Right Opinion

Family Matters

Burt Prelutsky · Apr. 13, 2019

Although I am from a fairly large family, which included two parents, two older brothers, seven sets of aunts and uncles, nine first cousins and assorted others in the noisy crowd who may have been friends or cousins of my parents, I was pretty much isolated. That’s because my brothers and cousins were all between eight and 13 years older than I was.

My existence was entirely due to the fact that my mother was dying to have one last shot at having a daughter. But the odds were against her. Counting my brothers, there were 11 first cousins in that generation and only two of them were girls.

As a result, I was pretty much an outsider. When I got a little older, I was even more of one because, being as politically precocious as I was, I despised those uncles who had trafficked in the black market during WWII, invested their ill-gotten gains in apartment houses, parking lots and bowling alleys, and, in spite of all that, never stopped singing the praises of the Soviet Union.

I delivered my comeuppance at the age of 12 when I made a five dollar bet with Uncle Al. I wagered that Eisenhower would get the GOP nomination, he picked Robert A. Taft. I made a point of making sure there were people around when I approached him to collect.

In fact, there were only two people in the entire crowd I liked. They were a widow of my parents’ generation named Goldie and her son, Sammy. He was a lifeguard at Venice Beach and a professional comedy diver, who would go on to become a high school teacher and a member of the L.A. Board of Education.

One of the torments of my childhood was a kid named Rodney. As with Goldie and Sammy, I had no idea of his family’s official status. What I did know was that whenever the group got together, Rodney would seek me out and wrestle me to the ground. The shame of it was that even though he was bigger than me, I was about six months older.

This one time, he confronted me in the hallway. The worst part was that he did it just outside the den where all the cousins were gathered, which would have made my humiliation complete. But as I glanced in, I saw Sammy making a strange gesture. He was looking straight at me and seemed to be jabbing the air. Just as Rodney made his move to take me down, I caught on. I put my fist right into his nose.

The next thing I knew, Rodney was crying and running to tell his parents.

Oddly enough, perhaps because Rodney was almost as isolated as I was, a few months later, his parents invited me to join them for a day’s outing to Lake Arrowhead. I believe it was supposed to include lunch and motorboating on the lake. But, first, Rodney let it be known that he wanted to play a round of miniature golf.

I had never played, but I had seen golfers like Ben Hogan and Sammy Snead in newsreels. So, on the first hole. I tried to keep my head down, use the overlap grip I had seen the pros use and proceeded to drive the ball…God knows where! I never saw where it wound up. Probably in the lake. What happened was that on my follow-through, I opened a gash in Rodney’s forehead.

That ended the excursion. We were loaded in his dad’s sedan, me squished between his parents in the front, Rodney laid out, moaning, on the back seat.

I didn’t know he was standing behind me. Even if I hadn’t been doing my impression of Hogan teeing off at Augusta, I ask you: why would anyone stand directly behind someone about to swing a golf club?

I swear it was an accident. In any case, that’s my story and it’s been my story for 70 years and I’m not about to change it now.


I have a second anecdote to share about a young person. A neighbor who lives three doors down the street is a 20-year-old Latino who lives in a household with his grandparents, an uncle and his divorced father.

I’ve been friendly with the family for years and particularly close to Moses, remembering his birthdays and his graduations and helping him a little with his school work.

When he learned of my fall, he offered to lend a hand if I needed something done. Because the fall that tore my rotator cuff put a lot of strain on my left side, I must have over-compensated, resulting in a sore back and a sore neck.

So, on Sunday, I sent him an email in the morning asking if he’d take Angel for her 4 o'clock walk. He said he would. Around 3 o'clock, he sent me an email saying he wouldn’t be able to. No apology, no explanation.

I let him know I was very disappointed, especially when I got him to explain that he was going to visit his aunt and uncle, adding that his aunt wasn’t feeling well.

I let him know I also wasn’t feeling well, and that I suspected he could have visited his relatives an hour later and still kept his promise.

We finally got things straightened out. But I felt it was an opportunity to set him straight about a few things, such as what it means to be a man.

I happened to know that although his immediate family isn’t religious, Moses is. That’s why I told him that to my way of thinking, a promise is as sacred as a prayer. If anything, more sacred because a prayer is a request of God, whereas a promise is in some ways one’s own response to someone else’s prayer.


Nancy Thorner let me know she heard Mitch McConnell actually say he was prepared to use the nuclear option to push through Trump’s judicial appointments. In words that sound far more decisive than the usual McConnell blather, Thorner insists he said: “This obstruction has been going on for the past 27 months and now the Senate is going to do something about it.”

If true, someone should report this miracle to the medical community. It’s not every day, after all, that a 77-year-old man suddenly grows a spine.


Ralph Irish sent me a photo of Trump posing with the Clintons, probably taken at his wedding to Melania. The caption was “Proof of Trump’s collusion with Russian agents. No further proof necessary.”


Joe Neuner, in turn, sent me a photo of the Clintons, with Hillary announcing: “Bill and I are so distraught to hear about Bob Mueller’s suicide next week.”


It will probably come as no surprise that the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting went jointly to the New York Times and the Washington Post. If you guessed that it went to the partisan rags for so-called reporting on the collusion hoax, it might be because you recall that in 1931, the prize for international reporting went to Walter Duranty, the Times man in Moscow. Even when it was discovered that Duranty was double-dipping, collecting a second salary from Stalin to act as his unofficial publicity agent, the Times refused to return the Pulitzer.

These days, the Pulitzer committee is as corrupt and partisan as the newspapers they honor. Otherwise, how could the commendation read: “For deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration”?

Have you ever read such pretentious claptrap? I’m reminded that in one of his better movies, possibly “The Maltese Falcon” or “The Big Sleep,” after listening to Elisha Cook mouth off, Bogart says something along the lines of “The cheaper the hood, the flashier the patter.”

That very same thought occurs to me whenever I come across one of these overwrought tributes whenever a Nobel Peace Prize is bestowed on the likes of Yasser Arafat, Al Gore or Barack Hussein Obama.

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