Friday, October 8, 2010


I hated liver until I got much older; late thirties, when a cushy job made gourmet cooks take over my menu, and Ma’s hash grinder showed up in an antique show, not a kitchen drawer.

(There’s not enough ketchup in the world to erase the memory of that godawful instrument.).

By then, liver had become a discovery. A bartender at Runyon’s introduced it to me, Linda. I knew her by her maiden name and by her first two married names, but I lost track after that.

This was under her first married name. I quickly declined the offer of the dinner special—liver and onions; she insisted I try it. I declined; she insisted, coquettishly. I declined. She said I liked steak, right? I was about to decline, again, but noticed we had attracted some attention, so I relented.

She was right, of course. It was wonderful. Thick, tender, juicy; it bore no resemblance to anything in my history named, “liver,” or anything of the liver family, or anything near the liver, like the spleen, the bile duct, the…I don’t know, the small intestine.

My knowledge of and familiarity with things liver-ish might have stopped there, but I knew I had a liver; I knew there was cirrhosis of the liver, which mysteriously had decimated many of the Lowe’s and their in-law’s, their neighbors and their good friends; and I knew that certain people in my life who cared very deeply about me half-expected me to trip over my liver one night on my way to the bathroom.

I never thought much about liver cancer, though.

Now, I do.

It seems I have liver cancer. I found out two-and-a-half-years after a massive stroke failed for some reason to kill me. And, my liver cancer appears to have nothing to do with my old habits, chief among which was the volume consumption of beer.

I have liver cancer the way a non-smoker has lung cancer. I have liver cancer because itinerant cancer cells roaming the planet happened upon a warm, cozy, hospitable, safe place in my liver to settle down, grow old and be happy.

Well, maybe not so safe. Warm, hospitable and cozy.

I’ve decided (with the consulting help of a surgeon, a few doctors, a bevy of nurses and one pending granddaughter due next month) to make it not so safe for a tumor.

“What the hell, I just busted my butt learning to say, ‘February,’ and, ‘Real Estate Agency,’ and to type, ‘alliteration,’ and, ‘communication.’ You think I’d lay down for a liver cancer that doesn’t have anything to do with my beer-drinking, which I don’t do any more, anyway?”

That’s the attitude I wish I could have, anyway—bold, defiant, devil-may-care, I guess, heroic.

My actual initial reaction, being brought up Irish Catholic, was, “Wow, whoever you are, I must have really pissed you off. You let me have two-and-a-half-years to sort of patch things up after the stroke—which I admit I fundamentally caused—and then you hand me this? A tumor? In my liver? What are you, a Sadist? Nurturing some kind of God complex, are we?

“Okay, withdraw that last remark.”

I talk to myself a lot, and play back the tapes, as if I were thinking.

When I first realized the stroke had not killed me, I was puzzled. Figure: I lived a great life, fruitful, useful, even entertaining. I left a lot of smiles in my wake, precious few frowns. I was ready. Sixty-two years was all right, 20 more than some: 20 less than others. I was never going to see Hobart, Tasmania, anyway.

The puzzlement, though, morphed into anger, when I realized what—well, I had more or less abdicated, really, but I didn’t see that right away—I had given up, in exchange for just living.

I could see not being able to walk, that was a fair trade. But not being able to speak? Me? Are you kidding? All right, the guitar goes. But, the writing? Are you crazy. Me? Why? I’ve been writing since before I knew what the scribbles actually were.

Then, about a year-and-half in, the Worm turned. It was amazing. By that time, I had walked. I knew the rudiments of pronunciation (though, I couldn’t apply them yet). I had re-learned the language enough to write letters.

I was having one of those conversations with myself, where every word is clear, at least in your head.

“You know, if you were anyone else, you would have given ten of your years to be Ed Lowe for just one. Just one. And, you had sixty-two. Sixty-two years as Ed Lowe.”

Yeah. I know. It’s hard to believe.

“And now, you have Ed Lowe’s girlfriend (thanks to the liver tumor, his wife, cagey bastard.)”

Yeah. I know that, too. Hard to believe.

“You have Ed Lowe’s memory. You have Ed Lowe’s children, and Ed Lowe even paid their tuition.”


“So, what’s the problem?”

