Today is his birthday.

When his time came I noted David was man of integrity, loyalty and honor. He WAS all that, and more. He was a mensch, a straight-shooter. Moreover, if he was your friend he was with you rain or shine, no questions asked. And how lucky was I that he befriended me?

David was a man of unparalleled discipline with a spot in his heart for a guy as undisciplined as me. It was a very soft spot.

Although we met at OSU, our friendship melded years later as we prepared for the Ohio Bar Exam. We convened with a handful of nice Jewish boys who, (after years of academic success), were each, for perhaps the first time, academically insecure. Young and married, we jointly shared our first fears of failure.

Reading by day, taking classes at night, our group pushed through with minimal fellowship. Study groups were taken seriously and there was no small talk or true camaraderie. Frankly, I was restless, yet for some reason even I sensed that this was, indeed, no dress rehearsal.

It was a June, 1975 and Tigers were in town with Mickey Lolich pitching. We had not yet cut a bar review class but clearly, with that left-hander on the mound, it was an idea whose time had come. Although we’d never really talked one-on-one, I’d already sensed that David and I “got” each other. So I asked him to join me. After initially declining, he melted, agreeing to leave the Sheraton ONLY if I promised we’d be back by the start of the second hour’s lecture. We shook hands on it—picture Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta—and were off!

Time being of the essence, like big shots—we took a cab from Public Square to the Lakefront and caught a couple innings. Then, before he had to nag me, I honored my commitment (leaving voluntarily) and we taxied back—never breaking stride.

That night, in words unspoken, our friendship rocketed to a new dimension—and through the years, the bond remained. Further,
although we never played much ball together, many vivid memories have sports as their backdrop.

He was so happy when I joined him, traveling to his hometown Cincinnati for the opening of the 1990 World Series! We broke the trip in half, sleeping the first night at his niece Lisa’s in Columbus. Arriving in The Queen City, we had pre-game drinks at The Maisonnette, where one of those magic moments occurred.

The Reds were a prohibitive dog for both the opener (Dave Stewart was pitching for Oakland), and also the Series. At the bar all kinds of people picketing with “Free Pete Rose” signs. We spoke to one who, defiantly assured us “Cincinnati will win. It’s science.”

Looking at each other, we egged him on (all the while believing the guy was a schmuck). Turns out, however, we were the fools.

Our new pal explained to us that there was, in baseball, such a thing as “The Ex-Cub Factor.” Only once in the last 45 years, he pointed out, had a team with three ex-Chicago Cubs won a World Series. Whatever!

He who laughs last, however, laughs best. The Reds won that night, (and went on to sweep the A’s). I remember exiting up the ramp after the final out; we were shaking our heads…and David had that twinkle in his eye.

“It’s science,” he kept repeating.

David had an uncanny ability to frame his thoughts with an economy of words and yet, succinctly communicate. He was a man of precision, even in the most imprecise times.

As the ‘86 pro football season was drawing to a close Cleveland was poised for its first Super Bowl. I was separated from my wife, going through rough times, and David agreed to join me in Pasadena. We made reservations for one night in Vegas with plans to head to the Rose Bowl from there. The Browns season, of course, ended one game short with The Drive, (oddly enough, on David’s birthday); changing plans, we spent both nights in Nevada.

There was a cloud over the weekend, though. My life was heading south; neither of us really cared about the ballgame. By suppertime Saturday we were both regretting that our flight back was Sunday night’s red-eye.

That evening, in the pre-cell phone era, we lost contact. Not only that, but I got sick. Indeed, my chest pains were overwhelming. About 8 PM I took a cab to the hospital where I lay on a gurney for what seemed endless hours. They kept calling the MGM, but David was not to be found. I remember thinking—what if I died? Who would know? Hours later I was released, and taxied back to the strip. David was sound asleep.

We awoke the next morning shaken. My friend was still sleeping when, holding my last hundred dollars, I headed down to the poker room. There were a lot of loose players that day, or so it seemed. People were hanging around, killing time before kickoff. For me it was 7 Card Stud. I didn’t speak; I didn’t smile. I have to tell you, though…I was playing the tightest poker of my life.

David came down and found me about 9 AM. Perhaps feeling remorse over the past night’s hospital absence, he sat dutifully, watching me play for nearly three hours. We didn’t talk much, but he sat intently.

When done playing, just before noon I was $230 to the good—not bad for the small stakes game. For the first time that morning I relaxed. I exhaled. (It’s not easy playing with your last dollar).

I got up. David got up. We had taken maybe five steps when he turned to me, looked me dead in the eye, and with a stony cold solemnity broke the silence:

“May G/d judge the quality of your life by the way you played cards today.”

(No kinder words had ever been spoken. Indeed, I use that line every once in a while to this day…especially at unimportant moments).

David was my friend in good times and bad, and never judged me when I stumbled. He was a barometer for dignity. I miss him.

Our paths last crossed at his grandson’s Bris. He was surrounded by Diane, his kids, family and friends. Walking down his driveway I knew what we all knew…

And I knew that I would always look back at this special, special man, think of him…and smile.

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