CHAPTER 1: SHE MADE THE MUSIC START
It all started in the kitchen of a downstairs rear apartment in a two-story brick building in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1940s. The sounds and smells that filled that kitchen were the seeds that blossomed into the tastes I would develop and the passions I would come to know throughout my life. They were planted by the one woman who knew me longer than any other—Norma Anna Solomon Levine, my mother. She made the music start.
CHAPTER 3: PUPPY LOVE
There is no time in the life of a man when a woman can’t reduce him to absolute silliness, or worse. A man will idolize a woman, fear a woman, lose his senses in the love of a woman, and lose his sensibility over the loss of a woman. The stupidest things a man will do in his life probably will have something to do with a woman.
CHAPTER 4: CALIFORNIA, HERE I AM
I never heard of a taco or an enchilada in New York. At Yolanda’s house, with her parents, brothers, and family friends, I tasted these and just about every other kind of Mexican food. That’s where I ate mole for the first time, and it remains a favorite all these years later. Enchiladas, taquitos, carne asada, tamales … it was all homemade and wonderful. I even learned to use Mrs. Quintero’s tortilla press.
CHAPTER 5: FIRST TOUCH
Words and music … a song … a memory … Not many things can define the depth of passion possible between two people so clearly and quickly as a tune that lingers through the years and recalls moments of discovery, tenderness, and sometimes loss.
CHAPTER 6: THE CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY AND THE KID FROM BROOKLYN
Twenty-four hours earlier, Elizabeth Blackstone was a happy memory from my high school days. Now, I was looking into her still-clear, 101-year-old eyes at a table in a restaurant across the street from Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California.
CHAPTER 9: MARNA’S TIME
I suppose every man has a Marna somewhere in his life, and every woman has a Jim, or Joe, or Larry. They stand unchanged through the years, neither tainted by the trials of time nor textured by a life of shared events. They are the embodiment of our youth and the fiction of our immortality.
CHAPTER 10: THE THREE-HOUR CUP OF COFFEE
If Marna was the sweet poetry of a youthful romance, then Jennifer is the glorious symphony that enriches my life every day. For fifty-one years, I’ve looked at her across thousands of tables as we shared meals at home and at restaurants. We’ve traveled the globe together, raised two sons together, and shared the laughter and tears of a lifetime …
Of all the women I have known, dated, held, caressed, and loved, there is only one I should have married. And fortunately, I did.
CHAPTER 11: AN INDOMITABLE SPIRIT – AN INCREDIBLE SURVIVAL
For eighty-three years Tillie Tooter lived her life in quiet anonymity. A World War II widow, she raised her daughter alone in the years before society coined the term single mom. Then, in the predawn darkness on a South Florida highway in the summer of 2000, her anonymity was ripped away by a drunk driver who rammed her car from behind and sent her careening over the guardrail of a bridge into the mangroves forty feet below.
CHAPTER 12: IMMORTALITY IS A GRANDDAUGHTER
Grandchildren can make you think of yourself as old. Any time Ella or Miles call, “Granddad” or Alise or Carlie say “Grandpa,” I want to look around for some old guy. It took some time to get used to the fact that they were talking about me. At the same time, grandchildren can keep you young. It’s been four decades since I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” to my own children. Now I get to do it again, and I remember the words. Old guys don’t remember words after forty years. They forget things after forty minutes.
CHAPTER 16: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS AND OTHERS
At dinner several years ago, I told a woman friend, “I look at you and other women in their forties and fifties, and I see vital and attractive people. Then I realize when you look at me, you see a senior citizen.” “Oh, no,” she said. “Not you.” No one ever has uttered nicer words to me.