Friday, December 10, 2010's secret scenarios #4 — While reeling in a Cuban Sailfish, Fritz remembers Korea

The young Cuban first mate, Picua, puts Fritz in the fighting chair, screams to the captain to stop the boat.
“Feesh on!  Una grande!” he barks...
Dubake, 66, sets in for the long fight to reel-in what feels like an eighty to a hundred pound sailfish, hooked well and peeling off line very fast, running deep to the left of the boat.

“This is a monster!  Probably tire the shit out of me!  Hemingway?...what crap all that old man and the sea stuff, beautiful nonsense.  I don't want to kill this big a fish; I’d much rather another nice little 30lb wahoo."

Fritz, holding tight to the bent rod, glances to his left to see, in the live‘well, four gorgeous striped 35-pound wahoos jumping, flipping, splashing, making a racket. These are caught, tonight's dinner, but not yet this wild one presently on Fritz's line.  Suddenly, it abates it's powerful diving run and the line goes slack—Fritz reels in furiously, to gain back line and bring it closer to the boat.  
‘'this could be a really nice one!" he thinks.

Fritz’s mind wanders as he relaxes now into a strong second wind, reeling in steadily, as flashback reveries fill the full painful hour it takes him to bring this 85 lb sailfish up alongside the boat—an hours admixture of high exertion and reverie, meeting the love of his life, his beautiful wife Barbara in Greenwich Village in 1952 and how this also was mixed and overshadowed by his bizarre and frighteningly dicey Korean War adventure.

A long fight reeling in a giant fish is good for daydreams, this one begins with Fritz cooking lots of fresh-caught fish for Babs and their three kids, so many great fish dinners enjoyed over the 30 years he and Babs raised their young family before she died suddenly in 1983.  When he met her she was 17, attending Brooklyn College.  He was 19, home on a 60 day leave, on his way to finish his service, away from the Korean war, in Europe.  

He had been drafted in 1950 into the US Army at the start of the Korean War.  He got his greeting from Uncle Sam unceremoniously plucking him out of a starring role on Broadway in Mary Chase's “Bernardine”, a hit play of the 1950-51 theater season.  Also, The William Morris Agency had him set to fly out in two months for a film in Hollywoodhaving read for director Nicholas Ray—Fritz won a coveted featured role in the film production of “Rebel Without A Cause”.  Great!  Fritz would get to work in a couple of scenes opposite the rising young star, James Dean.  You can imagine his total disappointment and raging anger getting drafted into the Army just as his successful fast budding acting career was taking off; just when all of what he had diligently worked for and dreamed about since he was twelve years old was coming true.  Fritz and I both started acting in the drama departments of Junior High School 128 and Lafayette High School, growing up together in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn.  

So after he got drafted and was doing his basic training, I too was drafted; doing my basic in Kansas, he in Blackstone, Virginia,  We wrote and spoke to each other constantly:

“The day I was to be shipped over to Korea from Seattle, I just kept up telling them I didn’t feel like going.  Frankly, Dutch, I told them I was a red, a fag, and for the most part thoroughly against the so-called “police action” USA was having with North Korea and China.  Then I just up and refused to go and fight.  I told them my communist background forbade it. They laughed at me Jerry. Nothing worked, they wouldn't listen.

The next morning we were to ship out from a Seattle seaport direct to Seoul, Korea.  I woke up in these tent barracks right next to where two large troop-ships were docked and being loaded.  Over the din of barrack sergeants and corporals screaming and yelling, "OK soldiers! Get Up! Get up! Rise and shine assholes!"  This at 5 a.m. I lay there quietly, thinking, not moving as they kept screaming, rousing everyone up and onto the ships.  Except moi!  I—out of the blue—got this lightening strike controversial impulse, carrying it out with no forethought whatsoever. The impulse? I just went dead still in my cot, didn’t move a muscle. Stopped thinking about anything, I just lay there, blank. When they came over; "HEY YOU! Get the fuck up soldier, fall in! GET UP!!" they were screaming at the top of their lungs at me. I whispered very slowly to them that I couldn’t move my arms or legs. They had to bend down to hear me. 

At that point, the Top Sergeant and Platoon Leaders got really really very pissed with me, as you can imagine.  They went away for a few moments.  It got very quiet.  Everyone else by then had been boarded onto the ships.

