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Kind thoughts for my pal, Moe

Aug 26, 2003 9:13 AM

I CALLED HIM MOE. That wasn’t his name, but it was what I called him. It had nothing to do with the Three Stooges, as some might think. In fact, I can’t really say where it came from. But, during the mid-50s, it was an accepted nickname between two good buddies. And, yes, he often called me Moe, too.

During my years at Penn State, I usually spent my leisure hours either trying to pick winners at the racetrack or waiting for a lucky turn of the cards at a friendly poker game. Unlike the horses, poker was good to me. I had the patience to wait for the right cards and I seemed to have a knack for reading players’ tells. That gave me an edge since I often knew when to hold and when to fold just by watching the others at the table.

It was at one of these weekly games that I ran into Sam Brown. We seemed to hit it off during the chatter between hands. It wasn’t that we had a lot in common. Sam came from the fancy ties and collars neighborhood in downtown Philadelphia. I was from Manayunk. His folks had an ample supply of do-re-mi. My family was getting by. Sam was concerned about proper etiquette, having the right clothes and fancy cars. I was just an average Joe who wasn’t overly concerned with style and was happy with any set of wheels that would get me where I was going. Yet, we quickly became fast friends.

It was an unusual night out with the boys if Sam wasn’t in the group. He was always up for a ride to a nearby town where we heard there was a good game. And he didn’t seem to mind that it was usually his turn to buy the gas.

When everyone else was tired and headed for home, Sam never said no to stopping for an early morning breakfast. Often he picked up the whole tab and left the tip.

On those occasions when things went badly at the races during the day, Sam was always willing to stake me with enough cash to get into the game that night. He never said no and he never asked when he’d get it back. Many times I was flush when the game broke up and Sam would say, "Just hang onto it, Moe. You’ll need it at the track tomorrow."

And so it went through my college years. It continued during my early years as a reporter at the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Norristown Times. Whenever I called, Sam was ready. It didn’t seem to matter what was on the agenda. We just enjoyed each other’s company.

In time, life took us in different directions and we ended up on opposite sides of the country. We always stayed in touch, but I missed his company. His schedule and mine didn’t often coincide so visits were several years apart. But whenever he was able to come my way, I bought the ticket. Small repayment for those early years of financial support.

It wasn’t hard to be lulled into a sense of security with Sam. He was always there and you knew he always would be. What a jolt to get a call informing me that Sam was in the hospital. It was his heart. But, the bad news didn’t stop there. The cancer was everywhere.

Friends were called, consultations were made and a visit was scheduled. It was never to be. Sam folded his last hand before any of the old gang could get to his side.

It’s hard to lose friends, especially friends like Sam Brown.

It was a good run, Moe, but I sure do miss you.

BRING ON THE RAVIOLI! If there’s something I simply can’t resist it’s a good Italian restaurant. And out in Summerlin, there’s a great new one called Tre, at the corner of Rampart and Charleston. "Tre" is Italian for "three," and in this case it refers to the three Maccioni brothers ”” Mario, Marco and Mauro ”” who own the place.

If the name sounds familiar, you’re correct. The Maccioni family owns the famed Le Cirque and Osteria Del Circo restaurants in New York City, as well as the superb Vegas versions at the Bellagio.

Among the house specialties are classic Italian dishes, such as perfectly grilled lamb chops, braised osso buco and steamed bass in parchment paper. But my recommendation? Try the homemade ravioli with spinach and brown butter!