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  • I never met my grandfather Emil; he passed away years before I was born. I will never know the feel of his embrace, but can feel his spirit when my grandmother retells his stories.

    This one is my favorite.

    Grandpa Emil was born in the late 1910's. He was a large Romani man who loved two things more than any: playing the fiddle and drinking whiskey. From what I was told he was also a gentle soul full of kindness and compassion...unless he was full of whiskey.

    Like many American men in that generation, my grandfather was drafted into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the Spring of 1944 he left his small family of four and got on a plane to California where he awaited his deployment to Japan.

    Grandpa Emil was a sailor during the war. He worked in the engine room of a large battleship and was also a gunman during actual combat. However, before he could get to the far East, and before he could even get to his ship docked in Hawaii, he had to spend a few nights on the Californian coast, just waiting.

    On his last evening in California, the night before he set sail for Pearl Harbor, my grandfather grew anxious. Thinking that this could be the last night he spent in the United States (Hawaii had not yet gained statehood) he decided to venture out into the town and find his two great loves: music and drink.

    Before too long grandpa Emil and a few of his friends stumbled upon a near by bar-for "blacks only"- an off limits place for a white sailor in the 1940's. However, a man years ahead of his time, my grandfather saw not the color of skin and only heard the singing strings coming from within. He proudly entered the pub, ignored the concerned and confused gawks of the patrons, walked right up to the men on the bandstand, and asked if he could join them. The men smiled, pulled him on stage, and they played, and they drank.

    All would have been well if it wasn't for a few MP's who had followed my grandfather's group. They weren't exactly pleased that their men had gone into a black bar, and they weren't exactly going to allow them to stay.

    The military policemen walked in and demanded that grandpa Emil and his friends stop playing with "those -insert racial slurs here." However, they did not; the men played on. Growing more enraged one of the MP's jumped up on stage with the intent of pulling my grandfather off; this proved to be a mistake.

    "Let's get em'!"

    No one knows who yelled it; my grandmother was convinced that it was not my grandfather, but in the end it doesn't matter. Musicians and sailors descended upon the military policemen...and beat the ever loving piss out of them.

    This action got my grandfather thrown in the brig. He was not allowed to leave his ship until they docked in Japan, but as he expressed to my grandmother-it was completely worth it.

    Never get between a gypsy man and his fiddle or whisky.
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