People I'm not talking to this year

"I’ll do my best to carry Jimmy Breslin’s torch, if only as an inducement to keep my mouth shut."

Late journalist Jimmy Breslin (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Late journalist Jimmy Breslin
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Last March, a journalistic icon went to the great newspaper in the sky. Jimmy Breslin had his faults, but he was a New York City beat reporter and columnist second to none.
Breslin hated injustice. He brought to our consciousness those generally overlooked by society: the poor, the weak, people of color, people with disabilities, many of them aspiring to do no more than make it through the day.
He also regularly apprised us of the antics of stock characters like Marvin the Torch, Klein the Lawyer and the bookie Fat Thomas, and of the endless travails of his wife, “the former Rosemary Dattolico.”
He was fond of picking fights. He dubbed Hugh Carey “Society Carey” when the New York governor married a wealthy socialite and began spending more time out on the town than at the controls of state. A Catholic, Breslin pulled no punches with the Church over sex scandals, and he went after Ed Koch and Vietnam generals with equal gusto.
But it was an annual column of his that I liked best: “People I’m Not Talking to This Year.” I have no idea if Breslin had a copyright on the headline or the basic premise, but in his honor and memory, it’s something I’d like to keep going, if only to keep my mouth shut.
So as we head into 5778, these are the people I’m not talking to this year:
The postal clerk: No one ever said we had a great postal service – branches are closing, delivery days are down and a lot of things never arrive. But now it’s gone into the comedy business.
I received a notice for a long-awaited parcel from Peru from my trekking son. The clerk told me it was nice of me to show up because the parcel might already have been sent back (and to a place my son had long since left).
Deeply alarmed, I protested: “But this is the first notice!” She got up, went into the next room and came back with the parcel. “Just kidding,” she said, grinning. I told her I wasn’t amused.
She told me I lacked a sense of humor.
Lady, there’s an entire TV channel for yuks. Next time my number comes up and it’s your window, I’ll wait for the next clerk.
The musical tenant: It seems there’s a landlord across the way who rents only to students from the city’s conservatoriums.
In general, it’s been very musical, and often entertainingly so, even if the students are at varying levels of study. We’ve had pianists, flutists, violinists, clarinetists and even the odd opera singer, and I’ve been moved at times to go to the kitchen window with loud applause and the occasional Bravo! But the latest tenant? A tuba player. It’s mostly an unrecognizable hodgepodge of dull, cartoonish notes flopping from the open window. Last time I was out with the dog, I shouted up a request for Flight of the Bumblebee.
I got something Russian, all right – a painful facsimile of the basso profundo part from Prokofiev’s No. 5. No more requests from me, Tuba Player, other than CLOSE THE DAMN WINDOW!
The pizza delivery guy: It’s no secret why he wears a helmet – he and his two-wheeled colleagues drive like maniacs through red lights and the wrong way down one-way streets. But the helmet is also to hide his identity when he scatters pedestrians on the sidewalk. I once called out and asked him why he was doing this. He replied with a phrase that cannot be repeated here. So next time, no talking. He gets a full body check, wheels and all. I just apologize in advance if it’s your pizza that ends up in the bushes.
Roni Alsheich: In case the police commissioner hasn’t noticed, our sidewalks and streets are out of control.
No, not the pizza delivery guys or all those splattered onion-mushroom combos – there’s a mob war going on.
Wise guys are being gunned down or blown up in broad daylight, often right outside residential buildings and even preschools. I get it that your forces are stretched pretty thin, what with all the influence peddling for submarines and the acres of illicit pot, but the revolving door for wise guys has me going dizzy. I’m done talking, Mr.
Commissioner, at least for this year.
Do something!
Yoram Sheftel: Yoram and I go way back, to 1986, when he was co-counsel for accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk and I was a radio reporter.
Radio likes the human voice, and Yoram is in love with his, so he made those needles jump on the sound boards back in New York and didn’t seem to mind that most of his sentences made no sense. In fact, the judges hearing the case called him to order for his nonsensical loquaciousness so often that there was serious talk about having him disbarred. More recently, Sheftel found a martyr in Elor Azaria, the so-called Hebron shooter, and with the same nonsensical loquaciousness, he jeopardized Azaria’s chances of having his sentence commuted. Not that I care – but I do care about courtrooms being turned into circuses.
Nicole Raidman: Nicole is a celeb who likes to flaunt her oligarch husband’s wealth. For some reason, she’s best buds with Sara Netanyahu, a simple psychologist. Recently, Raidman toured Sara’s somewhat run-down living quarters with a video camera and a running narrative whose tone was suited more to a documentary on the famine in eastern Africa. Nicole, Sara can live with the cookies you found in the oven (cookies you determined were from the Olmert days, helping us better understand why the Netanyahu family’s take-away bills are so steep).
So haul that camera somewhere you can do a bit of good – it doesn’t even have to be eastern Africa; try south Tel Aviv or a nursing home in Haifa – and then maybe I’ll give you a call. (Oh, and leave those stiletto heels at home. Remember Melania and Houston? Twitter did not love her.)
Benjamin Netanyahu: In truth, I haven’t spoken to Bibi since he was deputy foreign minister. It was October 1991 and I asked him a question at the Madrid peace conference that he promptly told me wasn’t the question.
My query had to do with trading land for peace, an idea that for some obscure reason had been floated in one of the interminable speeches. I thought it was a good question yet he ignored it, and with the arrogance that has since typified his career, he answered the question he thought I should have asked.
But I won’t be talking to him this year what with Files 1000 and 2000, as well as Files 3000 and 4000 (and any others heading down the pike) already knocking at his door. It’s not because I don’t want to be told that my question is not the question. It’s for Bibi’s sake – his plate is already quite full. My empathy sometimes surprises even me.