It being Father’s Day today, Nol and my thoughts have been about Dad for a while. Nol and I wrote this together as part obituary, part remembrance, part therapy.
Our father, Alan Honig, passed away on December 20th, 2002. Adam Honig Dot Com wasn’t up and running back then, so no official obituary was published at the time.
Dad was 60 when he died from complications resulting from cancer which he had been battling on and off for about ten years. Though he was a strong fighter through the whole ordeal, he was fortunate to feel no particular pain as a result of his illness. Sometimes it freaked him out how sick he was since he felt no effects of it whatsoever. Only from the treatment.
It’s hard not to think of parties and having fun when one thinks of Dad. He’s the one who taught me the golden rule of dinner parties: don’t serve dinner until everyone is at least half in the bag. He and my Mom would throw massive, elaborate surprise parties for each other that would sometimes feature parades, crazy costumes and certainly long nights.
Dad loved to go fishing. It’s not clear to me how a Jewish boy from the Bronx develops this sort of love, but he sure had it. Nol and I grew up in Huntington Bay, Long Island and Dad had a boat that he couldn’t wait to take out on the Long Island Sound each weekend and fish.
As adults, when Dad was just recovering from cancer, we took him down to North Carolina for a deep sea fishing expedition. He had a fantastic time. We spent half the time nauseous in the tiny cabin below deck.
Alan could be very opinionated… unlike the rest of us. He demanded excellence and top grades, and loved to discuss metaphysics, religion or politics. He speciality was picking the opposite side of the argument. I once heard him argue extremely passionately for both the Israeli and Palestinian causes at one party — with two different people. I believe this was at a Seder, at someone else’s house.
Dad was very verbal — all sorts of word play, anagrams, puns, scrabble, crossword puzzles — came very easy to him, and our dinner table was a constant barrage of conversation. Some of which was positive and encouraging. His wit and sense of comic timing was impeccable, but at the same time he could devastate you with one off-hand comment meant to be a joke.
Dad was born to Jack and Dorothy (Dotty) Honig of the Bronx, New York and grew up on The Grand Concourse with his older brother Henry Honig. Highlights of his young life include a memorable trip down the Grand Canyon on a burro, and working as a waiter at a Jewish Summer Camp in the Adirondacks. And of course fishing.
The story, as I understand it, was that Celia was being pursued by quite a few men eager to marry, so Dad proposed on their third date. She must have liked his bold swagger.
Dad was an ad man through and through. He worked his entire career in advertising and growing up we’d often watch TV, talk through the program, but watch the commercials with rapt attention.
Probably Dad’s most famous television commercial was for Gillette Foamy, which dared to ask the question “was Gillette Foamy think and rich enough to stop this speeding roller coaster?” Previous Gillette Foamy commercials featured men shaving, but this series of spots broke new ground and ultimately won a CLIO award, the academy award of advertising:
(If the video of the commercial isn’t displaying, you can find it here.)
Other notable achievement of his career include “inventing” the lymon for Sprite, launching Febreze, and creating award winning commercials for Harrison Goldin’s successful run for New York’s Comptroller.
Dad would have turned 71 about ten days ago. Suddenly that doesn’t seem so old. I know a lot of men still strong and vital at that age. Dad lost a lot of his 50’s to cancer, and then died less than 6 months after his 60th birthday.
We didn’t always get along; our mutual stubbornness kept us apart. Dad had a tendency to view me — and Nol in my view — as an extension of himself, not as a person in my own right. He was great at a party, or charming a friend, or pitching a client, but one on one wasn’t his strength. I wanted him to understand me, to know me but for some reason I had trouble breaking through.
Without the cancer, without dying, it’s hard to imagine him not getting a bit more mellow in his old age. He would have loved rolling around on the floor with his grandkids, playing the childhood games that Nol and I loved to play with him. Games that Dad once explained to me would “allow you and your brother to get out your frustrations with me”.
It makes me sad to think that we weren’t close in his final years, and I regret not trying harder. I know that I learned and took away so much from him — both positive and negative. Even though I was very angry with him for a long time after his death, but having a bit more perspective now, I wish the asshole* was around with us.
Happy Father’s Day.
(*Asshole was one of Dad’s favorite words, and was very common for his friends to call each other such.)
Sad to say, but my grandmother, Gerry Newman, passed away this afternoon, May 9th, 2012, of complications resulting from being 92. Her maiden name was Geraldine Goldfeder.
Even though Grandma, or G’ma as we called her, was in poor health for a while, it still comes as a bit of a surprise and a shock to know that she is no longer with us. I think part of my surprise comes from the fact that G’ma was sort of an eternal figure to me, having outlived both my Mom and Dad. Every year as we went to Florida, Grandma seemed a little weaker but since her 90th birthday party, G’ma and I would joke about the preparations for her 100th.
Nol and I grew up with Grandma as a very regular presence in our lives. Her husband, my Grandpa Jack, died in 1970 when I was under 3 and Nol was not even 1. G’ma suffered from depression on and off after Grandpa’s death and she moved close by to where we were living so that my folks — especially my Mom — could stay in close touch with her.
When Grandma was well, she was our usual babysitter and traveled with us on many family vacations. G’ma was always baking us hamentashen, rugelach and mandelbrodt.
