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Air date: June 22, 1999

A Film by Joel Meyerowitz

Produced and directed by Joel Meyerowitz


ANNOUNCER: In honor of Father's Day-

JOEL: I loved when you were the strong man in the neighborhood.

ANNOUNCER: -the story of a father-

JOEL: I loved when you were the Chaplin figure and the comic.

ANNOUNCER: -and his son-

JOEL: He could talk to the big guys or the little guys.

ANNOUNCER: -and one last adventure.

JOEL: And you made them all the same, Pop.

POP: You saw me. You saw Papa!

ANNOUNCER: Pop Tonight, a FRONTLINE special presentation.

JOEL: [on the phone] Mom? Hi, sweetheart. It's Joel, Mom. How are you feeling? Oh! He's driving you crazy. Oh, I'm so sorry. Well, at least he didn't get lost again. That's what Alzheimer's does to him, Mom.

Look, that's why I told you I want to come down with Sasha. Yeah. We're going to take Pop away for a couple of weeks and give you a break, a trip from Florida back to New York City. Yeah, the old salesman out on the road again. Of course we can take care of him. You're not the only one who can take care of him, Mama. Okay. Thanks. I'll tell Sasha. Sure. You give him a kiss for me. I love you, Mama. 'Bye, darling.

POP: Sally? Sally! Did you leave Sally upstairs there?

JOEL: Yeah, Pop. We said good-bye to Mom.

POP: No kidding? I thought that was Sally all bundled up, and I see it's that bundled up.

JOEL: It's your pillow. That pillow's going to have to be your Sally.

POP: Yeah, yeah, the pillow. Oh, you guys are starting to pull tricks on me now!

JOEL: Papa?.

POP: Yes.

JOEL: We'll call up the house and you can talk with her.

POP: All right.

JOEL: Is that okay?

POP: Sure. Sure. It's a beautiful night.

JOEL: It is gorgeous. How do you feel about being out late at night, Pop, instead of just sitting in the house and going to bed early?

POP: Oh, I stay up so I [unintelligible] with the guys. I don't see them once every couple of months. I don't bother Mama. Where is- is she here?

JOEL: Nope. That's your pillow, Pop.

POP: Jesus Christ almighty! I know she's not in the trunk. You wouldn't do that to her.

JOEL: [laughs]

POP: I'm not- I'm not able to come to this, Joel. You know, I'm not the- the smartest and the cutest and the swiftest. [laughter] If my mommy- if my mommy don't come up, and then don't come down in five minutes, I want to know where she is. This is my wife.

JOEL: So I better check the trunk. [laughter]

SASHA: [morning, after showering] Hey, Grandpa.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: Come over here. Yeah, he's in rare form this morning.

POP: Nasty kid.

JOEL: So tell me, can you get up on the bed?

POP: Well- [laughs]

JOEL: You're going to swing at my boy?

POP: No, I just want to see how it is, I could reach out a little bit, because I must've hurt my shoulder- or soldier. You want me to sit on somebody? Is somebody going to-

JOEL: I want you to sit back here a little bit. Can I get you back?

POP: Oh, boy!

JOEL: I'm going to get you back, all right? I don't want you to lay down so much, I want you to just sit back a little bit. Like the pharaohs sometimes. [laughter] I just want to dry your legs.

POP: I can do that too, you know! For Chrissakes, you got- you'll try anything to raise the price up! [laughs]

JOEL: Okay, I want to give you your- a rubdown so you don't get too itchy. [rubs on skin lotion]

POP: Oh, Jesus! I did that to your mother, and I- all my clothes will - Ooh! - will slide off my body, all my clothes! I'm going to walk out of here empty. I'm going to put my tie on, one-two-threes. They say, "Okay, go!" I go out, and the first step I take down my street, comes the damn coat, or jacket, whichever it might be.

You'll never get anything for it, Joel.

JOEL: Why not?

POP: Well, because I don't see buyers for old farts.

JOEL: I'm not trying to sell you. Let me have that arm, Pop.

POP: You notice I'm tired when- when you got me to come out here, each one of these places. I'm as tired as if I possibly could've feel as if I-

JOEL: I tell you, you don't act tired most of the time. You don't stop talking.

POP: But I am- no, right. Yeah. Well, that, my- this is my fortu- fortu?

JOEL: Forte.

POP: Forte. This is my forte.

JOEL: What is your forte?

POP: I want to make sure that that's my con-conundum, conundumum-

JOEL: Conundrum? Your forte is your conundrum?

POP: It's a conum- but- but I get a hold of a dozen, a dozen conundums, and-

JOEL: [laughs] Let me have your foot.

POP: Oh, this is-

JOEL: So what is your forte?

POP: My forte is- I don't know what it means, even.

JOEL: Forte is your strength.

POP: My strength?

JOEL: Your strong point.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: What is your strong point?

