Back on Bastille Day in 1957 I was 20 months old living the good life. There we were living in Poughkeepsie, NY. Mom, Dad, Taffy (our cocker spaniel) and me. Suddenly at that very young age I felt a ripple in the force. Yes a ripple in still waters. I wasn’t aware of the reason why (after all I was just 20 months old) but none the less I knew that something strange and new was happening that was going to change life as I knew it on our planet. My father came home every night but my mother was nowhere to be found. During the day, these strange gray haired people would keep an eye on me until my father got home from work. Then suddenly after about a week of this the front door to our apartment swung open and low and behold there was my father carrying a valise and my mother carrying this little thing wrapped up in a blanket. They announced that our family had a new member. That I had a brother named Mark and that he would be living with us. I did what any normal 20 month old would do that was used to being the center of attention. I ran over to my mother and my little brother and swiftly kicked my mother in the shin until someone pulled me off of her.
This is a picture of Mark with our paternal grandfather. Doesn’t look too happy does he? Mark I mean not our grandfather.
As time went on I slowly, very slowly, got used to the idea that Mark was here to stay and wasn’t leaving. But something wasn’t right. I had the distinct feeling that Mark had decided that he wanted to be the center of our family unit and strange things started to happen. In the Summer of 1961 our maternal grandparents took a home in Rockaway, NY and we spent 2 weeks there in July. Our father would take the subway to work and we would hang out and walk the boardwalk eating Italian ices, pizza and after a half hour of that we were allowed to go into the water.
Here is a picture of Mark and me with our grandfather. Notice how even then Mark was sitting with one hand propped up holding his head trying to figure out how to get rid of me. If you look carefully you can see the smoke coming out of his ears and me with my eyes shut tight in terror.
Our parents were completely oblivious to any of his shenanigans. One night while he was kneeling on his dresser and we were watching the snow fall, just to get me in trouble, he fell off of the dresser and cut his eye open. Mark was screaming and crying. Blood was pouring over his head like a bucket of Gatorade after the Super Bowl. Our parents came running in and asked what happened. I told them that Mark slipped and fell. Mark told them that I pushed him and told him that if he told on me I would beat him up. Well they believed him and I got the shit kicked out of me and Mark got stitches and a good laugh whenever he thought of that beating.
Well in 1963 shortly after President Kennedy was shot we moved from Ridgefield, NJ to Teaneck, NJ. Teaneck was a very progressive town. They had something called New Math. New Math? WTF I couldn’t even add or subtract. Mark on the other hand really excelled in this new school system and in his own methodical way he began to plan on getting rid of me for good. But not so fast, this had to be done in such a way to keep him looking like he was just an innocent bystander. Look at that smile on his face. Look at the evil in his eyes. What you can’t see is his left hand. That is because he is giving me the finger and the photographer cut the picture so that no one would see it. But I was there, I saw it. And when I told our parents what he did once again I got the shit kicked out of me for making up stories. Stories? I knew better. All the world saw was this cute kid with a disarming smile. I saw evil. I know you find that hard to believe. Well let me tell you a little story. Down the street lived my friend Marc G. Since Mark and I were only 20 months apart in age we used to all hang out together. Well my dear brother decided one day, when our folks were out, that he was hungry for pizza and fried chicken. So he suggested to Marc G. and I that it would be really funny if we ordered 10 pizzas for one of our neighbors and a bucket of fried chicken. As an afterthought Mark wanted French fries and had us order a side of fries to go with it. Now this was the days when businesses needed reverse phone books to figure out if this was a legitimate call or not. Well a minute after hanging up while Marc G. and I were laughing hysterically the phone rang. I picked it up and it was the pizza guy. He accused us of making a phony phone call and started screaming at me. I cracked and admitted it. The pizza never came but the chicken did. Before that however Marc G. and I got on our bikes and hightailed it out of there. My brother stayed behind to see what would happen when the chicken guy showed up. After an eternity we went back home. There was Mark sitting in the kitchen eating a bucket of chicken with French fries with my parents. Once again, I got the shit kicked out of me while Mark got dinner.
Well time continued to pass.
I guess Mark needed some fresh ideas and took up bike riding. Something that he does to this day to clear his head, he claims. Here is a picture of him on his first serious bike. See how happy he looks? See the hairdo? In fact he is probably wearing a pair of PF Flyers on his feet because he wanted to be able to run faster and jump higher then me.
In reality I began to feel that Mark and I had reached an understanding. We were hanging with the same group of people, I wasn’t getting the shit kicked out of me as much anymore and we could even laugh while watching Batman on TV.
The one thing that we found common ground in was that we both love the NY Yankees. Mark, still needing to be better then me would study the Stats in the Sporting News daily so that he could quote every players RBI’s, or home runs, or a pitchers ERA. Me? I was still trying to figure out who wore number 9 or 7 since the Yankees don’t have their names on their jerseys. But none the less we shared the Yankees. We would take the bus to Fort Lee, walk across the George Washington Bridge (to save a few bucks to get an extra hotdog at the game). Grab the A train to 145th St the D train to 161st street in the Bronx to watch the game. Those were the days. Soda was $.10, a hotdog was $.50 and tickets to the game were $5. Finally Mark and I had something in common. As the years went by we had something else too, Bruce Springsteen.
Mark moved to California and I guess that the 3000 miles and year round summer helped him to forget about our problems. And his jealousy that I was born first. I think that he also realized that if I was born first then he would die last. And thereby get the last laugh.
Any way Happy 62 Birthday Mark. It seems like just yesterday that I pushed you off of that dresser.
PS: You know while preparing this little cock and bull story I came across two pictures of Mark. One as he is when the sun goes down and he becomes the ‘Don’ of Alisa Viejo, and another of Mark in one of his palatial estates on one of the Hawaiian Islands. I’ll leave it to you, those that know him best to figure out which one is really him. Me? I’m 3000 miles away and in the Witness Protection Program. LOL.