When you’re remembering the fallen tomorrow, September 11th, please remember to say a prayer for my friend Rob Klingon.
The name is real.
Rob’s dad, now ninety-nine, went to Columbia with Gene Roddenberry, who created a TV show called Star Trek, and appropriated his college buddy’s last name.
Rob and I went to college together in 1978, and we were cut from the same cloth.
Two overeducated, smart-ass Jewish kids who weren’t quite sure if they fit in.
We were brothers from another mother, we could finish each other’s sentences, and we were both a little nuts.
Sometimes we would get on the phone with each other and have long conversations in which we would mention the names of dozens of fictional Mafia members, just in case the FBI was listening in.
They would have a bonanza of information, none of it real.
Sometimes we would grab a snow ski, a candle, and a scuba mask, and barge into the dorm room of a classmate who was studying.
We would scare the hell out of him.
For no particular reason.
After college, Rob went to law school and took a job at Jones, Day, at the time the biggest law firm in the world.
One time, he was sitting in the law library with three colleagues when someone had commandeered the firm’s international PA system and played some unbelievably inappropriate rap lyrics, for all 2,200 lawyers in the firm.
Rob’s response: He looked at the other three lawyers at the table and said, with total deadpan, “You saw me here, right?”
As if he knew instinctively that he would be accused of the crime.
Rob lived in an apartment off Wall Street and I used to stay with him there from time to time when I visited New York.
When 9/11 happened, Rob was living two blocks from the site of the tragedy.
The message from the City, most likely prompted by the real estate interests, was that lower Manhattan was perfectly safe.
If you lived there, you did not have to move out.
Nothing in the air to worry about.
Rob, like tens of thousands of others in the area, contracted brain damage and ultimately brain cancer from the array of metals and toxins that swirled around the air in lower Manhattan long after the cleanup had ended.
Before long, he was unable to practice law.
He spent the last years of his life shuttling from doctor to doctor, from specialist to specialist, all of whom could identify the problem and none of whom could identify the solution.
Remarkably, although Rob had trouble finishing sentences, he could still get around New York, on the subway or by Uber.
The last time I saw him, I took him to a Broadway show.
We sat in the third row, and five minutes into the performance, his cell phone rang.
Rob had no idea how to turn it off.
It was an Android, so neither did I.
Fortunately, it eventually stopped ringing, the show went on, and at the conclusion of the first act, a kindly patron in our row turned the phone off for us.
By the time Rob’s illness had reached critical mass, Osama Bin Laden had lain for years in a body bag in his watery grave, having claimed the lives of almost 3,000 Americans.
Rob died last summer, so whatever total you have at home, add one more name to the list.
My friend, my fellow smart-ass, my brother.