Yes, once again, I resolve to lose weight in the New Year. But I have to tell you, my heroes have mostly been fat men.
My father, Morris, who took me to Suffolk Downs and Wonderland with him; who took me to the wrestling matches at Boston Garden; and who taught me to always choose lean corned beef over grease saturated hot pastrami, never weighed in at less than 250 pounds and topped out at 5 feet 11 inches.
He also taught me the greatest comedy magic trick I have ever learned.
One night when I was in bed trying really hard not to scratch at my chickenpox bumps and be totally miserable, my father poked his head into my room and began to talk to me, when all of a sudden a hand came up behind his head, grabbed him by the neck, and hauled him out.
Of course, it was Dad’s hand. I did not realize I was able to be amazed and hysterical at the same time while having chickenpox.
My father also made it possible for me to meet up with my next chubby hero.
Dad, who worked six days and six evenings a week at a delicatessen, bought us the first television to play on our street in Mattapan.
On Saturday mornings, Andy Devine, a huge man with a raspy voice who was mostly known as a sidekick to movie cowboys, had a show that featured him sitting in a chair and introducing a pop-up puppet frog (cleverly named Froggy) with a human voice that was what you would imagine a frog would sound like if it could speak English.
“Hiya, kids, Hiya!”
Then Andy, who was always smiling and laughing, would introduce Midnight, a black cat pop-up who played the violin.
I loved big ol’ Andy Devine. But I found room in my heart, a lot of it, for “The Great One.” Jackie Gleason.
Just like my family, the Kramdens lived in a tenement apartment on “The Honeymooners.”
Ralph Kramden drove a bus in Manhattan, maybe even more of a daunting task than working in a deli in what was Scollay Square, and came home to an apartment in a lower-middle-class neighborhood.
I could go on about how my father fought with furniture and small appliances he was always trying to repair and how his temper matched that of Ralph Kramden.
But I simply want to get to the heart of what my father and Ralph had in common that made them my heroes.
They both were big men with big hearts and big dreams, but losing weight was not one of them.