POP: You are, you guys. You guys are my strength. The day I see the train coming down from the mountains, way up in the hills there, and he just stopped off. I don't know why you- why you want to make me so beautiful down below there.

JOEL: Well, because your skin is a little bit rough. I can see that your knee is really turned out here. Maybe I have to get you a knee brace.

POP: A new what?

JOEL: A knee brace. What's in your ears?

POP: I thought you said you're going to get me a new dress.

JOEL: A new brace, a knee brace.

POP: Oh, a bris? New brake?

SASHA: A new bris. A new bris.

POP: Oh, a new bris? Oh, my God, Joel. Your whole vocabulary will be changed.

JOEL: My vocabulary.

POP: Yes.

JOEL: Just hanging around with you now my vocabulary has changed. Stay right there, Pop.

POP: You know I'm going to move?

SASHA: [on the road] Let's take a little stroll, get some circulation back in our legs. How about that? Does that sound interesting to you? Not an old man's stroll. Let's see your walk. Let's see your "old man posing as a young man" walk. Your Burt Lancaster walk.

POP: Oh, there's no- there's no- there's no set play that gets you-

JOEL: Can you do your Kirk Douglas walk?

POP: Kirk Douglas? That schmuck, he could've used me all these years.

JOEL: Used you for what?

POP: For- in pictures.

[at spacecraft exhibit] Imagination, Joel- just to get it off the floor. It's imaginable!

[at zoo, to crocodile] If you're waiting for lunch, forget it!

Isn't that typical? Not only do I have to be eaten by him, but he's actually going to lay on top of you while he's eating.

[to child at zoo] What do you know about it, any? What do you know about it? No? Oh, I just thought maybe you knew- had more information. Don't they give it out in school? All right. I'm sorry.

[at parrot cage] Look at the balance on that, will you? Here we come, baby. Hello. Hello. Hello.

JOEL: Hey, Pop?

POP: What?

JOEL: Does that remind you of Melvin?

POP: Oh, yeah.

JOEL: Do you remember Melvin?

POP: Yeah, sure I remember him!

JOEL: What was Melvin?

POP: He was a little Chinese. A little bird.

JOEL: A parakeet.

POP: A parakeet, right. I didn't think-

JOEL: Do you remember the things that Melvin said?

POP: He called- he spoke to us, and he also called his name out.

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: A lot.

JOEL: How did he say it, do you remember?

POP: "Hi, Melvin. Hi, Melvin!" It was "Hi, Melvin!"

JOEL: No, he said, "I'm- I'm Melvin"- what?

POP: Melvin Belvin?

JOEL: "I'm Melvin Meyerowitz."

POP: Oh, yeah! [laughs] [to parrot] Hello. Hello. We know you. We know your grandfather. He was a wonderful man.

JOEL: Pop. Do you remember how he used to say "My name is Melvin Meyerowitz"-

POP: Yes

JOEL: -"and I'm a Jewish bird"?

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: And do you remember the time the bird flew away? We were all so heartbroken that the bird was gone. And then some woman called up, she said, "Do you have a bird named Melvin? The bird landed on my window and said, `My name is Melvin Meyerowitz. I'm a Jewish bird.' And I looked you up in the phone book."

POP: [laughs]

JOEL: We went and we got the bird back. Do you remember that?

POP: No.

JOEL: I'm surprised.

POP: Well, it's- it was a small item, based on whatever, living- getting alive and staying alive. Yeah.

JOEL: [in the car] Pop?

POP: Yes?

JOEL: I want to ask you a few questions about the family.

POP: About our family?

JOEL: About our family.

POP: Yes.

JOEL: You've got three sons.

POP: Yes.

JOEL: What are their names.

POP: Ricky, Joel-

JOEL: And who's your youngest son?

POP: The youngest one is- I think it's David. I don't- I don't remember his name anymore.

JOEL: Joel, Rick and-

POP: Joel, Ricky and- yeah.

JOEL: Stevie.

POP: Stevie. Oh, yeah.

JOEL: Okay. Do you know what Rick does to make a living? What's he famous for?

POP: Ricky?

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: Well, in the first place he's my kid. You are also. And because that alone gives you enough fame.

JOEL: So you don't remember what Rick does.

POP: Ricky? Ricky is a- that book-

JOEL: Just try, try to think about what Rick does.

POP: Rick- Rick is an artist.

JOEL: Right!

POP: What?

JOEL: You got it. You got it right. And I'm Joel. What do I do?

POP: [laughs] You're a doll! You're my best number one!

JOEL: I know. Come on, get serious, Pop. Do you remember what it is I do?

POP: Because-

JOEL: I'm going to put it to you this way, Pop-

POP: From down-

JOEL: What- what is it I do, Pop?

POP: That is a-

JOEL: No, not that. What is- what do I do?

POP: You make money. [laughs] I tell you what, I'll give it to you straight off the street.

JOEL: Okay, what about Stevie.

POP: I don't know.

