Thursday, August 11, 2011


This past Monday I received a letter marked personal and confidential. Anything not offering a large pizza for $9.99 was enough to catch my attention. It came from a law office in Toronto representing the estate of Jack Lasky. The first sentence identified them as executors. Right away I flashed back on all the friends I hadn’t made over the past 78 years.

The letter went on to explain they were looking for the certain Norm Levine who was a friend of the dear-departed, living in Southern California in 2002. I checked my driver’s license and sure enough I was Norm Levine and I have no memory of being anywhere else that year. So far, so good.

I then Googled, “Jack Lasky.” The first six hits had to do with a Jack Lasky from Long Island who is a Tea Party leader. I presume he is still alive and well, even if his politics locate him beyond my threshold of endurance in a country I hope never to wake up in.

The second Jack L. was my man. Born in Toronto, died in Honolulu with a plaque on a kibbutz in Israel. Sounds like Jack got around, especially posthumously.

I wrote back as requested regretting my lapse in never having made Jack’s acquaintance. Already I felt close enough to be on a first name basis. Had I been afforded the opportunity I'm sure I would have been a loyal friend. I can imagine us in animated conversation over Chinese Chicken salad and ice tea or better yet a Guinness. No doubt he was a helluva guy.

I have a distinct memory of letting a gentleman with one item get in front of me on line at Costco. And another instance in which I apologized when someone bumped into me in a crowded elevator. Almost knowing Jack Lasky has made me a better person.

I told the law office that I do have a friend named "Jack": and remember a Lasky.......or was it Lipsky.... in my college days. Does this count for nothing? I never met a Jack I didn’t like. There was the boy who went up the hill with Jill. And the other kid who climbed the beanstalk…. I hope not to fetch a pail of water. And then there’s the Lasky of all trades. I count each one as a friend or near-friend.

There are at least a dozen "Norm Levines" in Los Angeles whom I regard as my generic equivalent. As a retired pharmacist I naturally think in these terms. I do know another pharmacist who has a claim on my name; I can only hope that my checkered professional career hasn’t besmirched his.

I suggested to the lawyer that should they fail to contact the worthy Norm Levine I'm happy to serve as a surrogate. I have a particularly warm feeling for Canada.......Lake Louise, Canada Dry, the Northwest coast Indian art, Canadian Club and Carol Shield's and Michael Ondaatje’s novels. Then there is Christopher Plummer, the pre-eminent actor, I so much admire and Marshall McLuhan whose book on media wowed me 45 years ago. In fact we recently visited Nova Scotia. The main reason for our trip was to see Peggy's Cove because my wife's name is Peggy, I explained, hoping to score a few points.

If, by some massive imbecility, Rick Perry should get elected I would hope Canadians hold their fire as millions of Americans cross the border. I may even plead for entrance by pulling my Jack Lasky card.

Maybe it’s just as well. If I had been bequeathed a sum with many zeros after the number I probably couldn’t have made the adjustment. I would have had to deal with cousins I never knew I had. Then when it was my turn to check out I’d have to enlist my own lawyers searching for old friends from P.S. 99 in Kew Gardens.

It now occurs to me that maybe the real Norm Levine owed the late Jack Lasky some which case I'm glad not to be him. Or as my friend, Fred, put it on his answering machine, if you owe us money please leave a message after the tone; if we owe you money leave a message before the tone.

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