A friend of mine died last week.
Like most guys, we never talked about being friends.
Once guys reach a certain age, they don’t think of themselves as making new friends. Women make friends and exchange confidences. Guys don’t do that kind of stuff. We just sort of hang out together, but we never really say we’re hanging out together. We just do it.
Harry Barovsky and I used to just hang out together, mostly on the telephone, occasionally at Guido’s restaurant, usually whenever there was a city event we were both at.
I’d call Harry, or he’d call me the morning after the council meeting and we’d compare notes. It’s nothing we agreed to do formally, we just sort of did it a few times a week.
Harry was always fun to talk to. He always knew what was going on, and he had — and I’m trying to find a clean way to say it — a pithy way of describing the events of the previous evening that was fully cognizant of human greed, stupidity and frailty, and then he’d get to the good stuff.
But behind Harry’s surface cynicism, he really cared, and we all knew he really cared. Harry was really a lover and a true believer. He tried not to appear that way, but we all saw through it and loved him for it.
He talked a familiar, tough, smart street jargon that was immediately recognizable because the streets of Pittsburgh, where he was raised, were not much different from the streets of Brooklyn, or L.A. for that matter.
There was also something about Harry that was so up, so full of life, so indestructible, that, when he died, somehow it was unbelievable.
When I heard about it I thought, why am I surprised?
I saw him toting around the oxygen bottle, I could hear his labored breathing on the phone, I knew he was slowly slipping downhill. Yet there was something so powerfully alive about Harry that I just ignored the obvious signs and assumed that, of course, he was going to get better.
The day before he died, they were making arrangements for him to come home from Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and they were going to hook him up by telephone from his home to the Monday evening council meeting, which Harry was determined to attend.
Harry never gave up, which was just like Harry. It was his body that gave up, after fighting this lung disease for 15 years. It just called it quits, and we all lost something special.
Sharon lost the man she loved.
His children lost a father.
His grandchildren lost a grandfather.
The community lost a leader.
And I lost a friend, and the saddest part is that I never had a chance to say,
“Hey, so long Harry, I’m sure going to miss you.”