Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Social Media And The Strong Silent Type

Marty Richtel spoke with his eyes, and sometimes, rarely, with his fists.

A tad under six-feet, burly, my grandpa drove the speed limit, understood numbers, folded clothes just so, walked on bunions. When you’re sixteenth in the line of succession, a high-school dropout, you squeeze into hand-me down shoes and don’t bother to complain. Not that doing so was in his nature.

He twinkled.

When he saw a grandchild or great grandchild, his eyes went 150-Watt. His luminescence would’ve sold well on TV, like Sinatra between notes. But his best medium was in person. Genuinely handsome, no matter how inexpensive the haircut, grandpa was a bit each blue collar and ol’ blue eyes.

His family and generation were tough, legend has it. Way back, his brother, Mutty, needed only one punch at a smoker in Boulder to knock out football great and court justice Whizzer White. Maybe. And Maybe another brother, Irving, fought at Anzio, bayoneted a German POW in the throat for making an anti-Semitic remark.

I’ve no doubt the story is true about Grandpa Marty and the guitar. It’s the early 1950s or thereabouts, Grandpa has a nephew named Melvin, who buys a guitar at a pawn shop in Fresno. From the start, the guitar doesn’t sound right. But the pawn shop won’t refund the purchase. Melvin goes to Marty, his tough and loyal uncle, to make things right. Marty goes to the pawn shop. He tells the owner he wants to return the guitar.

“Can’t do it,” the owner says. “We don’t return things unless they’re broken.”

“My nephew says this doesn’t sound right,” Grandpa Marty responds.

The pawn shop owner takes the guitar, looks it over, declares it in good condition.

Grandpa Marty takes the guitar back, raises it, smashes it to bits on the counter.

“Now it’s broken,” he says.

Money returned.

For Grandpa Marty, social media meant giving a bottle of whisky each Christmas to customers of the scrap steel yard he built into a nest egg. He spoke when he had something to say. He might’ve gone unnoticed in an era that favors the garrulous.

Tweet, blog, send status updates. That’s how to stay relevant, sell books and yourself, I’m told. Not a big stretch for me. I can share. I talk with my eyes a bit, not with my fists, much more so than Grandpa, I use my mouth and fingers. Credit, Marty. Generous to a fault, his sacrifices helped give me a voice. And I share his nose.

Tweet, blog, send status updates. Stay relevant. But then take a moment in silence and remember Grandpa Marty.


One response

  1. betsy

    lovely. we all owe much of what we have to the past. it’s that ol’ “Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future…”


    June 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm

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