Monday, August 01, 2005

Maybe not what most would call a great man, but still . . .

This is getting sickening; another person fairly close to me has passed away too soon. Ernie Kaufman was profane, too right-wing for my tastes, at times closed-minded, and at other times could be annoying as all get-out. For all that, though, Ernie was something special. His intelligence and wit made him likeable despite all his faults. He was one of the funniest people I've ever known, even if his jokes were almost always off-color. He delighted those around him smart enough to keep up with him, even if his wit showed more than a few caustic edges.
It was his huge heart, however, that made Ernie lovable. I only have one story about Ernie to tell here, but it is the only one I need to share. I was a lowly delivery person and barback for the tavern he frequented for lunch. Now, Ernie had lived in the South Bay for decades previous, and had been going to the same bar for as long; he was a fixture in the community, while I was a newcomer to the scene. I had known and connected with Ernie for a short while comparatively when my Dad died suddenly--only a few of my co-workers attended my Dad's funeral service, understandably, but Ernie was there. He paid his respects to a man he had never met, simply because he cared for me and wanted to help ease my pain. A simple thing, really, but I will never forget that act of kindness and generosity of spirit.
This was my favorite joke of his, among the thousands:
One of the zookeepers at the state zoo was perplexed. The porpoises in his tank were constantly having sex, and nothing he did would stop them. Any time two of them were together, they'd go at it, ignoring their training exercises or even feeding times. The zookeeper went to his boss, who told him that there was only one thing to do--he would have to feed a certain kind of baby seagull to the porpoises, and that would cure them of their "illness". There were two problems. First, to get the birds the zookeeper would have to travel to a distant cove to find their nests, requiring quite a hike on a narrow path along the cliff face. Secondly, one of the zoo's lions had escaped and had been seen in the area.
The porpoise man thought about it and decided to try to get the birds before the porpoises killed themselves. So he drove out to the cliff, walked along the path to the nesting spots. Once there, he collected a bunch of the birds and stuffed them in a sack. On his way back, however, he saw the escaped lion blocking his path. Luckily enough, the lion was sleeping, so the zookeeper decided to try and leap over the great cat to safety. He took a running start, jumped, and made it!
Unfortunately, the police were waiting on the other side and arrested him immediately. The charge? Crossing a state lion with underage gulls for immoral porpoises. (Say out loud if need be.)

Gee, I guess seeing the Sox win one was enough for you, huh?
My heart's broken again; you will be missed--especially on Sundays in the fall. Thanks, Ernie. For everything.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ernie's heart was indeed enormous. And his jokes were indeed off-color. I'll miss him.

10:25 AM  

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