I guess there is no problem.

“Damned straight, there’s no problem.”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Editor

I guess there comes a time when you have to look at your life, define what’s important and what isn’t, and get rid of what isn’t while you’re still wondering what made it loom so in the first place.

I never wanted to loom. I suppose I never I wanted to be loomed over, either, and that’s inherently a problem for the people who want to loom, because a loomer isn’t anything without at least one loomee.

In newspapers, they got away with avoiding excessive looming as long as the paper was small and manageable. Editors were editors, photographers, photographers, and reporters, reporters.

As soon as the newspapers got big enough to divide people into, “management,” and whatever was, “non-management” (It couldn’t be, “labor.” Photographers, reporters and artists would go crazy if they found out that guys they suddenly called, “management,” suddenly thought of them as, “labor.”).

I saw, and got caught up in, the transition from one to the other, and thought I would escape by declaring myself a, “columnist.” I didn’t actually declare myself a columnist, I just came back from any assignment with a story, whether it was the one I was assigned to or not, so that my member of management who had assigned me wouldn’t be embarrassed. It worked, and I was named columnist.

As columnist, I was able to assign myself three times a week. Some weeks were nerve-wracking, some were easy, depending on how lucky I was or how lazy. But I had conquered the looming. I was both management and (not “labor,” but we’ll call it that, here) labor—the loomer and the loomee.

An editor colleague (all right, a superior) noticed me around 1979 and set off to loom over me. I fought, until he demanded that I call the office every hour. One, two, maybe three days, and I confronted him. “What are we doing?” He said that he might someday have a column assignment for me and he wanted to be sure he knew where I was (this was in the days of pay phones, so I was calling from bars, and it was getting to me. Bar etiquette said a beer-in, a beer-out.).

I said, “Fine. Make me a general assignment reporter, again, and I won’t have to pretend that this three-columns-a-week [stuff] is important, any more.”

This was a mistake. I should have known—I did know—that he hadn’t made me a columnist, somebody higher than him had, so I was asking him to do what he could not do. I had just made an enemy for life.

He once asked me to write about Gov. Mario Cuomo’s plan to close Robert Moses State Park. I said, “You don’t want me to do that.” He said he did. He wanted me to write a column, as a resident of The South Shore, about my reaction to the plan. He thought I would write about Piping Plovers and seagulls. I was a fan of Mario Cuomo, but I felt this was a cheap trick. I wrote a column that began, “Ain’t nobody closing no Robert Moses State Park.” At 7 am, a panel truck pulled out of B & B Fish and Clam with a sheet across its transom that read: “Ain’t Nobody Closing No Robert Moses State Park.”

Cuomo was livid. He had his office call me all day. I never had spoken to a governor. He called my home and asked how I was going now to gain access to him. I said, “I never had access to you before. I’m a run-of-mill citizen.” Now, the newspaper and the governor were ticked off at me. I just wanted to be left alone, to be my loomer and loomee.

The editor and I separated, because I went into the Long Island edition, and he became the editor of The Queens Edition. I stayed as a loomer-loomee, while he amassed more people to loom over, eventually becoming the Editor of The Long Island Edition.

There, he asked me to consider an idea of my then wife’s: “The Fathering Series,” to alternate weekends with another series, “The Mothering Series,” about our respective relationships with our children. I had two girls from a earlier marriage and two boys from a current one.

I said, “As long as I own it.”

He said, “Well, you can’t.”

“Then, fine. Get somebody else.”

“Well, we’ll talk about it when it gets closer.”

“All right, but that’s my position. I write a series about my kids, you get to run it, and then it’s mine.”

Major dispute. Back n’ forth, me saying, “I understand. I really do. So, get another guy who doesn’t have this hangup.” Him saying, finally, “You know, we can make you write for Saturday.”

“You can make me write for Saturday?” I said. “Is that what this was all about? What about ‘making’ me write well? Can you do that? What about, ‘making,’ me write about my relationships with my children? Can you do that, too?”

I won, I thought, and I wrote a bi-weekly “Fathering” series for the next four years, when my wife said my writing about our marriage was getting in the was of our pending divorce. I agreed, and stopped. The irate editor said my stopping was his decision. I looked at him. I walked away.

