wisdom of my sermon. And the straight line that connects a successful sports team to a successful television show.

I’ve played on good teams where we would be down 4 with 30 seconds to play and in the huddle everybody would be thinking, “I wonder who’s going to step up today and save us?” And, somebody would.

I’ve also been on bad teams where we’d be up 11 with 3 minutes to go and we’d all be secretly thinking, “I wonder how we’re going to find a way to screw this up?” And, we would always find a way.

A good team, like a good show, comes into being when the separate individuals working together create, in essence, another separate higher entity – the team – the show – which is better than any of those individuals can ever be on their own.

“Family Ties” was a very successful situation comedy. And, in almost every respect it functioned on a day to day basis like a well-run, well conditioned basketball team.

The show was performed live each week in front of a studio audience on Friday night. That was our big game. Everything we did during the week at rehearsal, our practice, was designed to get the cast, our team, in a position to perform successfully during that big game on Friday night.

We began our work week Monday morning at 9am with the table read of that week’s script. If you were late we started without you. When you arrived we didn’t make you run laps but you had to wait for a natural break in the script, a time-out, before you could be inserted into the line-up. A subtle reminder that no one was above the team.

Our rehearsals were closed to studio and network people. Closed to managers and agents. Only the people on the team allowed. That included not only the actors, writers and directors obviously, but, also our crew. Camera operators, dolly grips, craft service. Our family was large. The set was crowded. But, team members only.

We lived and died as a team. At our opening night parties at Chasen’s everyone on the cast and crew list and their families was invited. No above-the-line below-the-line split. Everyone’s children were welcome. Pets if we could sneak them in. It takes a lot of people to make a winning team. Everybody’s contribution is important.

My role in all this corresponded, almost directly, to that of coach and general manager. I hired and fired. I approved salaries and staff positions. And, I was on the court every day at practice trying to find the keys to success. To find the way I could put everyone in a position to get the best performance out of them on Friday night.

I never played well for coaches who yelled and screamed and diminished their players. And, I’ve never seen anyone play better because they were scared. I did best under coaches who were even tempered. Well prepared. Good teachers who were also willing to listen. And, learn from their players

After each run-thru we would all sit around the kitchen table. Cast and crew. Writers and directors. And, the first question I would always ask the actors was - “What isn’t working for you?” “Where do you feel uncomfortable?” “How can we help?”

I would then explain what we as writers were trying to do – our game plan. Point out where I thought that we had failed. And, where I thought we could still succeed with our original plan if we perhaps just made this or that adjustment. But every actor on our stage knew they would never be asked to say a line they didn’t want to say. On the other hand they knew they could never say to me, “I won’t say that line.”

In front of the audience on Friday night, after a successful scene, I would run out and hug the person who had done the set-up, not necessarily the person who had landed the big joke. The idea being that a laugh on our stage belonged to all of us. That we all had on the same team jacket that said Family Ties. That sometimes you don’t get that laugh all by yourself. Not without a beautiful bounce pass of a set-up from a fellow actor.

Most successful coaches I knew adapted to their players individual styles. And, I tried to emulate that. Mike Fox got ready for the game on Friday night in a much different way than Michael Gross, for instance. Mike Fox liked to dance around what he was going to do in the actual game. Pick his spots on the floor but hold something back. Going at three quarters speed in rehearsal but always focused. (His three quarters being most actors’ personal best.) Not do too much pre-planning. Leave room for the brilliant improvisation of the moment. Mike Fox knew when he was going to dunk. But, not whether it would be a windmill or just a one hand jam.

Michael Gross was more methodical, if no less effective. Two dribbles, stop, turn, off the backboard. Swish. Same way every time. Deadly.

Particular and wonderful chemistries developed on the floor. Meredith and Michael Gross had extraordinary respect and trust in each other out there. The small smile of appreciation on Michael Fox’s face when he received a large soft volleyball of a floating set-up from Justine Bateman, always made me smile. And, Tina Yothers, not to be denied, mastering the back door. Holding her own and then some with this gifted ensemble.

The trust just bred more trust. On and off the court. Crew members became more confident offering up their opinions about everything from scripts to costumes. The actors knew how much we loved them. How much we wanted to win on Friday night. And, we never went off to do a re-write without complete appreciation of how much faith they had in us.

I remember once being on a Wednesday of a show to be shot in 48 hours and the script, still not making very much sense. And, still not being very funny. After our kitchen table talk I saw Mike Fox very relaxed making dinner plans thumbing through Variety. “This script sucks,” I told him. “You don’t seem worried.” He looked up at me and shrugged, “It’s only Wednesday.” In the morning we had a new script. A good one. Mike looked at me, “What’d I tell ya’?”

We played 180 games together over seven years. They weren’t all gems. But, like any good team we always gave it everything we had. And, we learned from our mistakes. And, we got better. And, we also won a lot more than we lost. A lot more.

Awards and accolades flowed for every one of us. Emmys for acting, writing, for our camera crew. Salary increases. Security. Financial and career-wise. We would always be those “guys” who were on that winning team. And, that good feeling and good will has stayed with us.