Then four of them came back, screaming epithets, four of them, grabbed corners of the cot, picked it high up and then dumped the cot over, with me in it, on the floor.  I just remained stiff as a board, didn’t flinch or move a muscle.  They called in the MPs, who came quickly, and they carted me away on the cot in handcuffs and leg irons.   

They only had one nurse and one doctor at this US Army Seattle port depot, no neurologists, so they were forced to fly me to down to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to the Brooks Army Medical Center, for neuro-psychiatric evaluation.”

“Truth being better than fiction, in the Fort Sam Medical Center, in  the bed next to mine was guess who Dutch? You know him, remember, this crazy kid in 9th grade, a Jewish kid from Bay 22nd Street in Brooklyn, Jason Karp?  His father was the local Kosher butcher on 86th Street and 20th Avenue in Bath Beach?  Maybe you didn't know him that well?  Okay, da Karp was a full-out flake, a junior high school dropout, used to get his ass kicked all over Bath Beach for scamming and stealing peoples’ stuff.  Lunch money from the kindergarten kids.  A real shmuck, that kind of idiotic nonsense, and here he is laying up in the next bed to me in a Fort Sam Houston Army Hospital in Texas, trying—just like me—to get himself the fuck out of the army.....before we got killed.”
 “They had me in traction and, one day, the daily-rounds doctor in charge of my ward let me know they were going to order up a series of spinal taps to see what was truly affecting my nerve center.  What exactly was cooking with me, if, as I said "I couldn’t move my right arm or leg.”  This was right out of  “Cookoos Nest”.  They came around every morning, did the pin cushion bit, stuck me in hundreds of spots on my legs and arms to check nerve reactions. Having none, they would give me proper jabs with the pin-point and strangely enough I didn’t feel them (mind over matter) because normally I’m sure I would have jumped sky high.  “Do you feel that?”  I shook my head no at every pin stick."   No contest.

"Karp and I began sneaking out at night in our hospital blues and robes; we were very nuts.  He was the hustler, you know, like,
 "I told you the midnight nurse was my good buddy—how’d you like those two Mexican chicks—the club was hot, right?  Listen, Slink….”
“Don’t call me Slink, okay?”
“Okay, okay what’s eating you today Efrem?  You’re awfully nervous. I’m tellin’ ya, just keep up with the right arm and leg, no feeling; you shoulda done migraines like me—tell ‘em ya just got a migraine headache like there’s no tomorrow. You know what I’m saying?  Whadda they know about migraines?”

Yeah, well, the shitheads on the second floor in the lab just gave me my second spinal tap yesterday!  That's why was I sleeping all day?  Jerkoff doctor who did it also pretended he broke the needle in my back, then said he had to go get another one. Nazi prick!  I don’t know if I can make it through this one, Jay!”
“Stick with it, Slink, I know you can make it.  Sixty-five percent disability.  A check in the mail every month for life. In another few weeks you’ll be outta here.  Back on Broadway.  Holy shit.  Hey look what’s coming?  This shmuck’s the head of the whole joint.  His name is Hyman Glass. Uh huh, Hyman, a General.  Hey, they’re coming our way.  Watch it, Slink!”   
The Surgeon General of the Brooks Medical Center and his team of doctors surround Dubake’s bed. 

DuBake sitting in a large well-appointed office, in a wheelchair fixed with traction for his neck and shoulders.  Major General Hyman K. Glass, behind his desk, begins;

“Dubake, we know there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with your jewish spine.  You’re as fit as the day you were Bar Mitzvahed.  In fact, we have a report from the MP's that you and Private Karp, your next-bed neighbor on the ward, were spotted in the Mexican Sector of San Antonio last Saturday night, dancing up a storm in your hospital gowns with a couple of Chicano hookers.  Says in this report that you gave the MPs the slip, went out the backdoor when you saw them come in the nightclub.”

“I’m not so sure about that, General.  All I know is I can’t move my right arm and leg.”
“Bullshit, Private!  Just shut up and you better listen to me.  What in the Dickens is wrong with you, are you thick in the skull, young man?  Aren’t you aware there's a "Private Slovik Case" in Korea going on right now?  Don't you read the newspapers? They are going to execute this man for malingering and desertion in time of war.  Mark my words!” he warns Dubake, sternly.

“So you are finally admitting this is a war, not a ‘police action’?  Malingering?  Maybe it’s psychological, maybe it's a paralysis. Perhaps I just don’t want to kill my commie comrades for John Foster Dulles and the insane Cold War position the USA has taken in this 'police' action?”
“Oh, come on, private!. Why don’t you cut your pinko NY crap already?  You’re a good Jewish kid from Brooklyn.  Do you want to destroy your life and bring shame on your family?  I just got off the phone with your father, Harry.”

