It was near the end of my first year in New York City, Columbus Day to be exact. I was working as an electrical engineer for TelePrompTer Corporation. It had been a difficult year for me. I was homesick for Chicago and there were very few other people my age at the company. To make things worse, my college friend, New York roommate and office partner had been transferred to our facility in southern New Jersey. With him gone, I was officially on my own.
Harvey stuck his head into my office. He was about my age, a native Brooklynite of Jewish heritage. I knew him just well enough to know that he was the epitome of a Jewish kid from Brooklyn in every favorable connotation that can be associated with that background. He had an unbounded enthusiasm for life, a gregarious personality and he spoke perfect Brooklynese.
“Hey! Da pres-den’s drivin’ by a block from heya. Les take a oily lunch an’ git a look at ‘em.”
I smiled inside every time I heard him speak.
“Yeah, let’s go!” I told him. It would be a change of pace, something different, maybe even something to write home about.
It was a hot day and the small crowd that had gathered to watch President Kennedy was on the far side of street, in the shade. Harvey and I stood on the sunny side of the street for a moment, contemplating what to do. Suddenly the motorcade approached slowly from the right and there he was: The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, sitting high on the back seat of a convertible, waving to the crowd… on the shady side of the street.
Harvey perceived that we were being ignored and suddenly his spontaneous Brooklyn nature kicked in. He stretched his six foot frame to about six-four, standing on the very tips of his toes. He cupped his hands around his mouth.
“Hey JACKeee-bay-BEEE!” he shouted at the top of his voice in perfect Brooklynese.
I wanted to die. I wanted to slither, but there was no place to slither to.
But in an instant the President of the United States turned, laughed aloud and waved at the two of us with a broad grin.
“Yeah!” exclaimed Harvey.
We walked back to the office, Harvey chattering all the way, as if we were returning from a State Dinner. A quiet, conservative engineer from the Midwest and an impetuous kid from Brooklyn; we made a very unlikely pair and so we became good friends.