Friday, May 10, 2019

"Remembering 'Cuppy'"

Recently, I received a call from the older brother of a good friend who sadly passed away more than thirty years ago.  Honoring “Cuppy”, as he was nicknamed, on what would have been his seventy-fifth birthday, I was asked for some personal recollections.  I wrote this for them to read at the event.  My only concern is it will read by a doctor, not a comedy person, and I fear concerningly for its delivery.

Anyway, here it is.  You know how I sound.  Read it like that.

I first met “Cuppy” when we were both campers at Camp Ogama.  “Cuppy” was a “Second Month” camper, which was tough.  Kids arriving in August were seen as “The New Guys”, and it was always hard for them to break in.

“Cuppy” clearly anticipated this challenge.

The first thing we noticed was that “Cuppy” wore an official “School Jacket” covered with sewn-on patches, signifying every sport you could possibly imagine.  Baseball.  Hockey.  Horse shoes.  “Cuppy’s” patches said he was gifted at all of them.  We were very impressed.

Then we went on the field.

It turns out, “Cuppy” was no All-Star at any of them.

This totally confused me.  Later, when we were friends, I said,

“’Cuppy’, you are a terrible athlete.  How did you get all those badges?”

“Cuppy” candidly explained.

“I snuck into the school storeroom, and took them.”

More deservedly, “Cuppy” impressed his new cabin mates with his wonderful humor, winning acceptance with an endless supply of jokes, which he told after at bedtime, after “Lights Out.”  The jokes were Yiddish-inflected.  And frequently naughty.

I recall one Yiddish-inflected joke that was not naughty.  It concerned a Catholic priest and a rabbi, seated side-by-side on an airplane.

During the flight, the priest tried to convert the rabbi to Catholicism.  The rabbi adamantly refused.  He was a Jew, he explained, and he would remain one forever.

The plane started to shake, and went into a dive.  It looked like they were goners.  Fortunately, the plane eventually righted itself, taxiing safely onto the runway. 

The crisis was now over.  To his surprise, when he turned to him, the priest saw the devout rabbi “crossing” himself, sighing in obvious relief.  The Catholic priest was ecstatic.

“I am happy you changed your mind,” he exclaimed.

“About what?” asked the rabbi.

“About converting to Catholicism,” said the priest.

The rabbi smiled at the confusion, explaining,

“I wasn’t making the sign of the cross.”  I was just taking inventory:


“Head.  Testicles.  Wallet.  Watch.”

“Cuppy” suffered two serious misfortunes in his life:

A terrible disease that took him way too soon. 

And French.

Failing High School French – I believe it was twice – kept “Cuppy” Taichman from becoming a doctor. 

Why did he need it.

I’ve seen many doctors in my time. 

None of them ever speaks French.

When we were both counselors, plagued by out-of-control campers, after discussing how to survive this unruly situation, “Cuppy” proposed that the best thing we could tell these obstreperous children was,

“Play nice.”

“Cuppy” (Last Name) always played nice. 

Every year, I remember him on his birthday. 

He was my friend.

And I miss him.

Thank you for including this heartfelt contribution.

Earl Pomerantz.

Camp Ogama, 1958.

Someone from the past you’d like to remember? 

Maybe this is the time.

1 comment:

Pidge said...

When I was in Grade 12, Cuppy took a sudden interest in me even though I wore glasses. He asked me out on a date. I was not very ‘popular’ in that high school sense...a few girlfriends but no cashmere sweater sets or the self-confidence that is automatically conferred on those who wear them. I didn’t know him very well. I was nervous.
The invitation was to a concert at Massey Hall to see Andre Segovia. That was very tempting. I was conflicted. With my mother’s prodding, I decided to accept. We had a very nice evening but then he confessed that the reason he asked me was because I was the only girl he knew who he thought would appreciate a Segovia concert. He probably meant it as a compliment, but I did not take it that way at all.
In fact, I was insulted.
Known primarily for my brains, I wished to be worshipped for my beauty. (I secretly wanted to be superficial...I actually wished I was a cheerleader, although I would never have tried out. I had glasses, after all. Gotta love the 50’s).
What an idiot!
In any case, he never asked me out again but we did reunite a few years later when he came back to town from Ottawa and invited a large group of his friends out to dinner at the best steakhouse in the city. It turned out that my new husband was among the many excellent men who counted Cuppy as their good friend and I got to tag along. We’re you there too?
He was a terrific person. His early death was a shock to all and a great loss.