Friday, March 11, 2016

Fred, my older brother.

My brother, just last week, turned 60, and my wife and I, and Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie, are all heading out to Chicago to celebrate this august occasion.

My older brother, and this is obvious, has always been my older brother. Despite the fact that we were just one grade apart and for our formative years we were bitter rivals in almost everything, I have always looked up to him.

You may remember Harry Bailey's toast to his older brother, George, in the Frank Capra movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." "To my big brother, George," he says, "the richest man in town."

Well, Fred ain't the richest man in town. Only a hedge funder and manipulator of our tax code can earn that epithet, but, as I have said, he is my big brother.

He has the quickest mind and perhaps the sharpest intellect of almost anyone I know. If you were trapped in hell and had to answer trivia questions to get out, Fred is likely the one you would call on.

He also, and I say this with nothing but respect, has the remarkable ability to unabashedly tell the longest and worst jokes of anyone I know, perhaps anyone now living. He thinks nothing of telling an elaborate story for fifteen minutes, with intricate actions and sidebars, only to punctuate it with a punchline roughly the equivalent of letting, slowly, the air out of a giant tire.

In modern-day parlance, you could call it performance art. It's really quite remarkable to hear one of these stories that will variously make reference to "The Brothers Karamazov," Adlai Stevenson, Hemingway's Burnt Ants and a couple dozen other bits of enlightened esoterica. All, as I said, tied together with a punchline that's something like, "Then the cat ate my new shoes."

This is just a glimmer of Fred.

And I am merely a pale reflection of his refracted and refractory brilliance.

Fred is all eclat. And I am more eclair.

That's my big brother Fred.

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