Man of the Year
My father tells the story of his life and he repeats The most important thing: to love your work. I always loved my work. I was a lucky man. This man who makes up half of who I am, this blusterer who tricked the rich, outsmarting smarter men, gave up his Army life insurance plan (not thinking of the future wife and kids) and brokered deals with two-faced rats who disappeared his cash but later overpaid for building sites. In every tale my father plays outlaw, a Robin Hood for whom I'm named, a type of yeoman refused admission into certain clubs. For years he joined no guild— no Drapers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Tailors, Salters, Vintners— but lived on prescience and cleverness. He was the self-inventing Polish immigrant's Son, transformed By American tools into Errol Flynn. As he speaks, I remember the phone calls during meals— an old woman dead in apartment two-twelve or burst pipes and water flooding rooms. Hatless, he left the house and my mother's face assumed the permanent worry she wore, forced to watch him gamble the future of the semi-detached house, our college funds, and his weekly payroll. Manorial halls of Philadelphia his Nottingham, my father fashioned his fraternity without patronage or royal charters but a mercantile swagger, finding his Little John, Tinker, and Allen-a-Dale. Wholesalers, retailers, in time they resembled the men they set themselves against. Each year they roast and toast one member, a remnant of the Grocer's Feast held on St. Anthony's Day, when brothers communed and dined on swan, capon, partridges, and wine. They commission a coat of arms, a song, and honor my father— exemplary, self-made, without debt— as Man of the Year, a title he reveres for the distinguished peerage he joins, the lineage of merry men.
From Domain of Perfect Affection © 2006. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.