Posted 20 hours ago

Luck: A Personal Account of Fortune, Chance and Risk in Thirteen Investigations

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In 1951, my father and mother, recently married, emigrated to the US, sponsored by his aunt Ruth, who was already in Brooklyn. In New York City, he believed, it didn’t matter how foreign you were: if you were smart and worked hard, you could get on in life. He continued to work in plastics factories. At some point, in the late 1950s or early 1960s, he got a job in a small manufacturing plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, called Lened. She came out of the office to help me. We tramped around together for a while before I did come across a little scrub of a hedge and a stone to mark my father’s grave. loved, mourned and deeply missedit says, which doesn’t give much sense of who he was. More eloquent are the places and dates of his birth and death: warsaw jan. 7 1922 – new york city nov. 16 2008 and his name: joseph ( izio) flusfeder.

I got over my guilt that I hadn’t made it to Elizabeth, that I’d allowed poor planning and the New York Marathon and telephone data usage and James Turrell to deflect me from it. Joe Flusfeder wouldn’t have minded. He was not a sentimental man. He never declared any feelings or curiosity or interest in Elizabeth, or Berkeley Heights, where he had, as they used to say, begun to ‘raise a family’. He had been in Elizabeth solely because of work, because Lenny Palermo and the unknown Ed had happened to set up a factory there. He chose, when he could afford to, to live in Manhattan. Elizabeth and Fort Lee and Berkeley Heights and Fresh Meadows, like London, like Monte Cassino or Siberia or Warsaw, were unavoidable steps on his way.RUSSIAN novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was a gambling addict. He believed that if he could only maintain his composure, the various strategies and systems he dreamed up to beat the roulette wheel would one day pay off. He was kidding himself. No strategy can defeat pure chance.

This was about the time when I declared that if my father thought I was going to join him in the business then he would have to think again. He didn’t seem especially disappointed by the news. He didn’t have a very high opinion of my likely capacities for engineering or business and he said if Lenny’s son was anything like his father then he wouldn’t wish a second-generation partnership on anyone. He had a higher opinion of Lenny’s daughter Nina, but neither my father nor Lenny would have envisaged passing on the company to their daughters – and anyway, Nina was reported to be going off the rails at this point, working as a hot-pants-wearing waitress in a go-go bar – which made her rank in the same glamorous company as Barbara in my eyes. I hadn’t prepared well. It was the day of the New York Marathon, and I kept being detoured around the route. After an hour of this I was still waiting at a junction to get onto the approach road to the George Washington Bridge. I had reached the data limit on my phone, which meant that Google Maps was unavailable and I was unlikely ever to find Henry Street in Elizabeth. So I parked the car and took the subway to meet my friend Christopher for lunch.I think Joe Flusfeder and Lenny Palmer met in London. It might have been at the factory that made spectacle frames, because Lened was involved in the grinding of lenses in its early days. And Lenny Palmer wasn’t Lenny Palmer yet. He had originally been Mendel Oblengorski. At some point in the war he took on the identity of a Sicilian sailor called Leonardo Palermo in circumstances unknown, perhaps murky.

Is there in fact a jostling for dominance between the art forms, some barely suppressed competitiveness?’ In medieval London, dice would typically have been made from bone – and ‘loaded’ dice were not uncommon. There were lots of different games, but one of the most popular was Hazard, where the outcome of each roll of two dice could be bet on, and the aim was to roll a double. Despite its prevalence, betting on dice was deeply frowned upon by the Catholic Church and certainly not a game for ladies to play. I liked Pepe. He had made a dangerous crossing to leave Castro’s Cuba and even though I disapproved of this, in a boy-Marxist kind of way, I forgave him. The last time I saw him was when I was sixteen and he took me drinking, the giddy rush of afternoon Heinekens, and everything he said, other than on political matters, seemed to me to be apt and wise. Henry VIII loved a spot of football – and is said to have owned the first pair of football boots. However, he banned it for being uncivilised – a decision that coincided with his declining health and athleticism. Except he wasn’t. I’d circled around for a quarter of an hour or so before returning to the office.The company was named for its original partners, Lenny and Ed. Of Ed I know nothing other than his name, because he was the man my father replaced. Leonard Palmer was also a Polish Jew who had come to the United States via London. He had also been in Siberia, and had also joined up with General Anders’s Polish battalion that formed in the USSR and made its way through Iraq, Iran and Palestine to Italy as part of the British 8th Army.

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