When my book came out in February everyone in the cast came to New York to be with me for a wonderful reunion on The Today Show. It was the first time we’d all been together in almost 20 years and it was heartfelt and very emotional. Watching Michael Fox show pictures of his 4 kids to Tina Yothers showing pictures of her 2 kids to Michael and Justine showing pictures of her 2 kids to Tina and Michael is one of the enduring moments of my life. As we were hugging our goodbyes Mike Fox laughed at me and smiled. “Check your Amazon numbers in the morning.” I did. My book had gone up about 1000 places. My team came through again.

At the end of the seven years “Family Ties” voluntarily went off the air. And, we went off as the #1 show on TV that week. We cut down the nets on stage 24 and moved on with the rest of our lives. Always to carry with us the blessing of what we had gone through together. What we had achieved. As a team. And, we went out with a “W,” which was only right.

April 4, 2008

Dick Cheney to Middle-America: “Let Them Eat Cake”

Dick Cheney to Middle-America: “Let Them Eat Cake”

Okay, here’s what I think. You could put all of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s angry sermons on to one loop. You could put that loop up on the big screen at Radio City Music Hall and let it play there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and Barack Obama will still emerge as the next President of the United States.

Rev. Wright’s rambling and vitriolic sermons are merely – words. Hateful words to be sure. Pathetic. Painful. But, constitutionally protected free speech, as much as we may vehemently disagree. And denounce. And reject. As we should. And, we do.

But, if you want to get a look at real hate speech, with really dangerous implications, get a copy of the transcript of Dick Cheney’s interview with ABC news. In response to Martha Raddatz’ observation that about 2/3 of American citizens thought the war in Iraq was a dreadful mistake and clearly not worth the cost in terms of American treasure and American lives, Cheney replied, “So?”

To me, that is extraordinary and contemptible hate speech. And, much more dangerous to American society than any of the impotent rantings of Rev. Wright. I would take Mr. Cheney’s “So.” His own abbreviated version of “Goddamn America.” His own mini-homage to Marie Antoinette’s, “Let them eat cake.” And, I would put that arrogant and sneering “So?” up on the big screen. And, play it over and over again. Because, it symbolizes all that Cheney-Bush stands for. And, all that John McCain must inherit. Because the message of Dick Cheney’s hatful one-word tirade against this American democracy has finally, finally sunk in to the American public.

Americans by an incredible majority of more than 80% believe that this country is headed in the wrong direction. They understand that the Republican legacy of incompetence, corruption and callousness is summed up in that one word answer, “So?”. That this administration and all that it stands for has been a lie. Sold to them by a clever shell game of distraction and distortion. By making you believe that the wearing of a flag lapel pin is an important gauge of patriotism. But, that a president who lies this country into war on a tissue of lies and manipulation is somehow resolute and strong.

Ironically John McCain and Jeremiah Wright do have some things in common, I believe. Perhaps, even more than Obama and Wright do. Because, in many ways McCain’s world view is similar to that of Reverend Wright’s. It’s a view from another time. A view from another world which framed both men. And, one which influences them still.

For Reverend Wright it is a view shaped in a time of real racial bigotry and intolerance. Shaped by wounds from which he cannot heal. A world from which he cannot escape. A world that produced this complex, tortured man. A United States marine, who can somehow spew these hateful words. And, yet, still find within himself, the compassion to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and tend to the sick and dying.

John McCain, a Vietnam War hero of almost incomprehensible bravery and valor, is also trapped by a world view from another time. A time when American military might and power was the obvious answer. Faced now with new threats of stateless terrorism. Faced now with the reality of fighting a new war, no longer one against a standing army, but, against one person standing with a back pack, McCain is trapped by his own experiences. And, shackled by his view of history which leads him to consider the intense and complex and painful diplomacy which is needed now, as a last option, not a first. McCain’s distorted claims of “victory” in Iraq seem completely detached from the complex and painful reality of the quagmire we’ve produced there. Time has passed both these men by. But, only one of them is running for President.
My father worked in the Post Office. A lot of double shifts. All his friends were in the same situation – truck drivers, taxi cab drivers, grocery clerks. Blue collar guys punching the clock and working long, hard hours. The thought that sustained them was the one at the center of the American dream. The dream that life would be better for their children. The dream being crushed now by the policies of Bush-Cheney-McCain.

Because, the fact is the real war Bush-Cheney and the Republicans have waged, and the one they are in fact, winning – is the war against working men and women. And, for that “victory” they do deserve credit. And, I believe they’ll get it in November.

When you see former Republican, House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s seat go Democratic. When Democratic Senators emerge in North Dakota, Missouri, Virginia you begin to get the idea that change is coming. No flag pin idiocy, no Rev. Wright idiocy, can distract America. Not this time. Not now. Not after eight years of Republican madness.

