Full Stomach, Fuller Heart
(an occasional series)
Marc was my first official immigrant friend. Not that he was all that “immigranty” (he was American-born). But his parents, escapees from German-occupied Poland, were wonderfully immigranty. I listened with awe to the story of Marc’s mother’s escape: after secretly watching the Nazis murder her family (she was the youngest), she’d fled in a makeshift hammock beneath a train. Later, in London, she met and married Marc’s father, a Polish Jew, like her, and a freedom-fighter-turned-movie-actor. Ironically, he was nearly always cast as a Nazi. But he proudly informed everyone that his movies played a vital role in sustaining the British war effort.
Still, like me, Marc was born in peaceful post-war suburbia. It was music that bound us together. We met in drama class and discovered we both played guitar, too. So we started rehearsing and writing songs after school. For a time, that meant jumping into Marc’s ratty old 50-something Chevy, stopping at the supermarket, and then heading over to his house. As a prelude to rocking out, we’d fix ourselves a “snack” made up of a half-pound patty melt and half-a-package of Kraft Mac-and- Cheese. Each! Somehow, we didn’t morph into zitty little blimps (well, OK, zitty, but not blimps). Through the miracle of teenage-boymones, we burned it all off by dinnertime. Of course, playing guitar and practicing our rock star moves helped with the calorie-burning.
Marc’s House became my second home, his parents the unofficial den parents of our first, short-lived band. As well as our second life-changing band The Daily Planet (all of whom remain dear friends). From Marc’s parents I learned a smattering of Yiddish (“Oy!” still pops out whenever I’m annoyed or amused), and to love kosher food. My mouth still waters for a real bagel and schmear (real bagels are boiled and dense–the way to tell is that they break your toe if you drop one on it). Oh, yeah, and a big bowl of borscht afloat with sour cream!
I still love cheese. And Marc. And even though decades have passed, those years of cheddar cheese and rock ‘n’ roll are still burned into my heart…