Being lost with Bruce
Born in 1950, Bruce came into an age different from the ones of his brothers, just as I differed from my uncles who were born before or during the war.
Bruce was roughly my age and so suffered many of the same issues adapting to a career as I did.
Barry and Donald while different in their approaches from each other were both very practical men with very practical ambitions.
Bruce had none or if he did, they were so vague he could not easily articulate them, and I got the feeling he was more than a little intimidated by his father and brothers while at the same time seem to love them dearly.
I worked with Bruce a few times twice while working for Donald, once or maybe more while working for Barry -- and all those times I got along with him well but got the feeling he could not take himself seriously and so did not expect anyone else to either.
I learned later that I actually replaced Bruce when Donald and Stanley hired me.
Stanley did not trust Bruce, found him too flaky -- a prejudice Stanley would later display again when Gary got hired to be the new driver at the new warehouse a few years later.
I also think Stan did not like relying on his boss's brother and may have imagined Bruce running back to Donald if Stan gave him too much of a hard time-- something I could not imagine Bruce doing since I suspect Donald scared Bruce as much as he scared me or even Stanley.
Bruce resembled Barry more than he did Donald though did not dominate a room when he came into it the way Barry did.
Bruce seemed less substantial and less likely to look you in the eye unless he already knew you and liked you and trusted you. At the same time, he struck me as someone who didn't trust anyone easily though he clearly trusted and respected his family.
I most likely encountered Bruce first when I worked in the card company warehouse next door. But I did not recall him except as that other guy who worked with Stanley and drove the big red truck to make pickups and deliveries.
After I worked for Donald for a few months Stan would mumble from time to time how unreliable Bruce had been,
Stanley, like Donald and Barry, was born in that practical generation side that did not quite understand the emerging generation so closely associated with Woodstock and the Beatles. Stanley could not get the idea in his head that people could live carefree, a passing fad that helped ruin many of us who actually believed the hype the way Bruce seemed to.
I had more extensive contact with him later in 1974 when Donald brought Bruce back to help with the Christmas rush.
He and I got to interact more extensively, and I found I actually liked him despite the negative hype Stan had fed me, and Bruce seem to like me
He liked the fact that I laughed at his lame jokes and I liked him because his jokes were lame.
He was unpretentious and seemed to accept who he was without any pretense of being someone important.
At the same time, he struck me as someone suffering deep wounds which I could not comprehend since his family seemed to love him and he never took the world seriously enough for it to bring anything remotely hurtful into his life.
Stanley didn't trust Bruce to pack orders or to pick up merchandise on the road. So, Bruce largely loaded and unloaded trucks and ran for cases of merchandise we ordered him to get when we picked our orders -- a kind of workhorse but one who seemed to accept his role as if he expected nothing better or wanted anything better either.
Bruce apparently worked on and off for Barry at the beauty supply in Verona and appears to have lived with Barry from time to time as well.
His duties for Barry appear to have varied -- from picking orders for deliveries to various beauty salons to making deliveries himself on a route that covered nearly all of Northern New Jersey. But Barry seemed to have one or more drivers and Bruce for the most part went along as a helper.
This was Bruce's role during a week or two long stretch when one of Barry's drivers called out sick and Donald lent him me as a driver.
Tt was literally the blind leading the blind.
Since Bruce was supposed to direct me because I was not familiar with the routes, we got lost as much as we found what we were looking for.
We laughed, joked, complained, exclaimed, cursed and generally made other fools of ourselves,
Yet as I recall it was the toughest week or two of labor I ever did, and despite my enjoying being lost with Bruce I was grateful to get back to Stanley and the less strenuous pickups and deliveries Donald demanded from me.
I saw Bruce only once after that during the long week when Donald, Barry, me, John Telson, Shark, Stanley and others gathered to make the final move from the old warehouse to the new,
It was a move that was more than just a move across town but one that altered the world as I knew it though I did not know it at the time.
Because we were so caught up in what we had to do, I could not tell if Bruce was happy or sad or even satisfied and whether he had yet found direction or someone to love or be loved by.
I never saw him again, but I heard about him about a decade later when I worked for a local newspaper and someone told me -- I don't recall who maybe Gary -- that Bruce had died.
I never got the details. I still don't know them.
Yet I feel the loss as if -- even not seeing him -- I had lost a friend.