Two years later, Tom Stites, a former Newsday editor, called from Kansas City to say congratulations on the book that Newsday was publishing with his company on the Fathering series. I hired a lawyer. After a year, we wrested a copywrite citation from Newsday. I had won again.

At long last, the editor became The Editor. So. he had to do it. I quit. Now, it amuses me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


God, do I hate doing this.

When I smoked cigarettes, I was one of the coolest guys on the planet. That began the mid-semester of my seventh grade.

The night I quit, my thirtieth year, and many, many nights thereafter, I made and remade a sacred and secret vow to all the people who had not quit smoking that I, Edward J. Lowe. Jr., would ever and always recall and remember the joy and pleasure of smoking.

Therefore, I would not break the stones of persons who smoked. Never bother them. Never beleaguer them. I might even be their champion, if asked, because it was their habit, their custom, their life choice, if you will, to smoke, and they had an inalienable right, a legal right, a natural right to light up and blow smoke into whatever stiff face they saw fit.

Gradually, I began to see holes in that position.

The first was, “What about the people who claim the right to breathe air: clean, clear, crisp air?”

Hmmm. Well, they can go to a non-smoking bar or restaurant, for instance, if that is what we’re talking about. Because, that was what we were talking about in those days; having no-smoking sections in bars.

“Why can’t they breathe real, natural air anywhere?”

Because…c’mon, real, natural air isn’t anywhere. It doesn’t exist [already, my argument was floundering]. You don’t go to a bar to breathe in fresh air.

“I mean it.” said my brain. “Not only in your bars [my bars?]. What about a bus stop on a corner. What about Yankee Stadium. Outside church. On a fishing boat.”

All right, all right. Let’s take them individually, my mind said. A tavern-restaurant or bar.

“Fine. Do I impose on you at this tavern-restaurant what medicines I take to prevent the shakes?”


“No, I don’t. To stop my incessant belching? No. To make my seasickness go away. No. To save me from humiliation with my girlfriend? No—although, I’d like to try one out, if you have any to spare. But, no. So, why would you think that I would like to smell your rotten cigarette while I was eating my ice cream dessert? Or putting Wispride Cheese on my cracker.You know, you don’t smoke it in private; you let a dozen other people enjoy it, or suffer it, too. And you claim you have the right to do that? What about their rights?”

Well, to shorten the story, my position didn’t have a chance, and eventually, I abandoned it.

But I still thought it would have a chance. I still thought smokers had rights.

Years passed, and bans on smoking gradually got into everything, as well they should, because there was no way you could argue that an individual had a right to pollute other people’s air, except in the heat of battle or in times of National Emergency, and that was stretching it.

Mayor Bloomberg proposed banning smoking in one place or another, and a guy, a smoker, asked by a reporter what his reaction was, flipped his cigarette on the freaking lawn and said something about, “rights,” and you knew he was gone, and it was over, and he had flipped his flipping cigarette butt into ancient history as punctuation: “Not only do I think that all the ambient air is mine,” he appeared to say, “I think all the world is my ash tray, too.”

All right, I am convinced.

Now, I am hospitalized.

I am in a very private room (there was an argument in my previously destined double-room over whether the departing patient had urinated; so I was whisked into the next room, the last room in the hall, I guess to soothe my nerves; or, come to think of it, hers.).

The third night, the night I finally go to sleep, I am awakened choked, or choking.

I bolt upright…well, to the extent a man can, “bolt,” in my position, and I gasp for air. The room seems blackened with smoke, but cigarette smoke. I realize I haven’t smelled cigarette smoke in years.

Hesitantly, I press all the buttons in my purview and in anybody else’s purview, because I am now seeking to stand, I guess to get more air. My efforts to do that previously have been questionable, at best. So the small army of nurses and aides who rescue me deserve thanks.

Further investigation, with (bright, bright) light, shows no blackening, nor any cigarette smoke, nor smoke. And I still smell it, and fiercely, but I thank God I have said nothing, because, clearly, I have lost my mind. This is not only a smoke-free hospital, it’s a smoke-free campus.

Somebody right away said she notices cigarette smoke. Do you know what that does to your mind? One comment, and you are freed from the accusation that you are crazy.

