Friday, July 03, 2009

Allen is 75!

“Lighten up,” a friend said when asked for suggestions for this last column before the summer break. “You’re too serious. Show readers your playful side.” A good idea since the date on this issue of the newspaper is the seventy-fifth birthday of my twin brother’s twin. Allen entered this world on July 4th, the first of his many displays of one-upmanship. He has Independence Day all for himself.

Allen is celebrating the occasion in South Korea, advising the government not to spend more wons and chons than it takes in. I am in exotic Borough Park. The trip to Korea follows a stay in Israel that followed a trip to Russia and soon he will be again in Israel. He was also in Israel last month and then in Paris. He’s been nearly everywhere, including the Fiji Islands. Only once have we celebrated our birthdays on the same day, when he was in New Zealand on the other side of the International Dateline. At his and Miriam’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, guests were told that because of his travel, Allen has been home for no more than twenty-five years.

In Paris, Allen was feted and honored by OECD, the prestigious quasi-governmental economics organization of thirty democracies. In commemoration of his career, OECD has issued a large volume consisting of “extracts from publications written by Professor Allen Schick.” In the Foreword we read, “Over the years, Allen has made fundamental contributions to the art of public sector budgeting, and his work continues to be an inspiration for budgeting reform around the world.” Oh yeah, what about all those massive governmental budget deficits?

Allen was honored several years ago for lifetime achievements by a major association of American academics and scholars whose name I no longer remember.

I’ve never been honored for anything, not even at camp when each kid was at least once the Shabbos Daddy or camper of the day. I have suffered “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” compensating as Hamlet did by taking “arms against a sea of trouble.”

This isn’t a lament by a rival sibling. I am destined to be second in a two-man race. There’s this photo of us when we were two or three frolicking in a park with our father who died suddenly not long after it was taken. One of us is cute, the other petulant. Need I tell you who was cute? At her ninetieth birthday, I asked our mother, “Which Jewish mother would call her son Marvin?” Her quick response was, “I could have called you Melvin.”

When necessary, meaning all of the time, we’re fiercely loyal to each other. There’s a line in our Rabbi Jacob Joseph School high school yearbook reporting that a student started up with one of the Schick twins and his funeral took place later that day. At Brooklyn College, while trying to register for a political science class, the professor pulled out a note from his doctor saying that it would be detrimental to his health to have both Schick boys.

Although we attended Brooklyn at night, coming from RJJ and also working quite a bit in our mother’s bakery, we were close to several outstanding professors. After graduation and semicha (ordination), Allen went to Yale, getting his doctorate in a class that may have been the most distinguished cohort in the annals of American political science. I did my graduate work at NYU, turning down Harvard because I was already immersed in communal activity which I did not want to give up.

Allen married Miriam while still in New Haven, four years before wonderful Malka and I did. While walking down the aisle, our mother who did not want to part with her precious child, intoned “Why can’t it be Marvin? Why can’t it be Marvin?”

Malka and I were married shortly after she graduated from Yeshiva Rabbi Sampson R. Hirsch High School in Washington Heights where I had taught for two years. By then, I had taught at Yeshiva University and had just switched to Hunter College. When she received her diploma from Rabbi Shimon Schwab, the eminent Rabbi of the German-Jewish community, he said that the other girls would get their bachelors degree in four years while she was getting her bachelor that evening.

Not long after we were married, Malka asked me to replace a light bulb. After completing this difficult task Malka walked by and the fixture came crashing down. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt and, fortunately, she hasn’t asked me to do much since, not even to take out the garbage which in most Jewish homes is the major responsibility of Jewish men.

I am bereft of even minimal technical competence and most skills that are part and parcel of modern living. I do not drive, nor have I ever touched a computer, despite the accusation of my youngest that I once damaged hers by trying to turn it on. These columns and other writing are drafted and redrafted by pencil on yellow-lined paper. Allen, certainly only for one-upmanship purposes, drives and is computer literate and his resume is about a zillion pages long and truly impressive. My last resume was compiled a quarter of a century ago.

As I contemplate sharing this planet for three-quarters of a century minus fifteen minutes with my twin, I must be content with what Cervantes put into the mouth of Don Quixote, “Always go for the second prize, for it alone comes through merit.”

There is a powerful bond between us that spans physical distance, a bond that grows stronger each year as we share so much, including the notion that retirement is a dirty word.