“My father? You spoke to my father?  You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, I’m not kidding you.  Your old man’s a nice guy.  A good Jewish mentsch with a lot more sachel than you have.  He begged me to give you a chance.  I promised him I would get the Adjutant General on the phone and tell him to drop all court martial charges against you, but only if you get out of that bed you've been bullshitting in for 3 months now and get your ass back to duty?”

“You mean go be a Medic in Korea?  Get blown away in a war I detest, and hate. Die in a war I don’t believe in?  No way!”

“Well, Private Dubake, you better get yourself ready for another series of spinal taps.  Look, soldier—you better get it together!  You can’t win this thing. The US Army is one big powerful machine and it will chew you up and spit you out. I want to help your family stay out of what can be a very embarrassing situation, especially for our people, so what is it?  What’s it going to be?”

Stubborn, Fritz is silent.  
Then weakly, “Make a suggestion?”

“You get your ass back to duty!  I put you in for special orders. "Special Services"—let’s say a sixty-day recuperation furlough with your folks in Brooklyn—then special troop entertainment duty in the European Theater, Germany, France?  How does that sound?  Weren’t you on Broadway in a show when you got drafted?  You know I saw that show "Bernardine" with my wife.  You were very good.  Well, I'll get you assigned to Special Services in Europe.  How’s that sound?”

“Well, geez. . sounds pretty good. . .you can do that?”

“I didn’t get to be a General for nothing, ‘Shmendrick’.  You'll have your new orders in a couple of hours. Now you get your ‘tuches’ right out of that bed—and take off that stupid traction, wise guy.”

On his way out, walking, leaving the wheel chair in Glass’ office, Fritz turns back:
“Doc?  Those spinal taps you ordered for me?  You ever hear of this Nazi doctor?  Mengele?  Doctor Mengele?”
General Hyman K Glass, picking up his phone, gives him a shriveling look.  

Dubake, with a slight shrug of the head and shoulders.
“Just joking, sir.”  
 Salutes.  Walks away down the hall.

Thursday, December 2, 2010's secret scenarios #3 "Going Back to Brooklyn & Fritz"

Balls, hubris, chutzpah, self-aggrandizing to a fault, with a sarcastic stream of consciousness and an elephantine set of cahones; little else would set Fritz Dubake apart from other off-beat New York Jewish Hipsters. Dubake, a seedling red diaper baby in 1940’s Brooklyn, spent the next major portion of his life living in Manhattan with his wife and kids always insistently trying to find success, make it happen for himself and family. I’m sure still feels he won’t—as an actor, a Broadway Off-Broadway theatre director, a filmmaker, writer, jazz musician-singer, communist, waiter, fish cook (which I have to admit he’s really good at), cab driver (of course) and—for the most part a legend in his own opinion—one of the world’s truly hot lovers, a major cocksman in his lechery of young beautiful women, mostly actresses. Perhaps by the numbers of conquests alone, one could grudgingly allow him that one.

I’ve known him for close to sixty-five years now and, remarkably, to this day—he’s a year younger to my seventy-nine—he’s been my best good friend for all of our history and time on earth together. A couple of scrapes now and again, a good part of that time in different parts of the world, but we have always stayed in close touch with each other. And, as a matter of fact, actually, we are as close now on the brink of full-fledged ‘altacockerhood,’ as we were inseparable as fun-loving, smutty-minded, 12 year-old Jewboys when we met in our first year of junior high school---JHS 128 in Bath Beach-Bensonhurst in the Gravesend Bay section of Brooklyn US of A.

The neighborhood predominantly housed lower-middle-class Italian families and, in the mix, a smattering of close-knit extended Jewish families from Eastern Europe mostly. The Jews, somewhat better-off than the Italians, but both were striving working-class folks in a mutual quest out to the clean air of the 5 boroughs from the hovels of the Lower East Side tenements of immigrants in Manhattan.

In our Bath Beach neighborhood, Jewish kids were viscerally afraid of the Italian kids. Why? Because they would beat us up all the time; chase us home from school and if you were caught in a dead heat running for home, surrounded by them, their fists hungry to punch you in the stomach and face after the inevitable taunts from the tougher, stupider ones: “Hey Judaatzebestia; hey Jew bastid, where ya tink ya goin’?”