JOEL: Does it bother that you can't remember your kids' names sometimes, and you can't remember what they do?

POP: Well, I'll tell you, yeah. I see them. "Hello." "Good-bye."

JOEL: [at hotel] I'm going to call Mom right now.

POP: Yeah, give her a call.

JOEL: I think this is a moment- you haven't talked to her for two days.

POP: Yeah. Everybody- nobody called. I didn't call her because nobody asked me to.

JOEL: I thought you forgot about her.

POP: [looking out the window] Oh, what a funeral that is up there, a big one.

JOEL: [on the phone] Mom? Okay, here's Papa, Mom. Hold on. Okay, here comes Dad.

POP: You don't need the drums, do you? Joel? Am I Joel? Don't you know who I am? Who? What do you mean how come I'm on the phone? I didn't-it's been a long time, and I haven't called you.

Excuse me. I want to tell it to Joel. She says "You've been away for a long time, and you haven't even called me."

Don't- don't get mad at me! Don't get at mad at me. It's very important because I've been traveling and- huh? Yes, I'm okay. No, we're not having a good time. Are you having a good time? You are, really? Okay. I want you to be healthy and strong. And smile, Sally. Don't go down the judge's because right now I'm beginning the first one of Joel's tests. And I've been re- rerena- rerenavating- rerenavated.

JOEL: Renovated. [laughs] You've been renovated.

POP: All right? You had your son's-

JOEL: Pop?

POP: What, sweetheart?

JOEL: You've been rejuvenated.

POP: Oh, yes! Excuse me, Sally. I've been rejuvenated- from the master. All right, I'll tell that to Joel. All right, May. Take care, sweetheart. Be careful, will you? Be careful. Bye-bye.

She's- she's mad. She's mad about something. [laughs] Mad about me! I didn't do nothing.

JOEL: Why is she mad?

POP: She mad's, that's all. She sounded like she didn't care that I would rather be there than be here.

JOEL: But you're having such a good time here.

POP: Yeah, I'm- I'm- to my little bit [?], I'm having what I like and I would love to do, love to be involved with. But the idea is that I always have to include Mama.

JOEL: [overlooking the ocean] Do you remember when one summer back in about 1948 you rented a little bungalow in Rockaway, in Far Rockaway, and every night when you came home from work, we would go into the surf, just like that, and we would surf together. All the men, all the fathers would come home, and all the kids would meet them. And we'd all go out, and we'd do body-surfing together. Do you remember that?

POP: No, I- well, there's too many. You got to excuse me. There are too many things that happened that were good and that were bad. And I- I want you to know that every bit of it, every bit of it is in my mind. I have to have a trigger.

JOEL: You have to have a trigger? Where were you born?

POP: We lived in- on the block of 100th Street. It was the shining-shining of the- of all the other blocks because my pop was the street cleaner. And he was the guy who would come home with the big broom, and he used to clean up. Push. He didn't even wait for the horse to stop the traffic. He was out of there. Take it out as soon as it comes down! [laughs] He was- he was terrific!

JOEL: I never knew that, Pop.

POP: Oh, Pop was-

JOEL: You never, ever told me that. In all the years I know you, you never told me about your papa doing that.

POP: Well, we had- listen, we- you know, after you're a "Hebe," you're a "Jewboy." And the Italians are down there, the Irish are down there. You don't say nothing you don't have to say. If you have to say, you got to say "Look, are my shoes good? Can I run with them?"

JOEL: [laughs]

POP: You had to be that way. You have- you had to be. They were hitting everybody. Oh, I hit back. Don't misunderstand me, I hit back.

JOEL: I know you did.

POP: You bet your ass I did. You know, "Get that little one!" [laughs] "Come on! Come on. Drive. Come on!"

JOEL: Speaking of fighting, did you win the Golden Gloves, is that right? The first Golden Gloves?

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: Do you remember what year that was?

POP: It was '28, '27- '28 or '29 or something like that. I have it- I must have among the papers a lot of stuff-

JOEL: You had that little golden glove-

POP: Yeah-

JOEL: -I remember, on that chain.

POP: Yeah. They gave it to me because I was the champ.

JOEL: Let me see your stance. How did you stand when you were boxing?

POP: [laughs] That's the only way, yeah.

JOEL: Let me see you throw a punch. Throw a punch.

POP: Ah! Go down on the dime. They- and they went down. They went there. But that is my- that is my tale. That is my life. And it wasn't much, but it was great. I was having a great time all the time.

JOEL: [to Sasha] He taught me all the street-smart things. He taught me how to fight. He had me work out on a light bag, too, like this, you know? He always felt that if you got into a scrape in the neighborhood that you shouldn't run away. His motto was "Step in and deliver the first blow." And he said, "Take the biggest guy down." And that was his attitude. He wouldn't stop, you know, and run away from anything.

