Walking to get my morning coffee which my wife Maria insists on making in part because she believes I use more coffee than necessary I had a thought come into my head: “Was Shakespeare’s play the Merchant of Venice anti-Semetic?” I’ll explain later why I believe the thought came to me. Immediately after thinking of it I recalled that in high school it was the only Shakespeare play that I read. I’m sure I did it because it was assigned which made me wonder why that was the only one which was assigned, or if others were assigned, that I recall reading. For years I remembered little about it other than Shylock’s speech “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
I had read the play a few months ago and it was surprising to me how evil the Jewish Shylock was made to appear adamantly insisting on his pound of flesh. I wondered what people more learned than I thought. I found this which labored to say there are some who think that it is not.
The reason the thought came to mind, I think, is I received an email from John Gaughan who we used to call Shorty. (I’m not sure I should mention it but that was so long ago I’m sure he won’t mind.) The Gaughans lived in the courtyard on O’Callaghan Way in Old Harbor Village in South Boston in the second last house on the left near the railroad tracks. I lived at 18 O’Callaghan Way on the street end of the courtyard. The courtyard had a large grass play area where I spent the greater part of my first ten years of my life.
Jimmy Gaughan was my best friend growing up. I still recall the day about age five sitting on the stoop in front of his house and his mother saying, “Jimmy, you should learn to tie your shoes. I bet Matty knows how to do it, don’t you Matty.” Even though I had no idea how it was done how could I say no. So I said “yes.” Then to my everlasting humiliation she said: “Show Jimmy how you do it.” You can understand why that sticks with me all these many years later.
Jimmy went off to a seminary and became a priest at a very young age, he’d leave the priesthood and marry and raise a family some place in the mid-West. Joey Gaughan who died a few years back became the first assistant DA in Plymouth County when I was in a similar position in Norfolk County. Other brothers were Boston police officers. John (Shorty) was an engineer who spent some time on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I’ve had little contact with them over the years but still feel very close.
It was a surprise to hear from him. He sent along a video for me to watch. I think after watching this you’ll see why the Merchant of Venice came to mind.
It’s always good to hear from old friends. When I posted about Dick Doherty yesterday I heard from others. One, Joe Clifford, from Savin Hill, which I must say is very much like Old Harbor Village in Southie for me when it comes to having dear friends who you can feel close to and who will stick by you after a half a century. Joe was the older brother of my friends Jimmy and Mikey who I went to high school with. He was one of the nicest guys in the neighborhood who true to tradition, unlike me, married a neighborhood girl.