"I am my father's son
I feel it every day
I am my father's son
Even though he's far away
I am my father's son"
- Dave Pritchard (1967)
What’s a Dad Bite? When we were kids and we went out for ice cream or another snack, Dad would often ask for just one bite. But oh, what a bite it was! Practically half my cone was suddenly gone! Any big bite came to be known as a Dad Bite, as in “Okay, but don’t take a Dad Bite!”
Here, we play on the term “Sound Bite” offering a brief sampling of Dad’s clever way with a phrase, with a word, with a concept, and also just some bits and pieces from his life. Sometimes the ideas are directly attributable to others. These are noted whenever possible.
Uncle Paul's ornamentation of an apocryphal tale told by Irwin Markowitz in tribute to Dad's unsurpassed knowledge of cinema: “Do you remember the movie called Dark Streets, released in 1947, and starring Zachary Scott, Marta Toren, Edmond O'Brien, Steven McNally, and Paul Stewart? Do you remember the scene of the town hall meeting in which a guy in the second row from the back stands up and says, ‘Yeah, yeah?’ Well, that guy was played by Fred Turner. And the guy sitting next to him was Jack Morris.”
“I graduated from Harvard.”
"The Department of Redundancy Department"
"Ha-CHARSK!!!": Dad's vocalization when he sneezed.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those that think there are two kinds of people in the world and those that don’t.
(Sung to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes)
They asked me how I knew
"IT’S EASIER, IT’S FASTER! IT’S EASTER! IT’S EASTER!" Just two strokes changes the former to the latter. Add a top to the ‘I’ and a bottom line to the ‘F. This was graffiti on a subway ad for “The Train to the Plane” that Dad saw around Easter time one year. .
Killer Kane and Largo - those two disreputable characters in the sky as we moved up the Cheesequake Bridge traffic some Sunday night, coming home from Bradley Beach in the early 60's.
“I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” - Voltaire. Quoted in defense of free speech of all (e.g. George Lincoln Rockwell, American Nazis marching in Skokie, etc.). On one road trip all the way back from Buffalo, Mom and Dad just went on and on discussing for the whole eight hours.
“I don’t want pie, I want pizza!” - Dad’s comment after a basketball game when someone suggested going out for pizza and then proceeded to order a pie. He had never heard of pizza before.
“I don’t care what kind of salad it’s been, I want to know what it is now!” Response to the question, “Would you like some bean salad?”
Behind all that fake tinsel in Hollywood, there is real tinsel. Gertrude Stein.
On shopping malls: "Seen one, seen 'em'all!"
“Where’re you going, fat boy?” Mom and Dad with Cliff Ford on Fire Island. They were looking for the ferry, and Dad walked up to a man on the street to ask him for information about the ferry. The man looked in his direction and said, “Where’re you going, fat boy?” Dad’s face fell from a polite smile to a look of utter horror. He turned around, and to his great relief a truly obese young man was walking toward them.
“Do you know who owns the state of Delaware lock stock and barrel? The Dupont Corporation.” As we enter Delaware on the Delaware Memorial Bridge on virtually every trip to Uncle Paul’s down in Washington.
“Aberdeen, Aberdeen!” As we came to Aberdeen Maryland. Another refrain on those trips in imitation of the train conductor when Dad was in the army and stationed near there.
"There is only one absolute, and that is that there are no absolutes." Lord Acton?
"Those who are offended easily should be offended often." Lord Acton? Bob Silverman?
"Phyllis, your parallels are positively Einsteinian!" –while discussing with mom about one political issue or other.
"Of course that’s my opinion, I think they’re wrong and I am right!" In answer to the comment that his comment about the morality of something or other (e.g., Richard’s Nixon’s actions) are only his opinions; others (say supporters of Richard Nixon or Richard Nixon himself would disagree.
“Conservatives are either selfish or stupid.”
“Fuck you, Ruchers!” Gerson’s shout out the window as they drive pass the Rutgers campus, in imitation of a townee.
"I bring my lunch!" Gerson’s terrified, non-sequitur answer to some threatening New Brunswick townees accosting him as a college student.