On Morrison Avenue, the block we lived on, he was considered the mayor of the block. Any time there was a dispute that had to be settled, they would actually come and ask him, "What do you think, Hymie?" Or if there were strangers coming through the neighborhood and they needed to be told to get out of there, they'd come, and they'd get him.

And the scenes I remember are that people would gather in front of our window, and they'd yell, "Hymie! Hey, Hymie!" And he'd come to the window, and he would adjudicate from the window. He would say, "No, no. You shouldn't do that," and "He should do this," and "You get that," and "Let him alone." It was like the judge.

POP: [singing] O sole mio. Sam's holy May in the arm. [?] I took you when you're just a bunch of- spa-di-ya-di-ya. My little baby boy. Come back again whenever you get a chance, and let's continue doing the things we've done.

If what I say doesn't make sense, that's unfortunate.

[at Disneyworld] We were here yesterday, weren't we? I thought we were in Central Park. [pointing to rock formation] There, that's what I gave up. That's what I gave up, that's-

JOEL: What was it-

POP: That's all mine. That's my cigars. All my cigars.

JOEL: Your cigars?

POP: Yes, all my cigars.

JOEL: That look like cigars to you?

WOMAN: [to child at parade] Say "Hi."

POP: Where did you get the word "Hi"?

WOMAN: The what?

POP: "Hi." You say "Hi." You were saying "Hi."

WOMAN: Oh, I don't know where I got it from.

POP: Well, my name happens to be Hy-

WOMAN: Oh, your name is Hy?

POP: Yes, ma'am.

WOMAN: Oh! Where you all from?

POP: New York.

WOMAN: New York?

POP: Harlem. Harlem. Harlem.

WOMAN: Oh! Oh, okay.

POP: Here, give me- give me- let me give you a little tip. Give me your hand. No, wait. No, wait. No, wait! Come on, take- [unintelligible] [shows her a trick handshake]

WOMAN: Oh! [laughs]

POP: You got to get down with it. If you can't get back down with it, then you got to get it.

WOMAN: What?

POP: You got it clean. If you can't get with it, you got to quit it!

WOMAN: I know. I know.

POP: [to young man] Now, I was born right here, right here.

YOUNG MAN: Were you?

POP: And then I worked all through Harlem. There's nothing between you and I, only a little color.

YOUNG MAN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

POP: And if you know that there, and I know it, and we get some other half-ass- half-asses to listen to us, we'll be all right.


POP: Just make it.


POP: Stay with it. Have a good day.

YOUNG MAN: Okay. Thanks a lot.

WOMAN: Could I have a hug before you leave?

POP: Sure! [laughs] Yes.

WOMAN: We'll see you!

POP: Take care. Take care.

WOMAN: Okay.

POP: Thanks for your time.

WOMAN: All right.

JOEL: You make people laugh, Pop.

POP: Well-

JOEL: And you give them a lot of love and you-

POP: You can do this very simply. Just don't have any animosity. Don't think of anybody as a bad person. Most times, if you would go over to them, you'll see that they will help you out more than waiting you out. Where is everybody else?

[to camera] You know, I have- I have a statement. I- no, not so much a statement, but for myself, that I love my kids. I never had a chance to get us all together and love them, to kiss you, to hold you. Boy, and how I missed it! You have no idea. And here I am, first time. Great. I love it.

You know, I'm- I'm a lonely man. Mama is great, but I can't do everything with her all the time. I can't be there all the time. So I have to see her, and I have to take her, and I have to do for her. I always have a little kick with her because I took advantage of the fact that she didn't know what I was talking about most of the time.

But she's a sweetheart. But she likes to prevail and show that she knows what's going on. I say, "That's all right. Only thing I want you to remember here, as long you walk out of here, and you tell me before you walk out." She says, "Why should I walk out? I said, "I don't know." But she's gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

JOEL: [restaurant] I think he'd like the barbecue beef dinner plate.


JOEL: You want cole slaw or baked beans, Pop?

POP: Cole slaw.

JOEL: Okay, cole slaw and- you want a sweet potato?

POP: If you've got it hanging around doing nothing.

JOEL: [laughs] You got a doing-nothing sweet potato, he'll take that, sure.

WAITRESS: All right.

JOEL: And did I see outside a-

WAITRESS: Special?

JOEL: Special with what-

WAITRESS: Bacon and baby-back.

POP: Oh!

JOEL: [laughs] Easy! I love it. Did you eat the lemon?

POP: Yeah! It's excellent.

JOEL: Did you say excellent, or sexy?

POP: Didn't have a hair. Didn't have a hair.

JOEL: I've heard this. [laughs] [holds up paper with scribbling] You were looking for that?

POP: That's why- [laughs]

WAITRESS: Did he want [unintelligible]

JOEL: [laughs] You just do this!

POP: [getting up the next morning] Oh. [turning light on and off] Oh, now, look at that! Oh, my. Oh, yeah, give me that one piece they got. You can see better with that? [laughs]

JOEL: Good morning.

