Saturday, April 27, 2019

pops and hondo

I don't recall when it was, but I remember being taken aback one day when a young 'un called me "sir" and he meant it to be deferential, a sign of respect, as in "respect your elders."  And I can't remember exactly when it was, but it was not long ago, when I was on a subway or some public transportation and some young person got up to offer me a seat. 

I do remember the morning in Albany, a few years back, when my buddy Kenny--four days my elder--came back to our motel where we had stayed after a fraternity reunion. Despondently, he walked through the door holding a bag from Dunkin Donuts. He dropped the bag on a bureau.  "What's up", I said. "They gave me the senior discount and I did not ask for it."

There is a supermarket near where we inherited my folks' condo. They make excellent subs.  Probably toxic, but they taste good.  So a couple nights ago I went there to get my fix.  I asked for an Italian sub. I did not want to know how many calories or what poison cold cuts were there.

The sandwich maker was a pro. This man had made an Italian sub or two in his day. Quick with the meat and cheese, chopped up the tomatoes like he had done it a hundred times and enjoyed having others admire his prowess. Put the various items I wanted on top of the tomatoes with a bit of showmanship.  Then he went to wrap. Not the first time he had wrapped up an Italian sub.  Zip zip.  All tucked away neatly, he put the footlong sandwich in a bag, stapled the price of the item to the outside wrapper and handed it over while wishing me well.

"Have a good night, Pops" he said.

Pops, eh?

Do I look like a Pops?  I don't feel like a Pops. I don't think like a Pops. I was not wearing the kind of duds that Pops wear--I don't think.  I had a baseball cap on and the only give-away perhaps was that my sideburns now are gray--but gee, Pops, kind of stunned me.

Then I got back to the condo and watched some tv. The Bruins were on.  At one point when there was a break on the ice, the camera went to the rafters and focused on a banner hanging from the Boston Garden. It was a banner commemorating number 17 John Havlicek, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  The announcer commented that we had lost Havlicek earlier that evening.

Now I started to think like Pops.  I remember Havlicek from when I was a kid in Plainview. My dad and brother would watch the great Celtic-76er games in what we called the playroom of our house.  I was not a fan of the Celtics then, but I grudgingly had to admire Havlicek.  A perpetual motion machine, who took clutch shots night after night.  A tremendous leader and someone who made me angry on a regular basis when I rooted against him because of how he would, sometime single handedly, defeat a team I was cheering for.  Aside from Bill Russell, nobody had more of an influence on the great Boston dynasties of the 60s than Havlicek.  While I am crazy about Larry Bird, Havlicek belongs every bit in the conversation with Bird and Jordan and Magic. Every bit as good. 

I start reading on line and I find out that Havlicek was only 79, just a decade my senior. And that he had been in bad health for a few years.

Brought me down a bit, but then the next day I went out and walked 5 miles without much of an effort.  Not Pops.

Felt like going to the sandwich guy and asking if he wanted to take on "Pops" in a basketball game of one on one. 

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