I must say though, Dubake had a talent for making friends with the dumb ass goombahs, could make them laugh with his ludicrous Jewish accents, jokes and funny pop singer imitations; would even join them on their Woolworth nickel and dime shoplifting runs, pocketing small lead toy soldiers, chocolate bars and chewing gum. Fritz always knew where his bread was buttered on that score and on how to avoid the inevitable beating. I was wirier, scrappier, smaller than my buddy ‘Da Bake’—or ‘Slink’ as he was called by the ‘ginnies’—essentially Fritz was a bit of a physical coward. He used his sharp wit, humor, and guile to cool down bad street encounters. My tendency was to flail into it, get the shit kicked out of me most of the time. Oh, he’d hold my coat, make the ground rules for a fair one-on-one, then watch me get it! One thing he never did, though, was haul ass. if pressed he could fight vengefully with an intent to kill.

I remember once, we were schmoozing with some of the girls and got caught out late goofing off in the Bensonhurst Park. It was a cold winter afternoon.  We were chased and set upon by this gang of young wop toughs. . .we were really getting badly taunted, and then mauled by six or seven of these older stronger teen age boys we had never seen in the neighborhood before. It looked like they really were going to do us in, force us to the ground, kick our respective Jewish asses and prettier faces. Fritz jumped up, reached into his pocket and opened a small penknife, and without much further ado, stuck one of the kids in the back through his winter coat. . .the kid screamed and began to cry "I'm stabbed." They all ran one way hovering, helping, the wounded crying boy; Fritz and I hauled out fast in the other direction. . .we never told anyone about it to this day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

BALLS...a life's secret scenarios #2


y age 40, baby boy “Froimaleh” had fulfilled some of that 1933 earthquake’s survival prophesy.  Perhaps you could say he had gotten lucky along the way.  But, that would depend for the most part on your prospective of what a life and a career really means to someone.  AII I can say as his best pal, knowing him so well, career was a tremendous deal in Da Bake's life!  It was his energy, a kind of cunning charm and intensity, shaping his persona making him an interesting actor. 

He had appeared in more than fifteen Broadway shows and National tours, mostly straight plays, some musicals.  He studied the production side of the business and produced and directed many national tours and summer stock productions with major stars.  Babs and he were raising their three fantastic kids.  But he always personally struggled with it--couldn’t really support them all that well on what low-paid now and then theater gigs amounted to, especially with the long lay-offs.  He augmented his income to support the family by driving a NYC taxicab.  On and off for close to thirty years.

And what about filmmaking?  Didn’t winning kudos and international awards for his first jazz-dance short film “On The Sound” enable him the power to make it as a filmmaker? No!  Not really! Would he ever get another shot like the one just stolen away from him. 

This time around 1973, Fritz came back from LA to NYC totally depressed, victim of what  truly was a devastating event for him.  In the blink of an eye, he lost his first big breakthrough, a well financed feature, "The Taximan", a 3.5 million dollar major Motion Picture production, green-lit ready to go on the lot at Warner Brothers--and, then,  just like that, suddenly, it was canceled by the powers that be--and he felt tossed out of Hollywood on his ear with this"Taximan-Taxi Driver” event.  

The Scorcese thing he went through in Hollywood in the summer of 73 really took its toll on Fritz.  The shock was how it came about---so out of the blue!  Euphemistically termed a "turnaround", basically a sudden cancellation of a scheduled work in pre-production, in this case Dubake's production of his own script “The Taximan”,  starring John Voight in the title role, also featuring Maximilian Schell, and Seasons Hubley, a hot 19 year old actress discovery in the female lead.  This was essentially Fritz's first real break to make it big in movies, but it all  got tossed in a back-alley dumpster for another film on the lot called “Taxi Driver.” Plain and simple, Scorcese’s film "Taxi Driver"—perhaps even Marty himself who Fritz thought a good friend--essentially, a 'person of clout', someone, like over-night, had the "Taximan" production dropped and kicked off the Warner Bros lot, no further discussion, based solely on similarity and potential competition; but for Fritz, the biggest  bring down, a disastrous chapter in his early career and life. 

And how would he bring himself back up?  How would he manage to remain the good father to his three kids and loving husband to his beautiful wife Babs and still continue to forge the treacherous waters of "making it"?