POP: [laughs] Good morning to you!

JOEL: Good morning, Pop.

POP: Yeah. Hiya, sonny! [laughs]

JOEL: How are you doing?

POP: [laughs] I don't really know.

JOEL: You were talking in your sleep, Pop.

POP: Yeah. Boy, I was so filled up with it. Well, I hope I said something that was useful. [laughs] Now, I want you to know- [laughs] [picks up note from nightstand] "Here is Hy's test." [laughs] Is this to be- to be- be read out to the people?

JOEL: What does it say?

POP: It says "Here is Hy's text." Oh, no, no, no! Excuse me. "Here is Hy's teeth." [laughs]

JOEL: Well, who wrote that?

POP: I don't know! [laughs]

JOEL: It's your handwriting, Pop.

POP: Well, yeah, but why would I write it to me?

JOEL: That's a good question.

POP: [laughs]

JOEL: I just want to review a few things with you.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: I have a few questions for you.

POP: I'm not- I don't have to call my attorney?


POP: Oh. Okay.

JOEL: Do you remember any of the things on the trip so far-

POP: But will you- I'm just going to say don't ask me about anything I did.

JOEL: Why?

POP: Why? Because that- that's gone, man.

JOEL: It's gone?

POP: I went to a car. I went to the automobile, went to the train. I was- I was going in every direction. And I was losing sight. I was losing sight for no reason whatsoever. Everybody was going around. It was turmoil- tomoil- to moil- to moil is not to moil, but to moil is to have and to kiss and to love, to moil!

JOEL: [from the car, to carriage driver] Can we ask you where- can we ask you where the Fountain of Youth is?

POP: [looking at outdoor dinosaur sculpture] Oh, boy. If he needs wind- if he needs any wind you're in big trouble. If he- he'll blow you away twenty-two miles. Here.

[in parking lot] Joel?

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: I'm not up for this bullshit. [laughs]

SASHA: He said he's really tired, and when we took him from his sleep, he said he doesn't normally get tired, but he's really tired this time.

All right, big Daddy.

POP: I'm tired.

JOEL: Let's go back. You're tired. Let's go.

POP: I'm really tired. My knees hurt me.

[at outdoor airplane model] Look at this, how they keep this thing so nice and clean. In the Bronx, the son of a bitch would be- in 14 minutes after he put it down, the guy'd have to call them to bring another one.

More adventure. Best thing in the world I did this year.

I wouldn't even bend down to pick up a dime. What do you think of that? There the street.

JOEL: It's a good thing you're letting more of them go once in a while.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: You know what? I realize that you're like a little kid. You're walking along, looking to see if you can find a nickel or a dime on the ground.

POP: Well, but you can.

JOEL: Yeah, I know. But I mean, you spend most of your time looking down instead of looking up.

POP: I look-

JOEL: There's a whole world out there of other things to see. You can-

POP: You mean like-

JOEL: You used to show me all kinds of great things to see, and now you're walking around looking-

POP: I'll tell you-

JOEL: -for nickels and dimes.

POP: Any time that I look up in the air, I got myself shit all over me.

JOEL: Oh, bird in the eye! [laughs]

POP: All right, I don't have to go in-

JOEL: But you showed me so many things. I mean, if we were walking down the street back in the Bronx, you would've said to me, "Look at that. Look at that dirty old car up there." In those-

POP: Yeah!

JOEL: -places, you would've pointed out to me-

POP: Well, I- everything was new to me. These things were new to me. You know, I didn't know what to do about it. I would go and get an answer back, one way or another, good or bad. [laughs]

JOEL: See, that's what- that's what I'm talking about. The things that were new to you were such funny things and such odd things. You always were showing it to me. And I know that's why I take pictures now is because you pointed out all these things to me as a kid. You said, "Look at that funny thing."

POP: Well, how's this a schmeckel don't do because I do what you do?

JOEL: I'm trying to tell you now, look at- look at those [unintelligible] right there. Pay attention to the world. You're never- you're never too old to pay attention to the world-

POP: Get a listen to this here, "Pay attention to the world." All morning long and all last night I was paying attention. Nobody said, "Hey, Hymie, wake up!" Nobody. I said, "Screw you." I don't have to do that. [laughter] I don't have to do that. I want to tell you one thing. I am- I am happy, Joel. I'm having my boy this year.

You know, after all, that's all I got, my boys, my wife and my father. And now- now I got Mom. Mommy is strictly [unintelligible] I said always, "If you're going to be for something, be for something, for crying out loud, Sally. Don't battle. Don't fight. Go for it. You see, you push me around, but I keep going. I don't give a damn." I told her that. I says, "You want to get somebody else out? You want to get somebody else to go to bed with, go ahead! I'll break your fucking head!"

JOEL: Where'd that come from?

POP: [laughs]

JOEL: How'd you go from that car, that busted-up old car there, to Mom going to bed with somebody else? She's 86 years old.

