Jessica Ritz


Dear Irving:

You and Fernando didn’t truly enter my life until I was a “’tweenager.” Before then, however, the Feldmans collectively loomed large in the Ritz household.

Fernando’s move to Los Angeles around 1986 was the obvious catalyst. And that’s when it all started – or continued, rather. From then on, our families’ lives traveled on a shared trajectory that has now spanned four decades. There is, of course, the famous story about Fernando and Sabrina running into us at Larchmont Chan Dara on their first date, which in retrospect, wasn’t one of the more random coincidences I’ve ever experienced. We ate there often enough in those days that sheer statistical probability made this meeting quite likely.

But getting back to Irving... I immediately loved your stories full of self-deprecating humor and dry wit, whether about being the first waiter at V & T’s Pizza on Amsterdam and 110th Street, or seeing Moe of Moe’s Books in Berkeley. When you approached this long lost neighborhood pal with a friendly greeting, Moe snapped, “you did THIS to me!” and held up a misshapen finger. Hardly the welcome you had expected. But his bitterness instead gave you a good laugh.

I’m blessed to count you among the fascinating, engaging people who proactively encouraged my intellectual development. Not pleased with the Spanish-English dictionary you saw Alison and I using in high school, you took it upon yourself to get each of us hardcover copies of the Collins dictionary. (I think it must have been when we were translating El Beso de la Mujer Araña for an assignment senior year, because I also remember you explained how “todavía” means “still” only in one sense of the English word.) When the package finally arrived, it wasn’t from the Strand or another NYC book emporium, but rather from an unlikely city where none of us lived nor visited much. You’d clearly spent a LOT of time working the phones. In the Internet age, we take locating arcane things for granted; but back in the early 1990s, this was no small feat! When thanked you simply said “well, I’m very tenacious.” It’s a quality that’s served you well, and which you model so brilliantly for others.

My one visit to Buffalo in 1996 was all the more memorable because we shared an al fresco Italian dinner on one of the rare nights when it’s possible to do so in Western New York.

Here’s to many more meals and good stories. Happy 80th.

Much love,