timberland classic boots sale A friendship bound
He was 88 and had been my friend for all of my adult life. Many others will also make this claim, and it will all be true.
The first time I found out about him was when I was watching the TV news in my parent’s home on Long Island. He was barking at an off screen TV news producer as he was preparing to read a commentary on Channel 5 in New York City.
“No, I won’t put it out,” he said of the cigarette in his hand and started to read, puffs of smoke gathering around him as if in a barroom on Queens Boulevard where he so often held court.
My father and I listened to Jimmy rail against the rich and powerful and how the little guy kept getting smaller. My father was a cab driver and would pull in the driveway every night with his eyeballs falling out of his head from 12 hour days behind the wheel in Queens.
Dan Herbeck, Jimmy Breslin and Lou Michel
“You know he never forgot where he came from.” My dad’s words were casual, but they slapped my ears hard. My parents would have nine, but Jimmy and Rosemary proved themselves no slouches, starting off with twins and four more after that.
“What’s it like to have twins?” my mother, Mary, asked him one night when they were out.
“Like waking up every night in the middle of a train wreck.”
Soon after I watched Jimmy on the TV news, I started at Nassau Community College in a program for kids who had not done well in high school and were poor. When I later learned Jimmy bragged that it took him five years to graduate high school, I idolized him.
At Nassau, I found my home at the school newspaper. When it was announced that Jimmy Breslin would be speaking at the college, I begged for the assignment.
After he finished his talk, I walked up to him outside the student union and timidly said, “I think you know my dad, Lou Michel.”
“Louie’s son.” So it was really true. Jimmy never forgot where he came from.
We talked and I finally confessed: “You know, Jimmy, I have never read any of your books.”
He looked at me very seriously and said, “You better start or I’ll kick you in the (expletive)!”
I laughed out loud. Years later, my own son Chris,
an aspiring journalist, would also seek out Jimmy and find him.
Before Jimmy and I parted company outside the student union, I asked, “Can I visit you at your house sometime and show you my articles from the college paper? Get some advice?”
Jimmy wrote down his address in Forest Hills.
I brought with me a series I wrote on child abuse. It told of a New England summer camp I worked at where rich kids were dumped by their parents. I also went into some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods where children, in poverty, were abandoned. My point was children needed love, no matter their background.
God, I wanted to be just like Jimmy.
But when I got to his house, it was barely an afterthought. I could hardly wait to tell him how on a ride along with two police officers in a very rough neighborhood, we had answered a 911 call in a tenement and were almost impaled.
“The cops knocked on the door and this guy swings it open, holding a sword. You should a seen how the cops drew their guns, Jimmy!”
No bullets flew that day, but in retelling the story to Jimmy, a lifelong friendship bound by the burning of shoe leather began.
A couple times, I overshot the mark with Jimmy. On one memorable occasion, I had called him maybe seven or eight times on a Saturday afternoon when he was pounding out a Sunday column for the New York Daily News. I wanted to tell him about a guy who grew up in North Tonawanda and had a book coming out exposing how Sen. Ted Kennedy got away with murder in the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Massachusetts.
Jimmy screamed at me to stop bugging him and slammed down the receiver.
Damore’s book, “Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover up,” became an instant best seller. I resisted the urge to call Jimmy and say, “I told you so.” Ever faithful time healed what words could not, and Jimmy and I were back on friendly terms.
When fellow Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck and I were getting ready to go on a book tour to promote our New York Times best seller, “American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing,” Jimmy called my home and my wife told him the name of the New York City hotel where we were staying.