So, I second that analysis. Not only that, I recollect a previous instance, not 30 hours before, of a previous offense. The nurses use my room to plot against this miscreant. I can hear them.

I have gone from a mind-your-own-business guy to a, hey-that’s-the-guy guy.

Truth is, I hate smokers. Hate ‘em.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Assume

Lefty’s was on a corner on New Highway, which ran north between Republic Airport and the heart and soul of nowhere, now a condominium development.

A two-lane slab-of-concrete road, it had short pitch pine and scrub oak dominating all the land on the west, which it faced, and mainly factory buildings covering the other three other sides.

You wouldn’t stop there unless you worked nearby, and then not until you first watched people walked in, and then walk out. I’m a saloonist, and I drove past every day for years before my curiosity out-wrestled me.

The place turned out to be nice, as most of them are, and a secret hideout for the New York Islanders Hockey Team, as most of them are not. I learned that when a tree fell on my head, so to speak, at the bar, where I was trying to eat a hamburger.

Two young men dressed, I thought oddly, for office work, sat at the deep end of the bar. I sat with them, to their left, rather than make the bartender walk the length of the bar, just to serve me. The rest of the 60-foot bar had been vacated.

They were about to leave when a fourth man entered, and sat at the, “L,” of the bar, to my right. He wore an Argyle sweater.

The two ordered another drink and giggled while the bartender served it. They talked to each other, loudly, and I somehow got the impression that my pants were stained or my shoes were untied, and they were talking about me.

I engaged them in conversation, wherein they gave me information to use on them. My luck, they had been overserved, too, and were easy to entrap into making fools of themselves. Cruelly, I took hold of the situation with information they had provided, and made it advantageous for them to leave, humbly.

I said immediately that what I’d done was cruel and apologized to the Argyle sweater man for having seen me do it. I assured him that I was not, “that,” kind of guy [the kind who made mincemeat out of two slightly-high luncheoneers, as I had just done.].

“Lefty,” behind the bar, who had said nothing, introduced us (“I know who he is,” the Argyle sweater man said): Ed Lowe, meet Denis Potvin.

I hadn’t recognized him.

So, that’s what the joke was: the big shot newspaper columnist has no idea that he’s sitting next to one of the greatest hockey players of all time, the captain of The New York Islanders, which had recently dominated the National Hockey League by winning the coveted Stanley Cup three seasons in a row.

“Pleasure,” Potvin said.

“Well now, I’m really embarrassed,” I said, “because, not only do you know that I don’t follow hockey, you know what an ass I can be when I feel I’m being embarrassed. [He waved me off, as if to say, “Don’t be silly.” But I was determined to be …silly]. And, by the way, I do follow excellence, and I know that you are excellent at what you do, with a group of people I wouldn’t recognize either, whom I also admire…”

“Stop,” he said. “I saw the whole thing, beginning to end, remember?

I stopped. We had a conversation that went on and on and on, until another Islander came in, Bobby Nystrom, who wanted to talk with Potvin. The conversation was about skates, I recall, because it was the height of summer, and I couldn’t even pretend to care about ice skates.

I took the opportunity to talk to, “Lefty,” about his business, and about the few other businesses that attracted the professional athletes on the island.

Pat Calabria, Newsday’s New York Islander’s man, was writing a piece for Newsday’s then-popular Sunday magazine about the team. So, I suggested a sidebar, a piece about, “Lefty’s,” a no-count bar in Melville, where the Islanders hung out, especially since their captain, Potvin, had gotten a divorce, and Lefty had given him the keys to the place, so he could still host the team’s Superbowl party. Nice story.

The walls were festooned with Islander’s jerseys and the ceilings literally covered with hockey pucks and a virtual forest of signed hockey sticks.

At a later date, while I was interviewing Lefty, I felt compelled to ask a stupid, question and introduced it just that way.

“Ask,” said Lefty.

“Well, the place is called, ‘Lefty,’ and you’re called, ‘Lefty,’ and I just wondered if the name…you know.”

Lefty said, “Yeah. It’s named for me.”

A few minutes later, I thought of another stupid question. I said, “Hey, do you mind telling me if you’re left-handed?” He said, “Yes, I am.”

Finally, just before I was to ask him to spell his whole name, I asked, “Hey, are you called, “Lefty” because you’re left-handed?”

