America is another name for opportunity.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1940s and 1950s, with a father who loved vaudeville and movies, and a mother whose memories of her wealthy upbringing in Europe dominated our home.
My father, Henry R. Sandor, was dark-haired, olive-skinned, and heavy-set. A pharmacist by day, Henry worked six days a week from 10 in the morning until 10 at night, and came home well after I went to bed. The summer of 1950, when I was almost nine, he taught me how to make ice cream sodas and malted milkshakes at his store in Brighton Beach. The store was often filled with my father's friends from show business, and I loved going to work every day. He measured his ingredients with precision as he ground medicines in his mortar and pestle, readying them to be put into capsules. It was wonderful watching him. A side effect from my summer job was a gain of 10 pounds, and it wasn't until my junior year in college that I stopped being overweight. My father used to say that I had personality, and that it was almost as important as brains when it came to success. I felt his love and respect.
My father often told stories about his own father and grandfather. His father, Maurice Sandor, was a dapper and handsome man. He was going to be hung for anarchy at the ripe old age of 16 for conspiring with Leon Trotsky to overthrow the Czar. Maurice's father, however, was the chief engineer for ...