Dad took Gerson on to the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, and when the car began to slide, Gerson absolutely freaked out with fear.
Al Gebra. In middle school back in Newark, Dad pointing out that some prankster has broken up the word algebra on the study hall sign-in list. The study hall monitor had called out the name and got no response. The quickness of Dad's explanation to the teacher lead to the suspicion of his being the culprit (which he was not).
A teacher at Dad’s elementary school in Newark was called Mr. Krapper. “My name is Mr. Krapper. You’re allowed one joke about my name and after that you are in trouble.” One year he came back to school and suddenly his name was Mr. Adams. So everyone just called him "Krappy Adams."
The Ocean Hill/ Brownsville strike. Dad and Mom were probably the only couple not involved in the strike who didn’t speak to one another for days as a result of their disagreement.
Related by Mom: Dad and Mom first met at Hillel in New Brunswick. Mom and Betty Margareten, NJC freshmen on their way back from the Rutgers campus to NJC stopped off at Hillel. Dad, who had the key to the place, responded condescendingly to the two freshman girls about accommodating them. Mom felt an immediate attraction. Despite Mom’s interest in him, Dad while friendly, did not seem to reciprocate. Meanwhile Gerson asked Mom out. They became involved and even got engaged. When it broke up, Dad began to call on Mom, first as friends, but romance developed.
"He’s so dumb, he doesn’t even know what Brahms are."
Bradley Beach by-the-sea keep smiling!
“Ikey, Mikey, Jake and Sam, We’re the boys who eat no ham! We play football, we play soccer, we keep matzahs in our locker! Aye-aye-aye-aye Mazel tov! - Yeah Weequahic!”
A foreign man walked up to Dad on a Midtown street and simply said, “Please tell me the difference between 'moist' and 'damp'.”
Shut up he explained. Ring Lardner.
“As subtle as the ‘b’ in subtle.”
“Some game, huh Foim?” After the army, Dad was visiting with some friends sitting around the TV watching a ball game. One guy of rather limited intelligence, apparently, kept saying this to “Foim” whoever Foim was!
“Hey dumb lady!” Angry at some stupid women while driving along the Garden State Parkway down to Bradley Beach.
“Pass the fuckin’ butter.” The classic fear of every soldier returning to civilian life - inadvertently said at the dinner table.
Dad was early for a business appointment in Williamsburg, and so went into a coffee shop and ordered something at the counter. This Hasidic guy was sitting next to him, and started telling his tale of woe about this woman who was accusing him of impregnating her. “And you know what? I didn’t even fuck her!” said the man.
I once asked Dad what one of our neighbors did for a living. “He’s a slumlord,” he said dismissively. Mom, though probably agreeing with Dad, was nonetheless upset at this response to his impressionable son. “He provides housing for poor people,” she said.
One of Dad’s favorite socialist/worker poems, by Sarah N. Cleghorn:
The golf links lie so near the mill,
No one goes there anymore, it’s much too crowded. – Gerson (actually, Yogi Berra)
A seafood loving man arrives in Boston from the midwest and gets in a cab. He asks the cab driver, “Do you know where I can get scrod?” The driver replies, “I’ve been asked that question a million times, but never in the pluperfect subjunctive.”
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! - The Wizard of Oz. Dad often invoked this line when describing the criminal behavior of various Republican administrations and the condescending lies they unleashed on the public.
Dad “discovered” the following performers way before they became names: Al Pacino in “Does the Tiger Where a Necktie”, Dustin Hoffman, in "Journey of the Fifth Horsman,” not forgetting Hans Conried and Barbra Streisand.
“Occasionally…” Dad’s answer to the land-selling pitchman at the “The Hideout” (in the Poconos) as he sat with him in the front seat of the touring wagon. The question was, “Do you enjoy playing golf Mr. Silverman?” We stifled our laughter in the back seats. This immediately became a classic family joke. To this day, when the answer is a resounding, emphatic “No", we might instead answer “Occasionally,” and then break out laughing.
