Memories are Made of This
I am writing this article both as a memorial to a dear friend of 50 years who just succumbed to COVID. And as a reminder to all that the coronavirus remains a clear and present danger to everyone.
After eight weeks of hibernation, I am as stir crazy as everyone else, although I have the blessing of being able to conduct most of my legal practice from my home office, including reading multitudes of insurance policies. Nevertheless, I cannot rationalize my deep sense of regret for the year that has been torn away from the lives of friends, our children and grandchildren. We are very fortunate in Montecito to be cared for by Cottage Hospital, one of the nation’s great hospitals and also by our terrific local doctors and their staffs. But no one can predict with any degree of certainty where this calamity is heading (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens). So return with me now to happier times, just over a half century ago, to1969.
1969 was a very good year. I was a second-year law associate at a Wall Street law firm. I was working with very prominent lawyers from renowned New York families, including JP Morgan and Howard Hughes, who really did conduct his meetings from a phone booth. I worked on cases for North American Aviation (later Rockwell), that gave me access into the Space Program. I met astronauts, investigated the cause of the tragic fire in the command module in 1967 that killed three astronauts, and I ultimately represented North American in its successful administrative litigation against Pratt & Whitney for the rights to design and build the Main Engine for the Space Shuttle. Charley Pickett (Mr. Pickett to me) became the most significant mentor in my legal career. As Yogi Berra reportedly said about Yankee great catcher Bill Dickey: “He learned me all his experience.”
1969 was a very good year. Wall Street law firms had just raised the first year starting salaries for associates from $9,000 to $15,000 and we benefitted from that largess. To put that in perspective, we rented a lovely apartment in Brooklyn for $125 per month. Two slices of pizza and a Coke were 50 cents, phone calls were 10 cents and to ride anywhere on the New York City Subway system was also 10 cents. We were pregnant with our first child and followed the migration from Brooklyn to the suburbs. But which suburbs? Most young Brooklyn Jewish families migrated to the “island” (Long Island). But it was suggested by friends to consider Parsippany, New Jersey, 26 miles due West of New York City and a more attractive commute to Wall Street. Comparable homes in New Jersey, then, were less expensive.
Parsippany, New Jersey
1969 was a very good year. Our first child, David, was born and Ali was born two years later. Woodstock became a household name, the New York Mets remarkably won the World Series, New York Jets Quarterback Joe Namath fulfilled his bold promise to bring the Super Bowl Victory (16-7 ) to New York over the much more highly touted Baltimore Colts (now in Indianapolis), Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, Sesame Street began its run and we did move to Parsippany New Jersey.
The Holland Tunnel
Our journey to Parsippany began with looking for a house. We started by looking in a new development one weekend morning and we ran into Cal and Sheila Schoenfeld doing the same thing. We and Cal and Sheila were looking at the various model homes that were available; we probably had lunch together. We headed back to Brooklyn and Cal and Sheila did as well and ironically, as Sandy and I were stuck in traffic in the Holland Tunnel, immediately next to us in their car were Cal and Sheila. Somehow that coincidence was the launch of many decades of friendship. We and they moved to Parsippany at about the same time; we lived there for 10 years; our daughter Ali and their daughter Karen were close friends and still stay in contact. We celebrated our children’s birthdays together, street parties, barbecues, holidays, living in the same community for 10 years. We even shared the oddities of certain neighbors. For example, there was Marty.
Old ties are the deepest and we have remained friends with Cal and Sheila for 50 years. Cal was a talented commercial artist; but I think that, deep down, his true love (in addition to Sheila) was the art world in general and he could draw anything from Warhol to Van Gogh. He did not share my obsession with sports, and he never had a bad word to say about anybody, well… except Marty. Cal and Sheila had moved to Parsippany shortly before we did and Cal told me that our next-door neighbor, Marty, was a “meshuggeneh”( look it up) and he was. We had once purchased a patio table for our backyard and one night we heard noise coming from that direction. We looked out our back window and there was Marty, on the ground, with instruction plans in hand, studying our patio table. Sandy discerned that Marty had purchased the same table and was trying to figure out how the table was assembled! The day that the moving truck brought us to Parsippany, it was pouring rain, and the new driveway and lawn were not yet completed. There was water and mud all over and everything was a mess. Marty, in the next house, burst out his front door screaming that this was a “terrible” place and that we should go back to Brooklyn. Cal and Sheila, on the other hand, brought over sandwiches for lunch. They told us that moving to Parsippany was the best thing that they had ever done.
Fairfax/Arlington, Virginia, Santa Barbara
In 1979, Sandy and I, Dave and Ali and Mr. Fluff, our female cat – we are gender flexible where cats are concerned – moved from Parsippany, New Jersey to Fairfax, Virginia. My law firm decided to open an office in Washington, D.C. and I was offered the opportunity to run that office. But we did not lose our connection to Cal and Sheila. We would always keep in touch by phone. Sandy and I moved to Santa Barbara in 2004. Sheila has two married sisters who live in Los Angeles and we would always meet Cal and Sheila when they came to the West Coast. When we travelled to NYC, Cal and Sheila would come in from Parsippany and spend the day with us.
Cal died last Thursday from complications of the coronavirus – our first and only close connection to the tragedy confronting our country and the world. We don’t know how he contracted the virus. He did all the right things and yet he succumbed, alone in a hospital in a neighboring town because there were no beds in the local Parsippany, New Jersey hospital. He spent a month in the hospital and after being on a ventilator for two weeks, he died.
Cal and Sheila have lived in the same Parsippany home for 50 years. They were married for 60 years. Cal leaves Sheila, his wife of 60 years and his best friend, his daughter Karen and her husband Steve and their two daughters, Hannah and Abby, and their son Eric, his wife and two sons. Hannah shares Cal’s artistic talent. He also leaves behind his very heartbroken friend Jerry Oshinsky.
At one point in his career Cal, the freelance commercial artist, decided to “go commercial” and take a job in New York City. He and I traveled on the Lakeland Bus Lines from Parsippany to New York City. But that was not to be his life. He soon returned to his basement studio in Parsippany. Cal was one of the smartest and best-informed people I knew. I have not known anyone with less “ego” than Cal. Cal was a throwback to an earlier generation. He was an artist, and a scholar and his calm demeanor was an attribute to be treasured by his friends. We shared the same core values and while I was running from court to court, Cal was quietly illustrating his advertisements; the coincidence of being stuck side by side In the Holland Tunnel was (with a nod to Casablanca) “the start of a beautiful friendship… we will always have… Parsippany.” 1969 was a very good year. So far 2020, not so much.