Sunday, July 04, 2004

Tribute to a Greek God (Part I)

The Man
David was the classic tall, dark, and handsome man. His olive skin and his bright blue eyes made the ladies swoon. He and his high school sweetheart, Sherry were the King and Queen of the Prom. Everybody loved him. David was the undisputed “Greek God” of the family. I know that’s how I thought of him. He was larger than life to me.

We were all born in Anderson, Indiana, a smallish, but significant outer suburb of Indianapolis. Of all five of my Father’s sons, David and I were the only ones with dark hair, and probably bore a more common resemblance than any other two in our family. We had similar facial features, and one identical mole, strategically located in the same place on our abdomen. I reveled in the fact that we looked alike, and smiled broadly whenever someone would make a point of mentioning it. If I’d had anything to say about it I would have made myself his twin.

I remember when I was no more than five or six years old, studying how he ate a bowl of cereal. Instead of eating all the cereal and leaving half a bowl of milk behind like most kids do, he was careful to spoon up the milk as he went along eating the cereal, so as to keep the two in balance. I would watch in amazement as only a six year-old could, as he would always finish the entire bowl, milk and all, with one last bite of cereal left on his spoon.

I guess I don’t exactly need to explain how I eat a bowl of cereal to this day, do I?

I learned how to shave while sitting on the bathroom counter-top, watching David. I studied how he would puff out his cheeks as he ran the razor across them. I thought it looked funny and asked him why he did it. He said that it made his whiskers stand up better for the razor, providing a cleaner, closer shave. I naturally adopted his technique as soon as I began shaving years later in high school. Sometimes now I’ll catch myself doing it instinctively; then I remember why, and smile.

I also recall noticing that he never used fast, hard strokes as he shaved, as they did in the razor blade commercials on TV. When I asked him why he didn’t he clued me in on a scandalous secret: they don’t really use blades in those razors on TV! “If they did,” he said, “Shaving like that, those guys would rip their faces off!”

There’s No Business Like Shoe Business
David was a confident, but fairly soft-spoken man. Maybe that’s what made him so very, very cool. He didn’t have to say much. He just exuded coolness. If you look in the dictionary under the word “cool,” his picture is there. I’ve never known anyone who was so universally respected. He was a little less than eight years my senior, and because of the age difference, combined with the factors surrounding our Mother’s death and my subsequent move to SoCal, I never really got a chance to know him as well as I wanted to.

By the time my Dad and we three youngest boys moved to California in 1969, David was already married to Sherry, his high school sweetheart. We were only able to visit Indiana once in seven years after we moved. I regret not having been able to spend more time with him as an adult, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

However in the years that we did live under the same roof, I didn’t see a lot of him either. He was always on the go. While still in high school, He got a job selling shoes for a local department store. It was a job that he would become synonymous with for the next 23 years. He was soon promoted to assistant manager, and finally manager of the shoe department.

Now, before you snicker at the idea that “selling shoes doesn’t sound all that cool,” understand that my brother David made it cool. Soon that department store was selling the most shoes in town. David’s popularity made it the place to buy shoes — for men and women alike.

But through it all he never exhibited any hubris, although no one would have ever begrudged him for bearing just a little attitude; after all he was "The Man."

Next: “Here’s looking at me, uh…I mean…you, kid.”
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