“Uh, I deffy feel….” Dad’s imitation of an athlete being interviewed.
“How about taking the scenic route?” Coming home from Bradley, Mom always just wanted to take the Parkway and be done with it, but Dad loved driving north along the shore toward Sandy Hook, and then picking up the Turnpike.
“These are our hotels!” Dad, sweeping his arm toward the great old hotels of Atlantic City in the early ‘60s. They had owned a few shares in one of them.
Doctor: Well I got good news and bad news
Looking at their office building on Chestnut Ridge Road in Woodcliff Lake: “I find it a little troubling that the Otis Elevator Corporation is housed in a one-storey building.”
“I have seen Marius Goring many times, but I do not know who Marius Goring is.”
“This would be a good place for a restaurant,” said in a less than adequate restaurant.
“A Long Branch branch of a Red Bank bank.” A little Silvermanian word play.
“If Tuesday Weld married Frederick March the Third she’d be Tuesday March the Third.”
At the Peace Vigil at the Nanuet Four Corners, one week Gerson and Jerry joined Dad. One of the regular Quaker women approached and said, “Oh I see we have three generations here today” (Gerson was Dad’s old school chum.)
The guidebook to Nanuet, entitled What to Do in Nanuet reads “You’re doing it.”
"Did you know that Ricardo Mantalban is Jewish? Yeah, his real name is Richard Mandelbaum; he grew up on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx." More recently, I now insist that Montreal's Pont Jacques-Cartier is actually named for Jewish comedian Jack Carter.
“Good evening ladies and germs…” The classic “bad” standup comedian, the palm of his hand, pointing down, resting on the side of his torso.
Dad plotzed over the old Harvey Korman routine in which he plays an amnesiac. He hears a telephone ring and picks up a banana and says” Hello?” Looking at the yellow fruit, he says “Oh how silly of me!” and promptly turns the banana upside down and again says “Hello!” Later his memory seems to be returning to him: “Wait a minute! It’s coming back to me! I remember who I am! I am a man about this tall!” holding his hand up to around the base of his neck to indicate the height.
Immediately After his angioplasty procedure, Dad told Jerry how strange it was for him to be lying naked while four women nurses were all around him. Then, when the most attractive of the four applied a condom, he told me he said to her “I only wish we could do this sometime under better circumstances.” Upon further interrogation, Dad admitted that he did not actually speak these words.
"Hey, come on! Shithead is gonna speak.” Nixon was always “Shithead” in the Silverman household, but the term has generalized to include many Republican leaders. (Recent Addendum: I was on the phone with Mom the day that Rumsfeld resigned, and she said she couldn’t talk now because Shithead was on tv. I asked which Shithead, there are lots of Shitheads now. She said “The Head Shithead!” i.e. Bush.
When Dad saw Catherine O'Hara's turn (both figurative and literal) as the dispatcher in SCTV's "Emergency Caterers" sketch, he said, "Okay Dan, I admit it. She's a genius."
A song Dad taught all the kids:
Nobody likes me,
Fuzz, duzz, fuzz, duzz,
From the Staff Production of the Glama Country Club, Catskill Mountains, New
Egg Creams—a little bit of Brooklyn that made it all the way to Newark.
Home of The Brave; The Survivors; All My Sons (Plays that Dad performed in).
Newark hangouts: Syd's Hot Dogs, Weequahic Diner, Milman's, Coffaro's Pizza.
Rutt’s Hut on River Road in Clifton: hot dogs boiled in oil!
Stated by one of Jersey City's "finest", a police captain following an auto accident in which Dad was rear-ended in the Viaduct near the Holland Tunnel by a man with a heavy Jewish accent (in the presence of Uncle Paul who was then 11): "Don't let that fucking Jew prick shit you."
Pudding Egg: A Bob Silverman omelet, made with egg, chunks of Jewish rye bread (no crust), a little milk, salt, and pepper.
Dad always mainatained that the Oscars were a total racket, because Olivier should have won for every film he was in. It's still true: Meryl Streep should win every single time!
“Your loving son, Bob Silverman” -Dad’s closing in letters to his mother.