50 Years Ago Our Best Friend Was Sent to Vietnam. The Luck of the Draw Still Haunts Us.
The three of us grew up on the same street in The Bronx. Then I found a way out of the war, Frank narrowly escaped, and Stevie was lost to history.
Illustrations by Cornelia Li
My cousin Frank had a multispeed bike before anyone else in The Bronx. Where he got the money, I still don’t know. No great sportsman, he was a bit short, uninterested in batting and catching and usually chosen last when we picked sides for stickball. We grew up across the street from each other on 163rd and spent lots of time together. My sister, Alice, and Frank’s sister, Annie, were best friends too, and Annie dated our other best friend, Stevie. The three of us were inseparable.
Stevie called Frank “The Dean.” (Not because he was professorial, though he was smart and quick. If you dared enter his conversational classroom, beware!) The nickname was a reference to a teacher who struck fear in the hearts of tough guys at Cardinal Hayes High School – one Monsignor Jablonski, Dean of Discipline. We started calling Frank “The Dean” because his tongue was as sharp as the Monsignor’s. It didn’t catch on with the other guys, who responded with quizzical looks and…
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