I left my apartment early this morning with Uncle Slappy in tow, heading in a taxi for Penn Station where he would take the train back down to his condo in Florida. He had wrapped two brisket sandwiches in wax paper hours before I was up and had one in each pocket of his overcoat wrapped also in a napkin and stuffed down to the nether regions of his coat and kept in place by "a nice macintosh apple."
Years ago I had bought for my kids the ipod shuffle, the little one that's about 3/4-inch square. I loaded one with some of Slappy's favorite operas and gave it to him at the gate to the train.
"You should have something to listen to on the way down, Uncle Slappy."
"I listen too much is the trouble. I listen to the conductor, I listen to Sylvie, I listened to Benny, the crook, when we went in halves on the dry cleaner in Fresh Meadows. I listen to the Cuban kids at the bagel shop when they say there's no sesame. What for should I listen to this?"
"It's Maria Callas, Uncle Slappy. Your favorite. 240 songs, whole operas. For Crissakes, it's got "La Forza del Destino."
"The 40 D'Agostinos," Slappy joked. "So how do you use this thing?"
"It's intuitive, Uncle Slappy."
"I'll give you an intuitive up your Tuchas, big shot. Where's the on/off?" I explained the scroll wheel as best I could. "Let me get you a "Times," Uncle Slappy.
"A Times I don't need. I have my paperback." He was reading William Shirer's "Inside the Third Reich" for the eightieth time.
They were calling "All Aboard" and I walked Slappy to a car and found him his seat.
"You'll call me when you get in Uncle Slappy?"
"Call you? Yes, I'll call you, if I'm not dead."
With that the train lurched and I ran to get off. I waved to the old man through the filthy window and the train left into the dark of the tunnel.