It’s the second rehab after his third hospital this year. My friend, barely audible, can’t walk, and though his mind is sharp, his spirit wanes. We hugged hello, shook hands goodbye and in between, for the most part, spoke with our eyes.

In the Baby Boom’s halcyon days, our entire world perimetered Rowland School. Daily— nightly it seemed, gravity sucked us to its fields, weather (and parents) permitting. The wisdom of our innocence carved a caste system from athletic prowess—nothing more. Bayard & Wrenford was the Tigris and Euphrates. There, then, in that cradle of our civilization, friendships were born and lifelong bonds cemented.

We were Jewish, for the most part, and our names ended in consonants. Jimmy Masseria was Catholic–no matter. He played ball with us, danced at our Bar Mitzvahs and…truth be known, missed school on all our holidays. The guy hit hard, ran fair, but was all heart and was one of us.

Adolescence came. I nerded up and he went through his “hard guy” stage. “Racks,” they were called, (short for racketeers). You know: the tough guys, greasers with the pointed shoes that clicked on the back heels. Sharkskin shirts, though, couldn’t change Jimmy. His front was fierce but to those that knew him, those grandfathered in by his Rowland past, he was warm and loving long before there was a Fonzie. Even with the black, leather jacket, Jim was what he was: nice.

Then life happened. College called me; Jimmy headed south, returning somewhere along the way. He was back by the 80’s and “born again,” he said. Found religion. Word was he’d lost his job at the dealership for, (get this) being too honest..

“Really?” I asked at an early reunion.
“Does it matter?” he responded. (Hang around Jews long enough and you too can answer questions with questions).

Years passed and I skid. Then more years passed and I came back. Would
see Jimmy here and there, but not much. Up north for good, his health fled south. He cheated death, they said.

Here and there, though, our paths would somehow just cross. Like in ’07, approaching a 40th reunion. Jim, days past yet another surgery, didn’t drive much and was passing on the weekend.

“The guys are meeting the night before,” I told him. “In Bainbridge. I’ll pick you up.” My friend balked.
“C’mon, Fenton will be there, and Bobby.” He was hesitant, though, ‘til I mentioned Wieder.

I had fun that night. Jim had more. Buoyed by camaraderie, Jimmy met Stuart and me at McDonald’s/Mayfield & Green the ensuing night, gallantly following in caravan to the party.

It was another great night and yes, we were young again. Indeed, even my brother, four decades post Rowland prime, graduate of a different class, appeared. And it wasn’t the sound of The Cellmates that brought me back to the sixties. It was something else—something you had to see to believe…see to appreciate.

The crowd, clapping to Motown didn’t view it; the throng, crowding the bandstand didn’t care. I saw it and I did. There, in the midst of the masses were Jimmy and Hal, dancing together…to Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell.

They were, alas, no better or worse than the glory days at Rowland: they were both trying hard, dancing fair, but all heart.

“Thanks for coming, “ he said yesterday, as I stood to leave.
“I’ll be back, “ I said, “Later in the week.”
“I’ll be here,” he smiled.

One Response to “OLD FRIENDS”

  1. Aunt Helen says:


    Please clarify for me.
    I pray that Harold and Jimmy dancing to a fast, jive, uptempo song?
    Don’t tell me it was a slow waltz. I don’t want to think about that.

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