Uncle Sammy’s Gift Certificates

I added the Paypal Gift Certificate button to the store.  Why?  Because within the last few weeks I’ve had a few requests for it.  However, I have to say that when I used to have the gift certificate button on the site (a couple of years ago) I had exactly one order with it.  But what the heck – it was easy enough to do – and if I were going to buy a photo gift for someone, that’s how I’d do it.  (On the todo list: use one of my photos on the gift certificate rather than the default Paypal theme.)

I guess I’m not that sentimental.  My great uncle Sammy used to wrap up silver dollars and give them to me for my birthday.  Joe was my grandmother’s brother.  He was one of my favorite relatives (not because of the money) but because he was so much fun to be with.  He lived in this crummy one-room apartment near Coney Island.  My father would drop me off with him for the day, and we’d spend our time wandering around Coney Island, eating hotdogs at Nathans, and he’d let me ride the bumper cars for as long as I liked.

When I was a teenager, my dad told me that Uncle Sammy was shell shocked from World War I.  That the only people he could relate to were children; that he was on a pyschiatric disability.  But kids loved him.  He always had a big bowl of candy by the door that he’d give out to the local kids.  Oh – in this modern world I’m sure someone would say he was a dangerous guy to leave kids with; but being with him was like being with a big overgrown kid.  He liked everything you liked.

One day, maybe I was twelve, I was waiting to go for my outing to Uncle Sammy’s when my father told me he couldn’t see me anymore.  He had apparently attacked someone he thought was trying to break into his place and was interned into a city psychiatric hospital.  He never came out and died there.  I would visit him a few times, but the light in his eyes that used to shine when he saw me was just about gone.  I was old enough to notice that he had an uncontrollable twitch which seemed to start in his eye and travel to his hands.  It was set off every time a door was slammed in the hospital.

There was a tiny window in the room, but I remember that he had covered it up with cloth or something.  The last time I saw him, while I was leaving – he took hold of my hand and pressed something into it – a silver dollar.  I put it in my pocket.  My father and I left, walking down the long hallway to the hospital entrance.  I tried to close the door without it banging but it was heavy and there was some mechanism on it that made a big clanking noise when it shut.

And no – I didn’t save the silver dollar.  The next day I spent it on candy for me and my friends.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

5 thoughts on “Uncle Sammy’s Gift Certificates”

  1. I frequent your blog not because of the photos (which are great) but because of your insight and humanity. Please continue.

  2. Thanks. I do enjoy this part of the blog where I start with something and make a sudden turn to a barely related subject. This is a bit like automatic writing… Not planned when I write it… Although not exactly steam of consciousness either since I often try to tie things up.

    From Store Gift certificates to my poor old uncle. It’s pretty much similar to my shooting style where I just never know where it’s headed. “The nose knows…”

    p.s. Tomorrow – I’ll be at Rockefeller State Park. Did you know they’ve got Redwood Trees there? Prime infrared territory for me. Also unsellable as a rule since people visit me for New York City shots. Who cares. One thing leads to another. Maybe this will lead back to Rockefeller Center 🙂

  3. I think Uncle Sammy would have been quite pleased you spent it on candy for you and your friends. Beautiful story.

    have a great day tomorrow.

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