POP: Well, isn't that marvelous? Isn't it marvelous? I told Mom this, I said, "You could be the oldest woman in the world if you'd just let yourself go. Let somebody take you. Let somebody do for you. Me. Me." I felt like I wanted to give her a kiss, wanted to hug her. And I did anyhow because I got those- I took the ones that- that- maybe- let's see, is that a nickel or is that nothing?

JOEL: [laughs]

POP: Well, I'm looking at your- I'm looking at your nickel! What the hell are you getting-

JOEL: It's a crushed bottle cap.

POP: I see a penny.

JOEL: Yeah, but I don't want to bend for the penny.

POP: Why not?

JOEL: Because the world is more interesting than a penny.

POP: So what? They don't give me no dime for two cents' worth of-

JOEL: Oh, man!

POP: Oh! Give me the line of bullshit!

JOEL: I'm telling you there's more fun out there.

POP: I know there is, but if I don't have anybody to have fun with, so what-

JOEL: But you have us to have fun with, and instead of having fun with us, you're looking at the ground through spit.

POP: Good evening.

WOMAN IN KITCHEN: How're you doing?

POP: Fine, thank you. How are you?

WOMAN IN KITCHEN: I'm doing fine.

POP: You're so far away from home.


POP: Shame on you.


POP: I can- I can go far away from home.

WOMAN IN KITCHEN: I'm just a mile from home. [laughs]

POP: Oh, God. I had- every time I think of them, young or old, big or small, they have to be miles away. I got a bad leg. I can't keep going to all these places.

2nd WOMAN IN KITCHEN: Best thing for to put her in the back seat with you and take- take her with you.

POP: Well, what car-

2nd WOMAN IN KITCHEN: And bring her back in thirty days! [laughs]

JOEL: [taking pictures] I want you- I want you here with everybody.

WOMAN IN KITCHEN: To home and back. We'll go over here. [crosstalk]

POP: What do you think, I'm blind? I may not can drink, but I'm not-

WOMAN IN KITCHEN: How old are you?

JOEL: Papa?

POP: Hurry up. I'm running out of time. [laughter]

JOEL: [on the phone] Mama? Hi, sweetie. I'm fine. How're you doing? It is lonesome, huh? Oh. I'm sorry to hear that. I was hoping that- Ah. He's having a really good time, and he misses you a lot. He asks, you know, 10 times a day, "Where's Sally? Where's Mom?"

And you sound wonderful. You're probably getting a couple of good nights' sleep, finally. He didn't? He bothers my sleep, all right. He's up six times a night. He pees every hour and fifteen minutes. He has to get up and pee. He wanders around the room. He folds the- he folds the laundry, the towels. I woke up this morning, and he had folded up all the sheets so the maid wouldn't have to do the work. Well, he is.

Okay, here's- here's Pop right now. Love you, Mom. I'll talk to you soon. 'Bye-bye. 'Bye.

POP: Hello. Hey, how are you? All right, sweetheart. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. Very good. It's cold outside, you know? It ain't like New York. Well, I'm- I didn't know what I was going to went to. Yeah. Where am I now? [laughs] Let me take a look. Well, where am I? Pay with which, sweetheart? What do you mean, "Forget it"? Are you kidding? Outside pay phone. I don't know where these things are. Hang in there. You know I love you. You- you know that [unintelligible] without you I would be right- I'll be out of here completely. But I want you to know you're continuously on my mind. Okay, baby. Yeah. You, too. 'Bye-bye.

[to Joel] I love Mama. I love her. I think she's absolutely, positively marvelous. She is marvelous. And she's married to me. [laughter] But I grab her, and I kiss her. I love her! I love her! She'll call me a son of a bitch. That's not a nice name-

JOEL: That's not- that's not- what else does she call you?

POP: Oh, she calls me a little- a little son of a bitch.

JOEL: Little son of a bitch. She always called you "the shrimp."

POP: Yeah, yeah, well- "You never do anything. You're always sitting around doing nothing." I said, "Are you kidding?"

She knows that I go out there and I- she knows I don't play around. She knows I don't do anything. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do any of the things. She knows all those things.

JOEL: I know.

POP: What is she going to get, a guy down there, a pimp? Huh?

JOEL: Pop-

POP: You going to get a pimp.

JOEL: This is Mom. She's 87 years old. She's got a weak bladder, and she's skinny as a rail, and she's not well.

POP: I know.

JOEL: And you're worried that she's going to run out and get someone to pimp for her?

POP: Well, I don't know what she- whatever she wants-

JOEL: What an idea!

POP: She wants to do what she wants to do.

[in hotel room, talking to himself] What do you predict? Army [?] predicts, stuck-o, man. You full first stuck-o for this side. You're all right. You're going to be all right. You'll walk home nicely. You'll be there for another week or two. What was that? A week or two? Well, I- I was thinking of being nice about it, but it could be two or three or five, or you could be stuck here forever.

