Monday, May 19, 2008

"Why leave Paradise?"

My great-uncle Hy Friedman died last week, at the amazing age of 98. He was the last but one of my grandmother's many siblings. A devoted Brooklynphile, he lived his whole in the borough, the last 60 or so years in the same apartment on Ocean Parkway. Over the last few years, visiting him as a fellow Brooklyn resident, I got a fuller picture of his personality and the shape of his life as an IRS inspector and beyond, but when I was young he was famous in my mind for three remarkable facts.

First, his excellent vaudeville name. Not only was he Hy, his wife was Honey.

Second, his name, which he reportedly hated, was not actually his name. Very late in the game, he had opportunity to examine his birth certificate, and discovered Hyman, the only name he had ever been known by, was unofficial, and he was written down as Charles.

And, third and not last, cheesecake. Hy was a man known particularly for one culinary specialty, solid New York style cheesecake (of course). I had the good fortune to eat many of his cheesecakes, but it was my sister Liana who was the true beneficiary of his expertise. She not only learned his tricks in workshop, but was known to replicate them with great success.

I am tracking down his cheesecake recipe, and when I have it in hand, I'll make a memorial one, the only way it can truly be made, in Brooklyn.

I'll miss Uncle Hy, both the man, the generation, and the idea of him, but he had a very good ride, a family he loved, and a life in Paradise. As a girl from Northampton, I know that Paradise is nothing to sneeze at. I'll just have to go down to Coney Island twice as often this summer.

1 comment:

Joan said...

Hey There - how nice of you to devote a post to Uncle Hy. I also remember him coming to our home evry weekend to visit his mother (my grandmother) many Sundays when I was a child. He lived a long and healthy life and all his marbles were still working well until the end. I hope we all have such luck.

love Dad

ps - your writing is beautiful