He laughed. He said, “No.”


“No. My name is ‘Lefkios Evandrou,’ Anybody who comes to this country from Greece with the name, ‘Lefkios,’ is called, ‘Lefty,’ whether he’s lefty or not. In fact, whether he has left arm or not.”

Friday, September 10, 2010


I don’t know how to deal with ailments any more, let alone diseases.

All right, maybe I never knew how to deal with ailments, maybe even so much as discomforts, but I could fake it with the best of them.

I am convinced I don’t know any of it, now.

I mean, what if my stomach hurt? (Oh, all right, it does; but that’s way besides the point.).

Other people have stomach-aches. I did. They get cramps. Their stomach has been upset. They get, “doubled over;” “queasy,” “uneasy.” I had that on and off for years before the stroke. You take something—Pepto-Bismol—and move on, or, if it’s really bad, you stay in bed until you’re hungry.

Now…well, first of all, how would I know that a stomach ailment was real? I’ve now talked with people who weren’t there, had conversations with people with whom I haven’t had conversations. I have a recent history of imagined triumphs and vivid post-stroke phenomena that may have happened only in my imagination. I can’t even figure them out.

On what scale would I put, “I think something might be awry in my early digestive system;” or, “I think I’m going to be sick;” or, worse, “What was that sound? Did you hear that awful sound? Did that sound come from me? C’mon, now. Be serious, here.”

Also, I haven’t heard from my stomach (well, in a figurative way) in months (which at first seemed really rather cool, because my stomach, at least, almost never registered any delight or pleasure; only pain and nastiness. So, what was the loss?); and I have suspected it was among the parts benumbed by paralysis. Therefore, I surmised, as long as I didn’t shovel any hot peppers or old clams into it, a numb stomach might be advantageous.

Not so. You really want to know if your stomach is in a bad mood.

“What’s wrong with you?” I ask myself.

I don’t know. I think it’s my stomach.

“You look like you’re in pain.”

Yeah. I think that, too.

“Well, hit me with a symptom.”

It’s painful, and it’s growling, my stomach. And, look, it appears to be moving, not far, but, like, doing calisthenics. Over here [left], it hurts. But not over here [right]. Of course, that may be because I can’t feel anything over here [right]. I get the impression that if I could feel, it would be the same—pain—and I would really be in pain, twice the pain I’m in, now.

“What are you going to do?”

Read. And, I suppose, stay close.


Yeah, see if can forget about it. I can’t go for a ride. I can’t drive yet. Sold my car. Can’t run around the track—although, I never did that anyway. Can’t play with Silly Putty.

“You did that? Played with Silly Putty?”

No, of course not. And at that time, they called it, ‘Nutty Putty,’ anyhow.

“Why would you say that, about Silly Putty?”

I don’t know. Because I’ve never been here before. I don’t know what, ‘sick,’ is any more. If I got leprosy, would I be sick? Hell, I’ve already been dead. If a guy has an arm, and he gets acid on it, but it’s still his arm, is it a sick arm? Is it sick if it’s stabbed? Is it sick if it’s paralyzed? Look at my right arm. Does it look sick?

Vendor says: “Oh, yeah, that’s a perfectly good arm, never been broken, all the joints work; God knows it’s never been used to excess. Why, if it were wired correctly, it would be a damn near perfect arm. Belongs to the writer, there, the guy holding his stomach with his left hand.’ He can’t use it. He had a stroke.”

And, all right, let’s cut to the chase: let’s talk about dying, here. Do I stop having to worry about dying? Or start?

I got stomach pains, big deal. Teams of people with degrees up the whazoo spent hundreds of hours pumping and feeding and wiping and getting blood all over themselves and their shoes for I-don’t-how-long to bring me back to life, most of me. I’m going to complain, now, two-and-a-half-years-later, about a stomach ache? What am I, an ingrate? “Oh, poor dear. Look at him, all upsety-wetty. He has a stomach-ache.”

Shouldn’t I keep my selfish mouth shut about my little upset stomach?

“What if it’s fatal?”

A fatal tummy-ache.

“Well, what if it is?”

I guess there are two points of view, two at least.

One; I died of a tummy-ache. Weird, I guess, after all that melodrama in 2008.

