A brag-filled story. Way too long a story, but true.
My father built this building. Designed it. He was in love with it, said he’d never sell it even though the rent he was getting was barely paying for the mortgage. He thought it was beautiful. My mom, who did the renting because she spoke far better English than my dad, thought so, too.
When I was 12, my dad dropped me off to repair a toilet. When I was done I waited outside for him to pick me up. I sat on the steps next to the street sidewalk. A middle-aged lady dressed to the nines walked by. “I love this building,” she said. “Do you know who owns it?” I told her my mom and dad did. “Do you think they would sell it?” “Maybe,” I said. “What do you think they’d want for it?” I knew what the place cost to build because I did the books for my mom and dad. I mentioned a ridiculous number, roughly double the price to build. She paused, then said. “I’m interested.” She gave me her card and told me to give it to my mom and dad.
My dad picked me up. I gave him the lady’s card. I told him the story of the possible sale. He was adamant that the lady dressed to the nines wouldn’t buy it for that price. “How did you come up with that number?” he asked. I told him that since he loved the building I thought that was about the price it would take for him to budge. I spent a half hour back home shouting and screaming back and forth with my dad to call the lady dressed to the nines. He kept saying it was a waste of time. This was normal for my family, the shouting and screaming back and forth. It was a sign that we were family and loved each other.
Finally, he picked up the card and called. For my father to do this, admit that a 12-year-old boy might be right, took a lot of swallowing of pride and my dad hated to swallow his pride. So did I. We’d battle all the time. He didn’t want a 12-year-old pseudo-equal, wanted a dutiful son.
The building was sold to the lady dressed to the nines in a cash sale in three weeks, with a little discount to account for the fact that no realtor was involved. I said to my dad, “What about me? Don’t I get a commission?” “You’re a kid. Kids don’t get commissions. You get food on the table.” I was pissed!
The other day, I spent an hour on the phone talking to my uncle as I drove up to San Francisco. He’s about 80 years old, probably 79. We talked about old times. I said, “You’re the last Mohican.” He said, “You are, too.” How can anyone explain this world in a palatable way, a way understandable to Americans? These people were fierce 24/7. They lived through hell in Europe. Their eyes were always open for any sign of potential danger. If threatened they became cornered wild animals. If presented with an opportunity for joy, they laughed and danced all night. How do you explain these people? Who knows?