You must've got in there and started a bit. You tried. You kicked the thing down a lot of times at night. That means something in there is cracked already, also. Go ahead. All of you five guys start at the same time. Well, yeah. You're about right. If you can get started, that's not too bad, either. But the only bad feature about it is that you're [unintelligible] that you would take in to this man, isn't going to be ready for today, see? And the other one, the guy was- was backing away and [unintelligible] he said search money and the [unintelligible] or something. He's going to be here a long time.

[in parking lot] I thought I saw a nickel.

JOEL: You know, when you talk about the roads being paved with gold here in America, it's metaphoric. You don't have to keep looking for it.

POP: Oh. Oh. Metaphoric.

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: Why metaphoric? I never knew a metaphoric had any intentions of being an officer.

JOEL: Officer Metaphoric?

POP: I told him he'd be better to call you-

JOEL: Very wise.

SHELTER WORKER: How you doing? How you doing?

POP: I'm with it today.


POP: Going to cop it.


POP: I'm going to take it. You don't mind?

SHELTER WORKER: No, sir. Help yourself.

POP: Let me- let me get yours first.


POP: Because you never know.

SHELTER WORKER: I'm Mark Green, sir.

POP: Mark, my pleasure. Hy Meyerowitz.

SHELTER WORKER: My pleasure, sir.

POP: I'm- I'm trying- I'm going to get there, too. Let me go- let me go the rest of the way.


POP: All right.

SHELTER WORKER: And the Lord is with you all the way.

POP: Well, I hope.


POP: You, too, of course.

SHELTER WORKER: I thank you for that.

POP: Well, that's- it's not-your place [unintelligible]


POP: Yeah. Take them at the job, at any one of these jobs.

SHELTER WORKER: Well, I'll tell you, this particular type of job, the- when you have somebody that-

POP: Pushing for you?

SHELTER WORKER: -that needs you-

POP: Oh.

SHELTER WORKER: -somebody that needs you, and you're very well blessed, your son and your grandson. You're very well-blessed because a lot of people here, sir, they haven't seen their families. Their families-

POP: Yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: -don't take five minutes to come and visit them. Their families, only time their families come and visit them is when there's a- there's a death. We've had- we've had deaths here and things like that, and the families don't show up even for that.

POP: Yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: So we're- we're their family and, you know, we love them.

POP: Yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: And you- and you have to work your mind-

POP: Yeah, yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: -and your heart together-

POP: Yeah, yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: -in order to take care of them.

POP: They understand that.

SHELTER WORKER: This gentleman washing down the-

POP: Yeah, yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: As long as you stay busy and do something.

POP: Yeah.

SHELTER WORKER: Because, you know, when people feel that there is some love-

POP: That's right. The whole thing is the love. The whole thing is the love.

SHELTER WORKER: That's right.

POP: [in the car] I spent the most- I was a little more than- I was 3 years old. I was losing my mother. I- I just thought I saw her face. They wouldn't tell me! Nobody but my sister, Jean, was the only one who would take care. My brother [unintelligible] Murray. Who was there? The big brothers were busy. Everybody was busy! For years I cried. Terrible! All my years I lost.

[on the phone] How are you, darling? You're classically well? Well, you say you're classically- oh, perfectly well? Oh. Oh, go ahead, shoot some new stuff at me. Yes, you're my sweetheart. You know I've missed you. I've missed you so. Yes, yes. You know it. Yeah. We can't- don't be- I can argue with you over the phone, but it's not the same thing. See, I can pick anything out of the air and take- you want to fight a little bit before I leave it off? It's so- it's- that's the word. Yeah, you miss me, but you don't love me. Yeah.

[in hotel room] I got nobody to hug and to kiss. Yeah, I miss that. But that's the way my life was with you.

[getting dressed] He's not doing any better. He's selling as many ices as he did then. But he wants to sell apples now, and I don't know if he can do it because you've got to be able to say it- say something, and you got to be able to give change. [laughs] Your father's great with change.

JOEL: Wait a second. Pull down your undershirt. That's- pull up your underwear. No, pull down your undershirt.

POP: Well, how about me pulling my skin down?

JOEL: You have to- well, pull your undershirt down because your undershirt has to go in your pants. Your undershirt. Up higher. Okay.

POP: Yeah?

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: I won't be able to walk.

JOEL: You're forgetting your undershirt. Yeah, this. Pull this down.

POP: I got- oh, well that's the undershirt down here.

JOEL: Yeah, pull the shirt down.

POP: This is like-

JOEL: Pull that shirt down.

POP: This- this is- well, this is a different kind of an undershirt.

JOEL: Okay, now-

POP: It'll be rolled up on the- on the sides anyhow, but-

JOEL: You want that gray? You want me to-

POP: No, no. This is all right-

JOEL: -to pick a shirt out?

POP: Anything- anything you say is okay.

JOEL: Well, no, no. It's you who's wearing the clothes, not me.