He absolutely did not want to make another hand-held 16mm two-dollar-and-fifty-cent NYC underground movie—not his next time around.  He desperately wanted to make “The Taximan” on his own terms, on a well-budgeted mainstream basis, so that he could discover the qualitative reach he believed he possessed in his work as a use a really good top-flight DP-camera-person, his desire to finally have a full professional crew at his disposal and the kind of experienced professional actors he was used to working with in the Broadway Theater.  

He stopped off to rest at my place in Brooklyn one night.  The 12-hour cab shift was breaking his back and he cried bitter tears to me about never going to ‘make it’ as a filmmaker.  For the first time in our thirty-five year friendship, he popped the big money question--asked me to be his angel and back him in a low-budget indie  production of ‘The Taximan’

“I would need, at best, five hundred thousand dollars to do it, Dutch!  I can’t keep this shit up and stay sane—driving around looking for my next three-dollar fare?”  It was beginning to drive him fucking bananas!…this utter frustration filmmakers go through begging for the money to fund their projects…their dreams.  All I could think of was that in the entire breath of our friendship we had never, ever, borrowed money from each other—and here he was asking me to possibly lose a half a million dollars on his fahkockteh movie-making schemes.  And, I could ill-afford that kind of a risk and kicked myself for telling him about my recent nearly million dollar inheritance.

When I refused to lend him five hundred grand—something I sensed he knew  from git-go I wouldn’t possibly have a second thought about—he changed the subject on a dime, did a 180, a fast Slink U-turn, pure cab-driver style—and began to tell me about some promising lucrative hustles he was into nightly in the taxicab.

This one’s wild. . .he had me really compelled to hear all about it.

“You know the jazz-musician hangout, The Silver Dollar on Seventh Avenue Dutch?  The joint across the street from The Metropole—48th, 49th?  I’ve been going there lately for my supper break.  They got a nightly soul food special, $4.50 for fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice—for another half a buck, for the full nickel, you gets you a minty iced tea—phenomenal deal!"

“So, one night, I’m enjoying my break at ‘The Dollar’, this very sharp-looking black kid, very well-dressed, no more than 24, 25, introduces himself to me, tells me how he’s been checking me out last couple of nights. I say oh why? And he slips and slides not coming anywhere near the point." 

"When I’m finished my meal he follows me out onto Seventh Avenue and as I’m unlocking my cab out front of the club, he walks over, asks me, “is your taxi available Fritz?” .....I check him out again and tell him to jump in and ask him where to and from the back seat, he puts a ten dollar bill on the front seat next to me, tells me to drive up to Central Park, then directs me to go into the Park Drive and go around the park once.  I asked him what’s up, and he says not to freak—he just wants to feel me out about something important.  I said I can dig that man but like what, whats on yer mind?"

"We’re slowly winding round the northern tip of the park drive at 110th Street  and beginning around back downtown, he throws another ten bucks on my seat and drapes himself almost over into the front seat."

"By now he's informed me that he’s an ex-college basketball player, a first choice pick to play for the NY 'Knicks' but had some real bad luck in practice, sustaining a major knee injury whatever and his now present total hustle and raison-d’etre in life was to make his first million dollars pimping—wholesale pimping--for no less, he tells me, than two floors of gorgeous knockedout hardly past eighteen year-old hookers he keeps in an apartment house very near-by, midtown."

“All my ladies are clean beautiful far-out young foxes!,” he claims, "cumulatively capably able to screw their way through half the motherfuckin' tourists visiting New York City on any given day."  He throws me another ten bucks, since he likes how attentively I was listening to his very smooth verbal jive.  I now had fifty bucks mesmerizing me on the front seat and my taxi at this point was approaching the 59th Street Seventh Avenue Park Drive exit.  I asked him, "Do you want I should take you back to the "Silver Dollar'?"

“No man, drive around the park again, please Fritz, come on let me finish?” he implores.  I again drive the full curve around going uptown again, long silence, then finally, finally, he pops the 64 Thousand Dollar Question!   “What do you tell the out of town ‘rubes’ who ask... like.. you know..."Where can we get laid, get some pussy Mr. Taximan?"  How often does that come up in your cab, man?  I bet that comes up pretty often..Wouldn’t you say?” 

 “Every night!” I said.

“Well then, if you don’t have some place or some girls to deliver these Johns to, I would submit that you and I were losing a lot a lot of money each and every night you drive this motherfuckin’ taxi!…ehh baby? Don’t you think so--am I right or wrong Mr. Fritz?”

“By the time we drove around the park the third time, he had thrown me eight tens ($80 to cover my meter which at that point and time only read $9.45.)" 