Two: well, hey, I moved in with Susan. I got two years-a-and-half out of the heroes in the hospital. I saw great weddings I wouldn’t have seen, wrote letters I wouldn’t have written, learned a lot—a whole hellavalot—and attended my mother’s funeral. And I moved in with Susan.

“You said that.”

I know.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Jimmy McGlynn and The Greek came over this week.

I used to see Jimmy McGlynn every three-to-five years. This is from going back 35 years ago, in Al Ubert’s Ubie’s OTJ (OTJ meant On The Job, which Al Ubert let patrons believe was his pride his in his Suffolk County Police Department younger brother, Jack, when it was really a flat-out attempt to influence the police) in West Islip, where The Good Rats used to play once a week.

And, then, whenever they didn’t have a regular gig.

Al Ubert loved the Good Rats.

Seeing McGlynn has always been a mixed blessing. It was always an accident, but, it was always in a good bar. Then it was always irresistible, but always inconvenient to somebody. Mostly, me.

Jimmy would start talking and I would strain to listen, trying (in vain) to tell if he were on speed, LSD, or far too much natural energy for one man to even stand near without getting into some kind of trouble.
He would talk faster, and that would make him breathe faster, and that would make him rub his face with his hands and, somehow, that would make him talk faster.

I would know that I was going to be tired, going home.

I would allow myself to get caught up in watching—well, first it was watching Jimmy McGylnn’s magic tricks and the mysterious spells he would have worked over girls; then it was observing the uncanny memory he had for mixing a dozen or more exotic drinks rapid-fire; and then the barely credible speed, accuracy, and panache he had in serving them; and then the laser-beam accuracy his hands would perform in the cash register making change for four people at a time.

It would have been a neat show if it were not so unbelievable, but it most certainly was unbelievable, to the degree that I would wonder several times the next day whether it happened or was I dreaming it.

But, I wouldn’t see him for five years, so I would cherish the memory, whether it really happened or not. I used to say, “He put a spell on me,” and leave it at that.

The Greek and I both saw him, years ago, at separate times and in separate places. (Mine was my only visit to Chevy’s, on Sunrise Highway, in West Islip, which had a red, 1957 Chevy in it, center stage.). He would ring up ten times the totals of the other registers—hear me: ten times the totals of all the other registers—and still perform the magic tricks to keep the pretty girls at his, “station,” rather than roaming around the club.

Then, around the early 1980’s, I learned that Jimmy McGlynn was a track coach. I overheard him telling somebody about Bay Shore High School.
He coached for years there. Seventeen years, I just learned, with a 205-2 dual meet record, at one point going on a 96-0 winning streak with the boys team, and, of course, championship after championship after championship. He bought kids their track shoes when they couldn’t afford them. He visited their homes, made friend with their parents.
I suppose heard lots of stories about Jimmy McGylnn and track. I wasn’t interested in track.

I do remember listening to him telling about his younger team members, and how he told them to hold the line, or something, so their senior teammate would win, and earn a scholarship. Evidently, there was a science to competing at track. “Your year is next year,” he told his younger track team members, as if to say, “I’ve got plans for you.”

I never thought a thing about it, until this week, when somebody congratulated him for coming in 2nd in the country.

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” I said. “He is a fanatic. I’m not surprised that his team came in second in the County.”

“No. You didn’t hear me right. Country. His teams come in first in the county all the time. That’s nothing. He’s been doing that for decades. His team came second in the country. Fifty states. The second best team in the United States of America.”

I can’t take notes any more. But I wanted to hear it from him. So he and The Greek came over.

He brought the trophy to the house, a little one: 2nd Place in the country.

He’s coaching East Meadow, which never had won anything. Never had a winning season. Not one.

The last three years, they won two County Championships. They’re ranked No. 1 on Long Island. And, oh yeah, they got second best in the country. East Meadow.

“I love bartending,” Jimmy McGlynn says, “and I love coaching track.”

Catch up on the post-stroke year columns with

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ed Lowe, Himself: SEPTEMBER

Ed Lowe, Himself: SEPTEMBER: "September. I don’t remember all that much about September, 1950, the year I started school. I lived in Amityville. I know Harry Truman w..."