Last weekend I received news from the Stork that our roommate, Chris Israel (Izzy) had died. To say this was a shock would be the understatement of the century – it was more like a mule kick to the chest.
Chris was a character, a madman, a drinking buddy, a party animal, a good guy, a great husband and an amazing dad. I first met Chris in the early 1990s when we worked together at a bar on the Upper East side. He would talk about any subject, loved to have a good time, introduced me to the Grateful Dead (he used to talk the DJ into playing the Dead before closing), and was one of the few people in this world I would want at my back in a fight. As bad as things got, Chris never lost his cool, his head or his sense of humor. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met.
In later years we became roommates (along with the Stork and Ross). Between watching the Jets win some and lose more I got to watch Chris plot his ideas for film and video (Emporer’s Delight, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the most original, disgusting, funny ideas I have ever heard). When I was at pretty much one of the lowest points in my life he gave me a gig at the Gingerman.
Chris was both interesting and interested. He could talk to ANYONE. Drunkards and spent characters LOVED to talk to him… and while they always entertained him, he was never mean. After 9/11, when Izzy was one of the managers at the Gingerman, I watched him work the room as the regulars, people still stuck in the city, folks unable to go to work in lower manhattan and those just looking for a beer streamed in. If someone was in bad shape, had too much or were visibly upset he would walk over and check on them, ask if they were alright, tell them it would be OK. He made the effort, listened, tried to understand, even as it became apparent during the days after that a number of people he knew were also lost in the attack. He had empathy. He gave a damn. He lived the example that he set.
Its been over a year since I last talked to him. It would be easy to say life and work got in the way, but since I moved up here I have been telling myself to call Chris and Ross and kept putting it off. Regret isn’t a strong enough word to express how I feel.
500+ people came out to Breezy Point to say goodbye to Chris on Friday morning. Guys and girls I haven’t seen in years, the Chowderheads, kids who worked with Chris at different bars, families, neighbors, his friends all came out to remember him. Chris’ family is amazing and close and will get through this, but I cannot imagine what they are going through. At the end of the Mass, Mr and Mrs Israel stood up to give a final eulogy. It was PERFECT and my recollection could never do it justice. His Dad said:
Everything Chris put his mind to he did well. At an early age Chris decided he wanted to have as much fun in life as possible and share that fun with as many people as he could.
He did that and so much more. He is missed but will never be forgotten.
Chris Israel was the best of us.