like a greasy bear.

jerome rose, of blessed memory.

like a greasy bear.

My father’s idea of a good radio station was 1010 WINS. While he could (and did, loudly) regale you with the popular songs of his youth, my dad never listened to music of his own accord. He had headphones, the kind that were also a radio, to wear while he mowed the lawn—he listened to the news. He owned a cassette tape of marches once, because I saw it lying around somewhere. This astounds me because my dad used to tell me about going to see Tito Puente when Dad was a waiter in the Catskills, and my parents were avid dancers—there were trophies in the basement of cha-cha tournaments they danced in and won.

My father is the reason I do not play drums. When the time came to pick an instrument for band, I was all DRUMS and Dad said, “The drums are heavy, you don’t want to have to carry them in the parade, you want a light instrument, like the flute.”

As he often reminded me, I lived in a benevolent dictatorship. I played the flute up until 10th grade, and was rather okay at it. I would, however, wordlessly point at Karen Carpenter whenever she appeared on TV.

My dad was, I think, mostly just completely bemused by my interest in rock and roll: “She knows the words to all the songs! She knows what all the songs are called!” he would tell people when I wasn’t even 10. Then, I think, he determined that I was serious about this pursuit, and I spent time acquiring knowledge to this pursuit, so I should be respected for the pursuit. Or something like that. My dad did have to put up with me telling him things about various bands or records that he most decidedly did not care about for as long as I lived in that house, and as a result, Dad, as late as last year, could tell you the names of the members of the Who. He watched their set at the 9/11 Tribute Concert and told me, “That Townshend is very energetic.” I asked if he liked them. “There was lots of energy.” Okay.

My parents were unusually liberal with my bedtime or maybe it was just that Mom was a night owl and she secretly liked the company so she wouldn’t tell me to go to bed. But as a result, I started watching Saturday Night Live from, like, the beginning. I also feel like I babysat way earlier than kids babysat. In any event, I would be up late watching SNL and my parents would come home from wherever they were, and I would be sitting on the floor of the TV room. Inevitably, for the acts you really did not want to sit and watch with Dad (thank god he did not see the Stones, when Mick kissed Keith, I would have died) he would decide to walk through or sit down. He would either comment or demand that I explain who the act was and what they thought they were doing. For some reason he decided he wanted to sit and watch Lou Reed and then made some comment about the quality of his songwriting. I asked him how many songs he had written. His opinion on the B-42s was that it wasn’t music, and that anyone could do it. He offered zero commentary for the entirety of Bowie singing “The Man Who Sold The World” with Klaus Nomi, while I held my breath. I think he considered a number of questions he wanted to ask, before getting out of the chair and going upstairs. I thanked the deities for their intervention.

As a teenager, my father threatened to forbid me from watching music award shows, because I would get upset and throw pillows at the television, which was the olde timey way of yelling about something on Twitter. He made the same threat about watching music history shows (like some Rolling Stone special or what have you) because I would get angry and indignant when a fact was incorrect or if I did not like what was being said about the band or artist being discussed. I am sure it shocks all of you that I had strong opinions about music at a young age.

But really, what I came here today to tell you was the story of the Greasy Bear, possibly Jerry Rose’s finest moment.

In 1975, my dad came home from work and was singing a song:

Like a greasy bear

Like a greasy bear

I recognized the tune, but not the lyrics. I asked my dad what song he was singing.

“It’s this great song on the radio about a greasy bear.”

I told my father that he was wrong, that that was not the name of the song. I said I would bet him my allowance, double or nothing, that he was wrong. My father responded that he couldn’t possibly take advantage of the situation, because he was positive he was right and I was wrong.

The problem was, in order to resolve the bet, in 1975, that meant that we both had to be in the same place at the same time the song came on the radio, and that my mother, as the neutral party in this debate, also had to be present so she could determine who was correct about the song lyrics. I had a tape recorder that I would…hold up to the radio and record songs with, but that still required luck, and even if you called the radio station and asked them to play the song, they might or they might not and then you’re sitting there with your finger on the Record button for an hour.

It felt like it took a very long time, but one night, coming home from Manhattan on a Sunday evening, I got lucky. The song came on the radio. My father turned up the volume with visible glee. “Here we go,” he said, sure that he was going to win.

The song in question finally got to the chorus. It finishes. My father turns to my mom, expectantly.

“Jerry, you are crazy! There is nothing in that song about a bear. Pay your daughter her money.”

The song in question? “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War. (You’ll never hear it the same way again.)

Dad lived in Stamford, Connecticut, which is going through a ‘downtown revitalization’ as downtowns often do. When picking some things up at Dad’s apartment while he was in the hospital, I noticed a poster in the lobby for ‘Concerts on the Green” and laughed because Southside Johnny was playing. (When I lived there, you maybe got Tony Orlando and Dawn at the Palace Theater.) Then i looked further down the poster: July 24, War. The park was walking distance from my dad’s apartment, and I told my sister that when dad got out of the hospital I’d make him go see that show with me.

Sadly, my father passed away Saturday night at the age of 83, so I will not get to execute my elaborate prank or hour-long superiority dance. But, I encourage you to fire up “Why Can’t We Be Friends” on the Spotify and think a thought for Jerry Rose.

If you’d like to make a donation in Dad’s honor, please make a donation to the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, where he was able to feed his voracious reading habit by volunteering four days a week for the past several years. His boss at the library came to visit him in the hospital, and she looked at me and said, “You must be the writer.” I am not sure my father understood what I actually wrote about (although I know he read my first novel), but as always, he knew that I had invested time and acquired knowledge in this pursuit, the pursuit was to be respected.

Cross over, Dad.