I met Ed on several occasions and attended some of this birthday parties in recent years--first at Metropolitan Pavilion (I even designed the invite one year) and, by riding the coattails of my friend Jim Capalino, Commissioner of General Services in Ed's Administration, at Gracie Mansion during the Bloomberg years. Ed was always gracious and also humorous. Alas, the best stories he told aren't for publication on Isebrand.com.... Let's just say that Ed was an expert at the effective comedic use of flowery language!--a trait not uncommon among native New Yorkers.
I last saw him late one evening in Fairway about a year ago. I said hi, but I didn't want to hold him up; so I just told him it was good to see him up and about. A young couple were standing by, iPhone at the ready, eager to ask for a photo. Lots of shoppers said hi--everyone called him Mister Mayor or Your Honor.
I know his record as mayor is mixed. His handling of the emerging AIDS crisis at a time of severe shortages of hospital beds will be rightly criticized. It was a profound, tragic missed opportunity with horrible consequences. It might be noted that he also signed into law the City's first sexual-orientation non-discrimination statue, and before that, as Congressman he had introduced with Rep. Bella Abzug a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And though elements of his Administration were tinged with racism, without Ed's endorsement and support, Democratic mayoral nominee David Dinkins, after unseating Ed as the Party's candidate following Ed's third term as Mayor, would have undoubtedly lost to his Republican opponent. I knew Ed only after he was mayor, and some of his political choices of the last decade infuriated me. Though, to be sure, if there was one thing Ed didn't mind, it was being infuriating.
Today, though, I'll remember Ed in his overcoat and flat cap, standing at the meat counter at Fairway, waiting for his turn, tall among the rest (Ed was a very tall guy), surrounded by a respectful, extremely subtle deference. It's a very New-York-moment image, and I think Ed would have liked it.