"After I dropped him back off at the Silver Dollar,  I never saw this young cat Jimmy again...but he had written down a West side theater district address and phone number on a slip of paper, dropped it together with another twenty on the seat next to me. . The last words he said to me, "Ring that bell when you get a chance.  Ask to speak to Michelle—she’s my head momma at my apartments on West 45th Street--she takes care of all my business there.  She’ll be waiting for you Mr. Taximan Fritz.”

Dubake and I now pretty whacked on some of my best hashish…I told him to go on….then what happened?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BALLS...a life's secret scenarios #1


My dad, Harry Dubake, was an adventurous dude, especially for an immigrant Jew from Romania.  Very little frightened him. In 1927, after he married my mom, Freida, also a immigrant Jewess from Poland, he bought a Model A Ford and with their two year old baby girl Eshy, they drove cross-country to Hollywood.  

His Uncle Louis was writing them these warm optimistic letters in Yiddish telling them of the ‘goldeneh Medina’, a veritable gold strewn heaven on earth for good Russian and Romanian furriers in Los Angeles.  Uncle Louie had started up a small business in Los Angeles after leaving New York with the idea to make fur coats for all the hot Hollywood big shot stars of the late 1920s.  He wrote my father if he could find his way out west from Brooklyn to Hollywood, he could be a partner in his fur coat business.  

So that’s what Harry Dubake did. . .bought his first car from Henry Ford, took my mom and my oldest sister, Eshy, and headed out to the West Coast—must have been a scream these Romanian and Polish Jewish immigrants driving cross-country in 1927. . .balls, ‘chutspah’, far as I can tell, it probably runs in the genes. 

Stories they told us was that they were really doing well in California in partners with Uncle Louis, making money making mink, otter and Alaskan Seal coats.  The two families—Mine and Uncle Louis Becker's family of four he brought out from The Bronx—bought this four-bedroom two-story house both families lived in.  My middle sister Rosie was born there in LA in 1930 and then I was born in the same Los Angeles bungalow, July 1932.  

Everything was going A-OK, swimmingly, for these immigrant Jews in LA.  They had all their fur equipment and sewing machines set up in the basement of the house. . .when in 1933—I wasn’t even a year old—a major earthquake hits them, totally unannounced, right where the house was situated on Ghenady Street, in downtown LA.  It was called ‘The Long Beach Earthquake’, no less than a six point six on the scale!  The epicenter was in Long Beach but the fault line ran through the old Jewish neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles and really did up a mess of houses, bungalows . . .major cave-ins up and down the block. 

Our house just completely collapsed while they were all eating dinner, can you imagine!  Every one did the duck & cover or hauled ass, dishes crashing all around them, screaming gevalt!. . .’gevalt!”!  Harry and Freida grabbed up my two older sisters and Uncle Louis’, marshaling his family out from under the dinner table, they all ran out of the house whilst the walls literally were crashing down around them. 

Harry, Freida, my sisters Eshy, almost seven, and little three year old Rosie, my Uncle Louie, and his wife with their two kids in tow, all miraculously got out of the collapsing house as best they could,  and out onto the street. 

In total bewilderment, they all looked around—the earthquake's loud, horrendous, cracking sounds and tremors having abated for a moment—just as my mother Freida started screaming at all of them, at the top of her lungs, wildly!   

Vee is der kind?  Oooy Oooooy, gevalt, a got is mir!!. . .vee is Efroim?. . .vee ist de baby de baby?”  

Freida was yelling bloody murder at my Uncle Louie and husband Harry, hitting  at both about the head and shoulders, their eyes glazed, finally popped in realization—“de baby!, ve got to get da baby!” the two men screamed, and they ran headlong into the crumbling ruins of the collapsed two-story house. 

I the baby was supposed to be in my crib on the upper floor. . .but there was no second floor left!  My dad and Uncle Louie began moving fallen beams and rubble as some other men came over to help, until they finally spotted my overturned crib in what was, in fact, their illegal fur workshop in the basement.  They managed to free the crib from the piled on rubble and lifting it up, turned the crib over.   

There was I, ‘Buster-boychikle Froimaleh’, a sturdy seven-month-old, sitting up, playing ‘potch potch henty’ (patty-cake) complete with a bright, happy two-front-tooth’d smile plastered on my gorgeous little face! 

Like always, efsher, maybe, I thought,  I could get lucky again!!…….