Her mandelbrodt (or “mandle bread” as we called it) looked nothing like the version in the Wikipedia entry. It was basically a big — I’m talking pound cake sized — chocolate chip cookie creation that was sliced into pieces sort of like a biscotti. We thought that was the best thing ever. I have her hand written recipe for it. Perhaps we’ll have some this weekend.
Grandma loved to cook us exotic (to us) dishes like chicken fricassee, goulash with dumplings and her famous chopped liver recipe, which came out for Yom Kippur break fast like clockwork.
During the summers, Nol and I would stay at G’ma’s apartment in Northport, LI for the weekend and see two or maybe four movies with her at the old ninety-nine cent Northport Cinema. It was a short walk from Grandma’s apartment and we would get candy and treats and have a great time. I can’t be sure, but I think we saw all of the “Herbie the Love Bug” movies there.
Did you know that Grandma met my Grandfather while trying on a pair of shoes? At least that’s the story I heard. Jack was a shoe salesman, and like some story line out of Sex and the City (the Depression-Era version anyhow), Jack charmed Grandma into going out with him after getting the sale.
Or did you know that Grandma traveled to China on one of the first western tours of China? It’s true! Hard to imagine that not long after Nixon met with Mao, and the Chinese let in tourists, there was Geraldine Newman of Northport, LI hanging out on the Great Wall.
Grandma loved to travel, and when she was 88 she took a cruise with an even older friend of the Caribbean that stopped in St. Thomas while Veronica and I were honeymooning there. Naturally, we hung out during her during her shore time. Her watch broke, and she was very impressed that Veronica surprised her with a new one when it couldn’t be fixed.
Needless to say Grandma was crazy about the kids. Her great-grand kids who called her “Grandma” from an early age. I was constantly sending her photos and cards of the kids and in her room at the hospital and nursing home she proudly displayed them.
I think G’ma moved to Century Village in West Palm Beach in the early 1990’s. From time to time as I’ve had business in Florida I would often stop in on Grandma, take her out to dinner, perhaps even subject a colleague or two to the visit.
Grandma’s depression could be pretty debilitating, but when she was happy should could be life of the party like in this photo of her with Hum, Stephen and Nol. I seem to recall at least one event where she spent most of the night dancing with Hum, much to his wife Heather’s chagrin.
Most of all, G’ma loved to play cards. She was a big gambler, often betting as much as one penny per point of bridge or canasta. When she first moved to Century Village, she had a regular card game — and a regular mahjong game.
We played endless games of canasta with G’ma and our family when Nol and I were kids. Now, if you’re not familiar with canasta, it’s a pretty complicated game. Deuces are wild, sevens or aces can be really bad or really good, threes act as sort of a multiplier, and the whole darn game is sort of about being able to “meld”.
Anyhow, here are Nol and I learning to play this 1950’s card game when we’re like 9 or 10 and G’ma seems to be making the rules up as she went along.
“Oh,” she would say, “they’ve changed the rules. Joker canastas are now allowed.”
We were never sure who owned the rules, but we spent hours playing, talking and hanging out over this crazy game.
In my mind, I think it’s very likely that G’ma is rounding up a game right now. She’s found some ladies named Edith, Pearl and Minna and she’s getting them set on the latest rules of the game.
For all of you who are getting spooked by emails from Dad’s email account email@example.com it does seem like his account was compromised and is now being used to send out spam.
At the same time, it is very east to send out an email that looks like it is is coming from any email account! This is called email spoofing and because of the technical structure of email, what you see as the sender’s address is never verified by your email account. Thus I could send you email that appears to come from Bill.Gates@microsoft.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or whatever.
I actually get spam emailthat comes from my own email account!
Anyhow, Nol and I tried to log into his email account and delete it, but we had no luck. I guess we could send Yahoo a copy of his death certificate and hope that they would delete his account, but my suspicion is that this wouldn’t stop you from getting emails from him anyhow because of the spoofing option mentioned above.
So, if you knew my Dad, you knew he enjoyed a good joke. Don’t get spooked, just laugh with him.
I found myself near Victoria Station in London at the end of the work day, and saw that Wicked was playing nearby. With nothing really else to do that evening, I decided to see the show. I enjoyed the book, but couldn’t help feeling that the premise was better than the delivery. But I heard good things about the play — and it was a musical ‘sensation’ — so I took it in.
It too suffered from a good setup but the jokes weren’t really worked to its fullest potential. Instead the story was focused on how the ugly, allegedly evil, witch was actually quite misunderstood, actually good and pretty in a green sort of way. (What we now know as a witch’s hat was a gift.) I guess the moral of the story for the young girls in the audience was that they should be happy being themselves.
Of course the girls in the audience sung along mostly with Glenda’s songs, like Popular:
Anyhow, after the show the song that really stock in my head was the America song Tin Man with the lyrics:
But oz never did give nothing to the tin man
That he didnt, didnt already have
And cause never was the reason for the evening
Or the tropic of sir galahad.
Now, I can’t really tell you what that is all about, but it did remind me that along with Flim & the BB’s and the Gypsy Kings, America was a band that my Dad actually liked. And especially A Horse With No Name. So this one goes out for my old man: