Sand In My Shoes: Tragedy, change strike without warning

We Never See It Coming




You never know what’s coming.

There’s an old adage in journalism: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

Another one from legendary New York Post editor Paul Sann warns, “If you want it to be true, it probably isn’t.”

The best thing journalism has taught me is to be skeptical, but not cynical. I apply those same rules to life.

For example, I believe in second medical opinions. Several years ago, my brother Pete drifted into a coma after diabetes-related kidney failure and breaking both hips when he was dropped by hospital staff. Then a doctor wanted to move him out of the ICU because he said comatose Pete would be more comfortable in a rest home. So I point-blanked the sawbones, “Are you saying you don’t think he’ll ever wake up from his coma?”

“I don’t think he will,” the doctor said.

“Oh, yes, he will,” insisted Pete’s wife, Fukiko. “You just don’t know him like I do. His diabetes just delays his recovery. You’ll see.”

The miffed doctor left, shaking his head.

Two days later, Pete awoke speaking Spanish to a hospital orderly about the New York Mets. Then he asked in English to hear Sinatra. He’s been teaching since at NYU, where he’s an honored writer in residence and writing a book on Brooklyn and giving lectures and public talks and living a full life.

One of his talks “Hamill and Haberman: Stories of New York” came two Sundays ago at the Jewish Center for History in Manhattan, where the great New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman asked Pete questions about growing up Irish in Brooklyn and comparing it to growing up Jewish in the Bronx.

The two men covered everything from Bobby Kennedy to Isaac Bashevas Singer to Sandy Koufax to Jackie Robinson to Hank Greenberg to Donald Trump and how both Pete and Elvis had been Shabbos goys.

What my family didn’t see coming was that my sister’s son Matthew, a senior at NYU, was supposed to pick Pete up in an Uber he was taking from Jersey and bring him to the event.

Matthew, 21, climbed in the back of the Uber but never got to pick up Pete. Because somewhere in Jersey, the Uber driver somehow crashed into a lamppost, catapulting my nephew from the back seat, face first into the windshield.

Bob Simon, a “60 Minutes” reporter, had died in 2015 hurtling from the back seat of a car service into the windshield when his driver lost control of his wheel on the West Side Highway and crashed into an oncoming vehicle.

Unconscious and bleeding profusely from multiple gashes in his face, my nephew Matthew was rushed to a hospital. So was the Uber driver. Matthew had no broken bones and the CAT scan said no brain damage. His face was stitched up like Chuck Wepner after his slugfest with Muhammad Ali. We await a blood alcohol test on the Uber driver.

Matthew never anticipated an Uber ride to pick up Uncle Pete to end like that. Pete had to find another way of getting to the talk.

The great boxing trainer Cus D’Amato always said fighters get knocked out by punches they never see coming. Same with life.

I was on the LIRR home tonight when I read a story about a white couple from New Jersey who, in 2012, paid the Institute of Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas some $500,0000 to impregnate Kristina Koedderich with her husband Drew’s sperm. When their beloved baby grew, they realized it had taken on Asian features. The clinic mixed up the sperm. Somewhere out there is Wade’s baby carried by a different mother. The clinic’s malpractice led to the collapse of the couple’s marriage. When I read the story I thought, if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.

These two never, ever saw this coming.

In September of 2000, I interviewed Ice-T for my Daily News column in a pizza joint on Third Avenue in Manhattan when he joined the cast of “Law & Order: SVU”

As a high school kid, I took a job in a commercial film lab in Manhattan delivering developed Ektachrome sheet film to professional photographers. I worked with a skilled lab tech named Jerry Lavin who, about 15 years ago, saw his Color Perfect lab shutter as digital cameras swept the universe. “I feel like a great saddle maker in the dawn of the automobile,” he said. “I never saw the end of film coming.”

I was smarter. I went into daily newspapers which, like death and taxes, I was certain would be around forever. When I started at the dailies, I never saw the internet coming, never thought I’d see one newspaper after another close like film labs. I thought newspapers would be a business that would last forever.

But if you want it to be true, it probably isn’t.

In September of 2000, I interviewed Ice-T for my Daily News column in a pizza joint on Third Avenue in Manhattan when he joined the cast of “Law & Order: SVU” to play a NYPD detective when his song “Cop Killer” was a hit. No way did I think then that 19 years later Ice-T would still be starring in “SVU” in its historic Season 21 that premieres on September 26. And that I’d be out of the daily newspaper business, working on “SVU,” with Ice performing in an episode I had a hand in writing that airs on Halloween. Between shots, Ice played for me two new videos he’d directed, “Feds in My Rearview,” and “Too Old 4 Dumb S—T.” I Googled the old Daily News column and showed it to him. “Wow, send that to me, man,”
Ice-T said. “I wanna dig into that later.”

I left my daily newspaper job in 2015. Sometimes when you make a turn in life, a better road appears.

denishamill@gmail.com