This could be a dream. Or not. Whether I dreamt it or not, it took place in Brooklyn. It is one of those stories that strikes me as an “only in Brooklyn” story. Let’s start with Memorex.

The commercial featured the great Ella Fitzgerald. In the forefront is a drinking glass on a stand. Miss Ella reaching down and pulls out and insanely high note. Within moments, the glass shatters. Then the camera switches to a tape recorder. It plays back Ella’s “performance” and once again the glass in the forefront shatters. Then comes the line that lastest for a generation: “Is it real or is it Memorex?” I don’t know if story is real or from the memorex of my mind but I do know, real or dream, it took place on the Belt Parkway.

her name says it all

If you look at a map, you’ll see that “the Belt,” as it is known, is an regular circle ringing most of Brooklyn. On it that night was my cousin who called me at an odd hour of the evening. ‘woke me up, as I remember. It was the night of the day his father, my uncle was, cremated. His wishes were to be sprinkled over the water. I don’t know that he specified which water, and that was part of my cousin’s problem. My older brother, who had a strong distaste for our uncle had a suggestion. “You want flowing water? Use toilet bowl.” He was not destined for the diplomatic corps. Sheepshead Bay was geographically the nearest body of water but I knew he just didn’t want to give up the ashes yet.

The whole thing was tough for my cousin. He was a late in life child. His brothers, 3 years apart were my age. One was older; one was younger. Their new “bro” was probably two decades or a little more behind.”Cuz” had a brother and sister. They didn’t blend well into their step-father’s world. Came one of those TV lines: “Well if you hate it here so much, you can just leave!” In this case, he did. The sister hung around until college and was ne’er to be seen again above the ages of her brother and two step-brothers. It was not a family’s finest moment. But our Belt Parkway cruiser loved his father. I guess many family’s end up looking like jigsaw puzzles from which various numbers of pieces are missing.

Another mystery is how my cousin ended up with the ashes as opposed to one of his original sons having them. But he did and sitting next to him as he made his call to me was my uncle, tamped gently into an urn that looked like it once sat on the mantle of a 1940’s movie star. The question was, “What to do? What to do?” We didn’t start with that.

ashes to ashes….

“Hi! What’s up? Are you all right? It’s been a rough day.”

“Yeah, I’m ok.”

“Where are you?”

“I”m in the car.”
“I can hear that. Where is the car that you are in?”
“Oh, I’m on the Belt Parkway. My father’s ashes are sitting next to me. This is I think my third trip around.”

round and round she goes

“Good grief, I said parroting Charlie Brown. Please take your father and go home. You’re either gonna have an accident or get a ticket and have a very difficult time explaining to the officer why you have an urn in the car. He might ask you to open it. Do all four of us (ed. note: me, him, my uncle, and the cop who might or might not show up.) There are only so many times you can ride this merry-go-round before someone with a badge notices you. Is this what you want to deal with now?

I am the advice giver in the family–not that anyone listens.

sometimes therapy is the answer…

He wanted to talk. One would think there isn’t a lot to say about a pot of ashes, but what they represent is a life both very successful and amazingly screwed up. My mind is a catch-all for family trivia. My mother didn’t encourage children being conversational, “Little pishers should be seen not heard.” Yes, “pishers” not pitchers.” I earned a gold star in the “fly on the wall” class. I’d known my uncle for a great deal longers than his son did and for the next highway cycle or two I spun what is now a classic (not really), “The Man In the Urn–His Life and Times.” Came and went midnight and probably and hour or two more.”

Finally I repeated my advice and this time he took it. I guess he hit the cross-county and made his way to Westchester where my uncle landed on his own mantle and my cousin went to sleep.

where’s sherlock holmes when you need him?

I’m still not sure if it is real or Memorex, but I said, either way, it’s a good story that has “BROOKLYN” stamped all over it.


As the Mounds candy folks said, “Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t.” Bill is feeling a bit nutty and reminds you that if you like this story, they about in “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn,” and “George Washington Didn’t Sleep Here.”

Keep praying for the people in Ukraine but…write letters, join protests, and send money. Show the world that monsters can be beaten.

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