So long, Tony

I haven’t written or had anything published in a while, and my fans were worried.

Both of them.

Fact is, I’ve been busy saying goodbye to a beloved friend. To protect both the innocent and my patellae, let’s call him Tony.

Tony was technically more than a friend, not to mention a quarter century older than me. But we bonded like bosom buddies while watching the Yankees, knocking down a bottle of guinea red (Tony’s words, not mine), and generally solving the problems of the world---all this while parked in side-by-side recliners most Sundays for the past forty years.

And now, at 93, he’s gone.

If my affect is to portray myself as confident, knowledgeable, and well-spoken, Tony’s was to start every speech with, “I’m not an educated man, but---”

And he wasn’t educated. But he was a charming, handsome, and truly comedic philosopher, with a style reminiscent of Sonny Corleone, if you catch my drift.

And a schmoozer of the highest order. People loved Tony.

What I loved most about Tony was his real-world wisdom. He would elucidate, in public, great truths, using cheesy Vaudeville lines that elicited either groans or roars of laughter.

But I saw past the sometimes crude and always absurd language, to the universal truth behind my pal’s many aphorisms. He was a wise man, and no surprise, a successful and beloved one.

So let me share some of Tony’s many gems with you, plus my “highly educated” take on them.

You can’t ride two horses with one ass

It’s critical to know this. Love your mate or leave them. But don’t try to ride two, um . . . horses. Give your job your best, or find another. But don’t take your paycheck while badmouthing your boss and doing as little work as possible.

Loyalty is essential to a fulfilling life, and Tony knew this without reading Voltaire.

A word to the wise is sufficient

This nugget is best imagined in a Joe Pesci patois. When the various people who run the show have you in for a “little sit-down meeting,” here’s what you do: Listen intently, say as little as possible, and make necessary changes, the sooner, the better.

Because whether it’s a boss, a coach, a teacher or a lover, if you don’t listen to them and change, you’re not going to like the second sit-down. Let a word be sufficient.

I refuse to argue with an unarmed opponent

This line not only effectively calls the person you’re speaking to, an idiot, it also abruptly ends the discussion, always a benefit when living amongst liberals. I love it!

Feel free to use it in my friend Tony’s memory.

If s--t were concrete, he’d have a highway around the world

Whenever Tony used this one, I always pictured well-dressed politicians, spewing happy nonsense to appease the masses while enriching mostly themselves, their relatives, and their pals. The way our present ruling class shovels it, we should all be glad it ain’t concrete.

Don’t confuse generosity with stupidity

Tony was a giver, but only up to a point. He knew when people were using him, and once you crossed that line, there was no crossing back. He hated no one, but once you were outside the circle of trust, having mistaken Tony’s ease with donations for a soft touch, you were dead to him (Tony’s words, not mine).

When people really ticked him off, my dear friend would say, with a devilish smile:

I’m gonna put ‘em on the layaway plan!

Imagine that one in Robert DeNiro’s voice.

Many times, I stopped children screaming and running through the house and asked, “What’s the matter?”

“Poppa said he’s gonna put us on the layaway plan!” they squealed, grinning from ear-to-ear.

Kids loved Tony, and a kid himself, Tony loved them. At his wake, the majority of photos featured smiling progeny of all ages clinging to him like he was Santa Claus. The occasional twenties he slipped them certainly didn’t hurt.

Everybody’s got skeletons in their closets. The only difference is the size of the closet.

Jesus didn’t say it any better, just more eloquently when He said, “Let he who is without sin, throw the first stone.” Tony certainly had a few bones in his closet, and who knows, I may be up to a full, intact skeleton by now. We’re all flawed beings, God made us that way, and the only difference, really, is the size of our closet.

Tony and I typically followed that particular bromide up by pouring another glass of vino, and toasting:


Tony wanted 100 years, we talked about it.

And considering the health challenges he had in his life, Tony making 93 was a freakin’ miracle. How did he do it?

In order of his priorities: family, food, work, exercise and laughter. He surrounded himself with family, ate his fruits and vegetables, worked until 90, exercised every day (even when he could no longer walk), and kept a smile on his tan, handsome face.

Tony toasted to long life as an affirmation, did everything he could to make it happen, and he got it.

It’s all about putting asses in the seats

Although my chosen field, dentistry, is no doubt a very different vocation than some of the many, sundry, and different, um . . . businesses Tony may, or may not, have run, this one is true. Gotta fill the dental operatories or the bills don’t get paid.

The ulterior—--a word I don’t believe my buddy ever used-—meaning of this truism is that it doesn’t matter what you provide. You must treat people with respect, kindness, and compassion, or they won’t plop their considerable fundaments in your seats.

Tony knew this instinctively; I had to learn it.

Last but not least, when someone came to my friend with some outlandish, cockamamie request, he’d grimace, shake his head and say:

You got a better chance of meetin’ God!

And now, after the countless innings of baseball, glasses of Chianti, and hours of easy chatter we shared---every meeting beginning and ending with an elaborate 9-part handshake---my friend Tony has, in fact, met God.

And somewhere, our Creator is laughing. Probably from Tony’s oft-told and hopefully apocryphal tale of shooting two people with one bullet.

Image: PXHere // CC0 public domain

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