When my Dad was young, back in the middle 1930s, he would buy a paper from the boy at the corner newsstand on his way to work. He gave the kid a nickel and told him to keep the change; this was when newspapers cost two cents. He was giving the kid a three-cent tip. My Dad would open the paper, glance at the headline and then hand the paper back to the kid. Essentially, the kid was getting a free nickel, as he could re-sell the paper. My Dad did this every day, week in, week out. Finally, the kid asked him why he was doing that; didn’t he want to read the paper?
My Dad replied, “I’m looking for an obituary.”
The kid pointed out that obituaries were inside the paper. As my Dad explained, the obit he was looking for would not be inside.
My Dad hated President Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR). This was quite common. Few presidents in our history have elicited quite the extreme reactions as FDR. With most people, they either loved him or hated him; there was very little “gray area” associated with him. In the case of my Dad, the emotion was pure hate. He hated him for his giveaways to lazy, worthless so and so is who wouldn’t just go out and get a job. During the Great Depression, my Dad often worked two or three jobs, just to survive, and he didn’t see why no one else could do the same. He also hated FDR for tricking us into World War II. While my Dad saw our involvement as important, he felt the president should have been on the up and up, and not do it sneakily, by letting the Japs “surprise” us at Pearl Harbor. Yeah, my Dad was one of those conspiracy mongers, at least on that issue!
We could never watch the movie “Tora, Tora, Tora!” without him going off on his wild theories.
He hated FDR so much he wouldn’t even drive on the FDR Drive in New York City! Until, one day, he and I were heading to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer, and we were driving through the city. The traffic was terrible, and the FDR was moving along nicely. Therefore, he thought, “What the hay?” Let’s give it a go.
What a mistake that proved! The road conditions were less than stellar. Let me put it this way: there were more potholes than asphalt pavement in that road. Dad’s car was a VW Squareback, which was a lightweight car; little more than a VW Bug “bulked up” a bit. For us, that road was like being fleas on a bucking bronco. It was one wild ride. At one point, we even saw an OPEN manhole – its cover was missing! Dad turned just in time to avoid putting his right front wheel down the hole. What a mess.
Anyway, we finally got off the road, got on the interstate and continued our journey to Cape Cod and the Island. As we drove, Dad could tell that his shocks were a bit off kilter. They messed up, big time. As Dad would often comment from that day forward, it was as if FDR was reaching out from the grave with his cold dead hand to screw things up for him one last time.
We never again drove the FDR.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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