Mr. Vice-President, good and decent, loyal, hard-working Americans have to choose between putting gas in their tank or food on their table. They can’t afford to buy the prescription medications they need to keep themselves and their loved ones alive. They’ve seen their retirement nest eggs disappear. Their homes taken away from them. They’re confused. They’re hurt. They’re scared.

“So?”

June 12, 2008

A Father’s Day Memory

After 40 years working in the Post Office, my father, the world’s sweetest, kindest and most unassuming man, retired and moved to Florida with my mother and my grandmother. They bought an apartment at Century Village in West Palm Beach. It was Red Buttons’ favorite place. That’s what it said on the billboard. If it was good enough for Red it was good enough for them. And, off they went.

Even though he had a comfortable pension from the Post Office, my dad took a job down there working at the jai-lai fronton. His job was to write in the winning numbers and what they payed after each game. He’d write them in chalk on a big blackboard up on the second floor.

It wasn’t much of a “skill” job, he would say, laughing. But, it got him out of the house at night. And, my dad was always happiest being part of a group of people. An affable, easy-going man, everyone always enjoyed his company.

Diana and I came down on a visit one time. And, after checking in with mom and grandma we went over to jai-lai to surprise Dad. When I went to buy admission tickets the guy at the counter seemed to recognize me.

“You’re George Goldberg’s boy, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. Gary.”

“The writer?”

“I guess.”

“I’m Lenny.”

We shook hands and as I reached into my pocket for my wallet Lenny put a hand up to stop me.

“George’s son can’t pay.”

I tried to explain that it was OK. I didn’t mind paying. And, I didn’t want him to get in any trouble.

Lenny looked at me like English might not be my first language. “George’s son can’t pay,” he repeated, then punched out two tickets and waved us in.

“Thanks.”

We walked a few feet and then Lenny called out after us, “Your father’s a great guy.”

I turned back to Lenny, “You don’t have to tell me.”

Diana and I made our way upstairs, weaving carefully through a noisy, colorfully clad crowd of people. When we came around the corner we saw my dad. He was up on a stool, his back to us, chalk in one hand, cigarette in another. He had already been diagnosed with the lung cancer that would eventually kill him. And, as far as we all knew he had given up smoking about six months ago.

He was kibitzing with a couple of guys. And, even from the back I could tell he was smiling. He hopped down from the stool and when he saw us he broke into a big grin.

As he came towards us he must have suddenly realized he was still holding the cigarette, because he cupped it in his big hand and put it behind his back. He looked like a kid caught smoking in the high school bathroom.

We hugged and kissed. A special hug for Diana who he adored. We stood there for a few seconds as the smoke began to billow up now from his elbow.

“Pop,” I said, trying to locate him through the haze of smoke. He looked down at the cigarette in his hand as if surprised to find it there. Smiled, sheepishly, “Two a night, that’s all.”

I went off to get some coffee for us as Dad and Diana went to find a place to sit.

At the snack bar I ordered coffee from an overweight, older woman, Estelle. As I reached for my wallet. Estelle put her hand out to stop me. “George’s son can’t pay.”

I explained that I didn’t mind. I didn’t want her to get in any trouble. She fixed me with a stern look.

“George’s son can’t pay.”

Back at the apartment later that night Dad and I were seated together in the screened-in porch area, known, not surprisingly, in that part of the world, as the Florida room. My father was worried about money. His and mine.

“I’m making too much money now," he told me.

“How do you figure that, Pop?”

He explained that with the cost of living allowance that was built into his pension, he kept getting an increase every year. And, he didn’t think he deserved it.

“How much is it up to now?”

“Thirteen hundred dollars a month.”

“Just enjoy it.”

“I can’t. I’m worried about young families starting out. How are they going to buy homes? Get what they need. If old guys like me are taking so much out of the system.”

I tried to explain that I didn’t think his thirteen hundred a month was causing the Federal Reserve to tighten interest rates. But, I could see it was really bothering him.

“Who takes care of your money?” he then asked. “Because, there’s a guy lives across the courtyard from me,” he explained, “Arthur. Very wealthy man. Knows a lot about business. I think you should talk to him.”

My father had paid $14,000 for his apartment. I assumed Arthur, who lived in an identical unit, had paid about the same. The year before, when Family Ties sold into syndication, I was handed a check slightly larger than the Gross National Product of Ecuador. But, my father could never quite grasp what had happened. And for him, Arthur, who had been in plumbing supplies, and probably maxed out at 45 thousand, was a “very wealthy man.”

“He knows a lot about business. Talk to him. I’m worried about you.”

Arthur couldn’t have been sweeter or more thoughtful. He served coffee and cookies and gave me a brief overview of his investment philosophy. Put it in the bank. Take the interest. Sleep good at night. Series E Bonds. Christmas club. Stuff you can count on. I thanked him for his time. And, went back downstairs. My dad was there.

“You saw Arthur?”

“I did. Smart guy. And, very nice.”

My father looked over towards Arthur’s apartment. Spoke quietly, “Very wealthy man.”

“I know, Dad.”

“I feel better.”

“Me too.”

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