After my grandfather would bring a load of New York newspapers home, I couldn’t wait to dive into them.
Besides checking out the Yankee scores, at the top of my reading list was a Jimmy Breslin column to absorb, contemplate, and consider, even for hours later. It wasn’t just the reporting, it was the whirlwind of words, never steering into elongated bureaucratic mumble-jumble, but lines reflected the cadences how people actually spoke, or thought. He was a Hemingway in real life, not just the books.
Becoming a journalist, it became even more important for me to check out Breslin, the columnist and author, who, as the New York Times wrote: “leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years.” Breslin died Sunday at age 88.
Breslin used simple words, and a boatload of details. Breslin described what motivated him as a writer. “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers,” he said, according to the Times.
Rage at injustice. Rage at inequalities.
Newspapers these days are a pale imitation of those in the prime of Breslin’s days, as many have been sliced up by corporate profits. The old paper – the way it let the permanence of the words feel permanent – stays with me, as the words now evaporate after jumping off the computer screen.
Thinking of Breslin reminds me of the old tabloids and the joy I had reading the papers with my grandfather, a gentle man whose only similarity to Breslin was that they smoked cigars.
While Breslin was a journalistic hero to me, the tabloids at that time often were filled with stories and photos of those subjects who were simply “fodder for news” celebrities and others who would amuse us for their ridiculous antics, or stun us – briefly – until we turned the page.
Ironically, Trump was one of those guys. Growing up in the NYC area, I saw him as a secondary act, the New York big-talker with the big bucks and the big buildings. Oh, and there were those Razzmatazzz-ma-Taz tabloid headlines: Split! There Will Be Hell Toupee! ‘Best Sex I’ve Ever Had! – Trump As Tabloid Fodder.
Little did I know that Trump would become President of the United States.
Years ago, Breslin no stranger to humility himself, wrote of Trump:
“And I was in one of his apartment buildings, where, if you first look at the advertisements, then at the apartments and ask the price, perhaps you receive a better idea of who he is than you do from newspapers or on television.”
“The man is the best boaster of his time.”
When it comes to Trump, Jimmy Breslin, I’m sure, would want us to be diligent, watch him like a hawk. Let’s keep the rage.
As Dylan Thomas wrote:
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
— Joe Cantlupe