Ah yes, ya, Bruddah Hank is back…
Try reading the headlines at any major news site or newspaper (except our beloved Hernando Sun paper, of course), and you’ll be under the impression that nuclear war is upon us, our cities are on the verge of collapse, and soon, we’ll all be sitting in our shorts, in front of a fan as the temperatures outside rise to a balmy 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit! Hear and read enough of this, and I don’t blame people for barricading themselves inside their homes, stocking up on food and ammunition, and, if Christian, awaiting “the rapture.” I will admit that every once in a while, I do buy a few extra boxes of Cheerios, just in case.
If you’re a “prepper,” I kind of don’t blame you, but I’m also hoping you’re on the wrong side of history. Throughout human history, we’ve experienced the ups and downs of living with others. Most of my friends are in their 80s (and my bestie is 101). Some of them are veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and on and on. They’ve lived through the Depression, the various tech booms and busts, inflation cycles, layoffs, and all other financial heights and disasters that greed can engender. Some of my friends carry visible scars from fights, accidents, and divorces. The most disfiguring of those scars are sometimes invisible: those from years of mental abuse and bullying. When I think about all the suffering some of my friends have endured, I’m surprised they somehow keep going.
I’ve asked what keeps them going and how they’ve survived, and their responses all boil down to one word: HOPE.
My one friend chucked hand grenades at Japanese subs while flying a plane over their heads during WWII, hoping he’d sink at least one of them. He didn’t, but the Imperial forces withdrew their plans to invade the West Coast as their impression was that US coastal “defenses” were too strong.
How many lives did my friend save? During the depression, my father’s family sold their only possession, land, in an attempt to secure a better future and came close to dying of starvation. Now, my father has children and grandchildren who are successful entrepreneurs, professionals, and even Fulbright Scholars. He’s still around and kicking (although he still eats extraordinarily little). Another buddy survived Vietnam and has dedicated his life to service, sometimes fixing computers and sometimes doing free handyman work for the widows in the Synagogue we’re both members of. I can go on.
You’d think that being surrounded by so many positive people, I’d be one of them as well. Sadly, no. I sit at restaurants facing the doors, I know where all the exits are wherever I go. In crowds, I constantly scan out to twenty feet, looking for potential problems. I rarely relax in public. I have EMT bags in my cars, and I always carry a first aid kit, even if it’s a tiny one. I assume the worst and prepare accordingly.
And then, I had to spend a few days in Boston and New York City, and I must admit that maybe, my hopeful friends have a point. Four days in Boston reminded me of what a wonderful place Beantown is. I enjoyed lunch at Quincy Market with a friend, walked through Boston Common, and every day, I’d stop at the monument to the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Brigade and deliver a snappy salute. I saw families enjoying the park, couples strolling through the streets, and traffic that, for the most part, obeyed all applicable laws and ordinances. I even saw men give up their seats to grateful women during busy commutes on the T (I stayed at a hotel outside the city to save my company a little money). I didn’t sneak a bowl of clam chowder as I’ve been known to do in the past, but perhaps next time. The only law I saw broken during my stay in Boston was, well, none. No graffiti, no panhandling, no crazies.
Since my wife was taking advantage of my business trip by going to New York City to visit her friends, we decided to meet in the city and fly back home together. We only spent one night in Manhattan, but only New York can provide the kind of city walking experience that tourists crave. Times Square was a cacophony of sounds, smells, and sights: traffic, music, hawkers of every kind, Italian pizza, halal shish kebabs, Guatemalan roasted corn, and the faces of people and beautiful children of every race found on the Earth: all gathered together to take in a spot in the world with no equal. I got bumped into a few times by intimidating-looking young men, who immediately apologized. APOLOGIZED!?!?!? Were they trying to pick my pocket (yes, I was prepared for that)? No, they were with their girlfriends and were obviously showing how gentlemanly they could be. Whether this was a show or not, it certainly showed me they knew how a gentleman comports himself in public.
We’ve got serious issues in this country. We really can blow the world up. We do have the potential to destroy our environment if we keep planting so many houses in Hernando County instead of trees.
But my week up north has shown me that, perhaps, there is hope for this generation after all.
“Bruddah Hank” was born in Brooklyn but has lived all over the US and abroad. A deeply spiritual man yet circumspect person, he learned the most valuable lesson at the feet of a Hawaiian Kupuna: time is the only gift that can never be taken away. Spend it wisely.