POP: Oh.

JOEL: It should be what you think is okay.

POP: Well, all I can see is my schmeckel there. I'll take them with me, all right? Don't worry. Don't be worrying about it.

JOEL: Zip up your fly. Zip up your fly.

POP: Let him take care of himself. I take care of him all the rest of the day. What the hell do you think I am, a nursemaid? [pulling lint from pocket] That's from my dollar bill. That's what happens.

JOEL: Where's the $5 bill you had?

POP: I don't know if I've got one.

JOEL: Throw those tickets away. You don't need those tickets anymore.

POP: I don't what?

JOEL: You don't need those tickets anymore.

POP: No, that's all right. That's all right. Oh, there's my watch. Hello, sweetheart. Welcome back. If I don't answer "Welcome back," you know, it gets mad. You like that position, huh, baby? Yeah, all right.

[in the car] The whole area is so beautiful. You know, this is not New York City. Or it is not the city of New York, but it's the- it's a really- they wanted to make it look like farmland.

JOEL: This is the Pennsylvania Dutch farm country, Pop.

POP: Oh. Oh. Where- where's Mother? Where is- where's Mother? No kidding.

I always wondered when- when I'll be- what will it be like.

JOEL: You always wondered what what will be like?

POP: When will I be, like, finished.

JOEL: Yeah? So you don't think you're finished now?

POP: Yeah. I'll be- I'm in a cornfield now, for crying out loud! Hey, I'm sitting down here! Where are you going! I did that here for a couple of days, and I lost my voice, and I lost everything else. Everybody, I'm sure, is sorry that they have to go.

JOEL: [New York harbor] Look at it, Pop.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: This is the grand entry back to New York.

POP: Yeah.

JOEL: You haven't seen it in years.

POP: No.

JOEL: You know, at the very least we can find your block. Maybe there's still some guys there who remember you, and they- they'll still try to beat you up.

POP: Guys want to beat me-

JOEL: They owe you a beating from 75 years ago. You didn't live on that block, did you?

POP: No, no, no.

It's a beautiful neighborhood, Jesus Christ! When you stay away, it is no longer what you had before.

JOEL: You know who lived in that building? We lived there.

POP: Hmm?

JOEL: For 20 years we lived there.

MAN IN STREET: That's my window. That's my window.

JOEL: That's your window? That was his window and my window.

MAN IN STREET: You decided to live in this country.

POP: Sure. What the hell, you- I was born and bred there! [crosstalk]

JOEL: He was the toughest guy in the neighborhood.

POP: I was the guy- and none of that- but I ran faster than some other-

MAN IN STREET: [laughs] Yeah, you faster.

2nd MAN IN STREET: I'll go for that! Uh-huh!

POP: [in hotel room] I was small. I was small. And when I was small, I played around and everything else, and people laughed, and I laughed with them, and I kidded with them and everything else. And then I would take a run down the- take a Chaplin walk halfway down. And all of a sudden, I'd remember something, and then I would run right back again the same Chaplin walk back there. And they'd laugh. They laughed.

JOEL: Yeah.

POP: That was what I did to make them laugh.

I was trying to fit in myself all the years with the joking. I was trying to be a Chaplin. I saw that poor little guy, that he bends down and picks up something. Everybody gives him a kick in the ass. That was what I used to see. That was what I didn't want to happen to me.

JOEL: What was it that you liked about Charlie Chaplin that made you want to do Charlie Chaplin acts?

POP: Because he was- he was a giant in the height of a little midget. He was this little guy, went righting all the wrongs, helping others. As he passed by, we'd pat him on the top of the head. He'd shake his shoulders and then travel on. It was a beautiful deed for the day. That was what I loved, the goodness. The goodness.

JOEL: Did you feel connected to him in that way?

POP: Always, always, always!


POP: When anybody would show a little bit of something to me, that I was accepted or allowed, and they would talk to me, and they'd pat me on the top of the head or would put their hands around me, I'm home.

I loved everybody. I loved everybody, but nobody saw me. [cries] Nobody remembered. Nobody knew me. And nobody saw me. But I was there. To this very day, I have the same fear. Mommy- I have- and she doesn't see me! She doesn't see me.

JOEL: Oh, Papa. Oh, your boys saw you. We all saw you.

I loved when you were the strong man in the neighborhood. I loved when you were the Chaplin figure and the comic. I loved the way you drove the car. You were such a great driver. I love the way you talked to people. You could talk to the big guys or the little guys. You would treat them the same. And you would bring them all to the same level, and that would be the level of laugher.

POP: [cries] And you saw me. You saw Papa.

JOEL: That's right.


[Three weeks after Hy returned to Florida, Sally passed away unexpectedly. Joel and his brothers moved Hy back to New York City. He saw his boys every day until his death at 91.]




Joel Meyerowitz




Sasha Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz



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© 1999



POP: I thought I saw a nickel.

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