“…I am no better and neither are you
       We’re all the same whatever we do
       You love me, you hate me
       You know me and then
       Still can’t figure out the bag I’m in—
       I am everyday people…”

It was the ‘50s and the birth of suburbia. In fear of blacks, Cleveland’s Italians and Jews fled Collinwood and Glenville heading up U.S. Route 322 seeking refuge. In separate cars they went, caravan style, the Jews and Italians— separately but together, up The Hill, out of Dodge.

Ah—-but there was a problem. They didn’t want to live together, you see. Not really. All they truly shared was “white flight”.

According to what I was told by Herb Loveman years later, a deal was struck at the old Tasty Shop. Then and there the emigres decided that when they got as far east as Warrensville Center Road, that the Italians would turn left and the Jews would go right. This, my friend pointed out, accommodated not only the former’s need to be near Lake Erie—they controlled the docks —but facilitated the Hebrews’ annual migration to Florida.

And so it was that Hal and I were raised in the friendly and very homogenous confines of South Euclid. Thriving in a town one hundred percent white and ninety percent Jewish, we shared a warm, fuzzy childhood. (Ed. Note: my percentages may be off. Jimmy Masseria observed all faiths, missing school on all holidays).

Nobody “different” growing up. Not in grade school, and not even in Little League or junior high—when we first met Christians. They were, (of course), as nice as us (Welc or Raisin?) and as smart as us (Reagan or Reich?).  Moreover, truth be known, Capretta’s fastball was every bit as good as Fromin’s curve. Indeed, even at Brush High, where “greasers” intimidated me, even then we were all in it together. (Ed. Note 2: Over time I outgrew my fear of Lou Trolli. He is, to this day, a valued friend).

       “…There is a long man
       That doesn’t like the short man
       For being such a rich one
       That will not help the poor one
       Different strokes for different folks
       And so on and so on…”

I never heard the word “diversity” in the day, but I saw it first hand (for the first time, perhaps) in the rooms of recovery.

At 47, I was heading nowhere fast. It was a Wednesday night, and walking into that first church basement all I could see were people half my age and twice my age—but no one just my age. And I saw tattoos and piercings and pink hair and no hair…

All I could think– all that went through that skull of mine was “What the ___ am I doing here with these people? We have nothing in common”. (Ed. Note 3: It would not be my last mistake, but it may have been the wrongest I’d ever been! The folks in that room and in the rooms just like them would guide me and teach me and save my life—and would continue to be doing so, one day at a time, some fifteen years later). Our common denominator then and now was a disease, and Yes, clearly we were all there because—frankly—we just weren’t all there. Yet we were one.

       “…There is a yellow one that won’t
       Accept the black one
       That won’t accept the red one
       That won’t accept the white one…”

It was an interesting Seder this Monday. The table—exquisite, traditional—had it all, from the Maxwell House Haggadahs to the shank bone and carpas. Still…well, let’s just say it wasn’t “My father’s YomTov”. Surrounded I wasn’t, by the cacophony of rote liturgy. Oh, we recited the Four Questions and Yes, the Ten Plagues were sung. (Ed. Note 4: The Eleventh Plague:  our mother’s third husband Ed Turner, was omitted. Alas, this wasn’t “my brother’s YomTov” either).

It was, dare I say, like a community seder at the U.N. On a night recalling years of diaspora, it was deja vu all over again. Breaking matzoh were Jews and half-Jews and non-Jews and…. people I’d known forever, people I’d known a bit, and people I just there met. Moreover, to extend the U.N. analogy a bit, there were some there that viewed me with Most Favored Nation status, those that were friendly, and one—truth be known—that doesn’t recognize my right to exist.

So whom did I sit with, what with Carrie was serving and others occupied with babies? Who then, caught my interest ‘tween fractured Hebrew and festive meal?

Enter Jason and Matt, theater people from the west side. Entrée through closing I found more in common with them than the thrust of the Security Counsel. They were, an argument could be made, (excluding CJ and me), the happiest couple there. They were, of course… everyday people.

“…We got to live together….”

Sly Stone

6 Responses to “EVERYDAY PEOPLE”

  1. Art in Heaven says:

    Bruce, Bruce, Bruce

    Don’t be such a naysayer about the lack of diversity in your wonder years.

    After all, we lived directly across the street from some Gentiles.

    Next door was a family many times over intellectually superior to you.

    Two doors away was a man who always wore white short sleeve shirts. Even on days Woody Hayes would wear a jacket.

    Your best friend was, literally, a dog. (Bruce, it is only an expression. Why did you have to take it literally? It nearly killed Ma.)

    You acquired a Jamaican Rastafarian friend who lived on the next street.

    Did we not have a Mid-Eastern landscaper and an African-American cleaning lady?

    I could go on and on. You WERE raised in a diverse culture.

    I do understand the message in your blog, but don’t be so myopic in your thinking.

  2. Grandpa Irv says:

    And don’t forget eating Sunday dinners at the Oriental Terrace. Were it not for our familial commitment to diversity, do you think we would eat such traif?

  3. Grandpa Irv says:

    And speaking of diversity, Maisay (who does a brilliant impression of Al Jolson) and I both know what Art called me behind my back.

  4. Chief Wahoo says:

    Don’t get ME started.

    I’ve had to endure over fifty years of your tasteless joke about my good friend Chief Bowels.

  5. Uncle Miltie says:

    And don’t forget that two doors away from you was a circus performer that showed you the scar where an elephant had stepped on his chest.

  6. Norman "Doberman" Codelupi says:

    And what about me? I was your neighbor, too.

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